Keyword Forum 5

Please refer to the readings assigned for 14 November.

Artifact - n (Br. Artefact). According to The Oxford Dictionary, an artifact is 1. an object made by a human being, typically one of cultural or historical interest; 2. Something observed in a scientific investigation or experiment that is not naturally present but occurs as a result of the preparative or investigative procedure.

Technology creates artifacts that are inequivalent to natural objects. In The Big Lie: Human Restoration of Nature, Eric Katz mentions that the natural environment that is re-created from a restoration project is merely an artifact created for human use (445). Artifacts are also anthropocentric because they are created by humans to serve a function for human life (446).

Artifacts also have a "nature" that is comprised of three features: 1) Internal structure, 2) purpose, and 3) manner of use. hence Katz says artifacts "have predictable life-spans during which they undergo regular and predictable changes."

Natural objects, on the other hand, are not artifacts (445). They are not designed by humans to serve a purpose and do not have intrinsic functions.

Due to all factors above, Katz concludes that re-constructed and re-designed natural areas will never be truly natural because they are designed by human technologies, and are hence human artifacts (446,448).

Anthropocentric - adj. According to The Oxford Dictionary, to be anthropocentric means to regard humankind as the central or most important element of existence, especially as opposed to God or animals.

Artifacts are anthropocentric in nature. According to Katz, the doctrine of anthropocentrism is an important element in understanding the meaning of artifacts because they are designed "by humans for humans to satisfy human interest and needs" (448). Natural areas restored and redesigned with technology will never be natural because they are human artifacts" (446).

Restoration

Restoration is the concept that something can be returned to its original condition. As it relates to nature, efforts of restoration aim to return nature to a state similar to how it was before human influence. The issue is that once nature is restored it becomes an artifact with a human-centered design (Katz). Another view is that the restoration of nature results in a “counterfeit nature,” or a nature with a diminished value (Elliot).

Both argue that a restored ecosystem will have less value than the original and will likely increase the damage being done to the current one. This is because efforts for restoration seem to neglect the intrinsic value of nature and place disproportionate emphasis on its readily apparent properties, or those that directly benefit mankind. This view of nature reduces it to its functions, although it is argued that objects in nature have no function (relevant to human desires).

It should be mentioned that restoration stands in contrast to conservation, which merely attempts to protect habitats from human activities rather than redesigning them for human benefit. Although, it is unclear that restoration necessarily results in nature becoming an artifact.

Also, if the restored nature thrives just as much or better than the original we would not say that it isn’t as valuable. The restoration of nature can be compared to the restoration of art. While the original painting may have a sentimental value, an exact replica would serve the same purpose, affecting the observer in the same way.

Nature and Natural

To define “nature” is to go into what is the meaning of “natural.” Therefore they will be combined for this definition.

What is nature? Throughout this article, Katz discusses the many interpretations of what nature is and what is natural. Nature is that which has not been touched, explored, or meddled with by mankind. In that it has not been destroyed by man, it is complete. It is an entity that exists independently of mankind and in its most natural state, is removed from the activities of man. Then there is the second type of nature. This variant of nature has been reconstructed by man, to replace the original, that has been destroyed by man’s actions.

Nature is like a piece of art. As a piece of art stands as a connection to the past, so does nature. Nature, being older than the man that looks upon it, is a living connection to man’s past and part of the journey to an understanding of that past. Art is also a tool of understanding and evaluation in that the artistic expert knows the history and life of the art. An expert in nature understands the how nature came into being and what is required to sustain it.

Yet, nature, when restored becomes an artifact. So nature can be an artifact too.When nature stands as an artifact, it no longer stands for its own purpose. Nature (reconstructed) is created for man’s happiness and peace of mind. This nature adopts a functionality and purpose. It has a life-cycle that man can both predict and change. It becomes something man must become the master of. This nature is more of a pseudo-nature, but a “type” of nature all the same.

Nature is many things, and perhaps the best explanation of nature is that it is “a mechanism that we do not fully understand.”

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