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Absence And Light
Meditations From The Klamath Marshes
John R. Campbell
University of Nevada Press, 2002
"In order to accept the enormous responsibility that comes of being in the world, we must first conceive, in spite of all the obstacles, the state of actually being the world." It is for this reason that John R. Campbell came to the Klamath marshes, a wetland in southern Oregon formed by three ancient, shallow lakes.
Absence and Light is Campbell's account of his exploration of the marshes and a meditation on the world he found there, on his growing understanding of the physical, emotional, moral, and aesthetic meaning of that world, on his own growth as a man. Through Campbell's eyes, we observe the stirring and astonishing beauty of the marshes and their creatures, and the utter poignancy of their fragility before the heedless ambitions of humankind.
This is nature writing at its most profound and moving, writing that in examining and defining the world of nature helps us to understand the very complicated and contradictory realities of being human. Campbell's luminous descriptions and mystical insights will long linger in the reader's memory.

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Anglicanus ortus
A Verse Herbal of the Twelfth Century
Henry of Huntingdon
Bodleian Library Publishing, 2012

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Aquinas on Imitation of Nature
Source of Principles of Moral Action
Wojciech Golubiewski
Catholic University of America Press, 2022
Aquinas on Imitation of Nature highlights and explores the doctrine of the imitation of nature, a crucial aspect of Aquinas’ metaethics and fills the gap in research on Aquinas’ moral doctrine and theory of action. It conveys Aquinas’ doctrine of the imitation of nature as a natural feature of right practical reason regarding moral thinking and action, indeed as an indispensable feature of virtuous flourishing in individual and communal aspects of human life. The book starts with an overview of some of recent interpretations of Aquinas’ moral doctrine and natural law, introducing the need to explore the role of the imitation of nature in human practical reasoning and action in this area of Aquinas’ teaching. The chapters that follow are based on a careful reading of selected texts of Aquinas, and gradually develop a thorough and comprehensive picture of his doctrine of the imitation of nature as a source of practical principles. The final chapter provides various examples of how Aquinas understands the imitation of nature in the realm of moral reasoning and action. The originality of this volume comes from its account of Aquinas’ medieval doctrine of the imitation of nature, in light of which the principles of right practical reason and virtuous action are congruent with and epistemologically dependant upon the basic terms of the movements of natural, sensible, non-rational agents. Through its thorough reading of Aquinas on the imitation of nature, the book aims to open new ways of appropriation of the metaphysical and natural tenets of his moral doctrine in the areas of theory of action, practical reason, natural law, and contemporary virtue ethics.

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Before Nature
Cuneiform Knowledge and the History of Science
Francesca Rochberg
University of Chicago Press, 2016
In the modern West, we take for granted that what we call the “natural world” confronts us all and always has—but Before Nature explores that almost unimaginable time when there was no such conception of “nature”—no word, reference, or sense for it.
Before the concept of nature formed over the long history of European philosophy and science, our ancestors in ancient Assyria and Babylonia developed an inquiry into the world in a way that is kindred to our modern science. With Before Nature, Francesca Rochberg explores that Assyro-Babylonian knowledge tradition and shows how it relates to the entire history of science. From a modern, Western perspective, a world not conceived somehow within the framework of physical nature is difficult—if not impossible—to imagine. Yet, as Rochberg lays out, ancient investigations of regularity and irregularity, norms and anomalies clearly established an axis of knowledge between the knower and an intelligible, ordered world. Rochberg is the first scholar to make a case for how exactly we can understand cuneiform knowledge, observation, prediction, and explanation in relation to science—without recourse to later ideas of nature. Systematically examining the whole of Mesopotamian science with a distinctive historical and methodological approach, Before Nature will open up surprising new pathways for studying the history of science.

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Beyond Nature and Culture
Philippe Descola
University of Chicago Press, 2013
Philippe Descola has become one of the most important anthropologists working today, and Beyond Nature and Culture has been a major influence in European intellectual life since its French publication in 2005. Here, finally, it is brought to English-language readers. At its heart is a question central to both anthropology and philosophy: what is the relationship between nature and culture?
Culture—as a collective human making, of art, language, and so forth—is often seen as essentially different from nature, which is portrayed as a collective of the nonhuman world, of plants, animals, geology, and natural forces. Descola shows this essential difference to be, however, not only a specifically Western notion, but also a very recent one. Drawing on ethnographic examples from around the world and theoretical understandings from cognitive science, structural analysis, and phenomenology, he formulates a sophisticated new framework, the “four ontologies”— animism, totemism, naturalism, and analogism—to account for all the ways we relate ourselves to nature. By thinking beyond nature and culture as a simple dichotomy, Descola offers nothing short of a fundamental reformulation by which anthropologists and philosophers can see the world afresh.

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The Biophilia Hypothesis
Edited by Stephen R. Kellert
Island Press, 1993

"Biophilia" is the term coined by Edward O. Wilson to describe what he believes is humanity's innate affinity for the natural world. In his landmark book Biophilia, he examined how our tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes might be a biologically based need, integral to our development as individuals and as a species. That idea has caught the imagination of diverse thinkers.

The Biophilia Hypothesis brings together the views of some of the most creative scientists of our time, each attempting to amplify and refine the concept of biophilia. The variety of perspectives -- psychological, biological, cultural, symbolic, and aesthetic -- frame the theoretical issues by presenting empirical evidence that supports or refutes the hypothesis. Numerous examples illustrate the idea that biophilia and its converse, biophobia, have a genetic component:

  • fear, and even full-blown phobias of snakes and spiders are quick to develop with very little negative reinforcement, while more threatening modern artifacts -- knives, guns, automobiles -- rarely elicit such a response
  • people find trees that are climbable and have a broad, umbrella-like canopy more attractive than trees without these characteristics
  • people would rather look at water, green vegetation, or flowers than built structures of glass and concrete
The biophilia hypothesis, if substantiated, provides a powerful argument for the conservation of biological diversity. More important, it implies serious consequences for our well-being as society becomes further estranged from the natural world. Relentless environmental destruction could have a significant impact on our quality of life, not just materially but psychologically and even spiritually.

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Bleak Joys
Aesthetics of Ecology and Impossibility
Matthew Fuller
University of Minnesota Press, 2019

A philosophical and cultural distillation of the bleak joys in today’s ambivalent ecologies and patterns of life

Bleak Joys develops an understanding of complex entities and processes—from plant roots to forests to ecological damage and its calculation—as aesthetic. It is also a book about “bad” things, such as anguish and devastation, which relate to the ecological and technical but are also constitutive of politics, the ethical, and the formation of subjects.

