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Prey and Predator: The End of a Dialectic?

Current scientific knowledge suggests that the predator/prey relationship began very soon after life itself arose.

Although Hegel himself never discussed this natural phenomenon, it could be interpreted as an example of Reason and Dialectic working itself through Nature.

The very idea, however unpalatable, that with life’s initial appearance predation was an immediate “logical/reasonable” response should give us philosophic pause.

This ancient antagonistic natural relationship often gave and gives rise to what is known as an “evolutionary arms race” or what might be considered in Hegelian terms as a dialectical relationship.

As prey continually seek to evade predator, and as predator continually seeks to engulf prey, both develop further survival strategies and physical adaptations in this deadly existential dialectical embrace.

In short, gazelles develop in relation to lions and vice versa.

However, there is of course asymmetry in the relationship in that if the lion fails to catch the gazelle it misses a meal whereas if the lion is successful the gazelle ceases to exist. Yet, on the other hand, if the lion consistently fails to catch a gazelle, he too will, at some point, pass out of existence.

Thus, in a sense, the dialectical struggle of predator/prey is a battle against Nothingness.

Neither term, predator or prey, wishes to be negated however only one side, the predator, necessarily seeks the negation of the other while the prey seeks not the destruction of the predator but maximal avoidance.

However unfair it might seem to some of us, much of the world’s flora and fauna owe their existence, past and present, to this mortal conflict. It has been a major engine of evolution.

Yet, now, perhaps in the Age of the Anthropocene when man has become the apex predator and the world has become his prey this ancient dialectic might be coming to an end.

As man’s rapaciousness stresses his global prey to its very limits, strategies of avoidance become increasingly ineffective in the face of an unprecedented scheme of efficient destruction. Here the predator’s predation threatens both prey and predator with Nothingness; both terms will dissolve thus ending an ancient historical phase of development.

Yet could there still be a better Hegelian solution to this seemingly insoluble conflict? Instead of the end of the history of one ancient natural algorithm could both terms resolve their antagonistic relationship into a higher synthesis where both transform, survive, and, even, prosper? Alas, that might completely depend on the relative strength and perspicaciousness of the Hegelian gambit known as the cunning of Reason.

Suggested Reading.

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20141202-what-was-earths-first-predator

 

More articles by:

Dan Corjescu teaches Political Philosophy at Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

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