Appeal to nature

Appeal to nature

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An appeal to nature is a type of argument
Argument
In philosophy and logic, an argument is an attempt to persuade someone of something, or give evidence or reasons for accepting a particular conclusion.Argument may also refer to:-Mathematics and computer science:...

 that depends on an understanding of nature
Nature
Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

 as a source of intelligibility for its claims, and which relies on that understanding for its outcome. To appeal to nature
Nature (philosophy)
Nature is a concept with two major sets of inter-related meanings, referring on the one hand to the things which are natural, or subject to the normal working of "laws of nature", or on the other hand to the essential properties and causes of those things to be what they naturally are, or in other...

 in an argument is to argue from a premise
Premise
Premise can refer to:* Premise, a claim that is a reason for, or an objection against, some other claim as part of an argument...

 or premises implied by the concept of nature being invoked in that argument.

As well as referring to individual arguments, "The appeal to nature" can refer to a group of arguments occurring in a particular subject or age, which involve certain understandings or opinions of nature.

Examples:

Classical origins


The meaning and importance of various understandings and concepts of "nature" has been a persistent topic of discussion historically in both science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 and philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

. In Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

, “the laws of nature were regarded not [simply] as generalized descriptions of what actually happens in the natural world… but rather as norms that people ought to follow… Thus the appeal to nature tended to mean an appeal to the nature of man
Human nature
Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that humans tend to have naturally....

 treated as a source for norms of conduct. To Greeks this… represented a conscious probing and exploration into an area wherein, according to their whole tradition of thought, lay the true source for norms of conduct.”

Philosophers such as St. Thomas Aquinas held that the "good" was a process of actualization where the formal principle of a natural object fulfilled its final cause (purpose) such that a tree's purpose is to develop another tree or a bouncy ball's is to bounce. The formal principle to Aquinas was defined through Aristotle as "that which makes a thing what it is." Thus the source of potency to accomplish all natural object ends is through the formal cause of an object. For which Aquinas suggests a non-dualistic model for substance: Form and Matter. Aquinas held that what is good is what is natural in that God created all things and they were good. However, he argued from human reason rather than faith when he discussed the ontological significance. He suggested that the end (fulfillment of its purpose) is the good and there are various degrees of Good, such as the processes of development in a living being. Arguably, happiness is the ultimate end for all human beings and thus all morality is in reference to what actualizes this "happiness." But Aquinas argued that there was an objective principle, not relative, which accomplished self-actualization. A simple example is that drugs simulate happiness but are only "apparent/false" happiness while integrity, reason, and love all flow with nature and therefore permit actualization of the ultimate end: happiness.

Modern developments


In modern times, philosophers have challenged the notion that human beings' status as natural beings should determine or dictate their normative
Normative
Normative has specialized contextual meanings in several academic disciplines. Generically, it means relating to an ideal standard or model. In practice, it has strong connotations of relating to a typical standard or model ....

 being. For example, Rousseau famously suggested that "We do not know what our nature permits us to be." More recently, Nikolas Kompridis
Nikolas Kompridis
Nikolas Kompridis is a professor at the Centre for Citizenship and Public Policy at the University of Western Sydney. His scholarly work addresses a wide range of subjects in contemporary social and political philosophy, as well as in aesthetics and philosophy of culture...

 has applied Rousseau's axiom to debates about genetic intervention
Genetic engineering
Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct human manipulation of an organism's genome using modern DNA technology. It involves the introduction of foreign DNA or synthetic genes into the organism of interest...

 (or other kinds of intervention) into the biological basis of human life, writing:

[T]here is a domain of human freedom not dictated by our biological nature, but [this] is somewhat unnerving because it leaves uncomfortably open what kind of beings human beings could become… Put another way: What are we prepared to permit our nature to be? And on what basis should we give our permission?


Kompridis writes that the naturalistic
Naturalism (philosophy)
Naturalism commonly refers to the philosophical viewpoint that the natural universe and its natural laws and forces operate in the universe, and that nothing exists beyond the natural universe or, if it does, it does not affect the natural universe that we know...

 view of living things, articulated by one scientist as that of "machines whose components are biochemicals" (Rodney Brooks
Rodney Brooks
Rodney Allen Brooks is the former Panasonic professor of robotics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since 1986 he has authored a series of highly influential papers which have inaugurated a fundamental shift in artificial intelligence research...

), threatens to make a single normative understanding of human being the only possible understanding. He writes, "When we regard ourselves as 'machines whose components are biochemicals,' we not only presume to know what our nature permits us to be, but also that this knowledge permits us to answer the question of what is to become of us… This is not a question we were meant to answer, but, rather, a question to which we must remain answerable."

