NATURE

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NATURE ; a word of vast and various signification. In its most extensive meaning, it denotes the world, the universe in short, the creation ; hence it comprises both the physical world and the spiritual, as both are created. Those philosophers, ancient and modern, who consider God as inseparably connected with the universe, to which his animating breath gives life, include even him under the idea of nature. In fact, they have not unfrequently confounded God with the laws and principles of nature.* But the Christian expresses, by nature, in its most extensive meaning, the universe, as contradistinguished to God, the Creator. In another application of the word, nature is contradistinguished to art, and signifies every thing which is not artificial, not purposely produced or practised with reference to rules of art. In this sense, we speak of a natural poet, or artist, products of nature, &c. It must be observed here, that, in many cases, it is very difficult to draw the exact limit between nature and art. Natural is also used in contradistinction to taught, or communicated; thus we speak of natural powers, in contradistinction to the ability acquired by education, and natural religion, or that which man is supposed to acquire from observation of himself and the creation around him, in contradistinction to positive religion, or such as is revealed, and established by special circumstances. The term natural religion has been used, also, in a very different sense. It means, sometimes, that polytheism which is founded on the worship of the deified powers of .nature. According to some, all polytheism has such an origin. In the narrowest sense, nature means the peculiar character of the various objects of nature in its widest sense, as given above. In this application, it is often used for character only, and we even speak of the " nature of God." In reference to men, nature is very frequently used for the physical constitution, and moral disposition, of an individual. In theology, the word nature is often used; thus men speak of the "divine and human NATUREs of Christ," of the "natural state of man," &c. In the fine arts, nature often means the successful imitation of nature; but, with artists of a higher order, nature does not signify a mere copy, but, as it were, the expression of the ideal of nature, at which she aims in all her formations, yet without reaching it, as she never produces, in* Natura est principium et causa ejjiciens omnium rerum naturalium, quo sensu a veteribus philosophis cum Deo confundebdtur. Cic. De Natura Deor., Lib. I. c. 8, et sequentib., and Lib. II, c.1% and 32. To define natura by reference to the res naturales can hardly be considered very philosophical. crystallization, precisely that mathematical figure which constitutes her model. (See Copy.) Though the angles are exact, there is always some side larger than the others. NATURE, PHILOSOPHY OF. The German JVaturphilosophie is very different from the English natural philosophy. This latter is termed, by the Germans, Physik, or Naturkunde. The philosophy of nature, in the German sense, is an investigation of its inmost principles, such as the great question of the connexion between matter and mind, either in the case oi the individual man, or of the connexion between God and the outward universe, and other questions of this sort, the riddles that have always vexed the human understanding. Natural philosophy (Physik) is the great instrument of the philosophy of nature, furnishing it with the materials from which its conclusions must be drawn. Such speculations, even if not likely to lead to any satisfactory results, are yet not to be hastily condemned. One of the strongest proofs of the elevation of which man is capable, is his perpetual striving to rise above the field of ordinary observation, to "pass the flaming bounds of space and time," and, in spite of the weakness of mortality, to explore the abyss of the infinite and the everlasting. If we take the word nature in its most comprehensive sense, as embracing the whole of existence, it will include man both as a spiritual and a material being; so that the philosophy of nature, in this sense, will embrace all the departments of philosophy. In its more common sense, however, it has a more limited meaning, and is contradistinguished to intellectual philosophy. While this latter strives to investigate the essential principles of religion, morality, law, the philosophy of nature seeks for the ultimate elements of what is generally termed natural science. The origin of this philosophy of nature is to be looked for among the Greeks, where Pythagoras presented his views of it in a mathematical form. The term itself is undoubtedly derived from the Philosophic naturalis Principia mathematica of Newton, although Newton himself advised the students of natural science to avoid this sort of speculation. Schelling must be considered as the reviver of the philosophy of nature in Germany, and has been followed by many others, particularly Gken. Although, as we have said, we do not consider such inquiries as unsuitable exercises of the human mind, we are far from admiring the extravagances to which they have, in many cases, led the German philosophers. Deprived of the subjects which exercise the activity of man in free states, the Germans have pushed their speculations, in many branches of philosophical science, beyond all reasonable limits, and not unfrequently lost themselves in a wilderness of words, reminding us of the remark of Gothe's Mephistopheles: De.nn eben wo Bcgrijfefehlen,Da stellt ein Wort zur rechten Ze.it sich ein. For when ideas have grown scant, A ready word supplies the want.It is but fair, however, to quote, on the other side of the question, a passage of a contemporary writer,* who treats the subject in a peculiar way. Alluding to the views he has before expressed, he says, " With such an idea of this science (philosophy), it is natural that all German speculations should bear more the character of beginnings than of finished results. Important as some of the results are to which these speculative efforts have led, still their greatest value consists in the unwearied and neversatisfied strivings of the mind to sound and comprehend itself, and that whole, of which itself is but a particle. Jacob, who, in his dream, wrestled with the Lord of Heaven and Earth, bearing off in his lameness a revelation of Omnipotence, is the true emblem of German philosophy. It is something that you must not expect to turn to immediate account in your particular trade or profession ; nor is it necessary, in order to be benefited by it, that you should adopt its results. German metaphysics have been called the best gymnastics of the mind; and the true object of gymnastics, we know, is not to give the power to perform some great and astonishing feat, but methodically to unfold, invigorate and refine all the growing powers of man." NAUMACHIA (from the Greek a seafight), among the Romans; a public spectacle, representing a naval action. Cpesar was the first who exhibited a spectacle of this sort, which soon became the favorite amusement of the Roman people. The circus maximus, in which they were at first represented, being found inconvenient, buildings were erected by the emperors, particularly calculated for the purpose: these edifices were likewise called naumachia. They resembled the amphitheatres, and, like them, were, at first, built of wood. Domitian appears to have been the first who erected one of* Professor Follen, in his Inaugural Discourse, Cambridge, May, 1831. stone. A naumachia, built by Augustus, was 1800 feet long and 200 wide, and was capable of containing 50 ships with three banks of oars, besides many small vessels. They were suddenly laid under water by means of subterraneous canals, so that the ships were raised at once from the dry floor before the eyes of the spectators. The water was usually brought from the Tiber, near which the naumachia were usually built, but sometimes from aqueducts. The naumachiarii, or persons who fought in these exhibitions, were gladiators, slaves, criminals, &c, who were doomed to die, unless they were saved by the interposition of the people, or of the person presiding at the show.