The main meanings of the term nature are
- being as a whole, the cosmos ( universe ),
- a part of reality that deals with an unnatural realm - e.g. B. the divine, spiritual, cultural, artificial or technical - is contrasted,
- a property of reality or a realm of reality and
- the essence of an object.
A distinction is made between “animate nature” (“ biotic ”, e.g. plants , animals ) and “inanimate nature” (“ abiotic ”, e.g. stones , liquids , gases ). The terms “animate” and “inanimate” are closely linked to the definitions of “ living beings ” and “ life ” and are integrated into the context of a philosophical or ideological view.
Nature as the opposite of culture
“Nature belongs to that which remains and does not destroy itself. Culture is completely different. Its technical, namely military, powers are probably able to destroy themselves and all earthly life in one fell swoop. "
As the leading category of the western world, nature generally denotes that which was not created by humans, in contrast to (human-made) culture ; For example, the term cultural landscape is used to describe a landscape that has been permanently shaped by humans.
There is no longer any social consensus as to whether humans themselves belong to nature or not . In the first case, one speaks of an extra-human nature to express that people are otherwise part of nature, whereby the concept of nature approaches the concept of the environment .
Natural events , natural phenomena include rain or thunderstorms , the climate as a whole. The fact that these natural phenomena have long been influenced by human culture does not fit this traditional view. Human interaction with nature is increasingly the subject of criticism of culture, social systems or governments.
In our linguistic usage existing expressions such as "natural" (self-evident) or "in the nature of the thing" refer to the elementary meaning of the term nature. Already in the Romantic period there was a great interest in nature - in connection with an increased focus on inwardness and feelings - as a counter-movement to industrialization .
Today more than ever critical questions arise in this regard: ecological problems such as scarcity of raw materials and environmental pollution are the consequences of the overexploitation of finite and renewable natural resources . Events that humans cannot control, such as earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, are natural disasters on a human scale . The demand for intervention in natural events to protect against such natural hazards is in contrast to the aforementioned cultural criticism.
For a long time in western cultural history , nature was also considered an “enemy” of man: It was terrifying, full of dangers and threats. Only in the course of the Enlightenment did the aforementioned counter-movement lead to the transfiguration of nature in society; it was now seen primarily as a model for aesthetics and harmony . The role of humans shifted from being above to standing next to nature. With the emergence of the environmental movement in the 20th century, humans were increasingly assigned the role of a "disruptive factor". This becomes particularly clear in the syndrome concept of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU), which has a particularly high degree of scientific power of definition: Here, nature is viewed as a term for the order patterns “highly complex structures of interactions between ecological systems” and “result of conflict-prone evolutionary processes” that “strikes back where their laws are disregarded, their ecosystems destroyed and their resources plundered”, so that there would be no reason for “simple models of reconciliation and harmony”.
Nature as a philosophical concept of the western world
Colloquial use of natural or unnatural and expressions such as “it is in the nature of things” indicate an expanded meaning. Interpretations such as "given by nature" or "determination" are possible here.
Augustine of Hippo distinguishes between a material and a formal definition of nature. For him, nature is essence (essentia) and substance (substantia). The theology has always followed the question of the relationship between nature and supernatural grace .
In ancient Greek philosophy, nature was to be equated with “essence” and “inner principle”. For most of the ancient philosophers , especially Plato , the Stoics and Neoplatonists , the term "nature" ( ancient Greek φύσις, physis) referred to the well-ordered world as a whole ( ancient Greek κόσμος, kosmos = cosmos ). Aristotle , on the other hand, applied the term primarily to individual things. For him, nature is what defines the determination and purpose of beings. It affects both the power inherent in things ( Dynamis , Energeia ) and the place associated with it and the movement associated with it. “Light” rises up, “heavy” sinks down. The antiquity, however, already knew the opposition between nature and statute (law, ancient Greek νόμος, nomos), whereby statute means what has been set by man.