Avidly interdisciplinary, Bleak Joys draws on scientific work in plant sciences, computing, and cybernetics, as well as mathematics, literature, and art in ways that are not merely illustrative of but foundational to our understanding of ecological aesthetics and the condition in which the posthumanities are being forged. It places the sensory world of plants next to the generalized and nonlinear infrastructure of irresolvability—the economics of indifference up against the question of how to make a home on Planet Earth in a condition of damaged ecologies. Crosscutting chapters on devastation, anguish, irresolvability, luck, plant, and home create a vivid and multifaceted approach that is as remarkable for its humor as for its scholarly complexity.

Engaging with Deleuze, Guattari, and Bakhtin, among others, Bleak Joys captures the modes of crises that constitute our present ecological and political condition, and reckons with the means by which they are not simply aesthetically known but aesthetically manifest.


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Clear Creek
Toward a Natural Philosophy
Erik Reece
West Virginia University Press, 2023

Acclaimed author Erik Reece spends a year beside a rural Kentucky stream, in close observation of the natural world’s cycles, revelations, and redemptions.

A critic once wrote that Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon was about two things: Yugoslavia and everything else. Something similar might be said about Clear Creek. In this boundary-defying work, Erik Reece spends a year beside the stream in his rural Kentucky homeplace, tracking the movements of the seasons, the animals, and the thoughts passing through his mind.

Clear Creek is a series of vignettes that calls us out of our frenzied, digitized world to a slower, more contemplative way of being. Reece’s subjects range from solitude and solidarity to the intricacies of forest communities, and from the genius of songwriter Tom T. Hall to reforestation projects on abandoned strip mines. A work of close observation and carefully grounded insights, Clear Creek articulates a nature-based philosophy for pondering humanity’s current plight.


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The Ecology of Others
Philippe Descola
Prickly Paradigm Press, 2013

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The Embers and the Stars
Erazim Kohák
University of Chicago Press, 1987
"It is hard to put this profound book into a category. Despite the author's criticisms of Thoreau, it is more like Walden than any other book I have read. . . . The book makes great strides toward bringing the best insights from medieval philosophy and from contemporary environmental ethics together. Anyone interested in both of these areas must read this book."—Daniel A. Dombrowski, The Thomist

"Those who share Kohák's concern to understand nature as other than a mere resource or matter in motion will find his temporally oriented interpretation of nature instructive. It is here in particular that Kohák turns moments of experience to account philosophically, turning what we habitually overlook or avoid into an opportunity and basis for self-knowledge. This is an impassioned attempt to see the vital order of nature and the moral order of our humanity as one."—Ethics

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Envisioning Nature, Science, and Religion
Jim Proctor
Templeton Press, 2009

Contemporary scholarship has given rise to several modes of understanding biophysical and human nature, each entangled with related notions of science and religion. Envisioning Nature, Science, and Religion represents the culmination of three years of collaboration by an international group of fourteen natural scientists, social scientists, humanists, and theologians. The result is an intellectually stimulating volume that explores how the ideas of nature pertain to science and religion.

Editor James D. Proctor has gathered sixteen in-depth essays, each examining and comparing five central metaphors or "visions" of biophysical and human nature. These visions are evolutionary nature, emergent nature, malleable nature, nature as sacred, and nature as culture. The book's diverse contributors offer a wide variety of unique perspectives on these five visions, spanning the intellectual spectrum and proposing important and often startling implications for religion and science alike. Throughout the essays, the authors do a great deal of cross-referencing and engaging each other's ideas, creating a cohesive dialogue on the visions of nature.

Envisioning Nature, Science, and Religion offers a blend of scholarly rigor and readable prose that will be appreciated by anyone engaged in the fields of religion, philosophy, and the natural sciences.



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Everyday Nature
Knowledge of the Natural World in Colonial New York
Gronim, Sara S
Rutgers University Press, 2007

In the modern world, the public looks to scientists and scholars for their expertise on issues ranging from the effectiveness of vaccines to the causes of natural disasters. But for early Americans, whose relationship to nature was more intimate and perilous than our own, personal experience, political allegiances, and faith in God took precedence over the experiments of the learned.

In Everyday Nature, Sara Gronim shows how scientific advances were received in the early modern world, from the time Europeans settled in America until just before the American Revolution. Settlers approached a wide range of innovations, such as smallpox inoculation, maps and surveys, Copernican cosmology, and Ben Franklin’s experiments with electricity, with great skepticism.  New Yorkers in particular were distrustful because of the chronic political and religious factionalism in the colony. Those discoveries that could be easily reconciled with existing beliefs about healing the sick, agricultural practices, and the revolution of the planets were more readily embraced.

A fascinating portrait of colonial life, this book traces a series of innovations that were disseminated throughout the Atlantic world during the Enlightenment, and shows how colonial New Yorkers integrated new knowledge into their lives.



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Film and the American Moral Vision of Nature
Theodore Roosevelt to Walt Disney
Ronald B. Tobias
Michigan State University Press, 2011
With his square, bulldoggish stature, signature rimless glasses, and inimitable smile—part grimace, part snarl—Theodore Roosevelt was an unforgettable figure, imprinted on the American memory through photographs, the chiseled face of Mount Rushmore, and, especially, film. At once a hunter, explorer, naturalist, woodsman, and rancher, Roosevelt was the quintessential frontiersman, a man who believed that only nature could truly test and prove the worth of man. A documentary he made about his 1909 African safari embodied aggressive ideas of masculinity, power, racial superiority, and the connection between nature and manifest destiny. These ideas have since been reinforced by others—Jesse “Buff alo” Jones, Paul Rainey, Martin and Osa Johnson, and Walt Disney. Using Roosevelt as a starting point, filmmaker and scholar Ronald Tobias traces the evolution of American attitudes toward nature, attitudes that remain, to this day, remarkably conflicted, complex, and instilled with dreams of empire.

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From Mastery to Mystery
A Phenomenological Foundation for an Environmental Ethic
Bryan E. Bannon
Ohio University Press, 2014

From Mastery to Mystery is an original and provocative contribution to the burgeoningfield of ecophenomenology. Informed by current debates in environmental philosophy, Bannon critiques the conception of nature as u200a“substance” that he finds tacitly assumed by the major environmental theorists. Instead, this book reconsiders the basic goals of an environmental ethic by questioning the most basic presupposition that most environmentalists accept: that nature is in need of preservation.

