>How's this for a great piece of journalism?
>Mother Knows Best
>Once convinced that they should expend their precious parental
>energy, mothers go to great lengths to rear their young. Most impressive is
>the Australian social spider. As her spiderlings mature, she begins to
>turn to mush. As she liquefies, her children suck her up. Sated from this
>sacrificial meal of mother, they exercise better manners and forgo
>eating one another as well.
>It's from a review by Helen Fisher of "Mother Nature" by Sarah B. Hrdy
>(Scientific American, Dec 1999, p 98). The review is entitled "Mother
>Nature is an Old Lady with Bad Habits".

Well pretty good actually, as a piece of journalism. There is such a burst
of popular science literature that we can't be intellectually snobby even
if the article does not scan metrically. I prefer New Scientist, but I
think Scientific American is also very good.

True, one model of the ageing female worker under advanced capitalism is
that she should exhaust her own claims within the social life process, to
nurture her adolescents and stop them fighting each other before she
dissolves in a post-menopausal post-modernistic miasma. 

But I am not convinced this Australian "social" spider is entirely
representative of Motherhood as a Platonic ideal. I am not sure what Rob
would say about this is a symbol of Australian nurturance. Over amiable
though he is, I trust he does not feel obliged to follow this example
sacrifice as list moderator, as much the mother as the father of our
labours, not forgetting Bill of course.  

Besides it can happen the other way round - what about all those little
rabbits that get eaten by their frightened mothers?

("Dead! ... and never called me Mother!" - not surprisingly!) 

Just because rabbits are alien mammalian imports to Australasia does not
deny their place in the animal kingdom, even on this list. Evolutionary
psychology is a little more complicated.

So are we to interpret Horace as an evolutionary psychologist?

>> naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret.
>> You can drive her away with a pitchfork -- Nature runs right back!
>> Horace, ars poetica, x.

Dazzled though I am buy Hugh's literary range (rather likelatent Stalinists
on the Central Committee being torn between irritation and wonder, as
Trotsky read French novels during the more boring speeches) I have, despite
myself, to agree with the following:

>The polemical thrust of the signature quote is against proclamationist
>and voluntarist politics, and against cultural relativism. We are animals,
>and our being precedes our thought -- it's not the other way around, we're
>not spirits whose thought can determine our being as if our bodies and
>their needs were infinitely malleable. Fairly malleable, yes, completely
>and voluntarily malleable, no. We are subject to biological and ecological
>constraints and these must be scientifically determined and acknowledged
>for us to get anywhere in changing the world and ourselves for the better.

It is quite clear from, among other things Marx's Marginal notes on Wagner,
that he regarded human beings as inseparable from the animal kingdom; as

The problem with "evolutionary psychology" is the reductionism of its
presentation, but not if it is interpreted dialectically. Interpreted
dialectically, it is impossible seriously to deny that we evolved in the
course of the struggle to adapt to our environment. We are a
self-perpetuating species in a self-perpetuating biosphere. 

Abstract reified ideals of Motherhood are socially conditioned and shift
with the mode of production. 

Apple pie however, is as materially real as liquified spiders, and
fortunately more appetising. 

Chris Burford



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