Review of “A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be” (1982)


Ursula K. Le Guin (writer).

Read in 2018.

A criticism of mainstream utopian idealism as “the big yang motorcycle trip”:

I submit that our lack of faith in the benevolence of reason as the controlling power is well founded. We must test and trust our reason, but to have faith in it is to elevate it to godhead.

Mildly obscurantist. The idea of reason as inherently benevolent is an 18th-century straw man, and Le Guin doesn’t actually show that a utopia based on reason must be static. Science, based on reason, is not. Taking as a goal to persevere and be “a society predominantly concerned with preserving its existence” seems to me rather more static and selfish: It describes even those who cling to unsustainable lifestyles in denial. A Straussian cold society can cause ecological disaster, as in the Holocene holocaust of American megafauna.

References here: Always Coming Home (1985), “Brain Expansion in Early Hominins Predicts Carnivore Extinctions in East Africa” (2020).

text non-fiction