In medieval scholasticism , a distinction was made between the eternal creator god, "creative nature" ( natura naturans ) and finite, "created nature" ( natura naturata ). Both are "structuring principles".
When modern natural science began to develop , nature was mostly viewed as the entirety of purpose-free, extended bodies that are subject to the laws of nature . The ancient view that nature determines the essence and development of beings was only held with regard to the "nature of man", but has been discussed controversially over and over again in recent times. The term nature increasingly referred to what can (and should) be explored, recognized and controlled by human consciousness.
Discourse since 1990
Today's discourse about the protection of nature includes both the emotionally comprehensible nature, which is provided with ethical values, and the rationally abstracted "system of nature". The philosopher Ludwig Fischer says:
"We are reminded to have to think of nature as an objectively given and as a culturally conceptualized one at the same time."
Problems defining nature
As a philosophical term (cf. natural philosophy ), what is natural (originating from nature) and what is not natural is shaped by the relationship between people and their environment . In this context, the environment stands for the non-ego that is outside the human ego .
The term nature is not value-free, so natural disasters, natural hazards or the like are also spoken of. Nature is related to human existence. This relationship is primarily determined by normative attitudes that are emotionally , aesthetically and religiously judgmental (Oldemeyer 1983).
Nature as a useful object
The combination of the anthropomorphic relationship to nature from the early days and the Old Testament image of man , which simultaneously gives man a mandate to control and preserve, has led to a technomorphic relationship to nature in Europe since the Middle Ages .
In the Enlightenment , nature was then completely subordinated to man for his purposes, and the wilderness (primary nature) was excluded from it as something still to be cultivated. This technical-utilitarian attitude has been understood since the natural-philosophical considerations of Jean-Jacques Rousseau as a perversion of the state of nature and nature has been viewed sentimentally, but without overcoming the separation between man and “divine nature” ( Hölderlin ). An understanding manifested itself that “saw nature as a counter-concept to human culture and as a self-defining, subhuman object of human use, and partly still sees it”, namely as “the basis and justification for unrestrained exploitation without normative restrictions” (Oldemeyer 1983).
Such a view of human use has been viewed critically from many sides. For example, the economist Ernst Friedrich Schumacher explains in his 1973 book Small is beautiful that nature and the creatures that live in it - also in themselves - are to be viewed as “goals” and not simply to be viewed from an exclusively economic point of view. Even from a purely rational point of view, Schumacher sees it as justified to state “that they are sacred in a certain sense . Man did not make them, and it is unreasonable not to do or recreate such things that he has not made, if he has corrupted them, to treat them in the same way and with the same attitude as things that he made himself Has".
Nature as an aesthetic and symbolic object
In the lifeworld, nature is perceived in many ways as an aesthetic and symbolic object, e.g. B.
- when living beings of a certain kind are linked with symbolic meanings (e.g. red roses, white lilies, the wolf, the fox, the snake),
- Living beings serve as regional or national symbols (such as the eagle in Germany, the bald eagle in the USA and the kiwi in New Zealand),
- an area is considered to be landscape or wilderness , or
- a natural phenomenon is the subject of aesthetic contemplation or imagination.
Integrative understanding of nature
The biologist Hansjörg Küster points out that nature is mostly understood as an unchangeable unit, but is actually subject to permanent change: "In it there are constant temperature fluctuations, the removal and deposition of rocks, growth and death of living beings, changes in locations." For this reason, nature is now understood in scientific discourse as a dynamic variable which, moreover, can at times be influenced by humans to different degrees and is therefore divided into different degrees of naturalness .
Based on ecology , which emerged as a biological sub-discipline towards the end of the 19th century, and later on cybernetics , nature was understood as a self-regulating system. The "we-world relationship" emerged (Oldemeyer 1983).
With the popularization of ecosystem research, since the 1980s, more people in industrialized countries have gained the insight that nature cannot be understood as a whole, but only as an open system, of which humans and their culture are also part (integrative relationship) (Oldemeyer 1983). This is z. B. also clear in the definition of work , which names society and nature in the system context, whereby the work processes are mediating elements and procedures that people can only shape openly because of their divergent goals.
