Alternative meaning: Nature (journal)

Nature has two related clusters of meaning:
  • innate character or essence ("the true nature of jealousy");
  • the natural world, especially in its essential form, untainted by human influence ("state of nature").

The first meaning is closer to the Latin origin, natura, meaning birth or character. The second meaning was first recorded in English in 1662.

Table of contents
1 The natural world
2 Nature versus nurture
3 The natural and the artificial
4 Related concepts
5 See also

The natural world

In scale, 'nature' includes everything from the universal to the subatomic. This includes all things animal, plant, and mineral; all natural resources and events (hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes). It also includes the behaviour of living animals, and the processes associated with inanimate objects. A fundamental difference of view exists between those who include humans (both their consciousness and their activities) within nature, and those who do not.

Nature versus nurture

In discussions about the relative importance of genetic and environmental influences on development, the nature/nurture dichotomy (see Nature_versus_nurture) is often advanced. Here both meanings of nature seem to apply: on the one hand, the environment is contrasted with the innate character of the individual in these discussions, and on the other, it is generally supposed that this character is determined by the individual's physical nature (e.g. genetic endowment).

The natural and the artificial

Nature is sometimes understood in the broad sense of the universe and all its phenomena, but a distinction is often drawn between the "natural" and the "artificial". Can such a distinction be justified? One approach is to exclude mind from the realm of the natural; another is to exclude not only mind, but also humans and their influence. The boundary between the natural and the artificial, is a difficult one to draw, leading to ambiguities which animate much of art, literature and philosophy, and which echo those of the closely related mind-body problem. By not excluding mind and humans from nature (and by not divorcing mind and brain) these ambiguities are avoided.

Related concepts

The term natural science is used in a variety of ways, primarily:

  • to denote the study of natural processes as opposed to human activities, in contrast to the social sciences; and
  • to denote those sciences which employ the scientific method, in contrast e.g. to mathematics and computer science.

The term natural philosophy formerly named the scientific discipline now known as physics.

Natural theology straddles the disciplines of theology and philosophy of religion.

In education and related areas, the contrast "natural/artificial" can appear as " nature/nurture".

See also: praeternatural, unnatural and supernatural.

See also


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