The culture-nature divide is a concept that has been particularly prevalent and long-lasting in the West. In many ways, it accounts for why we think about environmental issues the way we do. This will be explored further in the “Problem with the Dualism” page. The current page focuses on where these Western notions originate from.

The culture-nature dualism was a product of the 16th and 17th centuries. Prior to this period, Europeans appeared less concerned with separating themselves from the rest of nature. During the Scientific Revolution, however, Europeans began to conceptualize nature as something to be observed, analyzed, and studied. This facilitated the concept of nature as an “other”, as something separate from us. The following essay discusses the history of this shift in Western thought in further detail.


Possamai, Fabio Valenti. 2013. “Nature and Culture: Genesis of an Obsolete Dichotomy” Philosophy Study 3(9): 836-842.


Of course, having a new concept of a Culture-Nature duality led Westerners to ask: what is the relationship between culture and nature? To help answer this question, European philosophers asked what human beings were like without culture. In other words, what were human beings like in a state of nature? The European philosophers Hobbes and Rousseau tackled this question, arguing two very different points.