Philosophers such as Jacques Derrida
Jacques Derrida
Jacques Derrida was a French philosopher, born in French Algeria. He developed the critical theory known as deconstruction and his work has been labeled as post-structuralism and associated with postmodern philosophy...

, Bruno Latour
Bruno Latour
Bruno Latour is a French sociologist of science and anthropologist and an influential theorist in the field of Science and Technology Studies...

 and others have also questioned inherited understandings of nature in their work.

Rational argument


Opinions differ regarding appeal to nature in rational argument. Sometimes, it can be taken as a rule of thumb
Rule of thumb
A rule of thumb is a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. It is an easily learned and easily applied procedure for approximately calculating or recalling some value, or for making some determination...

 that admits some exceptions, but nonetheless proves to be of use in one or more specific topics, (or in general). As a rule of thumb, natural
Nature
Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

 or unnatural facts
Fact-value distinction
The fact-value distinction is a concept used to distinguish between arguments which can be claimed through reason alone, and those where rationality is limited to describing a collective opinion. In another formulation, it is the distinction between what is and what ought to be...

 provide presumptively reliable good or bad values
Fact-value distinction
The fact-value distinction is a concept used to distinguish between arguments which can be claimed through reason alone, and those where rationality is limited to describing a collective opinion. In another formulation, it is the distinction between what is and what ought to be...

, barring evidence to the contrary. Failure to consider such evidence commits a fallacy of accident
Accident (fallacy)
The logical fallacy of accident is a deductive fallacy occurring in statistical syllogisms when an exception to a rule of thumb is ignored. It is one of the thirteen fallacies originally identified by Aristotle...

 under this view.

An appeal to nature can sometimes be considered a fallacy of relevance which rejects the claim that something is good or right
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

 because it is natural
Nature
Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

, or that something is bad or wrong because it is unnatural or artificial
Artificial
See also: Synthetic ' or ' may refer to:* Artificial beaches* Artificial chemistry* Artificial consciousness* Artificial creation* Artificial elements* Artificial flower* Artificial food* Artificial fuel* Artificial harmonic...

. In this type of informal fallacy
Informal fallacy
An informal fallacy is an argument whose stated premises fail to support their proposed conclusion. The deviation in an informal fallacy often stems from a flaw in the path of reasoning that links the premises to the conclusion...

, nature implies an ideal or desired state of being, a state of how things were, or how they should be: in this sense an appeal to nature may resemble an appeal to tradition
Appeal to tradition
Appeal to tradition is a common fallacy in which a thesis is deemed correct on the basis that it correlates with some past or present tradition...

.

General form of this type of argument:



In some contexts, the meanings of "nature" and "natural" can be vague, leading to unintended associations with other concepts. The word "natural" can also be a loaded term — much like the word "normal", in some contexts, it can carry an implicit value judgement. An appeal to nature would thus beg the question
Beg the Question
Beg the Question is a graphic novel by Bob Fingerman. It chronicles the trials and tribulations of Rob, a squeamish freelance cartoonist/pornographer, and Sylvia, a beauty salon manager with loftier aspirations, with a supporting cast featuring Jack, an unhappily celibate literary stalker; Max, a...

, because the conclusion is entailed by the premise.

Skeptic Julian Baggini argues: "Even if we can agree that some things are natural and some are not, what follows from this? The answer is: nothing. There is no factual reason to suppose that what is natural is good (or at least better) and what is unnatural is bad (or at least worse)."

Many agencies do distinguish between natural and non-natural cases, e.g. the USFDA states "Natural ingredients are derived from natural sources ... Other ingredients are not found in nature and therefore must be synthetically produced as artificial ingredients."http://www.fda.gov/food/foodingredientspackaging/ucm094211.htm#qanatural it also states, that under its regulations "Food ingredients are subject to the same strict safety standards regardless of whether they are naturally or artificially derived."

In European and Canadian law, extra health and safety requirements exist for authorisation of novel food
Novel food
Novel food is defined as a type of food that does not have a significant history of consumption or is produced by a method that has not previously been used for food.-European Union:...

s:

In Europe novel foods are defined as http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31997R0258:EN:NOT:
  • Food ingredients having no history of “significant” consumption in the European Union prior to 15 May 1997.


In Canada as http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/gmf-agm/index-eng.php:
  • Products that have never been used as food,
  • Foods that result from a process that has not been previously used for food, or,
  • Foods that have undergone genetic modification and have new traits.