Beginning with Bruno Latour’s idea that continuing to speak of nature in the way we popularly conceive of it is ethically and politically disastrous, this book describes a way in which the concept of nature can retain its importance in our discussion of the contemporary state of the environment. Based upon insights from the phenomenological tradition, specifically the work of Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the concept of nature developed in the book preserves the best antihumanistic intuitions of environmentalists without relying on either a reductionistic understanding of nature and the sciences or dualistic metaphysical constructions.


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Great Dialogue Nature Space
Yves R. Simon
St. Augustine's Press, 2000

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In Search of Nature
Edward O. Wilson
Island Press, 1996

Perhaps more than any other scientist of our century, Edward O. Wilson has scrutinized animals in their natural settings, tweezing out the dynamics of their social organization, their relationship with their environments, and their behavior, not only for what it tells us about the animals themselves, but for what it can tell us about human nature and our own behavior. He has brought the fascinating and sometimes surprising results of these studies to general readers through a remarkable collection of books, including The Diversity of Life, The Ants, On Human Nature, and Sociobiology. The grace and precision with which he writes of seemingly complex topics has earned him two Pulitzer prizes, and the admiration of scientists and general readers around the world.

In Search of Nature presents for the first time a collection of the seminal short writings of Edward O. Wilson, addressing in brief and eminently readable form the themes that have actively engaged this remarkable intellect throughout his career.

""The central theme of the essays is that wild nature and human nature are closely interwoven. I argue that the only way to make complete sense of either is by examining both closely and together as products of evolution.... Human behavior is seen not just as the product of recorded history, ten thousand years recent, but of deep history, the combined genetic and cultural changes that created humanity over hundreds of thousands of years. We need this longer view, I believe, not only to understand our species, but more firmly to secure its future.

The book is composed of three sections. ""Animal Nature, Human Nature"" ranges from serpents to sharks to sociality in ants. It asks how and why the universal aversion to snakes might have evolved in humans and primates, marvels at the diversity of the world's 350 species of shark and how their adaptive success has affected our conception of the world, and admonishes us to ""be careful of little lives""-to see in the construction of insect social systems ""another grand experiment in evolution for our delectation.

""The Patterns of Nature"" probes at the foundation of sociobiology, asking what is the underlying genetic basis of social behavior, and what that means for the future of the human species. Beginning with altruism and aggression, the two poles of behavior, these essays describe how science, like art, adds new information to the accumulated wisdom, establishing new patterns of explanation and inquiry. In ""The Bird of Paradise: The Hunter and the Poet,"" the analytic and synthetic impulses-exemplified in the sciences and the humanities-are called upon to give full definition to the human prospect.

""Nature's Abundance"" celebrates biodiversity, explaining its fundamental importance to the continued existence of humanity. From ""The Little Things That Run the World""-invertebrate species that make life possible for everyone and everything else-to the emergent belief of many scientists in the human species' possible innate affinity for other living things, known as biophilia, Wilson sets forth clear and compelling reasons why humans should concern themselves with species loss. ""Is Humanity Suicidal?"" compares the environmentalist's view with that of the exemptionalist, who holds that since humankind is transcendent in intelligence and spirit, our species must have been released from the iron laws of ecology that bind all other species. Not without optimism, Wilson concludes that we are smart enough and have time enough to avoid an environmental catastrophe of civilization-threatening dimensions-if we are willing both to redirect our science and technology and to reconsider our self-image as a species.

In Search of Nature is a lively and accessible introduction to the writings of one of the most brilliant scientists of the 20th century. Imaginatively illustrated by noted artist Laura Southworth, it is a book all readers will treasure."


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In The Nature Of Things
Language, Politics, and the Environment
Jane Bennett
University of Minnesota Press, 1993

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Infinite Nature
R. Bruce Hull
University of Chicago Press, 2006
You would be hard-pressed to find someone who categorically opposes protecting the environment, yet most people would agree that the environmentalist movement has been ineffectual and even misguided. Some argue that its agenda is misplaced, oppressive, and misanthropic—a precursor to intrusive government, regulatory bungles, and economic stagnation. Others point out that its alarmist rhetoric and preservationist solutions are outdated and insufficient to the task of galvanizing support for true reform. 

In this impassioned and judicious work, R. Bruce Hull argues that environmentalism will never achieve its goals unless it sheds its fundamentalist logic. The movement is too bound up in polarizing ideologies that pit humans against nature, conservation against development, and government regulation against economic growth. Only when we acknowledge the infinite perspectives on how people should relate to nature will we forge solutions that are respectful to both humanity and the environment.

Infinite Nature explores some of these myriad perspectives, from the scientific understandings proffered by anthropology, evolution, and ecology, to the promise of environmental responsibility offered by technology and economics, to the designs of nature envisioned in philosophy, law, and religion. Along the way, Hull maintains that the idea of nature is social: in order to reach the common ground where sustainable and thriving communities are possible, we must accept that many natures can and do exist.

Incisive, heartfelt, and brimming with practical solutions, Infinite Nature brings a much-needed and refreshing voice to the table of environmental reform.

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The Intelligibility of Nature
How Science Makes Sense of the World
Peter Dear
University of Chicago Press, 2006
Throughout the history of the Western world, science has possessed an extraordinary amount of authority and prestige. And while its pedestal has been jostled by numerous evolutions and revolutions, science has always managed to maintain its stronghold as the knowing enterprise that explains how the natural world works: we treat such legendary scientists as Galileo, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein with admiration and reverence because they offer profound and sustaining insight into the meaning of the universe.

In The Intelligibility of Nature, Peter Dear considers how science as such has evolved and how it has marshaled itself to make sense of the world. His intellectual journey begins with a crucial observation: that the enterprise of science is, and has been, directed toward two distinct but frequently conflated ends—doing and knowing. The ancient Greeks developed this distinction of value between craft on the one hand and understanding on the other, and according to Dear, that distinction has survived to shape attitudes toward science ever since.

Teasing out this tension between doing and knowing during key episodes in the history of science—mechanical philosophy and Newtonian gravitation, elective affinities and the chemical revolution, enlightened natural history and taxonomy, evolutionary biology, the dynamical theory of electromagnetism, and quantum theory—Dear reveals how the two principles became formalized into a single enterprise, science, that would be carried out by a new kind of person, the scientist. 

