There is a particular philosophy that I am trying to find the proper word to describe.

An exemple of this philosophy is from a short story I once read (From Jack London's short story "To Build a Fire") is where a man tries to build a fire in the winter, and in his confidence takes his boots off to warm them. Whereupon snow falls from above, extinguishing the fire, soaking his foot, and we are left to presume dooming him to death.

Another example (that I cannot source sadly) is the story of a particular man who abandoned society and built himself a log cabin in the middle of the woods, and lived his entire life there.

The core concepts invovled are thus:

  • A reverence for nature
  • A desire to be self-sufficient
  • A belief that this state is the purest form of mankind
  • Not a fear of technology, but a desire to avoid it
  • 1
    I believe I coincidentally just read about this man who lived in a log cabin: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Proenneke. I'm not really sure, but there was a philosopher in the illumination period saying something similar, that the modern times made people 'evil' and going back to nature would reverse that. (Sorry for the awkward phrasing. This is the first time I write about philosophy in English.)
    – 11684
    Apr 25 '14 at 20:45
  • I'm so sorry, with 'illumination' I meant the Age of Enlightenment. The dutch word is 'Verlichting', of which the literal translation is 'illumination'.
    – 11684
    Apr 25 '14 at 20:55
  • There is one small problem though.. HUMAN is NATURE. So everybody who says nature is not evil is wrong. It is evil to some extent because her child can become evil. No need to blame society. Society just awakens what is already there.
    – Asphir Dom
    Apr 25 '14 at 22:01
  • 1
    @AsphirDom I'm not looking to start a debate on whether or not it's right or wrong. I'm just looking for a term.
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 26 '14 at 3:09
  • You mighy want to check out "Industrial Society and its Future". May 27 '16 at 9:30

A modern philosophical tradition that fits your description is Deep Ecology. The label is fairly new, but in various forms these ideas have been present in many philosophies, ideologies and counter-cultures. More modern philosophies tend to begin with the prefix Eco-, such as Ecocommunism, Ecofeminism, Ecosexuality and so forth. Some older examples are Anarcho-primitivism and Feral Subculture. And of course there is various "green" movements that would fit.

Your story makes me think of Christopher McCandless and the moving film made about him

  • Christopher McCandless didn't build a log cabin. (Also, in my very humble opinion his goal wasn't to live in nature but to be free of arbitrary rules and control.)
    – 11684
    Apr 26 '14 at 9:12
  • @11684 As far as I am aware he didn't, no. It was the other story the OP mentions that made me think of it, but maybe I should keep my loose associations to myself.
    – Lucas
    Apr 26 '14 at 12:46
  • Oh, of course, I didn't realise that you could have meant the other story (it's probably because I just saw Into the Wild and I am writing an essay about it - high school).
    – 11684
    Apr 26 '14 at 13:29
  • @11684 You're right to point it out though, it's not a very helpful thing to put in my question, it's not very to the point, it's just me saying I like a film that it vaguely related to the question (its not a lot like the Jack London story, really).
    – Lucas
    Apr 26 '14 at 14:00
  • ...I meant to say answer
    – Lucas
    Apr 26 '14 at 14:20

you might want to take a look at Thoreau who is well-known as a philosopher in the American transcendentalist tradition who wrote on this, his most famous book is Walden, where he does exactly as your untraced story suggests.

It was, Ellery Channing, a medical doctor and a poet who wrote to Thoreau:

"I see nothing for you on this earth but that field which I once christened 'Briars;' go out upon that, build yourself a hut, and there begin the grand process of devouring yourself alive. I see no alternative, no other hope for you."

And so he did; and in Walden, he wrote

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

He's considered as one of the roots of the early environmental movement - in the States at least.


Yes, my initial thought of Rousseau was correct. He said (wording stolen from: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100501223758AA00bBc) humans are good by nature, but society corrupts them. This doesn't imply a fear of technology.

Here is the wikipedia article on Rousseau's book on this subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discourse_on_Inequality


I think both Neo-Luddism and Anarcho-Primitivism meet your criteria :

Neo-Luddism or New Luddism is a philosophy opposing many forms of modern technology. Neo-Luddism is a leaderless movement of non-affiliated groups who resist modern technologies and dictate a return of some or all technologies to a more primitive level. Neo-Luddites are characterized by one or more of the following practices: passively abandoning the use of technology, harming those who produce technology, advocating simple living, or sabotaging technology.


Anarcho-primitivism is an anarchist critique of the origins and progress of civilization. According to anarcho-primitivism, the shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural subsistence gave rise to social stratification, coercion, alienation, and population growth. Anarcho-primitivists advocate a return to non-"civilized" ways of life through deindustrialization, abolition of the division of labor or specialization, and abandonment of large-scale organization technologies.


For a source considered authorative among Neo-Luddites and Anarcho-Primitivists alike, check out "Industrial Society and its Future".


Apparently, this feeling/way of thinking is common and diverse enough as to not be associated with the name of a single school of thought. I think movements such as the boy scouts and people like Bear Grylls show/reflect that - although they may not be as deep and philosophically developed, they seem to have the same essential feeling.

Thoreau is the main figure that comes to mind when the subject is mentioned, although my take on "Walden" - the book where he describes his two years, two months and two days long experience living on his own in the woods - is that he did not immediately reject civilisation or technology as bad, but rather that he believed that, in his civilisation (19th century US), the technology was 'poorly employed' - something along the lines of "if the civilised man is that superior to the wild man [having native Americans in mind] then why in the civilised society there are several men without homes, while in the Indian tribes every family has a comfortable enough house to keep them warm in the winter? Why does the civilised man has to work his entire life to be the owner of his house, while the natives can build their tents in a few hours, camp there for how long as they want, put the tent down again in a few hours and leave when they please?" or "they're building a railroad from Texas to Maine, but Texas doesn't have anything important to say to Maine".

You might also wanna keep reading Jack London: it looks like he has similar ideas in more of his works - although, not as worried about the practical and economical aspects of it as Thoreau, but more on the mystical, individual aspects (not-that-informed opinion) -, I believe that "White Fang" inspired the guy from "Into the Wild" into doing what he did, among other things of course.

The author from the book that John S mentioned (in the referenced thread) also seems to be along those lines.

I would think that "simple living" would be a closely related and common term, although it doesn't seem to put as much emphasis on the reverence to nature part. "Simple living" makes Epicurus and Diogenes of Synope come to mind, although one might say that they don't mention nature as much because in their society they were already living close enough to it.

Lastly, I don't see much of those ideas in modern environmental movements, which seem to be more about keeping civilisation and a certain amount of technology without destroying nature while doing it.

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