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August 08, 2008



So man is not natural because he is also supernatural? I don't see the need to play semantics here. You disagree with my definition of "natural": everything has a nature, thus it is a tautology to say that man is natural; I suppose one could also say that man occurs in Nature and is thus Natural, but that is an alternate meaning. From what you've written, I would guess that you define "natural" as that which does not have a supernatural aspect, sort of a catch-all for everything not spiritual. And since you define man as having a supernatural aspect, man is therefore not natural. So clearly we are both right: man is both natural and not natural by varying definitions. Ultimately, you didn't address my argument at all and instead quibbled with a contentless statement I made that was meant to address JM's equivocating in her use of the term "nature".

Nathan Smith

It's true that I wasn't trying to answer an argument but rather took something you said as a a point of departure; however, perhaps I did misunderstand you. I was taking nature to be the whole integrated and deterministic system which the natural sciences presuppose and try to illuminate the nature of, and sometimes in the process get in the mental habit, which can ferment, as it were, into an ideology, of thinking that the integrated, deterministic system they're studying, is *all there is*, and that other things we believe in, such as ourselves, must be reducible to it. If you just meant man is natural because he has a nature perhaps the statement is contentless, but I don't know because I can't quite understand the meaning of the word... if "nature" can be defined in such a way that it's a logical necessity that everything has one, I guess it's not clear to me what the meaning given to the word is. I'd agree, though, that the word "human nature" is not meaningless, and that it represents a usage that differs from the idea of the integrated, deterministic system described by the natural sciences and that is also quite customary and conventional (though less philosophically cogent).

I don't "define" man as supernatural; I believe man has a supernatural aspect. It's a substantive, not a semantic claim, provided that one buys into the idea of nature as an integrated, deterministic (or deterministic-other-than-subatomic-randomness) system; it's the claim that man is not locked into the same causal chains which other things are, or at least, may be. We do not know, perhaps, whether squirrels or trees have reason or free will, but we know that men do.

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