Nature Part 1 Response

Peter Coates’ Nature has thus far seemed to me a discursive, rambling stream of consciousness.  He does pull interesting facts from various time periods and sources to almost connect his points but overall it seems to have a general feel of giving different conceptual ideas of defining nature.  Throughout these first five chapters Coates moves explains nature by using almost a chronology of ideas.  That moves from mostly conceptualization of nature in the first to what nature means culturally in various societies and finally he gets into the ideology of Nature from a western viewpoint.

Overall I think one of the big focuses of this book is the dualism between humans and nature.   When Coates begins explaining the Greek origins of nature, the definition is that nature was everything material that exists.  This poses two main questions. The first being if, according to this definition, everything material is natural then nothing can be unnatural. Secondly with this in mind if everything material is natural then the only things that don’t fall into the category of nature is the human mind and all of its ideas. Coates also points out here that without a concept of culture as humans create it, there can be no concept of nature.  This reinforces the dualism that humans and nature are separate entities.  Later on in the book Coates references how this dualism plays a role in early Christian thinking.   I found the section on early Christian thinking to be quite interesting because there usually seems to be a kind of consensus among religions that the earth and all of its creatures deserve respect and adoration.   However there apparently was a strong disconnect which plays off of the idea of dualism, downgrading the physical environment and holding up the spiritual.  This ideology removed the sense of holiness and godliness from the earth and elevated humans above the rest of creation.  This makes even more sense when it is put into context with the idea that “man should multiply, subdue the earth and have dominion over its creatures.”   I think that this line really embodies the dualistic thinking that allowed people to have the notion that we are separate and therefore can be above the natural world.

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