Prior to the works of the founding fathers of modern science, such as Bacon and Descartes, the values and images associated with women and nature were revered; however, as the worldview changed toward a more mechanistic and scientific lens, along with scientifically-established hierarchies came a strong belief in the domination and mastery of nature (and, hence, the feminine). Some of the key ideas behind this new worldview and the economic/scientific changes that began between the sixteenth and seventh century regarding how both women and nature were viewed are: 1.
It does definitely deal with those interconnections and gives lots of specific examples of how women and nature have been brought together in rhetoric and imagery of texts from the Greeks to the Scientific Revolution, which makes this a great resource, but it doesn't add much to my depth of understanding of this connection.
I'm not quite sure what I expected, but it certainly wasn't this extremely dull and slightly preachy book. At times, she came across as a bit of a creationist loon but am not totally sure she is.
Merchant is an historian of science, and her book studies how humankind's relationship with the natural world changed, especially over the past six centuries.
THE MECHANICAL ORDER this chapter argues that the scientific revolution (& especially Descartes, Hobbes, Newton) transformed the idea of nature from a living organism to a passive machine ("the death of nature").
In her book, Death of Nature, Carolyn Merchant pinpoints the origins of female suppression and modern environmental exploitation in the 15th-17th centuries. Merchant argues capitalism and early modern science transformed the view of the earth from a living being with animistic features to inert, passive, manipulatable matter. Carolyn Merchants argument is heavily based on the change in human value systems from an organic view of nature to a mechanistic view of nature. The organic view was the dominant view of the earth held prior to the Scientific Revolution. Merchant understands the view of the earth to be organic before the scientific revolution. The earth was feminine and revered for its life-giving power and she argues historical changes such as population growth and the scientific revolution fueled the casting aside of the established organic value system. Merchant develops a strong case for the correlation between the shift in value systems during the 15th-17th centuries and environmental exploitation. In Europe, the earths resources were manipulated via farming or mining during this time for mans advancement and to provide for the needs of a burgeoning population. Her argument that female subordination also originated during this shift of value systems is a little less convincing. The solution to the environmental crisis lies in returning to a more organic approach to nature which acknowledges the interdependence between humans and the earth. If a homocentric view of conservation where nature is preserved for the sake of human use is not the best understanding of conservation, then a stronger pitch for ecocentric conservation and natures intrinsic value should have been made in the book. The Death of Nature makes a strong case for uprooting and challenging entrenched Western ideals of domination rooted in the resulting mechanistic value system of the 17th century but leaves readers waiting to be convinced of an achievable view of conservation.
Merchant focuses primarily on Europe from 1500 to 1700, tracing the shift from the view of nature as organism that lasted into the Middle Ages to the view of nature as machine that came out of the Scientific Revolution.