Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Nature: What is it?

Ryan Cooley
October 15, 2014
Seminar in Composition
Adam Johns
What is Nature?
              I believe in our world as it stands today, if you were to perform a random sampled experiment and asked people how they would define nature, you would get the same general answer. I claim general because everyone knows that trees and plants are nature but there may be a few different words thrown around in different definitions. Personally, I would define nature like this – everything that happens naturally in our world before it is effected or disturbed by beings; the growth, death and cycles that make a full life. Let me explain a little; I find everything in this world lives in the metaphorical ‘circle of life’ and that life is born and that life will too die. In between life and death may not be so natural as to call it natural and that is why I said “before effected or disturbed” because everything around us shapes us in some particular way or another. For example, there are many theories about human nature and our instincts that we are born with, I believe in John Locke’s ‘tabula rasa’ theory and as we grow, we develop personalities.
              Why do I believe nature should be defined this way? Most simply because in a short and sweet definition, I find that my definition covers the broad spectrum of life. There are always exceptional situations but the assignment is to write a quality essay not a book. I do not see much comparison with my definition and Wilder’s view ‘that which culture destroys, replaces, than mourns.’ It reads almost as if Wilder is not defining nature as it is but nature as civilization makes it. I am sure Abbey would definitely agree with Wilder that as a culture we seem to take nature for granite and tear it down to create structures we want. This view is not wrong but the natural definition of nature (no pun intended) has nothing to do with what has happened but what is supposed to be. That is where I find my definition more accurate, nature is what happens in this universe before we effect it, after that it just becomes artificial.
              Yes, we replace nature but only few ‘mourn’ it for what it was. One of those few is Abbey and even though I have a track record of going against him in many of my writings, in this case I do believe his view of nature. Without a direct quote, from information gathered in Desert Solitaire I believe Abbey’s definition of nature probably goes along the lines of the natural world that humanity has yet to mess up or the last remaining remnants of our world that is beautiful and matters. Abbey is one that cherishes all the little blemishes of Arches and the other national parks he has worked in, from making the juniper tree an important figure to befriending a snake, whether it is actually truthful or not, Abbey still appreciates our primitive nature and what the world used to be compared to what we are turning it into. Abbey and I follow the same path in our views of nature and the natural world, only he holds the extremist title over me.

              Even though I do not completely understand what Lewontin is talking about in his Biology of Ideology, I find some comparisons in our ideals of nature. He points out “the contrast between genetic and environmental, between nature and nurture” (Pg. 29, Lewontin), basically going along with my claim that there is the natural world and the natural being and then there is how we morph them through ‘nurture.’ Nature is a broad topic that can be endlessly discussed because it is what we live with, nature is everything. Science is the study of all natural things in the universe and science is quite possibly the broadest topic that humans embark on. Interpreting that Wilder is in her own corner of this fight in opinions of nature, there is certainly evidence to back her up but I would bet my money on two prolific professionals in Abbey and Lewontin and then me to argue our side. 


  1. So I think if there is one specific place to focus on if this would turn into a revision, would be the first paragraph. It really doesn't seem to do much. You could concisely state everything you said in the first paragraph in one sentence, two at most. Also, I don't get a sense for what your argument is after reading the first paragraph. The argument is not explicitly stated here, and it doesn't become explicitly stated anywhere in the paper. Focus on stating your argument in your first paragraph so that you have a solid base to build the rest of your paper off of. Also, there are some typos that could be corrected, such as "effected" and "granite". In general, I also think it would be beneficial to your paper to add more direct quotes for some definitive information to base the paper off of. Overall, focus on clearly stating your argument in your first paragraph so that the rest of your paper can be built up around it, having an argument to reference. And to provide evidence for your argument, use more direct quotes.

  2. There’s a lot going on in your introduction. Why so much? Are you writing about nature or human nature? Why the circular definition - “everything that happens naturally in our world before it is effected or disturbed by beings”? Defining nature by reference to “natural” is pretty problematic, isn’t it? That’s not to say that I don’t find your approach interesting, because I do - I just think you’re trying to do too much. Simplification would be good here.

    “It reads almost as if Wilder is not defining nature as it is but nature as civilization makes it. “ -- This was not something Wilder actually said - it was a sample argument *about* Wilder that I wrote. Your sense is accurate, though - I was imagining an argument about the relationship between nature and culture.

    “nature is what happens in this universe before we effect it, after that it just becomes artificial.” -- I actually didn’t see a coherent, concise definition here before this. You could have gotten to this more quickly, and focused on defending it. For instance, who is the “we” here? Where does the taint come in? Is it with humanity? Intelligence? Civilization? Etc. You’re defining nature negatively, which is fine, but to do that effectively you need to define its opposite.

    The closing is scattered - it’s not wrong, for instance, to bring Lewontin up, but I don’t follow your strategy.

    The prompt asked you for a *useful* definition. What use would you put this definition to? If it is simple (as you claim, and you do eventually give a simple version of it) why do you struggle to move beyond just offering the definition itself, into defending it or investigating problems with it? In other words, why does this definition make sense, and what is it for?


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