‘the Nature of’ – One of the Emptiest Phrases in the English Language

The purpose of this thread is to offer a communicative massage. The main questions are first, whether or not people think they need such a massage and second, whether they will allow them-self to be massaged communicatively by unknown ‘hands’ on the internet, i.e. by someone they don’t know and thus likely will find hard to immediately trust. Can I influence the way people speak and think simply by highlighting a feature of English language expression that often goes unnoticed or is taken for granted?

My opponent is the ideology of ‘naturalism.’ Why do I choose it as an opponent? Because I am a human-social scientist and don’t wish to accept the argument put forward by many naturalists that ‘social’ things are actually ‘natural’ simply by virtue of society being constructed out of our ‘human nature.’ I reject the ideology of naturalism for its encroachment on the sovereign territory of human-social sciences and their objects/subjects of study and argue that there is an alternative and more accurate way to discuss what naturalists actually mean in one particular phrase they commonly use.

The argument I would like to make here is so simple and straightforward that it will be easily accepted by some, while it will be immensely tough and thought as challenging to others, primarily those employed in natural-physical sciences. The main point is this: the phrase ‘the nature of’ is one of the emptiest in the English language.

In most cases, the phrase ‘the nature of’ is redundant. I have found that in well over half (up to 100% in some contexts) of the time that it is used it is invoked unnecessarily and adds nothing of value or meaning to its surrounding sentence or paragraph. When people use ‘the nature of’ they really just mean ‘what a thing is’ by nature, while at the same time it is widely agreed around the world that ‘nature’ is one of the most easily abused, confused and misused terms.

Let me give a simple explanation. If I asked you to describe ‘the shape of,’ ‘the colour of,’ ‘the sound of,’ ‘the taste of,’ ‘the smell of’ or ‘the size of’ something, you would understand that I was asking a relatively specific question, not a general question about a physical entity. If I asked about ‘the colour of’ an apple and you replied that the apple was red, heavy, semi-sweet, big, soft and that it smelled like something X, you would be answering much more than the basic question I asked you. In other words, the phrase ‘the ______ of’ in all of the above examples has a limited and specific meaning, whereas ‘the nature of’ is often assumed to have no such unambiguous limitation or specification.

Why does the phrase ‘the nature of’ often get passed off for ‘what a thing is’ in its entirety, in a general sense, having to do with its existence, essence and even reality itself? The main reason for this, as it seems to me, is due to the over-arching ideology of naturalism, which says that only what is ‘natural,’ is ‘real.’ Non-natural or ‘extra-natural’ things are not considered to be ‘real’ according to such an ideology, which makes it such a surprise to this social scientist author when people believe this.

My primary problem with ‘the nature of’ is that it is often used communicatively as a synonym for ‘reality’ when in fact there are many ‘non-natural’ or ‘extra-natural’ things or entities. Thus, those ‘non-natural’ or ‘extra-natural’ things are excluded from holding meaning or are marginalised by the supposedly greater or broader claim to reality being made by saying ‘the nature of’ and speaking of ‘what is natural.’ The ‘real’ has been effectively high-jacked by naturalists at the cost of holistic knowledge of the universe.

Why have some people made ‘the nature of’ synonymous with ‘the reality of’? It might be considered that privileging ‘nature’ in one’s view of reality most supports those in natural-physical sciences who have tried to impress the power of their disciplinary languages on other fields. Once the ideology of naturalism is exposed, however, the miscommunication done by ‘the nature of’ becomes easily understood, over-turned and un-done or corrected.

‘The nature of’ the ideology of naturalism is unveiled by studies in communications, by linguistic analysis and philology, not by natural-physical scientists defining by fiat what counts as real or unreal everywhere in the Academy.

Some of you might wonder: Why have I started writing journalistic sociology on this blog with such a core linguistic massage? Because it will be very difficult for my more complex message as a sociologist to resonate with or make sense to people who deny the existence of ‘non-natural’ or ‘extra-natural’ reality. By opening up the discussion with a linguistic alternative (to be dealt with in an upcoming thread) to using the phrase ‘the nature of’ as a description for all meaningful reality, it will become possible for the main theme of this blog – Human Extension – to be confronted as a potentially meaningful approach in the human-social sciences.

Human Extension is based on ‘non-natural’ or ‘extra-natural’ participation and action on Earth. It cannot be reduced to any naturalistic explanation of our individual and common human reality and it is not exhaustible within a naturalistic evolutionary paradigm. Human Extension goes beyond evolutionism-as-ideology to open a new dialogical space involving human choices, goals, plans, directions and purpose.

Those who would speak of ‘the nature of’ Human Extension would be simply missing the mark.


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E-mail: gregorisandstrom@yahoo.com

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