Physis

PHYSIS is ‘nature’. In our philosophy (Sokratiko’s philosophy), this ancient Greek noun refers to the natural order. Also, for Stoics it was God.

Platon (Plato) criticizes (in book 10 of his Laws) whoever writes ‘about nature’ (<peri physeƍs>). According to him, it is not advisable to focus on a ‘naturalistic’ interpretation of the world, neglecting the role of ‘intention’. In fact, Platon thinks that such an emphasis on nature implies a sort of ‘naif atheism’. Too, he accuses Hesiodos (Hesiod) of this very sin. Indeed, Platon says that Hesiod’s gods “grow out of primordial entities” after the physical universe has been established.

Sokratiko Logo

On his part, Aristoteles (Aristotle) retains the meaning of <physis> as ‘growth’. Nonetheless, he maintains that the right definition needs the different perspectives of the four causes (<aitia>): material, efficient, formal, final. He thinks that nature contains its own source of matter (material), power/motion (efficiency), form, and end (final).

Aristoteles also pays attention to the relationship between art and nature. He sustains that <physis> (as ‘nature’) is dependent on <techne> (as ‘art’). “The critical distinction between art and nature concerns their different efficient causes. <Physis> is its own source of motion, whereas <techne> always requires a source of motion outside itself” (Janet Atwill The Interstices of Nature, Spontaneity, and Chance. Rhetoric Reclaimed: Aristotle and the Liberal Arts Tradition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1998). What Aristoteles, in his argument, tries and brings to light is the notion that art does not contain in itself its form or source of motion. For instance, it is graphic the process of a seed which, step after step, becomes a tree. This is a natural development that has its driving force in itself. There is no external force pushing the seed towards its final state, rather it is progressively developing towards one specific end (<telos>).