I know the meaning of "objective thinking" but what does it mean in the following context?

We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness. The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes, and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run.


I guess it doesn't here have the meaning it has in science or philosophy. But then I don't know what other meaning I should asign to it. Does it mean something like "wisdom"? Objective thinking sometimes is contrasted with emotional thinking. Source. The question is how "peace in our time" is a requisite to objective thinking.

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    It means that unless we have food and shelter and some confidence that we will continue to have food and shelter we can think about nothing else. But if we become too wedded to thinking about food and shelter and security and nothing else, we will be in danger of losing it all. – ab2 Feb 2 '17 at 18:08
  • "Objective" is as opposed to "subjective". – Hot Licks Feb 2 '17 at 19:40
  • I can't believe that people don't know what cowman means. Is it just Brits that don't understand this? – Hot Licks Feb 3 '17 at 4:21

First, a note about "cowman." I understand it because (embarrassing cough) I listen to "The Archers" on BBC4, which has a character who is a "pigman", or someone who raises pigs. But I had never heard it before.

I will restate all but the last bit:

We all seek stability. The deer does, the cattle or dairy farmer does, the politician does, the normal Joe does, but it all boils down to the same thing: stability. Stability is good, and maybe you need to have stability in order to be able to set aside subjective concerns enough to be able to think objectively; but....

The last part is the part that I personally don't really understand. But more context would probably help. (I won't ask you for more context, because you didn't ask about the last bit.)

My restatement isn't intended to be beautiful, just very simple and clear.


(Wow, what you pose is not easy piece to parse. Plus I couldn't even get to "objective thinking" until I had looked up "cowman".)

My sense of this is that objective thinking has its normal meaning, but in almost a derogatory way. It parallels dullness in the first sentence. This is a call to action, but one buried by its literary overhead. The next sentence in the quote reads:

Perhaps this is behind Thoreau's dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world.

Simplified, I believe the author is saying something like, "Wake up you sleeping bastards, fight!"

For greater context, the author is Aldo Leopold, 1887-1948, an American author, philosopher, scientist, ecologist, forester, conservationist, and environmentalist. The piece quoted by the OP is called Thinking Like a Mountain and has a "save the wolves" theme. (That's how the damn cowman snuck in, with his "trap and poison".)

  • The cited sentence looks to me like a total non-sequitur (why on earth should success in achieving "peace in our time" be a necessary precondition for objective thinking?). But to be honest, given that this writer characterises typical "tools of the trade" for cowmen as trap and poison, I wouldn't be too interested in what he might have meant anyway. – FumbleFingers Feb 2 '17 at 17:48
  • I don't get how it parallels dullness. I get the general meaning or message of the text, but I am trying to understand the text word by word. And, what do you mean until you had looked up "cowman"? – Sasan Feb 2 '17 at 17:57
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    @FumbleFingers, I think the author is postulating that objective thought is unlikely if our primary focus is on active self-preservation; only after our safety and well-being is reasonably assured do we have the luxury of turning our minds away from emotion-driven, reactionary thinking. – Hellion Feb 2 '17 at 18:04
  • @FumbleFingers As you were commenting, I was adding a paragraph identifying the piece's author and its subject. Given the subject, traps and poison are not out of context in regard to their adverse effect on wolves. Until I realized what the bigger picture was, a lot of it seemed like non-sequitur to me as well. But the paragraph is intentionally like inside-out balloon, what you think he is saying is the opposite of his meaning. – RichF Feb 2 '17 at 18:04
  • @RichF what is it saying then? – Sasan Feb 2 '17 at 18:15

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