The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 5, 2007

Logic and Philosophy of the Sciences

Gregor Schiemann
Pages 65-71

Contexts of Nature according to Aristotle and Descartes

From the point of view of the history and philosophy of science, the relationship of Descartes' to Aristotle's concept of nature has not been grasped in an entirely satisfactory way. In this article, the two concepts will be subjected to a comparative analysis, beginning with the outstanding feature that both concepts of nature are characterized by a contradistinction to the non-natural: Aristotle separates nature and technology; Descartes opposes nature to thinking. My thesis is that these meanings have found privileged application in specific contexts of experience: the field of application especially suitable for the Aristotelian concept is the experience of everyday life, while for the Cartesian concept it is subjective experience. Historically, the relationship between meaning and experience is of help in understanding the conditions in which the two concepts arose. The topical relevance of the concepts to modern society is a consequence of the continued existence of the favored contexts of experience. Roughly stated, we sometimes still perceive in an Aristotelian way and at other times think in a Cartesian way.