Autonomous Nature investigates the history of nature as an active, often unruly force in tension with nature as a rational, logical order from ancient times to the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century. Along with subsequent advances in mechanics, hydrodynamics, thermodynamics, and electromagnetism, nature came to be perceived as an orderly, rational, physical world that could be engineered, controlled, and managed. Autonomous Nature focuses on the history of unpredictability, why it was a problem for the ancient world through the Scientific Revolution, and why it is a problem for today. The work is set in the context of vignettes about unpredictable events such as the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, the Bubonic Plague, the Lisbon Earthquake, and efforts to understand and predict the weather and natural disasters. This book is an ideal text for courses on the environment, environmental history, history of science, or the philosophy of science.
Carolyn Merchant is Professor of Environmental History, Philosophy, and Ethics at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of The Death of Nature; Ecological Revolutions; and Reinventing Eden among other books. She is a past president of the American Society for Environmental History and a recipient of the Society's Distinguished Scholar Award.
Part I. Autonomous Nature 1. Chaos, Physis, Nature, and Law 2. Christianity and Nature 3. Nature Personified: Renaissance Ideas of Nature Part II. Controlling Nature 4. Vexing Nature 5. Natural Law 6. The Laws of Nature Epilogue. Rambunctious Nature: Implications for the Future