Wendell Berry’s Citizenship Papers is not an easy book to work through chp by chp because it is quite repetitive — but the chp “Two Minds” seems to me to put together some of his central ideas about a more sensitive concept of existing in the world in a responsible way.
Now, I’m not a specialist in these areas, but I’m keen on hearing what you have to say.
“Human orders — scientific, artistic, social, economic, and political — are fictions. They are untrue, not because they necessarily are false, but because they necessarily are incomplete” (85). This sets the tone for his theory that there are two minds at work:
Rational Mind:the official mind of science, industry, and government. Factual; like a system. Exclusivist. He sees it as “the superstition of the modern age” (89).
Sympathetic Mind:refuses to limit knowledge or reality to the scope of reason or factuality or experimentation; loving mind; considerate of all; inclusive.
The Rational Mind exploits humans and nature; the Sympathetic mind has a humane approach to science.
Berry knows that solutions are not more science but adapting science to the realities of our resources and our natural world. That if we respect nature we are the best kind of scientists.
He exploits (himself — knowingly) the parable of the lost sheep by suggesting what the Rational Mind would do — calculate the loss and insure itself against losing sheep — and the Sympathetic mind, which would risk the 99 for the one lost sheep. And he reuses a story about a young man who knew how to cure pigs in a factory farm but lost his job because it wasn’t in the job description. If you want someone to care for your sheep, you need not ask an “animal scientiest” but the shepherd of the parable.
Berry typifies, if he doesn’t also stereotypify, in his rhetoric — but there’s an insight here that intrigues me: how we learn to do science and economy that are neither exploitative of nature or people. I think about this sometimes in my commute: is it good for anyone, is it best, to have thousands of cars blowing exhaust into the air in one space? And I am torn: sure, I’d like to live in the country, but could I do what I do living in such a place?