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The Ideal of Nature

The Ideal of NatureEdited by Gregory E. Kaebnick
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011

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Going back at least to the writings of John Stuart Mill and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, people have argued for and against maintaining a state of nature. Is there an inherent virtue in leaving alone a naturally occurring condition, or does the human species thrive when we find ways to improve our circumstances? This volume probes whether "nature" and "the natural" are capable of guiding moral deliberations in policy making.

Drawing on philosophy, religion, and political science, this book examines three questions central to debates over the idea of "nature" in human action. Conceptually, it asks what the term means, how it should be considered, and if it is, even in part, a social construct. From a moral perspective, the contributors question if being "natural" is itself of value or if its worth is only as a means to advance other morally acceptable ends. Politically, essays discuss whether appeals to nature can and should affect public policy and, if so, whether they are moral trump cards or should instead be fitted alongside or weighed against other concerns.

Achieving consensus on these questions has proven elusive and seems unattainable. This should not, however, be an obstacle to moving the debate forward. By bringing together disparate approaches to addressing these concepts, The Ideal of Nature suggests the possibility of intermediate positions that move beyond the usual full-throated defense and blanket dismissal found in much of the debate. Scholars of bioethics, environmental philosophy, religious studies, sociology, public policy, and political theory will find much merit in this book's lively discussion.

Table of Contents

  1. Disposing Nature of Disposing of It?: Reflections on the Instruction of Nature
    Kate Soper
  2. In Defense of Living Nature: Finding Common Ground in a Medieval Tradition
    Jean Porter
  3. Nature as Absence: The Logic of Nature and Culture in Social Contract Theory
    Bruce Jennings
  4. Human Nature without Theory
    Gregory E. Kaebnick
  5. Preserving the Distinction between Nature and Artifact
    Eric Katz
  6. Why "Nature" Has No Place in Environmental Philosophy
    Steven Vogel
  7. The Appeal to Nature
    Bonnie Steinbock
  8. Thinking Like a Mountain: Nature, Wilderness and the Virtue of Humility
    Paul Lauritzen
  9. He Did It on Hot Dogs and Beer: Natural Excellence in Human Athletic Achievement
    David Wasserman
  10. Sport, Simulation, and EPO
    Nicholas Agar
  11. Commonsense Morality and the Idea of Nature: What We Can Learn from Thinking about "Therapy"
    William A. Galston
  12. Rawls, Sports, and Liberal Legitimacy
    Thomas H. Murray and Peter Murray
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