Derived from this would be z. B. to recognize the city, a human cultural achievement, as second nature . The city as a habitat (habitat) of the people we are increasingly lebensunwerter make, thus creating a need for a diffuse ideal of wild or untouched nature for recreation. What is simply overlooked is the fact that areas that are heavily deformed by humans also contain nature (worth protecting). This integrative conception of nature is found in specialist circles, e. B. in nature conservation , in ecology, urban ecology, etc., already settled. Ludwig Klages describes the rationally formed or “spirit-permeated” landscape as second nature.
Nature in science
- The human sciences in their preoccupation with people count themselves partly as natural sciences, partly as part of the humanities .
- The engineering sciences generally approach technology , which sees itself in opposition to an examination of nature.
- The natural science of ecology deals with nature in terms of living organisms and their environmental relationships.
However, the use of the term must be presented as very controversial in the philosophy of science . Schematically, three predominant basic types of roles for the term nature in the scientific concepts can be distinguished with regard to their relationship to being :
- Nature is identified with being : the corresponding ontological assertion reads : “Everything that is is one nature”. This positioning is called naturalism in philosophy .
- Nature as part of being, or reality , is contrasted with other parts. Other parts are then often called culture or spirit .
- Nature is negated in its objective existence : "There is no nature". This position, often found in constructivism , subsumes nature under purely cognitive or social constructions or phenomena, from which it then does not differ qualitatively.
- Klaus Eder : The socialization of nature. Studies on the Social Evolution of Practical Reason . Suhrkamp , Frankfurt am Main 1988, ISBN 3-518-28314-6 .
- Brigitte Falkenburg 2017: Nature , in: Naturphilosophie. A text and study book. UTB / Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen: pp. 96-102.
- Ludwig Fischer (Hrsg.): Projection surface nature. On the connection between images of nature and social conditions. Hamburg University Press, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-937816-01-1 .
- Antje Flade: Nature viewed psychologically . Huber, Bern 2010, ISBN 978-3-456-84877-8 .
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- Karen Gloy : Understanding Nature. Volume 2: The History of Holistic Thinking. Beck, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-406-38551-6 .
- Brian Greene : The stuff the cosmos is made of . Munich 2004, ISBN 3-88680-738-X .
- Götz Großklaus, Ernst Oldemeyer (ed.): Nature as a counter-world - contributions to the cultural history of nature . Loeper, Karlsruhe 1983, ISBN 3-88652-010-2 .
- Thomas Sören Hoffmann : Philosophical Physiology. A system of the concept of nature in the mirror of the history of philosophy . Bad Cannstatt 2003, ISBN 3-7728-2204-5 .
- Markus Holzinger: Nature as a social actor. Realism and Constructivism in Science and Social Theory. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2004, ISBN 3-8100-4089-4 .
- Thomas Kirchhoff, Ludwig Trepl (ed.): Ambiguous nature. Landscape, wilderness and ecosystem as cultural-historical phenomena. Transcript, Bielefeld 2009, ISBN 978-3-89942-944-2 .
Joachim Ritter , Karlfried founder (Hrsg.): Historical dictionary of philosophy. Volume 6, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, pp. 421–477. (Entry nature )
- FP Hager: Nature I. Antiquity. Pp. 421-441.
- T. Gregory: Nature II. Early Middle Ages. Pp. 441-447.
- A. Maierù: Nature III. High Middle Ages. Pp. 447-455.
- G. Stable: Nature IV. Humanism and Renaissance. Pp. 455-468.
- F. Kaulbach: Nature V. Modern Times. Pp. 468-478.
- Lothar Schäfer , Elisabeth Ströker (Ed.): Concepts of nature in philosophy, science, technology. Alber, Freiburg / Munich.
