‘Nature’ is a concept with a multitude of intertwined meanings.
Like the knotted roots of an old tree, these meanings are woven together, at the same time creating and being created by each other.
There is nature as it refers to those things which are natural, those elements which arise according to the ‘laws of nature’.
Then there is ‘nature’ in its more abstract; as the force and entity which holds the essential properties of naturalness, and bestow on elements the definitive virtue of naturalness, or to put it more neatly – the laws of nature themselves.
We also have now, with the rise of the urban, ‘nature’ as that which exists ‘out there’ beyond the reach of the city. This is nature as a place where the laws of nature reign freely, contrasted with the anthropogenic law and environment of urban settlements, which are seen as having isolated themselves from the tyranny of nature’s rules.
Etymologically the word ‘nature’ derives from the Latin natura, a philosophical concept close to ‘birth’, natura was used as a rough translation from the ancient Greek phusis, which itself was loosely related to the common verb for growth in the natural sense, as in the growth of a plant. These terms came together to, in the simplest terms, refer to things ‘as they happen by themselves’, without human interference. So here at an early stage nature is defined as foreign to man, and man foreign to nature. Nature is existence ‘sans l’humanité‘ without mankind.
But nature is not without mankind. Mankind is a part of nature, as much as anything else is. We are as much subject to its rules and a product of them.