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Nature as Landscape

Nature as Landscape: Dwelling and Understanding

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Nature as Landscape
    Book Description:

    Von Maltzahn focuses on how we experience aspects of nature in terms of their outer appearance, such as landscape, and contends that the naturalistic scientific tradition has taught us to divorce ourselves from the natural world, to become impartial observers rather than participants. He examines the nature of the human life-world and describes the process of self-deception that has led to the contemporary dismissal of that life-world as merely subjective. Drawing on phenomenology, semiotics, visual thinking, gestalt psychology, and Polanyi's arguments about tacit knowing, he offers an alternative way of perceiving the natural world that would reunite humans and nature.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6502-9
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-6)

    In his essay “Worpswede,” Rainer Maria Rilke describes our relationship to the concrete aspects of nature as we encounter them in our everyday life, the “trees which flower” and the “brooks which pass by.”¹ What he describes is our complete estrangement from nature, an estrangement that frightens us once we become aware of it. But it is not merely fright that wells up in us. There is also puzzlement, for we are born and raised within a particular life-space on earth, surrounded not only by nature with its characteristic features – the contour of the land and the life-forms of...

  6. CHAPTER ONE The Objective Interpretation of Nature
    (pp. 7-18)

    Nature is that which brings itself forth, and it exists as it has brought itself forth whether we are present or not. Nature is composed of natural bodily things; and natural bodily things, in contrast to things made by people, are shaped by the forces of nature. Natural cognition gives us direct access to the items that constitute nature, and the knowledge of these items permits us to build up an inventory of nature.

    The Swiss physician Conrad Gesner was one of the early naturalists who attempted to make such an inventory. In June 1541 he wrote to his friend...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Human Beings and Nature in the Mythological World
    (pp. 19-26)

    In forms of mythic apprehensions, we learn how something came to be, its origins and emergence, and how various aspects of the world form a whole life connection, including humankind. In the mythical experience, human beings and the world form a unity, and there is not yet an “I” separate from a “not-I.” In this case, one experiences space from within rather than from without. Space and space content belong together. The part is a function of the whole, because the part does not exist by itself but is linked to a centre from which it receives its structure and...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Interpretation of Humankind
    (pp. 27-35)

    The expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden has had a profound impact on human nature. The importance of the Fall is described for us in Kleist’s “Marionette-Theatre.”¹ In this short story, Kleist lets us listen to a conversation between himself and the first dancer of the opera house, who loves to watch the marionette theatre in the marketplace. The dancer compares the grace of the puppet’s dance with that of a human dancer and comes to the surprising conclusion that the dance of the jointed doll is much more graceful than that of any human. The...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR The Historical Nature of Humankind and the Contemporary Technological Order
    (pp. 36-43)

    Animals are part of nature, and since humans are just another animal, they are in nature and not apart from it, so the argument seems to unfold. But according to Descartes, the human being is the rational animal. In addition to the extended world, there are the ideas arising within human consciousness. From the historian’s perspective, the horizon that lies open to human consciousness is not fixed; it changes with history. Thus, the human is a historical being, and it appears that there is not human nature as such; there is solely historical mentality. In addition to the physical world...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Nature and Culture, 1
    (pp. 44-52)

    Natural forms are forms that bring themselves forth out of themselves. This is in contrast to implemental things and works of art, which do not bring themselves forth but are produced by humans.¹ More broadly, we may want to distinguish between natural things and cultural things. Cultural forms are those that humans have created out of nature or have permanently added to it.² Agriculture is an example. As the term implies, agriculture is a cultural form. Objectively, it is a means of transforming the structure of an ecosystem (a unit of nature) into a system that favours the production of...

  11. CHAPTER SIX The Biological World
    (pp. 53-65)

    In the objective world, we acknowledge a reality that is composed of objects. These objects are linked insofar as they move in relation to one another. The linkage is one of cause and effect as the forces of nature cause the events. Like Helmholtz, we make force the cause of natural events. In the one objective world there are no subjects and there is no meaning, because we acknowledge only cause-and-effect relations.

