Readings on First Half of Nature: Western Attitudes Since Ancient Times

In the first half of Nature, interesting topics I came across included similarities I found on the concept of dualism. As mentioned in Cronan’s essay and other books like Desert Solitaire, it was interesting to find the same theme incorporated in Nature; “establishment of human control over the natural world, the stages in the emergence of dualistic, or so-called ‘homocentric’ and ‘anthropocentric’ thinking (i.e. the separation of people and culture from nature, and culture’s elevation above nature) and, not least, the attribution of responsibility for our contemporary ecological predicament” (2).

In the section “Interpretations and representations of ‘nature’: towards a historical nature” Coates discusses that to understand the Western worlds views on nature would be divided into five sections: a physical place, collective phenomena of world/universe, an essence, quality that explains inner workings, a guide, and the conceptual opposite to culture. Looking further, Coates also notes the perception of nature we usually associate with “daffodils” and poetry written by poets such as John Keats and James Thompson, the romanticism ideology.

He examines the long lasting debates surrounding nature and its derivation from past influences. For example when discussing The Idea of Nature by Collingswood, Coates says that Collingswood’s belief of “nature as the universe and the cosmos in the broadest possible sense can be traced to ancient Greece and Rome” (4). Further he says that it can be traced to a Roman poet and philosopher Titus Lucretius and his piece, De Rerum Natura translated to On the Nature of Things. In this writing, he makes references to nature as the “cosmic setting of human life.” When reading this section it was interesting to see that concepts of “Mother Nature” came from places like Ancient Greece that once made references to nature in physical form, often as women. My interests were peaked with the mention of Lucretius and his poetry.

I looked up the purpose of De Rerum Natura being written, and what he was explaining. He puts aside the long believed idea that deities were responsible for what happened to them and their surroundings. He denounced the ideology by incorporating examples of occurred events were the work of natural phenomena that included unvarying, but irrational motions of atoms in empty space. This is very forward thinking, for someone from the first century.

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