He was suspicious because he noticed that the word "natural" is often used to convince people that something is "true without need for further explanation" - a suspicious usage, certainly.

Heard this once on the radio and would like to recall what was his specific context.

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    David Hume is regarded as the discoverer of the is-ought problem. But even prior th him almost every philosopher was a bit suspicious about that word. And after Hume people got even more suspicious. So this question just can't be answered! – Einer Sep 30 '14 at 11:04
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    Thanks. What I had in mind was more the rhetoric trick, as here appeal_to_nature, which I found following your link. – komark Oct 4 '14 at 12:10
  • I feel like I remember Michel Foucault saying almost exactly this, maybe in his History of Sexuality, but I'm not finding an exact quote. Possibly relevant: genealogyreligion.net/… – Brian Z Oct 18 '14 at 15:26
  • Sounds like Descartes: "by the natural light...". He often introduces thoughts that are more intuitively true for him rather than that he had any valid argument for it with this (or similar) clause. More modern criticism, and in different context, but applicable: Wilfried Sellars and his Myth of the Given in Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind. – Philip Klöcking Sep 11 '17 at 0:10
  • Is it perhaps the naturalistic fallacy of G.E.Moore? – Ram Tobolski Sep 13 '17 at 4:23

Roland Barthes built his early social criticism by demonstrating how ideology presents cultural constructs as natural ones. The suspicion towards things labelled 'natural' is frequently recognized in the essays published as Mythologies (1957). The question being vaguely phrased, this is mostly a conjecture.

On the second page of the preface Roland Barthes states:

Le départ de cette réflexion était le plus souvent un sentiment d'impatience devant le `naturel' dont la presse, l'art, le sens commun affublent sans cesse une réalité qui, pour être celle dans laquelle nous vivons, n'en est pas moins parfaitement historique: en un mot, je souffrais de voir à tout moment confondues dans le récit de notre actualité, Nature et Histoire, et je voulais ressaisir dans l'exposition décorative de ce-qui-va-de-soi, l'abus idéologique qui, à mon sens, s'y trouve caché. (Barthes: 1970 p.9)

"The starting point of this reflection was most often a feeling of impatience before the naturalness that media, art, and common sense continuously impute on a reality, which is completely historical despite our living in it"... (my transl, ask google for more)

Earlier existentialist thinkers criticized (and denied validity of) the concept of human nature; with structuralism the divide nature-culture became a key issue. Barthes' critique denounced in popular form its incorrect drawing by (bourgeois) ideology. All of this is probably irrelevant if the unnamed philosopher spoke English on the radio.

  • I'm pretty sure the quote was of some earlier philosopher. But the point was exactly to emphasize the view that "ideology presents cultural constructs as natural ones". – komark Dec 22 '17 at 23:29

I think the origin of the 'suspicion' for some philosophers relates to the origin of the word "nature", which originally meant "God", in Egyptian, according to Budge (1895). Nature can especially be viewed in the context of Hegel's philosophy, which explains, Spirit becomes nature and nature becomes Spirit.

"1f] Although other authors do not usually distinguish between corporeal and immaterial theon ('gods and/not goddesses'), author included distinctions according to euhemerism11. Wanted not to use "God" for ancients' understandings because they used other words like "neter"12, in Egypt, for example. Parmenides wrote "Περι Φυσις (On Nature)"13 ("About Physis")14. Anaximander15, who was not a vegetarian, and probably other Miletians like Thales and Anaximenes, opined we should not eat fish because fishes were human ancestors. Is there a relation between Anaximander's fish and the Christian fish symbol? According to Wilhelm von Humboldt philology enlightens history.16 Burms wrote involuntary rhyme should be regarded as infelicitous. 17 "Theon", "gods" and "goddesses", "neter", "physis" and "God" refer to very different understandings of times. When using 'gods and goddesses', for example, to refer to entities of ancient times, as well as for entities of current times, differences in time are not acknowledged." ... 12. The words "neter" ('God'), "neteru" ('gods') and "netert" ('goddess'/goddesses?) in hieroglyphic Egyptian, developed into the word "nature" (Budge. 1895: lxxxix, lxxxii-lxxxiii).


BUDGE, E.A.W. 1895. The book of the dead. (New York: Dover, 1967)

From: Africahead on 10 Sep 2017

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    Can you offer any support for this? Otherwise it is pure speculation. – ChristopherE Sep 22 '17 at 11:40
  • @ChristopherE, support for what specifically? If you go to the link you can see the references of the post above. I quoted just one reference, but 7 (11 to 17) are at the link. – Marquard Dirk Pienaar Sep 22 '17 at 12:28
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    That etymology has anything to do with why any philosopher, much less many philosophers, why have certain attitudes toward nature – ChristopherE Sep 22 '17 at 12:35
  • With regard to English "nature" at least two words were relevant in the past. Greek "physis" and Egyptian "neter". Both words in English translations became "nature". It would not surprise me if the sounds of "physis" and "fishes" are related because ancient Greek philosophers believed humans were descended from fish. Maybe, if I recall correctly they regarded eating fish a transgression. – Marquard Dirk Pienaar Sep 22 '17 at 12:47

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