Finely nuanced and elegantly conceived, The Intelligibility of Nature will be essential reading for aficionados and historians of science alike.

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Interlacing Words and Things
Bridging the Nature–Culture Opposition in Gardens and Landscape
Stephen Bann
Harvard University Press, 2012
Interlacing Words and Things: Bridging the Nature–Culture Opposition in Gardens and Landscape examines the various ways in which the natural world has been transformed through the creative use of language. The nine contributors do not assume that there is an opposition between nature and culture, but rather emphasize that forms of language are embedded in our understanding and appreciation of the natural environment. Their illustrated essays consider the relationship between language and the natural world, as it has been mediated in different cultures and at different periods by broad notions such as landscape and the garden. Complementing the richness of the examples covered in the volume is the message that writing must still be integrally involved in the creative remaking of the natural world.

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Is It Painful To Think
Conversations with Arne Naess
David Rothenberg
University of Minnesota Press, 1992

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Jens Jensen
Writings Inspired by Nature
William H. Tishler
Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2012

Jens Jensen (1860–1951) was one of America's most distinguished landscape architects and a pioneering conservationist. During his long and productive career, this Danish-born visionary worked for and with some of the country's most prominent citizens and architects, including Henry Ford, Louis Sullivan, and Frank Lloyd Wright. He became internationally renowned for his design of landscapes throughout the Midwest and beyond, his contributions to the American conservation movement, and his philosophy that emphasized the significance of nature in people's lives. He found inspiration in the landscape, particularly the plants native to a region, and was an environmentalist long before the term became popular.

Today, Jensen is perhaps best remembered for establishing The Clearing on Wisconsin's Door County Peninsula. But the outspoken views in his writings—many of which were included in ephemeral planning reports, early newspapers, and out-of-print journals—are now virtually forgotten, with the exception of his two small books. Jens Jensen: Writings Inspired by Nature is a collection of Jensen's most significant yet lesser-known articles. The scope of Jensen's philosophy represented in these writings will further solidify his legacy and rightful place alongside conservation leaders such as John Muir and Aldo Leopold.


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Kant's Organicism
Epigenesis and the Development of Critical Philosophy
Jennifer Mensch
University of Chicago Press, 2013
Because it laid the foundation for nearly all subsequent epistemologies, Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason has overshadowed his other interests in natural history and the life sciences, which scholars have long considered as separate from his rigorous theoretical philosophy—until now. In Kant’s Organicism, Jennifer Mensch draws a crucial link between these spheres by showing how the concept of epigenesis—a radical theory of biological formation—lies at the heart of Kant’s conception of reason.
As Mensch argues, epigenesis was not simply a metaphor for Kant but centrally guided his critical philosophy, especially the relationship between reason and the categories of the understanding. Offsetting a study of Kant’s highly technical theory of cognition with a mixture of intellectual history and biography, she situates the epigenesis of reason within broader investigations into theories of generation, genealogy, and classification, and against later writers and thinkers such as Goethe and Darwin. Distilling vast amounts of research on the scientific literature of the time into a concise and readable book, Mensch offers one of the most refreshing looks not only at Kant’s famous first Critique but at the history of philosophy and the life sciences as well.

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Merleau-Ponty’s Developmental Ontology
David Morris
Northwestern University Press, 2018
Winner of the 2020 Edward Goodwin Ballard Prize in Phenomenology

Merleau-Ponty's Developmental Ontology
shows how the philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, from its very beginnings, seeks to find sense or meaning within nature, and how this quest calls for and develops into a radically new ontology. 

David Morris first gives an illuminating analysis of sense, showing how it requires understanding nature as engendering new norms. He then presents innovative studies of Merleau-Ponty's The Structure of Behavior and Phenomenology of Perception, revealing how these early works are oriented by the problem of sense and already lead to difficulties about nature, temporality, and ontology that preoccupy Merleau-Ponty's later work. Morris shows how resolving these difficulties requires seeking sense through its appearance in nature, prior to experience—ultimately leading to radically new concepts of nature, time, and philosophy.

Merleau-Ponty's Developmental Ontology makes key issues in Merleau-Ponty's philosophy clear and accessible to a broad audience while also advancing original philosophical conclusions.

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Merleau-Ponty’s Philosophy of Nature
Ted Toadvine
Northwestern University Press, 2009

In our time, Ted Toadvine observes, the philosophical question of nature is almost entirely forgotten—obscured in part by a myopic focus on solving "environmental problems" without asking how these problems are framed. But an "environmental crisis," existing as it does in the human world of value and significance, is at heart a philosophical crisis. In this book, Toadvine demonstrates how Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology has a special power to address such a crisis—a philosophical power far better suited to the questions than other modern approaches, with their over-reliance on assumptions drawn from the natural sciences.

The book examines key moments in the development of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of nature while roughly following the historical sequence of his major works. Toadvine begins by setting out an ontology of nature proposed in Merleau-Ponty’s first book, The Structure of Behavior. He takes up the theme of the expressive role of reflection in Phenomenology of Perception, as it negotiates the area between nature’s own "self-unfolding" and human subjectivity. Merleau-Ponty’s notion of "intertwining" and his account of space provide a transition to Toadvine’s study of the philosopher’s later work—in which the concept of "chiasm," the crossing or intertwining of sense and the sensible, forms the key to Merleau-Ponty’s mature ontology—and ultimately to the relationship between humans and nature.


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Mind, Matter, and Nature
James D. Madden
Catholic University of America Press, 2013
Written for students, Mind, Matter, and Nature presumes no prior philosophical training on the part of the reader. The book nevertheless holds the arguments discussed to rigorous standards and is conversant with recent literature, thus making it useful as well to more advanced students and professionals interested in a resource on Thomistic hylomorphism in the philosophy of mind.

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The modeling of nature
philosophy of science and philosophy of nature in synthesis
William A Wallace
Catholic University of America Press, 1996
The Modeling of Nature provides an excellent introduction to the fundamentals of natural philosophy, psychology, logic, and epistemology.

