The character of the relations existing between the nature and a human traditionally becomes one of the main subjects of attention of philosophy, which finds the most general principles of the structure of nature and organization of a man as such, using the possibility of ontological descriptions and epistemological explanations. The understanding of the relationship between man and nature, which in varying degrees is approaching to the reality, evolved as the humanity was accumulating experience forming the roots of knowledge. Further in this paper, we’ll cover the essence of nature and wilderness in general and in a particular place, and will open their meaning through the prism of human influence and penetration into civilization processes, as well as claim that only a comprehensive, interdisciplinary scientific approach to the discussed notions will ensure the effectiveness of research in this area.
The connection between the notions and the place of a man inside
Living organisms on our planet, evolving in close contact with inanimate matter and adapting to the environment, have at the same time overtaken it with active transforming and organizing influence and have become a powerful factor in the evolution of the surface area of the planet. The development of life, according to Darwin’s theory, was accompanied by the emergence of new species of living beings (Darwin 112-114). The peak of this process was the emergence of pre-human and later human of modern type who, according to scientists appeared 43-45 thousand years ago. As man has been perfecting himself and his labor, the relationship between human beings has been changing. On this basis the society was formed. Society can only be discussed with the advent of human of modern type or Homo sapiens. The process of origin of man and society is called antroposociogenesis. The progress of antroposociogenesis is mediated not only by the development of human consciousness, but also improvement of man’s labor. This activity serves as a link between man and nature.
Nature is what exists near the human race, what man himself comes from. Peculiarities that are characteristic of man (and society) exclusively are not included in nature. Human is natural by virtue of his physical and biological content. He is super-natural as produces complex forms of mental and social life. Man in the relationship with nature realizes his two unique abilities. He changes the nature and symbolizes himself in it, “records” himself in it.
Nowadays, the word “nature” is used in many meanings. Some dictionaries explain nature as a living matter, everything material, the Universe, all the creation, everything visible, subjected to the five senses, but a more common definition is our world, earth, and everything created in it. The main sustained uses of the term have been determined. Thus, one of them is connected with the attitude to nature as to a habitat; the other involves the transformation of nature into an object of scientific knowledge and practical activities of man. The word “nature” can be used in a broad and narrow sense. Nature in a broad sense is the being, the Universe, all the variety of matter in motion, its varied states and properties. In this case, nature includes the society as well. However, there is another point of view according to which nature is everything that confronts the society, something without which a society, that is, people with the product created by their hands, cannot exist.
The definition of “wilderness” is complex and partially contradictory. When it becomes necessary to refer the term “wilderness” to any particular area, the difficulties are amplified. The question is which wild area should be classified as wilderness, or vice versa. If to stick to absolute purity, in this case, the term “wilderness” should mean the land that has never been touched by man. However, for many people, minimal contact with people and their creations does not ruin the characteristics of the word “wilderness”. The question is about the degree of contact. Can it be affected by the presence of Indians or a herd of cattle? Or an empty tin of beer? Or an aircraft in the sky? The question of degree is an additional problem. Mental criterion for the word “wilderness” is as important as physical. In theory, if a person does not see, hear or feel the smell of civilization, he/she is in the wilderness.
A researcher and campaigner for the protection of wilderness, William Cronon, demanded to understand the term as a territory which is impossible to cross without any motor vehicles in one day (Cronon 72). Aldo Leopold, ecologist and philosopher, has formulated his own standard – the ability of the area to cover a two-week trip.
Leopold defined wilderness as a continuous territory saved in a natural state suitable for hunting and fishing, large enough to take two weeks to pass through it, and with no roads, engineering structures and other creations of man (Leopond 168). While agreeing that most people may approve a motorized access to places of recreation, he at the same time stated the need to take into account the minority that wants to experience the primitive conditions of movement and life in the wild. Wilderness has a positive effect on their health, but the possibility find it is melting day by day. In conclusion, Leopold proposed to make the Gila national forest in New Mexico a protected wilderness area.
However, old problems persisted. What should be really meant by pristine? And how many “visits” can wilderness withstand? Aware of these problems and a tendency of the meaning imparted to the word “wilderness”, depending on the state of mind, mood, it is very tempting to let this word to define itself and to perceive as wild the places that people usually call “wild”.
A possible solution of the problem is the concept of the range of conditions or environments, starting from complete naturalness on the one hand, and full of civilization on the other. This idea of the space between the poles is useful because it involves shades and blending. Wilderness and civilization are antipodes and are mixed in various proportions, determining the features of the territory. The middle part of the spectrum includes the rural or pastoral environment (tillage), which represents the balance of powers of nature and man. One point closer to the pole of wilderness human impact is less common. In this part of the spectrum civilization exists as an external border post. On the other hand, the extent of human exposure increases.
