Our conceptualization of nature

The definition of a ‘thesis’, according to oxford dictionary, is “a statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved”. Essentially this means a thesis is a statement with no implied backing. Really the only assurance we have is that one person (the author) thinks it is true. This is not said to demean the “Twenty-Two Theses on Nature”, but simply to clarify what it is we are dealing with here. Furthermore, while it might be questionable to state unsupported theses in Physics for example, but the very nature (ah) of this topic is much more abstract.

All of the theses describe nature in some way. That much is apparent, but the way in which nature is described throughout has some notable diversity. Initially, all the theses describe the way in which we ought to think of nature. This pattern holds up until thesis 8 where Steven Shaviro boldly states “Nature is neither a plenum nor a void”. This distinction is particularly interesting because of something called the is-ought gap. The is-ought gap is the concept that no statements of directing what one should do can be derived directly from statements only consisting of what is true. This means that there is a fundamental divide between the thesis which guide action (or more specifically guide how we should think) and those which make a statement about the way that nature is. In another context I could potentially brush this off as a quirk of wording, but considering the philosophical nature of this paper and Steven Shaviro’s own background in philosophy I believe this is intentional.

While Shaviro gives us many theses (twenty two to be precise) they clearly work together, but what are they saying? My interpretation is that Shaviro’s Thesis with a capital T is we need to view nature in a way that motivates us to take care of it. Now, clearly this one statement does not include nearly the same level of detail that Shaviro’s theses give and most notably they answer the question of what exactly that way is, however I think this is the defining thread. An important note about this thread is that it is an ought statement. If we consider this as a premise to our 22 theses this makes sense. The ought component here is crucial to create other ought statements.

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