Jamieson on Natural Values

pp. 162-168


1.      Definition of natural: Extent to which something is not a product of human influence

         a.      For those who care about things being “natural,” this is how they use the term

         b.      Remember Moriarty’s definitions? N1=not supernatural, N2 = not (human) cultural

2.      Naturalness is a matter of degree

         a.      Canadian Rockies are more natural than Adirondacks

3.       Something can be influenced by humans and not be a product of humans

          a.       The length of the growing season in Great Lakes affected by humans (climate change), but is not a product of humans

          b.       Zebra mussels being in the great lakes is a product of humans (a European species brought over in ship ballast water)

4.       Being a product of humans makes something unnatural, though humans can influence things and they remain natural

          a.       Tablecloths and Texas longhorn cattle are products of human influence and thus not natural.....

5.       Questions:

          a.       Is “being the product of human influence”simply a very high degree of human influence (or something else)?

          b.       Could X be a result of a higher degree of human influence than Y and yet Y (but not X) be the product of human influence?

          c.       Could one say that Zebra mussels being in the great lakes is also a product of certain biological facts about them (that they find the great lakes suitable habitat)

                    i.        Can something both be the product of humans and also the product of nature?

6.       Jamieson rejects the idea that pervasive human influence on the planet means nothing natural left

          a.       Humans have influenced all the surface of the earth

          b.       But we are not at the “end of nature” (much on earth is still natural) because much on the earth’s surface is not the product of humans


7.       Jamieson rejects the social construction of nature/wilderness idea

          a.       True that concept of nature has a history (people have and do think about it in different ways)

          b.       True that not everyone has the concept (most aboriginal peoples do not think of themselves as living in a wilderness)

          c.       True that people have different conceptions of nature and value it differently

                    i.        Puritans who colonized New England thought of it as “wild and howling land. . . bringing forth no fruit to God, but wild fruits of sin” and thought it needed to be avoided or improved

          d.       None of these truths imply that there is no such thing as nature/wilderness independent of human artifice

8.       Social construction of nature idea confuses the concept of the natural (which is a social construction) with the fact of naturalness, which is not.



10.     Example

          a.       Marvel at the 6 foot high termite mounds until find out they were built by local chamber of commerce to amuse people who don’t want to walk for miles into the wild to find and see them

          b.       Admiration gone when what you thought was natural turned out to be a product of human influence

11.     Why does being natural contribute to nature’s value?

          a.       One answer might be that: It just does; must be a stopping point to valuing and explanation

                    i.        Why do people find pleasure or kindness valuable?

                              (1)     They just do

12.     Jamieson thinks more can be said: Other values that lie behind our attraction to what is natural

          a.       Loneliness of an overly humanized world

                    i.        Loneliness in being in a world all of our (human) making (and one we dominate)

                    ii.       We value human companionship because we get tired of ourselves and want people with minds and lives of their own who are not just extensions of ourselves

                    iii.      We value being in a world where there are other beings and processes not merely extensions of ourselves

          b.       Autonomy: Value the natural because we value nature’s autonomy

                    i.        Value nature doing her own thing that is largely indifferent to us; value nature in virtue of its being self-caused

                    ii.       Indifference of nature is a welcome relief from life in a human-dominated world

          c.       Wildness: Nature’s autonomy at most extreme is its wildness and we value the natural for its wildness

                    i.        Wildness = what is not dominated by others; free from external control; self-willed, independent

                    ii.       “Natural” not same as “wild”

                              (1)     Tame dog is natural, not wild

                              (2)     Human parties are wild, though not natural in above sense

13.     Value wildness (naturalness) within us

          a.       Our bodies are wild:

                    i.         “Involuntary turn of the head at a shout, vertigo looking off a precipice, heart-in-throat in moment of danger, catch of the breath, quiet moments of relaxing, staring and reflecting–all universal responses of this mammalian body”

          b.       “We do not go into wild(er)ness to escape our lives but to return to them.”



15.     Diversity another value of nature

          a.       Many kinds of diversity

                    i.        Species, genetic, ecosystem

                    ii.       Geological–oceans, rivers, valley, mountains, deserts

          b.       Diverse natural world inspiring, fascinating, admirable simply in virtue of expressing this diversity

16.     Biodiversity and naturalness/wildness can conflict

          a.       Some places highly human influenced have more diversity than less human dominated landscapes

          b.       If all we valued was diversity, then genetic engineering would be a strategy superior to environmental preservation

                    i.        We value naturally produced biodiversity, not that brought to us by Monsanto

          c.       We might value human produced or protected diversity

                    i.        Flowers/gardens

                    ii.       Preventing non-human caused species extinction

17.     Natural values can conflict with prudential and aesthetic values

          a.       Garden may be more aesthetically pleasing than a natural landscape

          b.       Irrigated field serve our interests better than one left natural

          c.       Prudence and aesthetic/natural value conflict when issue is shall we cover a desert with solar panels

18.     Environmentalism is a diverse group of world views

          a.       Not an ideology whose adherents move in lockstep, obeying directives of some green politburo

Study Questions for Jamieson on Natural Values

1.      What is Jamieson’s definition of “natural?” Can something be influenced by humans and still be natural on his view?

2.      Give an example of something that is not natural according to Jamieson’s definition and then an example of something that is natural (by his definition), but is nonetheless influenced by humans

3.      Why does Jamieson accept or reject that we are at the “end of nature.”

4.      What is the idea behind the “social construction of nature?” What does Jamieson think about this idea?

5.      According to Jamieson, what are some of the values that lie behind our attraction to what is natural?

6.      Is there naturalness within us, according to Jamieson? Give examples.

7.      Using examples, explain how naturalness value can conflict with biodiversity values, with aesthetic values, and with prudential values.