Saturday, March 19, 2011

Williams - Ideas of Nature

Williams, Raymond. "Ideas of Nature." From Culture and Materialism: Selected Essays. London: Verso, 2005.

Williams explores how humans have perceived of nature throughout history. Medieval westerners perceived Nature as the minister of God. Nature was made singular and abstract, and personified as a force and principle.

More recently, humans have begun to perceive of nature as something separate from themselves. This coincides with the rise of science and theories of evolution. Initially, they conceived of themselves as part of nature, even if they saw themselves at the top of the natural hierarchy, or perhaps just below God. Now nature is seen as something that men can improve, or can go to apart from their own creation. The idea that men might talk about intervening in nature suggests to Williams the erroneous conception that they could choose NOT to interfere with nature. Inherent in this fallacy is an abstraction of man himself, something apart from the natural world he inhabits.

Key Quote
"If we alienate the living processes of which we are a part, we end, though unequally, by alienating ourselves." (84)

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