    Let us now look at the nature of the relationship between an animal and its environment. The interpretation of this relationship in terms of the stimulus-response model was...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN The Life-World, 1
    (pp. 66-76)

    While Jakob von Uexkiill speaks of an animal’s surrounding world, Martin Buber questions whether it is appropriate to call the surroundings of an animal a “world.”¹ He recommends that we use the term “realm” and reserve the concept “world” for humans. Buber argues that because of the symbolic nature of human beings, it is characteristic of them to have to build a world. Humans do not have a world that is fixed for their kind; instead, they are capable of creating different worlds. The recognition of this basic difference between animals and humans justifies Buber’s critique of Jakob von Uexkiill’s...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT The Life-World, 2
    (pp. 77-83)

    In our natural attitude we find ourselves in the world of our everyday experience. We participate in this world, our life-world, by seeing and moving. We usually perceive our surroundings when we are moving, rather than when we are standing still. The movement may not even involve the whole body; it may concern only parts of the body, such as the eyes, the head, or the trunk. When we are moving actively in relation to what surrounds us, the surrounding also moves; the surfaces of objects close to us move faster than those farther away from us.

    The term “surfaces...

  14. CHAPTER NINE Visual Thinking and Tacit Knowing
    (pp. 84-95)

    As mentioned earlier, in the everyday life-world the body subject is linked by invisible strings to its environment. Animals take their place within appropriate environments; they have positionality. But humans have placed themselves against their animal existence and have taken on what Plessner calls “eccentric positionality,” meaning the attainment of distance from one’s own body.¹ We are reminded here of humankind’s affectations, the drifting apart of the seat of the soul and the body’s centre of gravity when the human being becomes self-aware and makes nature into an object.

    If we are to attain an objective view of the world,...

  15. CHAPTER TEN Nature and Culture, 2
    (pp. 96-108)

    In chapter 5, the first chapter on nature and culture, the discussion led us to the conclusion that the composition of spaces created by humans can severely hinder the life of natural beings, as we find them in the state of the wilderness. In that chapter, we defined culture simply in terms of what human beings have made of natural things or what they have permanently added to nature.¹ This would include the “technocentric” mode² of viewing the environment, of which Timothy O’Riordan speaks. It will be recalled that this mode is based on the notion that the natural environment...

  16. CHAPTER ELEVEN Nature as Landscape
    (pp. 109-117)

    The knowledge of nature is not limited to functional relations, which have come to play such an important role in the scientific study of nature, but it extends also to spatial relations. These spatial relations may in turn be very different, depending on whether they are thought of in terms of the objective world or whether they are experienced in everyday life. This can be illustrated by considering, once again, landscape as an aspect of nature. The English word “landscape” is an old Germanic term. Grimm’s German dictionary refers to the Old High German form “landscaf” and gives various definitions,...

  17. CHAPTER TWELVE Construction of a World
    (pp. 118-125)

    While the animal’s surrounding realm is fixed through the schemata present in its inner structure, humans have gained a symbolic imagination that enables them to build different worlds.¹ We are born into a life-world that is composed of aspects of nature, other human beings, and various works of human beings. As we have seen, what surrounds us shapes our preference as well as our sense of home, out of which we build a world. InPlace and Placelessness, Relph stresses the importance of the relationship between the experiencing person and the experienced place: places are significant centres of our immediate...

  18. Conclusion
    (pp. 126-130)

    I began by asking why we have grown so estranged from nature. We recognize that our origins lie in a mythological world. In the mythological experience, humans are part of a whole unified entity and there is not yet an “I” separate and distinct from the “not-I.” In the mythological world, humans are connected with the things around them through forces that are not readily specifiable. Until their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, humans had been insiders; for them, there had not yet been an “outside” as we know it. The Fall inaugurated and set in motion self-awareness. Human...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 131-144)
  20. Index
    (pp. 145-149)