Nature (Latin natura, from nasci " arise, be born," Greek semantic correspondence φύσις, physis, see " physics " ) refers to Western philosophy in general, what was not created by man. However, the term is used in different and sometimes contradictory meanings, which is why it is often debatable, what is the nature and what is not. The most important meanings of the concept of nature are " first being as a whole, the cosmos, second part of the reality of a non-natural area - for example, the divine, spiritual, cultural, artificial or technical - is contrasted, 3 a property of reality or a reality area and 4 the essence of an object. "

A distinction (biotic, eg plants, animals) between animate and inanimate Nature Nature (abiotic, such as stones, liquids, gases). The terms "animated " or "dead " are closely connected with the concept of clarifying by organisms and life, and integrated in the context of philosophical or ideological way of looking.

Nature as a counter-concept to culture

In Western culture is referred to as nature in general, what was not created by man, as opposed to the ( man-made ) culture.

Whether humans part of nature or not is not already social consensus. In the first case we also speak of except human nature to express that people otherwise are part of nature, with the concept of nature thus approximates the term environment.

Natural events, natural phenomena include rain or thunderstorms, the climate altogether. The fact that these natural phenomena no longer have long been influenced by the culture of the people, does not fit this traditional view. The human relationship with nature is increasingly the subject of a critique of the culture of societies or governments.

Today arise in this respect more than ever critical questions: ecological problems such as scarcity and pollution are the consequences of over- exploitation of finite and renewable natural resources. Events that humans can not control, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, are on a human scale natural disasters. The need for intervention in the natural processes protecting against natural hazards is in contrast to the aforementioned critique of culture. Nowadays we know that Nature is destroyed and can not in some areas renew their own.

In our parlance existing phrases such as "natural" (of course) or " in the nature of things " refer to the elementary meaning of the term. Already in the romance was a great interest in nature - in conjunction with an increased turn to inwardness and feelings - when for industrialization.

Nature as a philosophical concept of the Western world

The colloquial use of natural or unnatural, and expressions such as " it is in the nature of things " indicate an extended meaning. Interpretations are possible here as " given by nature " or " determination".

Augustine of Hippo distinguishes between a substantive and a formal definition of nature. For him nature is essence ( essentia ) and substance ( substantia ). The theology follows has always been the question of the relationship of nature and supernatural grace.

A detailed debate within the philosophical branch of aesthetics is concerned with the " natural beauty " ( in contrast to the created in the artistic beauty ).


In ancient Greek philosophy nature was equated with " being" and " inner principle ". The natural philosophers, Plato, the Stoics and Neoplatonists, the term " nature" ( altgr. φύσις, physis ) referred to the orderliness of the world as a whole ( altgr. κόσμος, cosmos cosmos = ). Aristotle applied the term, however, primarily on the individual things. Nature is with him that which constitutes the provision and the purpose of existence. It affects both the things inherent power ( dynamis, energeia ) and the associated this place and the related movement. " Light " rises to the top, " Heavy " sinks to the bottom. However, the ancient world knew already the contrast between nature and statutes (laws, AltGr. Νόμος, nomos ), the statute says that of what has been set by man.

Middle Ages

In the scholasticism was between the eternal Creator God, the " creative nature " ( natura naturans ) and the finite, " created nature " ( natura naturata ) distinguished. Both are " structuring principles."

Modern Times

As science began to emerge, nature was mostly as the totality purposeless, extensive body considered, which are subject to the laws of nature. The ancient view that the nature Determine the nature and evolution of beings, holding only with respect to the " nature of man ", but was controversially discussed again and again in recent years. The term nature referred increasingly to what can be explored, identified and controlled by human consciousness ( and should ).

Discourse since 1990

The current discourse on the protection of nature refers to both the emotional and detectable provided with ethical values ​​, a natural as well as the rational abstract " system nature." The philosopher Ludwig Fischer says:

"We remain pointed out having to think about nature as an objectively pre-given and as a culturally Konzeptioniertes same time."

Problems of the definition of natural

As a philosophical concept (see philosophy of nature ) is what natural ( nature entstammend ) and what is not, of course, influenced by the relationship between people and their environment. In this context, the environment stands for the non-ego, which is outside the ego of man.

The term natural is not value-free, it is also spoken by natural disasters, natural hazards or the like. Nature is set to human existence in relationship. This ratio is mainly due to emotional, aesthetic and religious judgmental, normative attitudes determined ( Oldemeyer 1983).

Nature as a utility object

The combination of the anthropomorphic nature of the relationship early days of the Old Testament and human images, which grants the people the same time a control and preservation of order, led in Europe since the Middle Ages to a technomorphic relationship with nature.

In the reconnaissance nature was completely subordinate to the people for his own purposes to use, and the wilderness (primary nature ) than it was excreted cultivator end thereof. This technical- utilitarian attitude was perceived since the natural philosophical considerations of Jean -Jacques Rousseau as a perversion of the natural state and seen sentimental nature, without, however, overcoming the division between human and " divine nature" ( Hölderlin ). It manifested an understanding that the " defining nature as a counter-concept to human culture and as a self, looked subhuman object of human use and partly still sees", as a " basis and justification for unrestrained exploitation without normative constraints " ( Oldemeyer 1983).

Nature as an aesthetic and symbolic object

Secular life nature is perceived in many ways as an aesthetic and symbolic object, eg

In the field of poetry and poetry, nature is also allegorically as the "mother of all life " or paraphrased " mother of all ".

Integrative understanding of nature

Based on the ecology, which emerged as a biological sub-discipline in the late 19th century, and later of cybernetics nature was conceived as a self-regulating system. The result was the "We - World Relation " ( Oldemeyer 1983).

With the popularization of ecosystem research since the 80s of the 20th century attract more people in the industrialized countries to recognize that nature is not to be understood as a whole, but only as an open system in which is also the man with his culture ( inclusive ratio ) ( Oldemeyer 1983). This is evident, for example, in the definition of work, which is called the society and nature in the system context, the working processes are mediating elements and processes that can make only open because of their divergent goals people.

Derived from it would be, for example, the city, a cultural achievement of man to recognize as second nature. The City as Habitat ( habitat ) of the people that we make us increasingly lebensunwerter, thus creating a need for a diffuse ideal of wild or untouched nature, after recovery. It is simply overlooked that even the people greatly shaped areas include ( worth protecting ) nature. However, this integrative view of nature is reflected in the art, for example, in conservation, in ecology, urban ecology, etc., already down. Ludwig Klages referred to as second nature to rationally formed or " spirit prevailed " landscape.

Nature of science

Within the scientific nature is designed very differently, usually it is assumed that the natural science deals with the nature, or at least a part of it.

  • The human sciences in their employment with the people here consider themselves partly science, partly the humanities belong.
  • The engineering approach generally the technique that feels unlike a confrontation with nature.
  • The science ecology deals with nature in terms of living organisms and their environmental relationships.

However, the use of the term must be represented in the philosophy of science to be very controversial. Schematically, three predominant basic types of roles are distinguished for the term nature in the scientific concepts in terms of their relation to Being:

  • Nature is identified with being: this is the appropriate ontological assertion. " Everything that is, is the one nature" This positioning is called in philosophy as naturalism.
  • Nature, faced as part of being or reality other parts. Other parts are then often called culture or spirit.
  • Nature is negated in their objective existence: " There is no nature. " These often found in constructivism position subsumes nature under purely cognitive or social structures or phenomena, from which they then not qualitatively different.