The need to detect the watershed, where virginity becomes civility, becomes less oppressive. Besides, the idea of the spectrum may help to make distinction between wilderness and such concepts as countryside, borderlands and the rural area.
Depending on the context, “nature” may be synonymous with wilderness, or it may mean the city park. The factor of scale is also important for determining wilderness. In this category, the land would be dominating as the environment without a man, a place of wild beasts. The presence of something like cans of beer or even a road would not disqualify the area, but would move it to the pole of civility. On the other hand, in the land ethic of Aldo Leopold, wilderness played an important role of a model of environmental excellence. Civilization has changed the environment to the extent that the unchangeable wilderness gained importance of an “indicator of the normal state, a demonstration of how healthy land maintains itself as an organism” (Leopold 174). Leopold stated that wild places demonstrate what the land initially was, what it is and what it should be like.
Here, evolution functions without interference from the part of a man, providing a kind of standard suitable for measuring the impact of a man on places and consequences of violence. For instance, comparing the countercultural symbol of long hair with wild nature, Snyder claimed that civilization preferred to be cut and clean-shaven, just as it preferred an orderly shaped environment. Hair cut was like pastoral landscape. Natural, uncombed and free hair meant naturalness; and this long hair was equivalent to adopting and feeling the power of nature (Snyder 45-48). The approach alternative to this one and supported by the mankind for centuries meant the conquest of nature or its deception. Snyder and his countercultural adherents believed that the time for change has come. In particular, Snyder hoped that “new, environmentally sensitive, harmony-oriented culture” (Snyder 155) would emerge, together with a new lifestyle based on the proximity to wild nature.
Following the idea of Emerson that “all the nature is a metaphor of human thought” (Emerson 27) and pushed by this metaphorical tool, we suppose that wilderness primarily offers the necessary freedom and solitude. Therefore, the wildlife was the best option for the inhabitance, for the purpose of living, working and creating blessings of civilization. Speaking about the situation of a person in the wild world, Thoreau states the “broad, titanic and inhuman nature grabbed a man in an awkward moment, caught him alone and tries knock out his divine spirit” (Thoreau 26). In other words, the transcendental belief in the symbolic meaning of natural objects has shaken. Thoreau says that wilderness became a more appropriate place for nasty idols than for God, and being imbibed by the titan, the personality as such has gone (Thoreau 34). But simultaneously, this is a rude awakening for a man who is afraid of the wild forest with its loneliness and darkness.
This somehow makes the problem become clear, and the question is thus narrowed to whether it is possible to bring together the savage endurance and intelligence of the civilized man. In other words, whether people can survive retaining all the advantages of the civilization without suffering from its disadvantages. Probably, the answer lies in a combination of wilderness and the achievements of cultural sophistication. Excess of any of these options should be avoided. Viability, heroism and endurance that are traced from the wild nature must be balanced by the delicacy, sensitivity and intellectual and moral growth which are specific civilization and human culture. Here, the natural way of existence is seen in the right proportion of thought and experience; and an ideal person should occupy a central position, drawing both wild nature and anthropomorphized places.
From the very beginning of their history, people have had a conscious thought to what the natural sources of a man and society are, what kind of connection exist between a man and nature, and what human attitude towards nature should be like. All these issues have not yet received a clear answer. But with increasing knowledge about himself, about the surrounding world and his place in this natural system, a man has changed his views on the nature and their relationships. The appeal to the course of history helps tracing the change those attitudes in a wide range: from the proclamation of the ideas on the inseparable connection and harmony with nature up to placing a man on a pedestal which is unattainable for any other living creatures and from which a man supposedly can dispose nature unlimitedly, of his own will and understanding. However, such ideas were relatively quickly debunked by the natural course of history.
The real relationships between nature, wilderness and subjects created by a man suggest that no matter how people tried to rise above nature and ignore the natural conditions of their lives, they are totally subject to these conditions and depend on them. Perhaps, in some cases the situation limits human intentions and makes abandon some plans, but despite the short-term difficulties, a man must finally come to a conscious elucidation of the inevitability of this fact.
Cronon, William. “The Trouble with Wilderness”. In Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1995. Print.
Darwin, Charles. The Origin Of Species. Signet Classics, 2003. Print.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Nature. CreateSpace, 2010. Print.
Leopold, Aldo. “The Land Ethic”, In A Sand County Almanac. Oxford University Press, USA, 2001. Print.
Snyder, Gary. The Practice of the Wild. North Point Press, 1990. Print.
Thoreau, Henry David. Walking. Bottom of the Hill Publishing, 2011. Print.