Nature as Guide
The position of Nature is often determined by the contexts within which non-human entities are integrated into human cultural understanding. And because our ability to value the non-human world surrounding us is mediated by this understanding of what Nature is or can be, a set of environmental ethics would direct our awareness to the social and political milieu within which human beings become aware of that world.
Human intervention in Nature constantly leads to new interpretations of Nature and the Natural. This interventional contact often reveals new human thoughts and cultural values and a new codes and ethics, which can be constructive and destructive at the very same time.
According to Roger J. King, Nature cannot be assumed from the way Nature itself is. It all depends on the place, which Nature has acquired in our discourses with each other. Therefore Nature cannot be independent from our culturally based interpretation and understanding of what it is. This makes Nature not something in itself, but rather a conceptual artifact of human cultural existence.
Before we can pose the moral question of our obligations towards Nature, we inevitably bring before us a particular conception of what Nature is. To state that Nature is an artifact is to say that we have no access to Nature in itself or as it is, but we can gain partial access to it through heritage and knowledge of what we call the original.
Our interpretation of Nature can never be independent of the intellectual, artistic, emotional, and technological resources available to us. These resources constitute the prism, or context, within which what we call Nature appears to us and within which we interpret our experiences of the natural world around us.
In order to make Nature our guide in matters of intellectuality and morality we have to understand what Nature is. Not by applying yet again our mechanical codes but by referring to measurements of Nature itself. This may seem more problematic to comprehend than many in environmental ethics assume.
Our understanding of Nature is still the product of cultural institutions and the multiplicity of interpretations of the natural world. Before we can make Nature our intellectual and spiritual guide, we must ask how our present understanding of Nature was constructed and how it has led us on to the particular path of environmental destruction we currently follow. The question is, can the human culture stop short from disciplining and moralizing Nature, and if we do so can Nature still remain our guide?