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Related: biology - human nature - instinct - landscape - mountain - peasant - primitive - trope of Romanticism

Jean-Jacques Rousseau contended that man is essentially good, a "noble savage" when in the "state of nature" (the state of all the other animals, and the condition man was in before the creation of civilization and society), and that good people are made unhappy and corrupted by their experiences in society. He viewed society as "artificial" and "corrupt" and that the furthering of society results in the continuing unhappiness of man.

Contrast the previous quote by Rousseau to this quote by Sade and it sums up the ambivalence regarding the divinity of nature:

Cruelty, very far from being a vice, is the first sentiment Nature injects in us all. The infant breaks his toy, bites his nurse's breast, strangles his canary long before he is able to reason; cruelty is stamped in animals, in whom, as I think I have said, Nature's laws are more emphatically to be read than in ourselves; cruelty exists amongst savages, so much nearer to Nature than civilized men are. --Sade, Philosophy in the Bedroom

The Large Turf (1503) - Albrecht Dürer


Natural is defined as "of or relating to nature"; this applies to both definitions of 'nature': 'essence' ("one's true nature") and 'the untouched world' ("force of nature"). Natural is often used meaning "good", "healthy", or "belonging to human nature". This use can be questioned, as many freely growing plants are poisonous, for example. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural [Jun 2006]

The natural and the artificial

A distinction is often drawn between the "natural" and the "artificial" (="man-made"). 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. In either case, the boundary between the natural and the artificial is a difficult one to draw. Some people believe that the problem is best avoided by saying that everything is natural, but that does little to clarify the concept of the "artificial". In any event, ambiguities about the distinction between the natural and the artificial animate much of art, literature and philosophy.

Another approach is to distinguish natural processes and artificial (man-made) processes. In this viewpoint, a process is deemed to occur either at the behest of man, or not. For example, flipping a light switch might illuminate a room, or perhaps a sunrise might illuminate that room. In this viewpoint, the sunrise would be termed a natural process; the decision of a human being to flip the light switch would be termed an artificial illumination, in contrast. In this viewpoint, artifice (art or literature) is clearly the result of willful human action; furthermore, the act of stating a philosophical position could also a willful action (and hence at the behest of man), whether or not the content of the philosophy were to be about science. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nature [May 2005]

Is nature good?

On the one hand, leading Enlightenment thinkers like Denis Diderot (1713—1784) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712—1778) believed that unspoiled nature offered a foundation for both moral behavior and harmonious relations between the individual and society.

On the other hand, the Marquis Donatien-Alphonse-Francois de Sade (1740—1814), Baron Paul Dietrich d'Holbach (1723—1789), Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (1741—1803), and others argued that nature was profoundly riven by inner tensions, contradictions, and disruptive forces: natural drives were ethically neutral or even blindly amoral and thus could not provide a foundation on which to build a peaceful society. --Stepchildren of Nature: Krafft-Ebing, Psychiatry, and the Making of Sexual Identity (2000) - Harry Oosterhuis

Nature: primitive

A primitive state of existence, untouched and uninfluenced by civilization or artificiality: couldn't tolerate city life anymore and went back to nature. -- number 4 of 10 or more explanations in the American Heritage Dictionary.

Birth control

[...] birth control pill, OK, which frustrates nature --Camille Paglia

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