What ‘nature’ is for us:
(1) Whatever the sciences – natural sciences analyze and explain. That is physics, chemistry, biology.
Matter and energy for physics, substances and their actions and interaction for chemistry, life and life
processes for biology. No homogenous concept or image of nature emerges from the ‘natural sciences.’
Their laws are highly diverse, when quantum mechanics, electrodynamics, the theory of evolution and
genetics are included. In addition, nature in the scientific sense is also astronomy and cosmology (‘Big
Bang’), earth tectonics and ecology is included. Neither is there a unitary type of explanatory law, nor is
observation and experiment everywhere the method applied. In addition: Psychology, sociology and
economics use the same kinds of laws and formal models used in the sciences. But human behavior of the
kinds analyzed by psychology, sociology and economics are traditionally not included in nature. The
divide between knowledge of nature and knowledge of things human: the natural sciences, the social
sciences, the human sciences.
Nature is anything that can be described through scientific laws.
(2) In everyday perspective ‘nature’ is the domain of things that are not shaped by human activity:
untouched nature, the nature of national parks, wildlife. Things that have come about without us. Things
we intervene in and interfere with, when we cultivate the soil, raze the hills for development, develop
antibiotics, or manipulate genes. The ‘nature-culture’ divide.
What ’nature’ is for Aristotle:
Natural things are, some or all of them, subject to change. (185a13). Changeability is thus a major feature
of nature. It delimits the natural domain against the non-natural one. Those things are, centrally,
individual items we perceive with our senses and act upon in our comportment, while ourselves being
acted upon by them. Substances. Whatever is subject to change and is an individual item in this sense
qualifies for naturalness. That includes inanimate, animate things and artifacts of our everyday world. But
items that are not subject to change - things like numbers and geometrical objects (compare 194a2) are
not natural things. As we are beings who are subject to change we qualify for naturalness. Humans
included in nature.
Physics is the science of nature. We destroy nature when we interfere with it.
This natural world of change is organized around one central category of being:
Aristotelian substance=Things that ‘are’ in a primary way:
Aristotle’s central concept is that of a reality or substance. Primary, central realities are spatio-temporal
items in the world in which we live, which we perceive through our senses, and with which we are in
active contact – in both ways. Things like human beings, their limbs and organs, other animals, plants,
their parts like leaves or branches, but also artifacts like houses, beds, mountains and valleys, lumps of
coal, gold nuggets, single beans, a straw. . . Today, we are more convinced of the primacy of things we