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Modern Nature
The Rise of the Biological Perspective in Germany
Lynn K. Nyhart
University of Chicago Press, 2009

In Modern Nature,Lynn K. Nyhart traces the emergence of a “biological perspective” in late nineteenth-century Germany that emphasized the dynamic relationships among organisms, and between organisms and their environment. Examining this approach to nature in light of Germany’s fraught urbanization and industrialization, as well the opportunities presented by new and reforming institutions, she argues that rapid social change drew attention to the role of social relationships and physical environments in rendering a society—and nature—whole, functional, and healthy.

This quintessentially modern view of nature, Nyhart shows, stood in stark contrast to the standard naturalist’s orientation toward classification. While this new biological perspective would eventually grow into the academic discipline of ecology, Modern Nature locates its roots outside the universities, in a vibrant realm of populist natural history inhabited by taxidermists and zookeepers, schoolteachers and museum reformers, amateur enthusiasts and nature protectionists.

Probing the populist beginnings of animal ecology in Germany, Nyhart unites the history of popular natural history with that of elite science in a new way. In doing so, she brings to light a major orientation in late nineteenth-century biology that has long been eclipsed by Darwinism.


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The Moral Authority of Nature
Edited by Lorraine Daston and Fernando Vidal
University of Chicago Press, 2003
For thousands of years, people have used nature to justify their political, moral, and social judgments. Such appeals to the moral authority of nature are still very much with us today, as heated debates over genetically modified organisms and human cloning testify.

The Moral Authority of Nature offers a wide-ranging account of how people have used nature to think about what counts as good, beautiful, just, or valuable. The eighteen essays cover a diverse array of topics, including the connection of cosmic and human orders in ancient Greece, medieval notions of sexual disorder, early modern contexts for categorizing individuals and judging acts as "against nature," race and the origin of humans, ecological economics, and radical feminism. The essays also range widely in time and place, from archaic Greece to early twentieth-century China, medieval Europe to contemporary America.

Scholars from a wide variety of fields will welcome The Moral Authority of Nature, which provides the first sustained historical survey of its topic.

Danielle Allen, Joan Cadden, Lorraine Daston, Fa-ti Fan, Eckhardt Fuchs, Valentin Groebner, Abigail J. Lustig, Gregg Mitman, Michelle Murphy, Katharine Park, Matt Price, Robert N. Proctor, Helmut Puff, Robert J. Richards, Londa Schiebinger, Laura Slatkin, Julia Adeney Thomas, Fernando Vidal

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Nature as Event
The Lure of the Possible
Didier Debaise
Duke University Press, 2017
We have entered a new era of nature. What remains of the frontiers of modern thought that divided the living from the inert, subjectivity from objectivity, the apparent from the real, value from fact, and the human from the nonhuman? Can the great oppositions that presided over the modern invention of nature still claim any cogency? In Nature as Event, Didier Debaise shows how new narratives and cosmologies are necessary to rearticulate that which until now had been separated. Following William James and Alfred North Whitehead, Debaise presents a pluralistic approach to nature. What would happen if we attributed subjectivity and potential to all beings, human and nonhuman? Why should we not consider aesthetics and affect as the fabric that binds all existence? And what if the senses of importance and value were no longer understood to be exclusively limited to the human?

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Course Notes from the College de France
Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Northwestern University Press, 2000
Collected here are the written traces of courses on the concept of nature given by Maurice Merleau-Ponty at the Collège de France in the 1950s-notes that provide a window on the thinking of one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century. In two courses distilled by a student and in a third composed of Merleau-Ponty's own notes, the ideas that animated the philosopher's lectures and that informed his later publications emerge in an early, fluid form in the process of being elaborated, negotiated, critiqued, and reconsidered.

Merleau-Ponty's project in these courses is an interrogation of nature, a task at the center of his investigation of perception, truth, and subjectivity. The first course, a survey of the historical elements in our concept of nature, examines first the Cartesian concept of nature and then historical and contemporary responses to Descartes, all with an eye toward developing a vision of nature more consistent with the findings of contemporary science.

In the second course, Merleau-Ponty takes up the problem of the relation of nature to ontology in general. Here, the key question is how the animal finds itself in its world. Because the human body is ultimately "an animal of movements and perceptions," humanity is intertwined with animality.

In the third course, "Nature and Logos: The Human Body," Merleau-Ponty assesses his previous findings and examines the emergence of the human body at the intersection of nature and Logos. This course, contemporaneous with the working notes for <i>The Visible and the Invisible<i>, allows us to observe the evolution of that work as well as to revisit the research he had begun in <i>Primacy of Perception</i>.

In these traces: a new reading of Descartes; a measured appreciation of Schelling; an assessment of recent developments in the sciences (both physical and biological) that leads to the notion of the body as a "system of equivalencies"; and an examination of the phenomenon of life. We have a wealth of material that allows us to reconsider Merleau-Ponty's thinking and to engage his philosophical project anew.

Before his death in 1961, Maurice Merleau-Ponty was chair in philosophy at the Collège de France.

Robert Vallier is completing his doctoral work on Merleau-Ponty and Schelling at DePaul University. He has also taught at the Universite de Paris-X (Nanterre) and at the College Internationale de Philosophie.

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Nature in American Philosophy (Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy, Volume 42)
Jean De Groot
Catholic University of America Press, 2004
With its focus on philosophy of nature, this book fills a gap in the ongoing reassessment of nineteenth-century American philosophy, and it opens the way to further study of the role played by reflection on nature in the emergence of the American mind.

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A New Map of Wonders
A Journey in Search of Modern Marvels
Caspar Henderson
University of Chicago Press, 2017
We live in a world that is known, every corner thoroughly explored. But has this knowledge cost us the ability to wonder? Wonder, Caspar Henderson argues, is at its most supremely valuable in just such a world because it reaffirms our humanity and gives us hope for the future. That’s the power of wonder, and that’s what we should aim to cultivate in our lives. But what are the wonders of the modern world?

Henderson’s brilliant exploration borrows from the form of one of the oldest and most widely known sources of wonder: maps. Large, detailed mappae mundi invited people in medieval Europe to vividly imagine places and possibilities they had never seen before: manticores with the head of a man, the body of a lion, and the stinging tail of a scorpion; tribes of one-eyed men who fought griffins for diamonds; and fearsome Scythian warriors who drank the blood of their enemies from their skulls. As outlandish as these maps and the stories that went with them sound to us today, Henderson argues that our views of the world today are sometimes no less incomplete or misleading. Scientists are only beginning to map the human brain, for example, revealing it as vastly more complex than any computer we can conceive. Our current understanding of physical reality is woefully incomplete. A New Map of Wonders explores these and other realms of the wonderful, in different times and cultures and in the present day, taking readers from Aboriginal Australian landscapes to sacred sites in Great Britain, all the while keeping sight questions such as the cognitive basis of wonder and the relationship between wonder and science.
Beautifully illustrated and written with wit and moral complexity, this sequel to The Book of Barely Imagined Beings is a fascinating account of the power of wonder and an unforgettable meditation on its importance to our future.

