Nature of Organic Matters

Some questions I've started thinking about since a year ago are about the distinction and relationship between nature, human, and technology. Where does our biological self start and end? How are various sorts of organisms being harnessed as technology now and in the past? What could the future ontology of nature, and its relationship to technology and human, be?

This reading list focuses on the nature-human relationship or axis. Beyond simply listing key historical events, these books deal with a few questions on the nature of organic matters and human's relationship with nature. They provide clues to two particular questions I'm interested in:

  • What have we projected onto or extracted from natural orders, and why?

  • How do we draw boundaries of biological individualities, in culture and in scientific knowledge production?

This is not meant to be a syllabus of any kind, but a personal reading list made public. Some books are classics in the history of science discipline, and some are specific to my own interests. I probably will continue adding to the list as I read!

general history & philosophy of science

  1. Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison, Objectivity (2007)

  2. Michel Morange, A History of Biology (2021)

  3. Peter Godfrey-Smith, Philosophy of Biology (2017)

defining life & organism, biological individuality

  1. these papers

  2. Janina Wellmann, The Forms of Becoming: Embryology and Epistemology of Rhythm (2017)

  3. Peter Godfrey-Smith, Metazoa (2020)

  4. Yuk Hui, Recursivity and Contingency (2019)

human-nature relationship

  1. Raymond Williams, "Ideas of Nature" in Problems in Materialism and Culture (1980)

  2. Lorraine Daston, Against Nature (2019)

  3. Lorraine Daston and Katherine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature (1998)

  4. Andrea Wulf, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World (2016)

  5. Lorraine Daston, Fernando Vidal, ed., The Moral Authority of Nature (2010)

  6. Christopher Heuer, Into the White: The Renaissance Arctic and the End of the Image (2019)

  7. Angela Creager & William Chester Jordan, ed., The Animal / Human Boundary: Historical Perspectives (2003)

  8. Shigehisa Kuriyama, The Expressiveness of the Body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine (1999)

further resources

journal: History and Philosophy of Life Sciences

journal: History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

research guide: Philosophy of Biology

Wendi Yan is an artist and researcher who is fascinated by the boundaries of ego, personhood and humanhood.

To reply you need to sign in.