Natural is a term so protean, its field of meanings so large, that it almost defies disciplining as a keyword. In the original Keywords, Raymond Williams makes much the same point about nature, calling it “perhaps the most complex word in the language.” Williams identifies three areas of meaning: an essential quality of something; a force that inheres and directs people and/or the world; and the material world, including the people within it. Natural has a similarly broad range of meanings, and as with nature, many of these meanings still resonate today. Within the health humanities, at least four senses are discernible: natural as signifying an essential quality, relating to the material world, identifiable with human reason, and unsullied by human intervention.

This essay may be found on page 141 of the printed volume.

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