Nature (philosophy)

Philosophical term / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Nature has two inter-related meanings in philosophy and natural philosophy. On the one hand, it means the set of all things which are natural, or subject to the normal working of the laws of nature. On the other hand, it means the essential properties and causes of individual things.

How to understand the meaning and significance of nature has been a consistent theme of discussion within the history of Western Civilization, in the philosophical fields of metaphysics and epistemology, as well as in theology and science. The study of natural things and the regular laws which seem to govern them, as opposed to discussion about what it means to be natural, is the area of natural science.

The word "nature" derives from Latin nātūra, a philosophical term derived from the verb for birth, which was used as a translation for the earlier (pre-Socratic) Greek term phusis, derived from the verb for natural growth. Already in classical times, philosophical use of these words combined two related meanings which have in common that they refer to the way in which things happen by themselves, "naturally", without "interference" from human deliberation, divine intervention, or anything outside what is considered normal for the natural things being considered.

Understandings of nature depend on the subject and age of the work where they appear. For example, Aristotle's explanation of natural properties differs from what is meant by natural properties in modern philosophical and scientific works, which can also differ from other scientific and conventional usage.