Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Philip Rose


Aristotle, Nature, Thomism, Vogel




Steven Vogel argues that nature ought not be thought of as a category independent of humans, and instead much be understood as something built by human action. His point is fundamentally ontological: Vogel denies that there is a difference in kind between the natural and artificial. To establish this, Vogel argues against two separate conceptions of nature which are popular in environmental discourse in order to show that both are problematic. The first definition "Nature(1)" is the notion of nature as the parts of the world not touched by humans; the second definition is "Nature(2)" which holds as natural anything which is physical. The former turns out to exclude all the things which humans know or encounter. The latter captures too much to be useful in distinguishing the natural and non-natural. If nature just refers to the physical laws of the universe, nothing human beings do in the world can possibly threaten the natural. After refuting these two views, he concludes that nature must be understood not as a self-subsisting thing but as something socially constructed.I argue that Vogel overlooks a third definition of nature which can be derived from Aristotle's notion of phusis and its subsequent development by the Aristotelian tradition, especially by St. Thomas Aquinas. I wish to clarify why Aristotle's notion of nature is distinct from those attacked by Vogel. Specifically, I believe that Aristotle's account is able to justify the ontological commitments it makes in contrast to either of the views Vogel criticizes. I will defend its relevance to contemporary environmental philosophy especially against the charge of ideology which Vogel makes against other conceptions of nature.