While the classification of novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 differs from natural
Natural
Natural is an adjective that refers to Nature.Natural may refer too:In science and mathematics:* Natural transformation, category theory in mathematics* Natural foods...

 here, both essentially involve the subjects history or lack of. Natural foods usually have histories of consumption (sometimes very long histories, by humans and/or human ancestors), so they usually do not qualify as novel, thus it is mainly artificial foods (with short histories or none) that do.
This situation demonstrates that the property of being "natural" can infer facts which are relevant to health and safety considerations, at least in relation to food.

Similar arguments


In G.E. Moore's 1903 Principia Ethica
Principia Ethica
Principia Ethica is a monograph by philosopher G. E. Moore, first published in 1903. It is one of the standard texts of modern ethics, and introduced the term naturalistic fallacy.-External links:* of Principia Ethica....

, Moore discusses another notable concept which he calls the naturalistic fallacy
Naturalistic fallacy
The naturalistic fallacy is often claimed to be a formal fallacy. It was described and named by British philosopher G. E. Moore in his 1903 book Principia Ethica...

, and claims that many appeals to nature in ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

 are made without defining what is supposed to be good about nature or natural properties – instead only assuming they are good.

In its cogency and real-world applicability, Moore's formulation of the naturalistic fallacy can be problematic, partly because, by his own admission, Moore was talking about a form of reductionism
Reductionism
Reductionism can mean either an approach to understanding the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things or a philosophical position that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts, and that an account of it can...

 that can be found across philosophical perspectives, not just in naturalistic arguments. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-non-naturalism/#NatFalhttp://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/#Naturalistic However, his arguments are still influential in some strains of popular discourse.

Advertising


Some popular examples of the appeal to nature can be found on labels and advertisements for food, clothing, and alternative
Alternative medicine
Alternative medicine is any healing practice, "that does not fall within the realm of conventional medicine." It is based on historical or cultural traditions, rather than on scientific evidence....

 herbal remedies
Herbalism
Herbalism is a traditional medicinal or folk medicine practice based on the use of plants and plant extracts. Herbalism is also known as botanical medicine, medical herbalism, herbal medicine, herbology, herblore, and phytotherapy...

. Labels may use the phrase "all-natural", to imply that products are Environmentally friendly
Environmentally friendly
Environmentally friendly are terms used to refer to goods and services, laws, guidelines and policies claimed to inflict minimal or no harm on the environment....

 and/or safe. However, many toxic substances are found in nature, including in common plant sources and herbs such as hemlock
Conium
Conium is a genus of two species of highly poisonous perennial herbaceous flowering plants in the family Apiaceae, native to Europe and the Mediterranean region as Conium maculatum, and to southern Africa as Conium chaerophylloides....

, nightshade, belladonna
Belladonna
Belladonna, from the Italian expression "bella donna" meaning "beautiful lady", may refer to:-Plants:* Atropa belladonna or belladonna or deadly nightshade, a perennial herbaceous plant...

, and poisonous mushrooms, and these may have serious side effects.

It has therefore been suggested that whether or not a product is "natural" is irrelevant, in itself, in determining its safety or effectiveness. For instance, Cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

 is sometimes described as an "all-natural medicine" derived from the coca
Coca
Coca, Erythroxylum coca, is a plant in the family Erythroxylaceae, native to western South America. The plant plays a significant role in many traditional Andean cultures...

 plant, and which was prescribed for many years for everything from chest colds to depression, yet it is also highly addictive and can have serious and lasting deleterious effects. This description of Cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

 is however controversial, Cocaine is a chemical extraction of the coca plant, whose leaves are chewed as a medicine and tonic in traditional Andean culture
Andean culture
Andean culture is a collective term used to refer to the indigenous cultures of the Andes mountains especially those that came under the influence of the Inca empire...

. The most dangerous form of the drug crack cocaine
Crack cocaine
Crack cocaine is the freebase form of cocaine that can be smoked. It may also be termed rock, hard, iron, cavvy, base, or just crack; it is the most addictive form of cocaine. Crack rocks offer a short but intense high to smokers...

 is the form which is most processed and altered from the natural source. The same relationship is present between opium
Opium
Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy . Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine...

, heroin and freebase heroin, and between cannabis
Cannabis
Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants that includes three putative species, Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. These three taxa are indigenous to Central Asia, and South Asia. Cannabis has long been used for fibre , for seed and seed oils, for medicinal purposes, and as a...

 its derivative preparations and skunk (a cannabis strain selectively bred for potency).

Relevance of Natural Selection


It has been claimed that our synthesis of natural materials and invention of new materials is susceptible to mistakes which pre-existing natural ones have been naturally selected
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

 against http://www.ourstolenfuture.org/NewScience/phytoestrogens/phyto.htm.
The processes of natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

 can be observed to adapt and generally improve the fitness
Fitness
Fitness may relate to:* Physical fitness, a general state of good health, usually as a result of exercise and nutrition * Cardiorespiratory fitness...

 of living creatures in response to changes in their environment. It manages this, to the extent that it is the process considered responsible for the vast and complex array of life which has evolved to date. It can be argued that due to the lack of natural selection, the more unnatural a thing is, the greater its potential for disruption to natural systems and organisms.

