“Therefore nature, if it produces nothing incomplete or in vain, necessarily has done all these things for the sake of human beings.”
What are ‘all these things’ of which Aristotle speaks here that nature has done? By the order of nature plants feed animals, and both plants and animals nourish and serve human life.
It is obvious, even while still remarkable, how animals and plants serve the nutritional needs of human life. In Aristotle’s mind this points to an intention in nature that people have a close interaction with plants and animals. It’s as though our bodies are saying to us: stay close to the soil; steward and shepherd the things that live in and from it. This is part of your life.
Aristotle exhibits a profound docility toward the order of nature. He always gives it the benefit of the doubt, confident that there are good—and often hidden—things in store for those who observe and reverence it.
It is noteworthy that in order for people to render animals and plants useful, various kinds of work are required. Thinking with Aristotle, it is fitting to look again at this work nature seems to ‘call’ us to do—even in its simplest and most mundane manifestations, such as watering our plants. Perhaps we will find in this work itself an unexpected gift—deeper ways that plants and animals serve human life, all by a natural design.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher. The Politics is one of his major ethical works.
Image: Eric Sloane (1905-1985), American, “Hay Harvest, Late Summer”
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