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WHAT IS NATURAL? DAVID B. HAUSMAN* The concepts of the natural and the unnatural are notoriously difficult to apply. Philosophers can sometimes aid in the clarification of such abstract concepts, particularly where, as in this case, their application is so broadly interdisciplinary. In this paper, I shall try to make some sense out of the natural/unnatural dichotomy, specifically as it applies to human beings. The context I shall provide for the discussion will be a medical one. I do this not only because it is useful in explicating the dichotomy itself, but also because the natural seems to be central to the analysis of disease and health. I contend that the most significant structural influence on the development of the natural and the unnatural rests in Aristotelian science and philosophy. Thus, Part I of this paper looks at the Aristotelian framework itself; in Part II, I show how this ancient conception has given rise to two applications of the dichotomy to man: (1) that there is the attribution of a natural condition to man directly, to be understood in the sense of an assignment of essential qualities to man, and (2) that man's natural condition can be seen derivatively, as reference is made to what is essential to the universe. I It would be a mistake to believe that there was any unified methodology of science prior to the development of modern science and the work of Kepler, Galileo, and Newton. Alchemy, numerology, and astrology, to name just a few, all existed, were widely practiced, and were not looked upon unfavorably. In general, then, it was a period of no real scientific orthodoxy. Yet, it is still accurate to say that a frame of reference for scientific thinking did exist. It was a frame of reference which was felt perhaps even more negatively than positively, for it incorporated attitudes and beliefs which, as it persisted, tended to restrict scientific development rather than expand it. It is this structure that we attribute to Aristotle. ?Associate professor of philosophy, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas 75275. 92 J David B. Hausman · What Is Naturalt In formulating the details of his physical theories, Aristotle relied on direct sense observation. Nevertheless, it is Aristotle's philosophical views, rather than a scientific empiricism, which lie at the heart of his science. According to his philosophical conception, the kinds of characteristics objects have and the kinds of properties they exhibit can be divided into two sorts. Some qualities are essential to a thing being the kind ofthing it is—without those qualities it simply would not be a thing ofthat kind and would cease to exist. Man, for example, is rational, glass is brittle, and so on. Aristotle calls these qualities essential qualities.1 On the other hand, objects also have properties which are not essential. A leaf changes color from green, to red, to yellow, to brown. The particular color it has is not essential to its being a leaf since it does not cease being a leaf as it goes from one color to the next. The color it has at any one moment is more accidental to it than it is essential. He calls these qualities accidents. The word essential is used to refer to properties—specifically, those properties which are essential to an object being of a certain sort. Another way of speaking, to be used if we want to refer to the objects rather than to the properties of the objects, is to talk about the nature of the object. The nature of man is to be rational because rationality is an essential property to man. Objects, then, are said to be natured, each kind of object having a nature appropriate to its kind. Insofar as objects are natured, the nature ofeach object limits the kind of changes which it can undergo, the order in which such changes can occur, and the like. Moreover, it determines the kind ofchanges that one sort of object may bestow upon another. In certain cases, the nature of an object may actually prevent that kind of object from being affected by, or initiating changes in, some other kind of object. Indeed, if an object...


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