According to Jay Ellis (2006), the discrepancy between human intention and nature's indifference is the “central problem” of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, Or the Evening Redness in the West (1985). It is formulated in an early passage on the novel's setting, the American Southwest: “[N]ot again in all the world's turning will there be terrains so wild and barbarous to try whether the stuff of creation may be shaped to man's will or whether his own heart is not another kind of clay” (McCarthy 4–5). While affirming Ellis's claim, this article reconsiders the ways in which the novel “answers” the question of ontological priority between man and nature, that is, product and productivity. The article's claim is that the philosophy of nature underlying the eminently metaphysical monologues of Judge Holden as well as the narrator's renderings of the barren landscape that John Joel Glanton's warring gang of scalp hunters traverses is that of the German nineteenth-century naturalist Lorenz Oken. Drawing on recent work put forward by the speculative realist philosopher Iain Hamilton Grant (2008), the article further argues that Oken's Elements of Physiophilosophy (1809–11) provides a fitting synthesis for Blood Meridian's “central problem.”

You do not currently have access to this content.