natur banner e

Object #15 / Definition of Nature

Meyers Konversations-Lexikon [Meyer’s General Knowledge Encyclopedia]
Vol. 12. Nathusius – Phlegmone. Leipzig: Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, 1888
(Arnold Schönberg’s personal library; Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien)

Nature (lat. Natura, from nasci, to be born), the world around us that bears changes according to natural law with the entire breadth of its content, namely to the extent that it has remained unchanged thus far in the face of human influence, therefore also used as against culture or art. N. constitutes all primordial things that have not been changed by human hand, all creatures – not excluding humankind – insofar as the changes associated with humankind are dependent on the laws of nature, as is shown so clearly by the statistics. However, besides their objective perception of things, humans are also able to perceive on the basis of subjective ideas. Through these ideas, humans rise above nature to perceive what is beautiful, good, purposeful. Although humans are not citizens of two worlds, as has often been fabled, one and the same world has given them two wholly different outlooks: a natural view and a religious or ideal view. One speaks of free nature as being contrary to the social and bourgeois relationships that are constricted by traditional conceptions, political constraints, legal statutes, associations and arbitrariness. One recovers from pressure and the busyness of bourgeois life in a natural environment because pressure falls by the wayside where irrevocable, generally applicable laws of nature prevail instead of arbitrary human statutes. An object’s n. is its dependency on the laws of nature in the form that is peculiar to the object. And so it is also possible to say that a person has a certain n., insofar as their hereditary human predisposition develops according to a very specific form of natural law. This predisposition is also called temperament or natural capacity. In this sense, one speaks of the n. of certain types of things and phenomena. Provided that the peculiarity of a human, an animal, a plant or any kind of body arises from its n. at all, i.e. stems from its predisposition under the laws of nature, its essence is called natural. The opposite of this is something that has been acquired through intention, art, upbringing, or training, etc. Being natural is diametrically opposed to being artificial. Upbringing seeks to educate the natural person in the ideas of goodness and beauty. One also speaks of beautiful n. and thus refers to the spiritual significance of natural objects, because by perceiving things as beautiful, we attach value to them that does not arise from their dependency on natural law. Exploration of the laws of n. is a concern of the natural sciences.

go to object overview