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
    Ecocentrism might be worth investigating; however, I will tell you right now that it is not extreme enough in anti-technology for you. That being said, they believe in a nature-centered set of values and that technology should not dominate nature. They are not against all technology, however, just against technology that overwhelms natural tendencies. Apr 25, 2014 at 17:52
  • @APrejean I think judging by the answers I've gotten and this comment, I need to clarify that disdain for technology is NOT central to the idea I am looking for-In fact I am trying to steer away from that entirely. I've edited my question to make that more clear, hopefully.
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 25, 2014 at 17:54
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    Your comment made me think of Jack London's book "Call of the Wild" called Into the Primitive, so I looked up Primitivism and it was actually in Merriam-Webster: 2 a : belief in the superiority of a simple way of life close to nature b : belief in the superiority of nonindustrial society to that of the present. Probably not what you are looking for, but it is an idea. Apr 25, 2014 at 18:07
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    You might want to try this at philosophy.stackexchange.com Apr 25, 2014 at 20:28
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    @APrejean you should make primitivism an official answer, I think it fits, and the OP seems to favor it. Apr 26, 2014 at 0:18

9 Answers 9


A radical form of what you seem to be talking about is called Primitivism or Anarcho-primitivism, a philosophical and political movement that is associated—perhaps simplistically—with the catchy (and giant ground sloth–friendly) slogan "Back to the Pleistocene." The Anarchist Library has posted a lengthy and interesting discussion of Primitivism on its website.

"Primitivism" is actually a very apt name for this philosophy; but unfortunately for it, artistic primitivism seems to have lodged a prior claim to the term.

  • I am not sure Primitivism, in contrast with classical Stoicism represents "not a fear of technology, but a wish to avoid it". It has in it a lot more of the negative sense of Luddism, and the social-deconstructivist vibe of classical Cynicism, than a straightforward respect for nature. Apr 30, 2014 at 15:07
  • It's never clear to me how coherent a philosophy actually is as soon as it spreads beyond, say, one person. However, with regard to tendencies, I agree Jon Jay Obermark that Primitivism incorporates a considerable portion of Luddite hostility toward (if not outright fear of) technology. In so romantic a vision of the early Holocene, it's difficult to say what "respect for nature" means or how, practically, it would play out. The strongest Greek proponents of technology avoidance, I think, were the Cynics, especially Diogenes of Sinope, whose possessions were a cloak, a staff, and a bowl.
    – Sven Yargs
    Apr 30, 2014 at 17:03
  • But Cynics purposely thwarted social conventions, which is again a form of hostility toward progress. Stoicism branched off Cynicism by accepting that some technology and some social convention was natural to human beings, that there is human nature. This is, to my mind, a purer expression of respect for nature. Stoics, e.g., expressed Nature as goddess metaphorically and counseled 'listening' to her 'teachings', whereas Diogenes was pointedly atheist, at one point physically shitting on stage while 'praising' the gods, by way of pointing out that religious observance was social convention. Apr 30, 2014 at 17:35

Agrarianism has this sense in it. (It is also called ruralism)

Agrarianism has two common meanings. The first meaning refers to a social philosophy or political philosophy which values rural society as superior to urban society, the independent farmer as superior to the paid worker, and sees farming as a way of life that can shape the ideal social values.

It stresses the superiority of a simpler rural life as opposed to the complexity of city life, with its banks and factories.

M. Thomas Inge defines agrarianism by the following basic tenets:

  • Farming is the sole occupation which offers total independence and self-sufficiency.

  • Urban life, capitalism, and technology destroy independence and dignity while fostering vice and weakness.

Also, Cynicism embraces natural and simple living but rejects all earthly desires.

For the Cynics, the purpose of life was to live in virtue, in agreement with nature.

As reasoning creatures, people could gain happiness by rigorous training and by living in a way which was natural for humans, rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, sex, and fame.

Instead, they were to lead a simple life free from all possessions.

