We have often heard that human history compared to the geological or biological historical record is merely just a blip on the map of time. Compared with cultural agencies, processes, and aims, natural objects have a wider and deeper breadth of existence. “Natural science” according to A. N. Whitehead, “is exclusively concerned with homogeneous thoughts about nature” (Concept of Nature, 4). As David L. Hall writes in his superb study, A Civilization of Experience: A Whiteheadian Theory of Culture (1973, 73-4): “That is to say, natural science considers perceptual objects non-reflectively. A thinking about nature which includes a consideration of nature-as-thought-about is a heterogeneous thinking about nature. A speculative philosopher who seeks to promote the most general systematization of civilized thought must think heterogeneously about nature. Whereas the scientist’s subject matter is the object of perceptual experience qua object, the principle subject matter of the speculative philosopher considering nature would be the various theories and doctrines proposed by the scientists in order to explain perceptual objects” (see Process and Reality, 25-6).
On the other hand, the philosophical orientations we find in the work of Wilhelm Dilthey emphasize hermeneutical historicity which seems at odds with the more naturalistic approach. Heidegger was influenced by Dilthey in his early lectures and phenomenology developing what he called a “hermeneutics of factical life.” His development of Geisteswissenschaften as the basis of all science derives from the finite human context—there has never been a physics or astronomy without either a physicist or astronomer. Hence, any intellectual principle refers to the individual’s life and concrete cultural setting as the embodiment for scientific “objective necessity.” This is the justification for his distinguishing between the “human” and “cultural” sciences. So my question concerns metaphysical speculation and the issue of whether nature is a product of culture or do cultural objects determine what we know or can say about nature, as a system of organized beings or self-organizing processes. What justifies holding either nature or culture derivative from the other?