Matthijs Schouten

Nature Philosopher

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We live in the Anthropocene: the era in which the influence of man has become the dominant factor for the future of life on earth. Our vision on the relationship between man and nature is constantly being revised, but is now gaining momentum. The Anthropocene brings us new questions and dilemmas about the human-nature relationship.

Since his study time Matthijs has been interested in the role that nature plays in human thought. He published the book Spiegel van de Natuur (Nature’s Mirror: the image of nature in a cultural-historical perspective). The perception of nature varies between different cultural contexts. For example Islam speaks of the many signs that Allah incorporated in nature. Buddhism approaches nature from an attitude of respect for all living beings. In the West we have mainly considered nature from a utilitarian perspective. Now, in the Anthropocene, we need to re-assess our attitude to nature and ask ourselves whether we are owners, stewards or partners of nature.


Matthijs Schouten (1952) studied biology, religious studies, philosophy and Celtic languages. He is professor of ecology and nature conservation at the University of Wageningen, professor of landscape and nature conservation at University College Cork (Ireland) and senior strategist at the National Forest Service of the Netherlands. In his scientific work he has focussed on the study of cultural perceptions of nature.