Here are some dictionary definitions of nature.
From the American College Dictionary . . .
- the material world, esp. as surrounding man and existing independently of his activities
- the universe, with all its phenomena
- the sum totality of the forces at work throughout the universe
- a primitive wild condition; an uncultivated state
From the Random House Dictionary of the English Language:
- the elements of the natural world, as mountains, trees, animals, or rivers
- reality, as distinguished from any effect of art: a portrait true to nature
From the World English Dictionary:
- the fundamental qualities of a person or thing; identity or essential character
- (often capitalized, esp. when personified) the whole system of the existence, arrangement, forces, and events of all physical life that are not controlled by man
- all natural phenomena and plant and animal life, as distinct from man and his creations
- a wild primitive state untouched by man or civilization
- natural unspoilt scenery or countryside
- disposition or temperament
- tendencies, desires, or instincts governing behaviour
- the normal biological needs or urges of the body
- sort; kind; character
And this is what Ralph Waldo Emerson had to say in Nature, written in 1836:
Philosophically considered, the universe is composed of Nature and the Soul. Strictly speaking, therefore, all that is separate from us, all which Philosophy distinguishes as the NOT ME, that is, both nature and art, all other men and my own body, must be ranked under this name, NATURE. In enumerating the values of nature and casting up their sum, I shall use the word in both senses; –in its common and in its philosophical import . . . Nature, in the common sense, refers to essences unchanged by man; space, the air, the river, the leaf. Art is applied to the mixture of his will with the same things, as in a house, a canal, a statue, a picture. But his operations taken together are so insignificant, a little chipping, baking, patching, and washing, that in an impression so grand as that of the world on the human mind, they do not vary the result.
Does the meaning of the word “nature” stay the same in other languages? Do some cultures have a greater number of words which can carry the various meanings we ascribe to this single word?
Now we are curious to find out your definition of “nature.” Please leave a comment with your thoughts.