Man vs "Nature"?
As I have read for class these past two assignments, I have been forced to face an important distinction that I think is often overlooked by many environmental advocates (a group of people which I have been known to associate myself with). The problem I would like to address, or at least bring to our classes attention is the murkiness that surrounds the word "nature". We often find ourselves (I am included in this) using the word nature to mean something along the lines of all that is not human in our world/universe. I would argue that this is not the case, but rather that this limited definition of "nature" is actually only a piece of nature, as nature is indeed what is natural, I would posit that indeed this weak definition of nature is really an inappropriate synonym for the wild, while nature in its entirety would also include humanity.
In today's reading I was first reminded of this distinction in McKibben's opening anecdote regarding the forest and chain saw, when he says that going into nature has been changed by humans because we now lose the feeling of being in "another, separate, timeless, wild sphere". I think the term wild first really was brought to my attention here and remained with me through the rest of the reading, as McKibben argues for the end of nature, while using nature and wild interchangeably.
You may be reading this and saying to yourself, "well duh, the two words are in actuality synonyms, of course you can use wild and nature interchangeably", and I think in normal everyday conversation, this is true, however, in this class, as well as in other philosophy classes, definitions are immensely important. Nature, pertaining to this argument (the environment) has many meanings that are applicable; 1.the nature, or essence of a being, i.e. human nature 2. nature being everything other than man, as I have already described (in my opinion more aptly) as the wild (usually confined to the earthly planes) 3. nature as in everything that was created by and in the universe.
So when I am reading a paper like this, or listening in class to everyone talk, and I see the word nature being flung about devoid of a definite and decisive meaning, I must admit to wondering what the true subject of each particular usage of "nature" is. So here in this blog post, I will offer my own idea as to how we can maybe clear the murky water surrounding this issue, and I am excited to hear back what you all think and feel about my ideas.
I think that I would like to reserve the raw name of "nature" to the open (third) definition above, stating that nature is all that is. We all take part in nature every day just through existence. Next I would like to further classify the "wild" nature which I have already talked a little about. I think that our discussion about personifying "nature" (although I would like to say wild rather than our over abused term nature) is actually quite helpful, and I would like to posit that what we mistakenly call acts of nature and the like, are in truth the nature (in the first definitions sense; essence) of the wild. So then just as humans have human nature, so too does the wild have wild nature. Now this brings us to the point where we must ask, well wait, does this mean that human nature is fundamentally different than wild nature, and I would argue no.
But how then can we justify our human societies, and structures, many of which are destructive; how can we justify them in the larger scale of nature, surely they are artificial, yes? Well to this question I pose a similar question back to you all; is the ant hill unnatural? I believe that we would all answer no, it is not unnatural. However if I asked whether it was artificial or not there may controversy in regards to answering such a question. My point with this is, perhaps it is within human nature to build artificial structures, much as it is within the ant's nature to build their own artificial living structures....
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