The medieval Latin West has a long tradition of cosmological writings that stress the difficulty of conceptualizing nature as a single totality. “Nature” is subject to multiple definitions, torn between the sensory and the intelligible. “Nature” involves the universe and its immutable laws, but also the metaphysical principles of living beings, the totality of corruptible things, and creatures from the domain of physis. Engaging with the idea of nature as plastic and multifaceted in its richness, this article shows that contradiction is a dialectical principle necessary to the definition of nature. Whether understood as a broad, vague, and elusive notion, or, on the contrary, as a strong ordering principle, nature supports life and the world. Sometimes it is described as the simple element of matter, sometimes as an entity rivaling God himself. Nature inevitably conjures up the supernatural and therefore also its own supersession.

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