  • Do you know the American author Wendell Berry? He writes about agrarianism and has for decades. He's a wonderful writer.
    – JLG
    Apr 26, 2014 at 15:03

Perhaps the concept of "noble savage" philosophy fits here. It's defined by Merriam-Webster as...

a mythic conception of people belonging to non-European cultures as having innate natural simplicity and virtue uncorrupted by European civilization; also : a person exemplifying this conception

  • Definitely along those lines, but I'm looking for something not innately culturalistic.
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 25, 2014 at 17:49
  • @Zibbobz: I must admit I thought MW's reference to "non-European cultures" was a little odd. To me, the expression is more about philosophy/morality than "culture" as such, which is why I specifically included that link to hundreds of written instances of the term being used to adjectivally modify "philosophy". Apr 25, 2014 at 18:00

For movements, you might try "back-to-the-land"/"back-to-the-land movement" or "return to nature." Those describe philosophies or movements more than cultures, though. You might describe a society that has "chosen to return to nature", though that's more an expression than a term.

You could also describe such a society as "anti-industrial."

You might also try describing the society by what it espouses rather than what it rejects. A common opposite for "industrial" might be "artisan," so you could describe a society as embracing artisan craftsmanship or artisan trade - possibly even as having an artisan economy.

I'm not sure how to bring across the idea of the reverence of nature you suggested. Perhaps someone with experience with new-age religions or Wicca could suggest terms that might be borrowed without bringing across overt religious overtones. Unless you want the religious overtones.

Oh. I just saw @ermanen's new suggestion of "Agrarian," and that seems like a good one.


Per suggestion, this was a comment that the OP seemed to like:

"Your comment made me think of a chapter Jack London's book Call of the Wild called "Into the Primitive", so I looked up Primitivism and it was actually in Merriam-Webster:

2a : belief in the superiority of a simple way of life close to nature

b : belief in the superiority of nonindustrial society to that of the present."


With the question thus reworded, you want Stoicism.

Its original meaning was not about emotional distance, but about observing nature and developing 'natural' rather than 'mental' reactions to things.

Their avoidance of coats was about adapting to nature in the most natural way, and ended up giving us a skewed view of what they meant.

  • Stoicism is a faction of Cynicism, mentioned above, which focuses more squarely on the naturalness and not on standing in opposition to social conventions. E.g. The motivation of the original Cynic was to deface the currency and spend the gold only in its natural state. Stoics avoided positions that confrontational. Apr 25, 2014 at 21:51

Consider Rousseauism, coined after French Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Anthroposophy, and Utilitarianism.

  • It approaches it certainly. But I'm not sure that the philosophy to embrace that as a lifestyle is behind it.
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 25, 2014 at 19:08
  • @Zibbobz How about "Arcadianism?" thefreedictionary.com/Arcadianism
    – Elian
    Apr 25, 2014 at 19:16
  • Not bad, though it sounds like it's more of a style than a philosophy. I think Russeauism works pretty well though.
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 25, 2014 at 19:46

The Christian practice of leaving society purposefully is usually Hermitism or Anchorism, the later Protestant form, in which communities and not individuals withdraw from technology is often Mennonism.

Sorry, but in the case of the Paradise episode, that really is Ludditism, even though you say that is not what you mean, at least as embraced by the Second Luddite Congress.

Also many forms of Wicca (Witchcraft) involve turning away in a post-modern way from techniques and toward intuitions, and as emphasis, practitioners may renounce higher technology in favor of older ways.

  • That example is partly ludditism, which is why I steered things away by explicitly saying that I am not looking for ludditism. Perhaps I should take it out as an example altogether.
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 25, 2014 at 20:20
  • The point is that the meaning of Luddism varies, according to its users, and that very philosophy is one form described by people who use this word for themselves. Sorry all the other examples here are religious, instead of philosophical. Apr 25, 2014 at 20:28

Luddite is the usual name for anti-techology movements.

  • As I said in my question, I'm not looking for luddism. I'm looking for a philosophy that embraces natural living as virtuous. Not, necessarily, an anti-technology movement.
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 25, 2014 at 17:48

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