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As part of our induction activities for new students next week, we shall be asking them what is meant by term ‘natural’: what does it mean to talk of an ‘unnatural’ practice – especially as an evaluative moral term?

We shall be spending some time at a place where people go to spend time in ‘nature’ (Westonbirt Arboretum) – what does it mean to call such a place ‘natural’? – And does spending time in such places assist us in reflection? I (and the new students) would appreciate any thoughts – or indeed references – that will help us think this through…

Comments welcome via the blog..


Anonymous says:

There are good references in Steven Vogel, “Environmental Philosophy after the End of Nature,” Environmental Ethics 24 (2002): 23–39 .

Patrick Lenta says:

“Unnatural vice” and “unnatural perversion” are calumnies directed at activities of which the speaker disapproves. Everything we do is consistent with our natures.

jasonrpe says:

I think there needs to be a clear distinction between the colloquial use of the word nature and natural, and choosing to use the word as an evaluative moral term. most of us use the word in everyday speak to speak of something pure (another interesting word), healthy and good for us. But, clearly, with a little bit of thought it becomes clear this isn’t the case. Poison Ivy is natural, so is cocaine, and they clearly are not for us or healthy

Anonymous says:

I don’t know if this is relevant to Ethics but “naturality” is nowadays a mathematical notion, which stems from that of “natural transformation” introduced in the early days of Category theory. It grasps the feeling of naturality with a definition..

Adam Briggle says:

This reference came to mind – an argument that “nature” is just really old culture. Blackford, Russell. (2005). “The Supposed Sin of Defying Nature,” available from:

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