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Helaine Selin (ed.)

Nature Across Cultures

Views of Nature and the Environment in Non-Western Cultures

Helaine Selin (ed.):
Nature Across Cultures. Views of Nature and the Environment in Non-Western Cultures.
Dordrecht – Boston – London: Kluwer, 2003.
(Science Across Cultures: The History of Non-Western Science 4)
496 pages
ISBN 1-4020-1235-7

Kluwer Academic Publishers:
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The interest in non-western approaches to nature and the natural sciences is a relatively recent development and the result of a scepticism towards progress that has arisen since the oil crisis and the Chernobyl disaster. Humans transform nature – this being true for hunters and gatherers as well industrial society. Nature Across Cultures documents in 23 contributions how very different societies perceive and deal with nature, covering perspectives ranging from the Inuit to Australian aborigines, from Thailand to India, from Japan to China, with two articles on the understanding of nature in Islam and in biblical as well as in modern Judaism concluding the anthology.

The search for alternative world views that correspond to the ideas of an ecologically ideal world can never escape the suspicion that it may be feeding on romantic notions. The articles in the anthology reveal that the ecologically correct »noble savage« does not exist. Even the question about the concept of ›nature‹ is a very western idea and it is best to understand nature as a metaphor that can be extended to refer to many different views.

The reflection at the centre of the first six articles of the anthology prepares readers well for more specialised investigations, which illustrate – by providing plenty of detail – how different the concepts of ›nature‹ and our ways of dealing with nature are. In many instances the anthology covers field studies that have been conducted for many years, thus becoming even more enlightening and turning into both a required reading and a rich, as well as valuable source for intercultural philosophers.

Ursula Baatz

Translation from the German by Marlies Gabriele Prinzl.

polylog. Forum for Intercultural Philosophy 5 (2004).
Online: http://lit.polylog.org/5/sshba-en.htm
ISSN 1616-2943
Author: Ursula Baatz, Vienna (Austria)
© 2004 Author & polylog e.V.
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