• wax
    The word and so the concept of what is 'natural, is often used, but what does it really mean?
    What is something which is 'unnatural'?
    Everything we know about has come about by some sort of process or processes, so what differentiates something which is 'unnatural' from something which is 'natural'?

    I think one differentiation can be based upon that which is man-made and that which isn't. But it seems like there may be more to it than that.
  • czahar
    It’s meaningless. It makes an assumption that there is a difference between “natural” and “manmade” as if humans and human actions are outside of “nature.”
  • Bitter Crank
    We can define "natural" (from nature) quite precisely but it may not make any difference in how the word is used. That's because the connotations of "natural" are so positive.

    "Middle English (in the sense ‘having a certain status by birth’): from Old French, from Latin naturalis, from natura ‘birth, nature, quality.

    The phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations.

    The basic or inherent features of something, especially when seen as characteristic of it.

    Humans are natural; a computer is not natural? Petroleum is natural; what about polystyrene?

    A computer is unnatural; polystyrene is unnatural. Strong negative connotations are attached to the word "unnatural". they are perverse, abnormal; obscene maybe; they don't belong here; etc.

    Humans, by our nature, compound, invent, build, change and destroy things. It's normal for us; natural. That our natural compounding, inventing, building, changing, and destroying things can get out of hand, can backfire, and can threaten our own existence doesn't mean it is unnatural. What it means is that homo sapiens sapiens is naturally a high risk species--high risk for themselves, and high risk for many other species.

    The human activities conducted in the advertising industry have, naturally, screwed up the meaning of natural; advertisers are liars by profession, and are prone to call all sorts of things "natural" that are highly contrived and loaded with man-made chemicals. So just disregard the words "nature", "natural" "cage free", "organic", "farm fresh", "grass fed", and so on when you when you see it in advertising and packaging.

    Letting chickens spend all day outside, wandering around in green pastures big enough for 20,000 large birds (if not several times that many) is just not going to happen. Yes, we could employ people to collect eggs from wherever the chicken might happen to lay them, but then they would cost a lot more than $1.89 a dozen. Small flocks of chickens can be raised outside, and really small flocks can be kept inside humane chicken coops where the chickens can law their eggs in boxes. Those chickens aren't going to end up in the mass market.

    Milk can be produced from pastured dairy cattle; but note, it takes a lot of acreage to produce enough milk to supply all the markets in a metropolitan area, never mind a region. And then there is late fall, winter, and early spring when there isn't enough grass (at least in the north) to keep a few cows happy, never mind many thousand. The cows that give milk in January in Minnesota are not eating grass; they are eating hay, grain, and fermented corn stalks (which they really like).

    If you want actually fresh orange juice, you usually have to make it yourself.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    My lack of motivation is unnatural.
  • Relativist
    The natural= That which exists (has existed, or will exist) including ourselves, everything that is causally connected to ourselves, and anything not causally connected (such as alternate universes) that is inferred to exist, to have existed, or that will exist, through analysis of our universe.
  • Terrapin Station
    Two common, relatively clear senses:

    (1) natural is contrasted with artificial/man-made
    (2) natural is contrasted with supernatural--ghosts, magic, demons, etc.

    There's also a relatively unclear attempt to use natural in a normative manner, typically from a "conservative" perspective--where it basically just amounts to the stuff someone approves of being "natural" while the stuff they're uncomfortable with is "unnatural"
  • Joseph Walsh
    Anything that an intelligent being did not make.
  • Wayfarer
    I think one differentiation can be based upon that which is man-made and that which isn't. But it seems like there may be more to it than that.wax

    I think that's pretty close to the difference. Another way of saying it is to oppose it to 'artificial' meaning 'made or manufactured'. If you think back, before one of the precursor hominid species evolved and starting making things, there was nothing artificial (made by humans) on the planet. Now we have islands of plastic waste in the oceans.

    The basic or inherent features of something, especially when seen as characteristic of it.Bitter Crank

    Aha! An epiphany.

    In traditional (pre-modern) philosophy, there was a fundamental distinction between what is 'made' and what is 'uncreated'. This is because 'the uncreated' is really a cipher for something like 'the holy spirit' or 'the source of all things'. (This is a distinction going back to Greek philosophy, but it is also found in Indian philosophy.) In such philosophies, the point of the philosophical quest was to discover or realise 'the uncreated' (preserved in scholastic Christian philosophy in the expression 'the wisdom uncreate'. )

    The original (Platonist) vision was that 'created things' were essentially emanations from the 'divine intellect' as 'ideas', of which individual particulars were instances. So their essence, their real nature, was 'the idea' which was of a higher order than mere bodily and material stuff of which they were formed. In various mystical and gnostic schools, the whole purpose of philosophy was to realise one's identity with the ideal form as distinct from the mere matter in which it was incarnated.

    However, this understanding began to fall away in later medieval times, and was to all intents lost in modern philosophy. But a relic of the idea is preserved in the 'reverence for nature' - 'nature' being a symbol for what is 'untouched by man'. So the reverence that used to be accorded to 'the uncreated' now directed towards 'the natural' - hence the association of reverence for nature with environmentalism and respect for indigenous cultures, and 'green left' politics. So in modern thinking, the idea of what is 'natural' has been transposed into the position previously accorded to 'the uncreated'.

    However, as Max Horkheimer says in Eclipse of Reason:

    In traditional theology and metaphysics, the natural was largely conceived as the evil, and the spiritual or supernatural as the good. In popular Darwinism, the good is the well-adapted, and the value of that to which the organism adapts itself is unquestioned or is measured only in terms of further adaptation. However, being well adapted to one’s surroundings is tantamount to being capable of coping successfully with them, of mastering the forces that beset one. Thus the theoretical denial of the spirit’s antagonism to nature–even as implied in the doctrine of interrelation between the various forms of organic life, including man–frequently amounts in practice to subscribing to the principle of man’s continuous and thoroughgoing domination of nature. Regarding reason as a natural organ does not divest it of the trend to domination or invest it with greater potentialities for reconciliation. On the contrary, the abdication of the spirit in popular Darwinism entails the rejection of any elements of the mind that transcend the function of adaptation and consequently are not instruments of self-preservation. Reason disavows its own primacy and professes to be a mere servant of natural selection. On the surface, this new empirical reason seems more humble toward nature than the reason of the metaphysical tradition. Actually, however, it is arrogant, practical mind riding roughshod over the ‘useless spiritual,’ and dismissing any view of nature in which the latter is taken to be more than a stimulus to human activity.
  • Michael Ossipoff

    I like "Normal" and "Usual".

    Of course, in a different sense, "Natural" is useful to distinguish between manmade and not-manmade.

    Michael Ossipoff

    12 F
    1925 UTC
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