Nature in Man or Man in Nature

This weeks reading is a very philosophical piece on how we view nature, how we could view nature, and how we should view nature. It focuses on our relationship with nature and how that shapes our understanding of nature and our place within it.

Our relationship with nature is really really weird and it just keeps getting weirder. I don’t really know what it means to be a human anymore considering how alienated we are from this earth. Growing up in Oregon was a blessing as far as the United States goes, but even with the mountains and vast forests and ocean readily available for us to experience do we actually experience them? I’ll go on a hike but only walk on a procured human walking path, I’ll go skiing on Mt. Hood and will practically just be playing a game on the mountain between trips to the lodge for a hot drink, I’ll go to the beach and lay on a towel and use a plastic shovel to dig a hole, I’ll go camping and sit in a warmed trailer or a closed up tent. I done this stuff a lot, and I feel like I’ve “experienced” nature more than the average person, but have I even experienced it? When I walk down the street here at OSU I love to view the trees as they change colors, but these trees have been placed there for precisely that reason and nothing more. Arranged in a row and evenly spaced out. I don’t feel like modern day humans in this western culture have a connection to the earth past the relationship that produces us a profit. We view it as a sport, an activity, a view, an attraction, a resource, something we can exploit, sometimes something we can protect, but never as a part of us.

How much do we know about nature?

People have varying degrees of understanding of what Nature is. Nature is everything, but what does it actually make it? Shaviro’s 22 Theses on Nature gives an attempt to answer that question. 

Well, we know that humans and whatever they make are a part of nature(Shaviro). By that logic, nature is not of anthropogenic characteristics(Shaviro). Nature always changes and never stagnates. Evolution is always occurring. Nature’s extent is infinite. It is very hard to capture the scale of nature. Similar thinking leads to the conclusion that you cannot predict nature’s future. The things inside nature do not usually reach extreme points. Nature’s metastable, there are energy gradients  activating constantly causing things to happen(Shaviro). Individuation disrupts metastability. Energy is one form of individuation. It  is a common fact  that energy is never created or destroyed. Energy just becomes used  and lost, leading to entropy for example. 

Information is  another component of individuation. Information’s importance  varies on the entity, and nature helps spread it all over. Perception is done by all living organisms to gain  information. Even  trees conduct it. Perception ultimately causes action. Sentience is not  consciousness. Sentience  just implies  that an organism can do information processing.  Consciousness actually invoices conscious thought processes. Information becomes processed  even  without perception. The example Shaviro cites is the virus that causes one to be sick, we  only  feel the symptoms in that case, not the virus. 

In nature cause and effect is huge. There are uncountable causes that cause almost  infinite effects.  Even things that are not alive “feel” things in nature, Shaviro claims, like a  rock falling off a cliff.

Nature is above all, yet not outside anything. We should continue to respect nature for the entity it is.