Preserving the distinction between nature and artifact

Eric Katz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


Is "nature" a significant moral category for the development of public policy? The answer to this question depends on what public policy is being considered. The utility of the concept of nature for ethical and policy decisions cannot be determined universally and a priori; rather, it exists along a spectrum of relevance and appropriateness, and it must be determined pragmatically based on the specific facts of each individual situation. In the area of environmental policy, for example, the idea of nature-indeed, nature's actual existence as a physical reality-plays an important role in determining the ethical basis of policy decisions. Nonetheless, the idea of nature is not always of prime importance in environmental policy, for when we consider environmental issues in largely artifactual realms, such as urban centers, the idea of what is natural is little help in determining appropriate policy decisions. In human health and medical policy, as another example, the concept of nature plays a much less important role. Yet the spectrum of relevance exists in this area also, for some medical decisions are based on an idea of what is natural for the human body, even though most medical procedures seek to interfere with or modify the natural pro cesses of disease, injury, or deterioration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Ideal of Nature
Subtitle of host publicationDebates about Biotechnology and the Environment
PublisherThe Johns Hopkins University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9780801898884
StatePublished - 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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