Opening: 22. June 2017 6 – 9 pm
Nach der Natur / From Nature
Where nature has been, reason should be; where spontaneity has been, construction should be; where id has been, ego should be; where objectivity has been, subjectivity should be.1
When we refer to something as natural, we usually mean it is pristine, that it developed non-artificially within and from nature. Because it derives from nature, what is natural is per se defined as a natural state. The tautological conclusion that nature is what is natural quickly runs its course, however. For, what measure or point of reference are we applying? And is it even possible to use a pristine state as a blue print for everything that has come after? Can nature reach a point where it becomes estranged from itself?
In the same vein, “human nature” is a figure of speech that stands for the essence of humanity. In the seventeenth century, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau discussed what they called the “natural condition of mankind.” They represented different ideas about how it is possible for humans to live together and form social relations, and what the basis for this could be. According to a few theories, while forming groups may be part of human nature, humans are not actually suited for this in principle. All of their theories, however, were rather based on the idea that humans are innocently and blissfully in harmony with themselves, and it is in this state that they evaluate and describe humans in their existence. When compared to this idyll, all forms of actual socialization could be seen as a sign of progress or deterioration.
Although the world seems predetermined, nature and the world are constantly being changed by humans, either directly or indirectly. Not only do humans alter their environment; they themselves also change in the process, and their environment changes them. How humans present themselves in culture is not only always a manifestation of their human nature, but also a manifestation of the conditions of society, of the culture in which a person is raised. Ultimately, this means that everything around us is nature. Nature is doing and becoming; it is both agent and material. We may be subject to nature, but we also create it and change it at the same time.
1 Rolf Peter Sieferle, Rückblick auf die Natur. Eine Geschichte des Menschen und seiner Umwelt (Munich, 1997), p. 220. English translation in Rolf Peter Sieferle, “The Ends of Nature,” in Environment across Cultures, ed. Eckart Ehlers and Carl Friedrich Gethmann (Berlin 2003), p. 28.