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Natural Garbage

by on March 7, 2011

‘I would warn you that I do not attribute to nature either beauty or deformity, order or confusion. Only in relation to our imagination can things be called beautiful or ugly, well-ordered or confused.’—Spinoza

            The fascinating Benedict Spinoza here captures something that I feel needs to be placed on billboards in this country. For what I am about to argue only slightly differs from what Spinoza is saying here. I am going to attack the term ‘natural’ as a moral predicate. The term natural/unnatural has been used for everything from the validity of homosexuality to food. The ways in which the terms are used seem to imply that to be ‘natural’ is to then inherently be ‘good,’ and by something being unnatural it must then inherently be ‘bad.’ ‘Homosexuality is ‘unnatural’’ is often said by distinguished philosophers and average Joe’s but even if it was true, which it is obviously not, what is implied here? Eyeglasses are unnatural so let’s ramp up the ‘window-face,’ and ‘four-eye’ labels shall we. Now, within the food context, we often hear the dogmatic slams about everything from trans fat, GMO’s, high-fructose corn syrup, or anything not purchased at a Farmer’s Market or something to that effect- this is coupled with the emphasis that ‘natural’ is itself great, good, and the optimal choice. Well, this is absurd, for there are many natural things that are terrible- even with food- such as the variety of natural creatures that will destroy your crops. This isn’t to start a fight with anti-gays, anti-preservative advocates, it is merely to request that people stop using ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural,’ as a moral in and of itself- for it is certainly not. AIDS, Natural Disasters, and other horrible things are as natural as the apple picked off a tree by the Puritans, just as eyeglasses are as ‘unnatural,’ as ‘messing’ with food by putting in preservatives in them to extend shelf life. Now, to avoid the Straw man fallacy, I’m not saying that it’s a closed case and this is exactly my point. Natural things include wonderful, beautiful, things consisting in utility and personal enhancement, as does unnatural things (such as art folks- art, artificial, etc.). So, devise an argument not consisting in such ambiguous concepts that really signify nothing but the attempt to judge something from a non-judgmental view, for it’s not like you or I made it ‘natural,’ that’s just the way it is right?

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From → Philosophy

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