4) Inorganic Nature: So where and with what does the human being carry out his life activity? It is in this sensuous external world, nature, where ‘labor realizes itself’. But this sensuous external world or nature is not any kind of nature, but it is a nature that is inorganic. It is from this inorganic nature that the worker makes objects, objects without which the worker cannot live, and from which the worker subsists. In short, it is the inorganic nature that furnishes the means of physical subsistence of the worker himself. [1] 

What constitutes this inorganic nature? Marx writes, “As plants, animals, minerals, air, light, etc. in theory form a part of human consciousness, partly as objects of natural science, partly as objects of art -his spiritual inorganic nature or spiritual means of life…Man lives physically only by these products of nature, they may appear in the form of food, heat, clothing, housing, etc.” What we can understand from here is that Marx considers almost anything besides man or the species-being of human, as the inorganic nature which is part of human consciousness -both physically and spiritually. One can push the argument to say that the entirety of the sensuous nature is the inorganic nature. (the entirety of universe?) Marx goes ahead to even pose that “nature is the inorganic body of man… in so far as it is not the human body.” One can read it as nature is the extended body of man, to which man’s physical and spiritual life is tied up. In posing the entireity of nature as the extension of human body, human is retroactively casted as 1) part of nature and 2) as long as man is tied up with nature it is another way of saying that nature is tied up with itself. Humans are part of the natural system.

It is this aspect of the idea of extended body that in a way puts light on a kind of a non-anthropocentric view in Marx’s thinking. One of the places where one can see this tension between the anthropocentricism and non-anthropocentricism in Marx is located, is his doctoral dissertation. As we have seen already that what can be said about the individual atom, can also be said about the individual human. So, if we consider that the nature is nothing but this ‘full and void’ field of infinite atoms, but also, at least on this planet, is the inorganic nature on which human and animal life depends actually, then this tension would become self-evident. On the one hand nature is all pervasive and hence human is a part of that all. On the other hand, nature is also this sensuous world of objects, animals and elements, that furnish the very basis of existence of life on earth.

For Marx, it appears that, the treatment of the inorganic nature, the practical creation of the objective world, is not only a proof of humans being conscious beings, but also it is the only way of humans relating to the essence of their species being. In other words, it is the only way of self-realization for humans as a species-being. For Marx, the problem occurs when there is a severing of this self-realization in the alienated labor, where it is not just the alienation with one’s self or one’s own nature, but also the alienation with the entirety of nature at large.[2] 

5) Organic Nature (natural bodies): Let us consider the following two quotations from Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts: 
“A being which does not have its nature outside itself is not a natural one and has no part in the system of nature. A being which has no object outside itself is not objective. A being which is not itself an object for a third being has no being for its object, that is, is not related objectively, its being is not objective. 
An unobjective being is a nonentity.” 


“To assume a being which is not the object of another is thus to suppose that no objective being exists. As soon as I have an object, it has me for its object. But a non-objective being is an unactual, non-sensuous, merely conceived being. It is merely imagined, an abstraction. To be sensuous or actual is to be an object of sense or sensuous object and thus to have sensuous objects outside oneself, objects of sensibility. To be sentient is to suffer.”

In the earlier part we saw birds, animals, minerals, etc. constituted the inorganic nature. One can say that whatever is not human, or whatever is sensuous to humans constitute the inorganic nature. Things that are inorganic, yet natural. Although Marx does not use the term organic, but it can be posed as the opposite of inorganic, for our reading of what Marx refers to natural being. To cut to the chase, anything that does not have a self-consciousness cannot be considered as a natural being and hence not part of the natural system -whatever that system might be. What does it mean to self-realize? The capacity to conceive of oneself as an objective, material entity. The capacity to know that am a being. Thus, Marx offers a negative definition of what can be considered according to his understanding as natural bodies. 