- Alfred Schmidt : The concept of nature in the teaching of Marx. 4th, revised. and exp. Edition. with a new foreword by Alfred Schmidt. European Publishing House, Hamburg 1993, ISBN 3-434-46209-0 .
- Robert Spaemann: Nature. In: H. Krings, HM Baumgartner, C. Wild (eds.): Handbook of basic philosophical concepts. Volume II: Law - Relation. Kösel & Pustet, Munich 1973, ISBN 3-466-40052-X , pp. 956-969.
- Edward O. Wilson : The Future of Life . Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-88680-621-9 .
- Bibliography of the journal Information Philosophy on the concept of nature .
- Overview of the concept of nature from the perspective of natural philosophy by Gregor Schiemann in the online lexicon of basic concepts of natural philosophy.
- Intuition and feeling. We need a different relationship to nature beyond our reason. By Eckart Löhr.
- Gregor Schiemann : Nature . In: Thomas Kirchhoff (Red.): Glossary of natural philosophical basic terms. 2012; see. the entries on the concept of nature in: Joachim Ritter, Karlfried founder (Hrsg.): Historical dictionary of philosophy. Volume 6, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, pp. 421–477, namely FP Hager: Natur I. Antike. Pp. 421-441; T. Gregory: Nature II. Early Middle Ages. Pp. 441-447; A. Maierù: Nature III. High Middle Ages. Pp. 447-455; G. Stable: Nature IV: Humanism and Renaissance. Pp. 455-468; F. Kaulbach: Nature V. Modern Times. Pp. 468-478.
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- Barbara Scholkmann: Nature as friend - nature as enemy. In: AID. No. 2, 2006,. The theme of people and the environment in the Middle Ages. P. 19.
- Ivana Weber: The nature of nature conservation: how concepts of nature and gender codes determine what is worth protecting. Oekom-Verlag, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-86581-082-3 , pp. 166-170.
- Anton Hügli , Poul Lübke (Ed.): Philosophielexikon. Reinbek near Hamburg 1997, p. 444f.
- Der Brockhaus: Philosophy: Ideas, Thinkers and Concepts. Leipzig / Mannheim 2004, p. 225.
- Peter Dilg (ed.): Nature in the Middle Ages. Concepts - experiences - effects. Files from the 9th Symposium of the Medievalist Association, Marburg 14. – 17. March 2001. Berlin 2003.
- Anton Hügli, Poul Lübke (Ed.): Philosophielexikon. Reinbek near Hamburg 1997, p. 445.
- Peter Dilg (ed.): Nature in the Middle Ages. Concepts - experiences - effects. Files from the 9th Symposium of the Medievalist Association, Marburg, 14. – 17. March 2001. Berlin 2003.
- Ludwig Fischer 2004, quoted from: Reinhard Piechocki : Landschaft, Heimat, Wildnis. 2010, p. 27.
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- Clemens Zerling: Lexicon of animal symbolism: Mythology. Religion. Psychology. Dragons, 2012.
- Rainer Piepmeier: The end of the aesthetic category 'landscape'. (= Westphalian research. 30). 1980, pp. 8-46.
- Manfred Smuda (Ed.): Landscape. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 1986.
- Thomas Kirchhoff, Ludwig Trepl (ed.): Ambiguous nature. Landscape, wilderness and ecosystem as cultural-historical phenomena. transcript, Bielefeld 2009.
- Ludwig Trepl : The idea of the landscape. transcript, Bielefeld 2012.
- Thomas Kirchhoff, Vera VICENZOTTI, Annette Voigt (ed.): Longing for nature. About the urge to go outside in today's leisure culture. transcript, Bielefeld 2012.
- Jörg Zimmermann: On the history of the aesthetic concept of nature. In the S. (Ed.): The image of nature in humans. Fink, Munich 1982, pp. 118-154.
- Martin Seel: An Aesthetics of Nature. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 1991; Martin Seel: Aesthetics of Appearing. Translated by John Farrell. Stanford, Stanford University Press 2005.
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