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New Philosophy of Human Nature
Neither Known to Nor Attained by the Great Ancient Philosophers, Which Will Improve Human Life and Helath
Oliva Sabuco de Nantes Barrera
University of Illinois Press, 2006
This volume is a critical edition of the 1587 treatise by Oliva Sabuco, New Philosophy of Human Nature, written during the Spanish Inquisition. Puzzled by medicine’s abject failure to find a cure for the plague, Sabuco developed a new theory of human nature as the foundation for her remarkably modern holistic philosophy of medicine.
Fifty years before Descartes, Sabuco posited a dualism that accounted for mind/body interaction. She was first among the moderns to argue that the brain--not the heart--controls the body. Her account also anticipates the role of cerebrospinal fluid, the relationship between mental and physical health, and the absorption of nutrients through digestion. This extensively annotated translation features an ample introduction demonstrating the work’s importance to the history of science, philosophy of medicine, and women’s studies.

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Kosmos - Bios - Logos
Irena Stepánová
Karolinum Press, 2014
In 1936, following the sale of Newton’s unpublished manuscripts at auction, the scientific world was shocked: it turned out that Newton’s writings in physics and mathematics, often considered the foundations of modern science, were only a fragment of his writings, most of which were focused on theology and alchemy. In this study of Newton’s work and thought, Irena Štepánová argues for a Newton who was not the man of cold reason we know, but a “priest-scientist” with the life-long intention of carrying out an examination of God himself, as he revealed himself in both the world and in scriptural writings.

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Of Wilderness and Wolves
Paul L. Errington
University of Iowa Press, 2015
“I was a predator, myself, and lived close to the land.” With these words, Paul L. Errington begins this lost classic. Now in print for the first time, the book celebrates a key predator: the wolf. One of the most influential biologists of the twentieth century, Errington melds his expertise in wildlife biology with his love for natural beauty to create a visionary and often moving re-examination of humanity’s relationship with these magnificent and frequently maligned animals.

Tracing his own relationship with wolves from his rural South Dakota upbringing through his formative years as a professional trapper to his landmark work as an internationally renowned wildlife biologist, Errington delves into our irrational fear of wolves. He forthrightly criticizes what he views as humanity’s prejudice against an animal that continues to serve as the very emblem of the wilderness we claim to love, but that too often falls prey to our greed and ignorance. A friend of Aldo Leopold, Errington was an important figure in the conservation efforts in the first half of the twentieth century. During his lifetime, wolves were considered vicious, wantonly destructive predators; by the mid-1900s, they had been almost completely eliminated from the lower forty-eight states. Their reintroduction to their historical range today remains controversial.

Lyrical yet unsentimental, Of Wilderness and Wolves provides a strong and still-timely dose of ecological realism for the abusive mismanagement of our natural resources. It is a testament to our shortsightedness and to Errington’s vision that this book, its publication so long delayed, still speaks directly to our environmental crises.

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Philosophy Of Social Ecology
Murray Bookchin
Black Rose Books, 1995
A useful corrective to simplistic thinking about the human predicament.--Canadian Book Review Annual

"Bookchin expands upon the concept of natural evolution and delivers it from the trap of mechanistic thinking."--Imprint

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Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism
A Weak Nature Alone
Adrian Johnston
Northwestern University Press, 2019
Adrian Johnston’s trilogy Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism aims to forge a thoroughly materialist yet antireductive theory of subjectivity. In this second volume, A Weak Nature Alone, Johnston focuses on the philosophy of nature required for such a theory. This volume is guided by a fundamental question: How must nature be rethought so that human minds and freedom do not appear to be either impossible or inexplicable within it? Asked differently: How must the natural world itself be structured such that sapient subjects in all their distinctive peculiarities emerged from and continue to exist within this world?

In A Weak Nature Alone, Johnston develops his transcendental materialist account of nature through engaging with and weaving together five main sources of inspiration: Hegelian philosophy, Marxist materialism, Freudian-Lacanian metapsychology, Anglo-American analytic neo-Hegelianism, and evolutionary theory and neurobiology. Johnston argues that these seemingly (but not really) strange bedfellows should be brought together so as to construct a contemporary ontology of nature. Through this ontology, nonnatural human subjects can be seen to arise in an immanent, bottom-up fashion from nature itself. 

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Reinventing Nature?
Responses To Postmodern Deconstruction
Edited by Michael E. Soule and Gary Lease
Island Press, 1995

How much of science is culturally constructed? How much depends on language and metaphor? How do our ideas about nature connect with reality? Can nature be "reinvented" through theme parks and malls, or through restoration?

Reinventing Nature? is an interdisciplinary investigation of how perceptions and conceptions of nature affect both the individual experience and society's management of nature. Leading thinkers from a variety of fields -- philosophy, psychology, sociology, public policy, forestry, and others -- address the conflict between perception and reality of nature, each from a different perspective. The editors of the volume provide an insightful introductory chapter that places the book in the context of contemporary debates and a concluding chapter that brings together themes and draws conclusions from the dialogue.

In addition to the editors, contributors include Albert Borgmann, David Graber, N. Katherine Hayles, Stephen R. Kellert, Gary P. Nabhan, Paul Shepard, and Donald Worster.


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Shadows in the Sun
Travels to Landscapes of Spirit and Desire
Wade Davis
Island Press, 1998

Wade Davis has been called "a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life's diversity." In Shadows in the Sun, he brings all of those gifts to bear on a fascinating examination of indigenous cultures and the interactions between human societies and the natural world.

Ranging from the British Columbian wilderness to the jungles of the Amazon and the polar ice of the Arctic Circle, Shadows in the Sun is a testament to a world where spirits still stalk the land and seize the human heart. Its essays and stories, though distilled from travels in widely separated parts of the world, are fundamentally about landscape and character, the wisdom of lives drawn directly from the land, the hunger of those who seek to rediscover such understanding, and the consequences of failure.

