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The 'New Wild' and the 'sublime' in western philosophy

The concept of the 'New Wild' also hints at the notion of the 'sublime' which for much of the history of Western thought has been closely associated with the awe and wonder inspired by nature. Latterly, the notion of the technological sublime has also been argued to have replaced the original in 20th century culture as documented by David Nye in his book 'American Technological Sublime' (1994). Nye shows how this notion of the technological sublime had originally been embraced by the popularity of huge engineering projects and architecture, such as hydro-electric dams, which also inspired awe and wonder, but was soon tainted by a growing realisation of the significant limits and drawbacks of technological progress, exemplified by the disasters of atomic power and the new threat of mass destruction. In this regard, the idea of thinking about modern complexity in terms of the 'New Wild' encompasses and extends these changing notions of the technological sublime and our relationship to it. In particular it suggests a new era in which the sublime becomes once more akin to, or 'fused' with nature, but perhaps more in the Eastern not the Western philosophical tradition. As this form of the sublime, the 'New Wild' retains a sense of vast scale, but as a view of nature it is reminiscent of the older, Taoist, conception of nature and technology/society: indicating something vast, but also something that remains forever 'shadowy and indistinct', an understanding of which, also fundamentally requires a mystic-like devotion and study. Of relevance perhaps is the 1970's popular science classic 'The Tao of Physics' by Fritjof Capra.


Nye, D. E. 1994. 'American Technological Sublime'. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Capra, Fritjof. 'The tao of physics'. London: Fontana, 1976.

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