So far, in our reading, the status of self-consciousness is offered only to either atoms or humans. “The animal is immediately one with its life activity, not distinct from it. The animal is its life activity. Man makes his life activity itself into an object of will and consciousness.”. It is confusing, that although for Marx, to be sentient is to suffer, yet the animal is not a self-conscious being. Does that make an animal natural body? Or simply is lumped together as an inorganic nature? The animal is nothing but its life activity (pure un-alienation?). 

One can see here that while Marx does leave space for the sentient being to be a natural being, but very soon contradicts and forecloses that status from animals by assuming that humans are superior to animals because we can make our life activity into an object of will and consciousness and animals cannot. Therefore, it might not be entirely wrong to assume then that the only two entities that have the status of natural bodies in Marx is atoms and humans. 

As the scope of this essay is to identify the different ideas of nature in Marx, we will limit ourselves to that task. What we will do however, is to consider some remarks on these ideas of nature in the following section of this essay. 

6) Some Remarks on the ideas of Nature in early Marx:

It appears that for the pre-Aristotelian Greek thinkers, what can be said about the qualities of atoms can be said about qualities of humans. 

If the ability to be free (i.e., to decline or repulse) is a quality of atoms and humans, why cannot it be qualities of any other thing which are also made of atoms? 

By posing the inorganic nature against natural bodies, or by posing the human against the animal, contradicts the proposition that humans are part of nature.

If anything, that is inorganic is nonetheless nature (inorganic nature), then why are entities that are inorganic, not considered as natural bodies? In the same line, why are not the natural bodies, considered inorganic nature? 

If only the natural bodies are part of natural system, then are rains, rivers, lakes, oceans, mountains, granite, magma, not part of the natural system?


[1] “The worker can make nothing without. nature, without the sensuous external world. It is the material wherein his labor realizes itself, wherein it is active, out of which and by means of which it produces. 

But as nature furnishes to labor the means of life in the sense that labor cannot live without objects upon which labor is exercised, nature also furnishes the means of life in the narrower sense, namely, the means of physical subsistence of the worker himself. The more the worker appropriates the external world and sensuous nature through bis labor, the more he deprives himself of the means of life in two respects: first, that the sensuous external world gradually ceases to be an object belonging to his labor, a means of life of his work; secondly, that it gradually ceases to be a means of life in the immediate sense, a means of physical subsistence of the worker. In these two respects, therefore, the worker becomes a slave to his objects; first, in that he receives an object of labor, that is, he receives labor, and secondly that be receives the ·means o/ subsistence. The first enables him to exist as a worker and the second as a physical subject. The terminus of this slavery is that he can only maintain him• self as a physical subject so far as he is a worker, and only as a physical subject is he a worker.” Pg290

[2] “The life of the species in man as in animals is physical in that man, (like the animal) lives by inorganic nature. And as man is more universal than the animal, the realm of inorganic nature by which he lives is more universal. As plants, animals, minerals, air, light, etc., in theory form a part of human consciousness, partly as objects of natural science, partly as objects of art -his spiritual inorganic nature or spiritual means of life which he first must prepare for enjoyment and assimilation-so they also form in practice a part of human life and human activity. Man lives physically only by these products of nature; they may ap- pear in the form of food, heat, clothing, housing, etc. The universality of man appears in practice in the universality which makes the whole of nature his inorganic body: (1) as a direct means of life, and (2) as the matter, object, and instrument of his life activity. Nature is the inorganic body of man that is nature insofar as it is not the human body. Man lives by ‘nature. This means that nature is his body with which he must remain in perpetual process m order not to die. That the physical and spiritual life of man is tied up with nature is another way of saying that nature is linked to itself, for man is a part of nature.” Pg 292

“The practical creation of an objective world, the treatment of inorganic nature, is proof that man is a conscious species-being, that is, a being which is related to its species as to its own essence or is related to itself as a species- being.” 

“In taking from man the object of his production, alienated labor takes from his species-being, his actual and objective existence as a species. It changes his superiority to the animal to inferiority, since he is deprived of nature, his inorganic body.”

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