As Davis explains, "To know that other, vastly different cultures exist is to remember that our world does not exist in some absolute sense but rather is just one model of reality. The Penan in the forests of Borneo, the Vodoun acolytes in Haiti, the jaguar Shaman of Venezuela, teach us that there are other options, other possibilities, other ways of thinking and interacting with the earth." Shadows in the Sun considers those possibilities, and explores their implications for our world.


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The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected
A Natural Philosopher’s Quest for Trout and the Meaning of Everything
Marcelo Gleiser
Brandeis University Press, 2022
A personal and engaging tribute to nature from a world-famous theoretical physicist. 

Marcelo Gleiser has had a passion for science and fishing since he was a boy growing up on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. As a world-famous theoretical physicist with hundreds of scientific articles and several books of popular science to his credit, he felt it was time to once again connect with nature in less theoretical ways. After seeing a fly-fishing class on the Dartmouth College green, he decided to learn to fly-fish, a hobby, he says, that teaches humility. In The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected, Gleiser travels the world to scientific conferences, fishing wherever he goes. At each stop, he ponders the myriad ways physics informs the act of fishing; how, in its turn, fishing serves as a lens into nature’s inner workings; and how science engages with questions of meaning and spirituality, inspiring a sense of mystery and awe of the not yet known. Personal and engaging, The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected is a scientist’s tribute to nature, an affirmation of humanity’s deep connection with and debt to Earth, and an exploration of the meaning of existence, from atom to trout to cosmos. 
This softcover edition features a new essay by Gleiser on how we need a profound change of worldview if we are to have a vibrant future for our species in this fragile environment. He describes how this book was an incubator for his current thinking.

front cover of The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected
The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected
A Natural Philosopher’s Quest for Trout and the Meaning of Everything
Marcelo Gleiser
Dartmouth College Press, 2016
Marcelo Gleiser has had a passion for science and fishing since he was a boy growing up on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Now a world-famous theoretical physicist with hundreds of scientific articles and several books of popular science to his credit, he felt it was time to connect with nature in less theoretical ways. After seeing a fly-fishing class on the Dartmouth College green, he decided to learn to fly-fish, a hobby, he says, that teaches humility. In The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected, Gleiser travels the world to scientific conferences, fishing wherever he goes. At each stop, he ponders how in the myriad ways physics informs the act of fishing; how, in its turn, fishing serves as a lens into nature’s inner workings; and how science engages with questions of meaning and spirituality, inspiring a sense of mystery and awe of the not yet known. Personal and engaging, The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected is a scientist’s tribute to nature, an affirmation of humanity’s deep connection with and debt to Earth, and an exploration of the meaning of existence, from atom to trout to cosmos.

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Strange Natures
Futurity, Empathy, and the Queer Ecological Imagination
Nicole Seymour
University of Illinois Press, 2013
In Strange Natures, Nicole Seymour investigates the ways in which contemporary queer fictions offer insight on environmental issues through their performance of a specifically queer understanding of nature, the nonhuman, and environmental degradation. By drawing upon queer theory and ecocriticism, Seymour examines how contemporary queer fictions extend their critique of "natural" categories of gender and sexuality to the nonhuman natural world, thus constructing a queer environmentalism. Seymour's thoughtful analyses of works such as Leslie Feinberg's Stone Butch Blues, Todd Haynes's Safe, and Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain illustrate how homophobia, classism, racism, sexism, and xenophobia inform dominant views of the environment and help to justify its exploitation. Calling for a queer environmental ethics, she delineates the discourses that have worked to prevent such an ethics and argues for a concept of queerness that is attuned to environmentalism's urgent futurity, and an environmentalism that is attuned to queer sensibilities.

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Subjects of the World
Darwin's Rhetoric and the Study of Agency in Nature
Paul Sheldon Davies
University of Chicago Press, 2009

Being human while trying to scientifically study human nature confronts us with our most vexing problem. Efforts to explicate the human mind are thwarted by our cultural biases and entrenched infirmities; our first-person experiences as practical agents convince us that we have capacities beyond the reach of scientific explanation. What we need to move forward in our understanding of human agency, Paul Sheldon Davies argues, is a reform in the way we study ourselves and a long overdue break with traditional humanist thinking.

            Davies locates a model for change in the rhetorical strategies employed by Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species. Darwin worked hard to anticipate and diminish the anxieties and biases that his radically historical view of life was bound to provoke. Likewise, Davies draws from the history of science and contemporary psychology and neuroscience to build a framework for the study of human agency that identifies and diminishes outdated and limiting biases. The result is a heady, philosophically wide-ranging argument in favor of recognizing that humans are, like everything else, subjects of the natural world—an acknowledgement that may free us to see the world the way it actually is.


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The True Medicine
Oliva Sabuco de Nantes Barrera, Edited by Gianna Pomata, Translated by Gianna Pomata
Iter Press, 2010
This volume offers a new annotated translation, also with a new introduction, of the Dialogue on the True Medicine, one of a series of dialogues published in 1587 as Nueva Filosofia de la Naturaleza del Hombre (New Philosophy of Human Nature), under the name of Oliva Sabuco de Nantes Barrera. Believed for centuries to be a woman’s work, the book was attributed to Oliva’s father, Miguel Sabuco, in the early twentieth century, and its authorship remains a matter of controversy today. Sabuco’s work is one of the most intriguing texts of sixteenth-century medicine. Defined by its author as “a book that was missing in the world,” the work proposes a new ambitious medical theory challenging the humoral view of disease and the main tenets of Galenic physiology.

This annotated translation allows the reader to locate the Dialogue on the True Medicine in the context of early modern medical and philosophical culture, identifying Sabuco’s ancient and modern sources. The editor’s introduction reviews the contested issue of authorship, offers new documentation for the history of the reception of Sabuco’s ideas in the seventeenth century, and relates Sabuco’s work to the Querelle des femmes, the protofeminist debate which had remarkable echoes in early modern medicine.

