Nature; what a concept. On the one hand it encloses the ‘beyond’ of the frontier; all manner of faceless and wonderful monsters – a sublime unmapable chaos to be tamed with names and classifications and pathways, which nonetheless continues to rumble, unruly, dissatisfied. But on the other hand, it’s the appeal to foundation; a natural order, a natural right. Immutable and solid and silent and still. Generally, in situations like this, where a concept effortlessly subsumes such a contradictory plenum, we can be sure that we are pressing on a pressure point.
Indeed: Curiously, the ‘natural order’ is rarely a given; it is something always already lost, or at least something that is threatened by a corruption. Unlike the ‘laws of nature’, which cannot be broken by definition, any order that aspires to the predicate ‘natural’ seems to be defined by what it excludes and which threatens its very being. It is the monsters, therefore, that seem to be the given, and in the struggle against those monsters does morality, the knight of ‘nature’, arise. What is given is a deficient being, something to correct, and this correction is fought for in the name of – nature. A lost beginning that is at the same time a promised end. And here we are, in the middle bit, always too early and too late. If this should sound a bit like Lewis Carroll’s ‘nonsense’ then that’s not a coincidence. The paradoxes of our position regarding nature testify to limits we’ve drawn up to just as much as logical and mathematical paradoxes show us the limits of their respective systems. But, then, wouldn’t that mean that ‘nature’ is just a Jabberwocky, a barber of the regiment, a set of all sets? Precisely, but that doesn’t mean its sway over us is reduced to a mere phantasm, or rounding error. Instead we should recognize that the nexus of what most strongly ensnares us is not going to give a rational account of itself at a trial, as though we could stand outside of it and weigh its testimony against something else’s. Instead, its precise method for ensnaring us is to confound when pressed.
Worthy opponents, Jabberwocky and Knight of Nature both, and ones worth pressing, in the hopes we can disentangle their enchantments, and perhaps see more open vistas if we could just short-circuit through. But can we do so without ourselves becoming monsters?