Examples of Synthetic Design Failures


There are unfortunate examples of unnatural products or practices having resulted in bad consequences after a period of adoption and acceptance,http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/bookchin/syntheticenviron/ose4.html e.g. the feeding of processed meat to herbivorous
Herbivore
Herbivores are organisms that are anatomically and physiologically adapted to eat plant-based foods. Herbivory is a form of consumption in which an organism principally eats autotrophs such as plants, algae and photosynthesizing bacteria. More generally, organisms that feed on autotrophs in...

 cattle caused BSE
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy , commonly known as mad-cow disease, is a fatal neurodegenerative disease in cattle that causes a spongy degeneration in the brain and spinal cord. BSE has a long incubation period, about 30 months to 8 years, usually affecting adult cattle at a peak age onset of...

 and new variant CJD outbreaks,http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/meat-back-on-menu-for-animal-feed-20-years-after-bse-crisis-2072188.html the superior qualities of natural breast milk
Breast milk
Breast milk, more specifically human milk, is the milk produced by the breasts of a human female for her infant offspring...

 over infant formula
Infant formula
Infant formula is a manufactured food designed and marketed for feeding to babies and infants under 12 months of age, usually prepared for bottle-feeding or cup-feeding from powder or liquid . The U.S...

 which took decades to establish scientifically http://www.who.int/child_adolescent_health/topics/prevention_care/child/nutrition/breastfeeding/en/index.html, and the now widely acknowledged impacts of smoking on human health. In addition, trans fats
Trans fat
Trans fat is the common name for unsaturated fat with trans-isomer fatty acid. Because the term refers to the configuration of a double carbon-carbon bond, trans fats are sometimes monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, but never saturated....

 resulting from the process of hydrogenation
Hydrogenation
Hydrogenation, to treat with hydrogen, also a form of chemical reduction, is a chemical reaction between molecular hydrogen and another compound or element, usually in the presence of a catalyst. The process is commonly employed to reduce or saturate organic compounds. Hydrogenation typically...

 are widely seen as a health risk and have been banned in several countries.

Legal debates


Some arguments for the legalization of marijuana, or other drugs such as peyote, have highlighted their "natural" properties.

See also


  • Environmentalism
    Environmentalism
    Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements...

  • Ethical naturalism
    Ethical naturalism
    Ethical naturalism is the meta-ethical view which claims that:# Ethical sentences express propositions.# Some such propositions are true....

  • Greenwashing
  • Green brands
    Green brands
    Green brands are those brands that consumers associate with environmental conservation and sustainable business practices.Such brands appeal to consumers who are becoming more aware of the need to protect the environment. A green brand can add a unique selling point to a product and can boost...

  • Green marketing
    Green marketing
    According to the American Marketing Association, green marketing is the marketing of products that are presumed to be environmentally safe. Thus green marketing incorporates a broad range of activities, including product modification, changes to the production process, packaging changes, as well as...

  • Human nature
    Human nature
    Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that humans tend to have naturally....

  • Naturalistic fallacy
    Naturalistic fallacy
    The naturalistic fallacy is often claimed to be a formal fallacy. It was described and named by British philosopher G. E. Moore in his 1903 book Principia Ethica...

     - a fallacy often assumed to mean the same thing.
  • Natural kind
    Natural kind
    In philosophy, a natural kind is a "natural" grouping, not an artificial one. Or, it is something that a set of things has in common which distinguishes it from other things as a real set rather than as a group of things arbitrarily lumped together by a person or group of people.If any natural...

  • Natural justice
    Natural justice
    Natural justice is a term of art that denotes specific procedural rights in the English legal system and the systems of other nations based on it. Whilst the term natural justice is often retained as a general concept, it has largely been replaced and extended by the more general "duty to act fairly"...

  • Natural law
    Natural law
    Natural law, or the law of nature , is any system of law which is purportedly determined by nature, and thus universal. Classically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules of moral behavior. Natural law is contrasted with the positive law Natural...

  • Natural selection
    Natural selection
    Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

  • Norm (philosophy)
    Norm (philosophy)
    Norms are concepts of practical import, oriented to effecting an action, rather than conceptual abstractions that describe, explain, and express. Normative sentences imply “ought-to” types of statements and assertions, in distinction to sentences that provide “is” types of statements and assertions...



External links