Dusk Somewhere

What is nature?

Posted at — Mar 9, 2023 by Izzy Meckler

On one level, there is no real separation between humanity and the rest of the natural world. We are animals, we interact with and exchange energy with other species, etc. Actually, even further, on some level there is no separation between anything at all. Everything is just a local variation in the fields that constitute reality.

But on a practical level, we help us draw distinctions so that we can create understandings of the world that help us act.

The concept of “nature” (as opposed to “humanity”) is an important such distinction. In capitalist society, one of the functions of this distinction has been to abet the despoliation of nature. In this understanding of the distinction, anything that’s outside the human social order is fair-game for plundering or destroying (historically including human beings outside the social order like the native people of the Americas.)

Is there anything useful about this distinction, or is it merely an ideological tool for justifying exploitation? Or put another way, would nature exist (as something outside humanity) under communism?

I would argue that there is something useful. The distinction does (start to) correctly partition the world based on how a person can interact with it. The human part of the world can be communicated with via speech, writing, computers, violence, sex and affectionate gestures, playing games, etc.

The non-human part of the world (nature) cannot be communicated with via these channels. Other channels are required. In my understanding, the utopian horizon of communism is the harmonization of all reality into a whole which represents complete reconciliation and the absence of pain. If we want to consciously move toward this end, we need to understand how to communicate with all parts of reality, and to this end, the human/nature distinction begins to draw a useful line.