Nature never really was anything more than artifice.
This is not the accepted view.
There exists a widespread belief that at some point in human history Man and Nature separated from each other; that they are things of intrinsically different quality and that this is very bad. The general sentiment holds that a beaver’s dam is natural but a house is unnatural. A wasp nest is natural but a computer is unnatural. And natural things are better, more pure. For a random example, we can look to the article The Separation Between Man and Nature by Julie Bentley from Odyssey wherein the author writes, “Technology is the ultimate separation between man and nature. We would rather get to the top of a mountain and text the first person we know about it than to sit down and admire the majesty and the vastness of the mountaintop. Think about how many things we have missed passing in the car because we’re on our phone.”
The first and most obvious question this raises is what makes human technology fundamentally unnatural since given the title itself she clearly doesn’t believe humans themselves are unnatural (as her utilization of “separation” implies there was a point of cleavage between what was once a wholesome union). The second pertinent question is: is the information contained within the phone more important than the information which could be garnered from gazing out a window at any given point in time? The answer is highly dependent upon the context of a given car-ride, clearly if one is the driver and their phone is not voice-operated then it is unwise to utilize it whilst driving given the increased risk of a crash, yet this has nothing to do with being natural or unnatural (which is really just to say, common or uncommon), but rather, risk-mitigation from two “unnatural” pieces of human artifice: a car and a phone. Further, one can easily reverse the ending cry of dismay and say quite reasonably instead: “How many things we have missed on our phones because we’re gazing idly out the window of a car.”
Now, without a proper definition of what “Nature” is, this delineation makes no sense. So let us concretely define our terms via The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th Edition), which defines nature as:
n. The material world and its phenomena.
n. The forces and processes that produce and control all the phenomena of the material world: the laws of nature.
n. The world of living things and the outdoors: the beauties of nature.
n. A primitive state of existence, untouched and uninfluenced by civilization or artificiality: couldn’t tolerate city life anymore and went back to nature.
n. (Theology) Humankind’s natural state as distinguished from the state of grace.
n. A kind or sort: confidences of a personal nature.
n. The essential characteristics and qualities of a person or thing: “She was only strong and sweet and in her nature when she was really deep in trouble” ( Gertrude Stein).
n. The fundamental character or disposition of a person; temperament: “Strange natures made a brotherhood of ill” ( Percy Bysshe Shelley).
n. The natural or real aspect of a person, place, or thing. See Synonyms at disposition.
n. The processes and functions of the body.
When one shores away all of those definitions of the word which pertain to character, disposition and those which are further clarifications of previously mentioned descriptions, one is left with only three principal definitions:
- (1) The material world and its phenomena.
- (2) Humankind’s natural state as distinguished from the state of grace.
- (3) A primitive state of existence, untouched and uninfluenced by civilization or artificiality.
Definition 2 is a neurological phenomena and thus, too particular to be useful (it is also not typically what people mean when they refer to “nature” either casually or academically). However, definitions 1 and 3 demand some deliberation as they are both plausible and the two most commonly used. The problem is that definition 1 obviates 3, because 1 covers the whole of the material world it would — of necessity — include human beings, whereas definition 3 does not and in fact, mandates the exclusion of human beings from the natural order. One might be tempted to say that definition 3 only mandates exclusion of human civilization and artifice, and that would be fine insofar as civilization were concerned, but the whole of human existence is predicated upon artifice, as even something as simple as crafting a wooden spear or flint-kindling a campfire is still “artifice” no matter how primitive, as is the crafting of fur clothing and cave painting and so on and so forth. Thus, the two definitions are at loggerheads! However, the linguistic problem goes even further for just as all human artifice is a necessary product of bio-chemical action, so to might we also say that those bio-chemical actions themselves are natural artifice. This is to say that there is really nothing but artifice all the way down, the only meaningful distinction is between kinds of artifice – that is to say – between the various different forms of emergence, dissolution, recombination and reemergence.
To assert that the principal distinction between human artifice and non-human artifice is conscious direction — and to therefore imbue in human thought some cosmic separateness — is to affirm that there is nothing at the base of action which moves it or to assert some ghost-essence (the principal conceptual limiter in questions of “free” will); that your neurological impulses are not controlling for what makes you you, but that the conceptual you is controlling the neurological impulses. Humans do not require, as a matter of base principal, a understanding of the intricate operations of the brain and central nervous system, of the heart and lungs, we just needed to know (as we still do) that we are separate enough from the system which created us so as not to be killed by it.
This is all that lies at the base of identity.
Separation from the artifice of always is the necessary generative nexus for life itself.