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Tunguska, or the End of Nature
A Philosophical Dialogue
Michael Hampe
University of Chicago Press, 2015
On June 30, 1908, a mysterious explosion erupted in the skies over a vast woodland area of Siberia. Known as the Tunguska Event, it has been a source of wild conjecture over the past century, attributed to causes ranging from meteors to a small black hole to antimatter. In this imaginative book, Michael Hampe sets four fictional men based on real-life scholars—a physicist (Günter Hasinger and Steven Weinberg), a philosopher (Paul Feyerabend), a biologist (Adolf Portmann), and a mathematician (Alfred North Whitehead)—adrift on the open ocean, in a dense fog, to discuss what they think happened. The result is a playful and highly illuminating exploration of the definition of nature, mankind’s role within it, and what its end might be.
Tunguska, Or the End of Nature uses its four-man setup to tackle some of today’s burning issues—such as climate change, environmental destruction, and resource management—from a diverse range of perspectives. With a kind of foreboding, it asks what the world was like, and will be like, without us, whether we are negligible and the universe random, whether nature can truly be explained, whether it is good or evil, or whether nature is simply a thought we think. This is a profoundly unique work, a thrillingly interdisciplinary piece of scholarly literature that probes the mysteries of nature and humans alike. 

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The Value of Life
Biological Diversity And Human Society
Stephen R. Kellert
Island Press, 1996

The Value of Life is an exploration of the actual and perceived importance of biological diversity for human beings and society. Stephen R. Kellert identifies ten basic values, which he describes as biologically based, inherent human tendencies that are greatly influenced and moderated by culture, learning, and experience. Drawing on 20 years of original research, he considers:

  • the universal basis for how humans value nature
  • differences in those values by gender, age, ethnicity, occupation, and geographic location
  • how environment-related activities affect values
  • variation in values relating to different species
  • how vlaues vary across cultures
  • policy and management implications
Throughout the book, Kellert argues that the preservation of biodiversity is fundamentally linked to human well-being in the largest sense as he illustrates the importance of biological diversity to the human sociocultural and psychological condition.

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The Veil of Isis
An Essay on the History of the Idea of Nature
Pierre Hadot
Harvard University Press, 2006

Nearly twenty-five hundred years ago the Greek thinker Heraclitus supposedly uttered the cryptic words "Phusis kruptesthai philei." How the aphorism, usually translated as "Nature loves to hide," has haunted Western culture ever since is the subject of this engaging study by Pierre Hadot. Taking the allegorical figure of the veiled goddess Isis as a guide, and drawing on the work of both the ancients and later thinkers such as Goethe, Rilke, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger, Hadot traces successive interpretations of Heraclitus' words. Over time, Hadot finds, "Nature loves to hide" has meant that all that lives tends to die; that Nature wraps herself in myths; and (for Heidegger) that Being unveils as it veils itself. Meanwhile the pronouncement has been used to explain everything from the opacity of the natural world to our modern angst.

From these kaleidoscopic exegeses and usages emerge two contradictory approaches to nature: the Promethean, or experimental-questing, approach, which embraces technology as a means of tearing the veil from Nature and revealing her secrets; and the Orphic, or contemplative-poetic, approach, according to which such a denuding of Nature is a grave trespass. In place of these two attitudes Hadot proposes one suggested by the Romantic vision of Rousseau, Goethe, and Schelling, who saw in the veiled Isis an allegorical expression of the sublime. "Nature is art and art is nature," Hadot writes, inviting us to embrace Isis and all she represents: art makes us intensely aware of how completely we ourselves are not merely surrounded by nature but also part of nature.


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Watsuji on Nature
Japanese Philosophy in the Wake of Heidegger
David W. Johnson
Northwestern University Press, 2019
In the first study of its kind, David W. Johnson’s Watsuji on Nature reconstructs the astonishing philosophy of nature of Watsuji Tetsuro (1889–1960). Johnson situates Watsuji’s philosophy in relation to his reception of the thought of Heidegger and to his renewal of core ontological positions in classical Confucian and Buddhist philosophy. He shows that for Watsuji we have our being in the lived experience of nature, one in which nature and culture compose a tightly interwoven texture called fūdo(<風土). By fully unfolding Watsuji’s novel and radical claim that this is a setting that is neither fully external to human subjectivity nor merely a product of it, this book also sets out what still remains unthought in this concept, as well as in the relational structure that underwrites it. Johnson argues that what remains unarticulated is nothing less than the recovery of a reenchanted conception of nature and an elucidation of the wide-ranging implications of a relational conception of the self for questions about the disclosive character of experience, the distinction between fact and value, and the possibility of a place-based ecological ethics.
In an engagingly lucid and deft analysis, Watsuji on Nature radically expands our appreciation of twentieth-century Japanese philosophy and shows what it has to offer to a global philosophical conversation.

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The Will To Create
Goethe’s Philosophy of Nature
Astrida Orle Tantillo
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002

Better known as a poet and dramatist, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) was also a learned philosopher and natural scientist. Astrida Orle Tantillo offers the first comprehensive analysis of his natural philosophy, which she contends is rooted in creativity.

Tantillo analyzes Goethe’s main scientific texts, including his work on physics, botany, comparative anatomy, and metereology. She critically examines his attempts to challenge the basic tenets of Newtonian and Cartesian science and to found a new natural philosophy. In individual chapters devoted to different key principles, she reveals how this natural philosophy—which questions rationalism, the quantitative approach to scientific inquiry, strict gender categories, and the possibility of scientific objectivity—illuminates Goethe’s standing as both a precursor and critic of modernity.

Tantillo does not presuppose prior knowledge of Goethe or science, and carefully avoids an overreliance on specialized jargon. This makes The Will to Create accessible to a wide audience, including philosophers, historians of science, and literary theorists, as well as general readers.


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Wisdom In The Open Air
The Norwegian Roots of Deep Ecology
Peter Reed
University of Minnesota Press, 1992

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Wrestling with Nature
From Omens to Science
Edited by Peter Harrison, Ronald L. Numbers, and Michael H. Shank
University of Chicago Press, 2011

When and where did science begin? Historians have offered different answers to these questions, some pointing to Babylonian observational astronomy, some to the speculations of natural philosophers of ancient Greece. Others have opted for early modern Europe, which saw the triumph of Copernicanism and the birth of experimental science, while yet another view is that the appearance of science was postponed until the nineteenth century.

Rather than posit a modern definition of science and search for evidence of it in the past, the contributors to Wrestling with Nature examine how students of nature themselves, in various cultures and periods of history, have understood and represented their work. The aim of each chapter is to explain the content, goals, methods, practices, and institutions associated with the investigation of nature and to articulate the strengths, limitations, and boundaries of these efforts from the perspective of the researchers themselves. With contributions from experts representing different historical periods and different disciplinary specializations, this volume offers a fresh perspective on the history of science and on what it meant, in other times and places, to wrestle with nature.


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