The Difference Between Artificial and Natural Activity
In the Book of Hermes, the distinction between artificial and natural activity is disregarded. The author argues that the latter is unnatural only when the result of the process is human and not an outcome of nature. This distinction is also based on the notion of causality and distinguishes natural and artificial activity. In contrast, natural activity occurs spontaneously and does not require human agency. Hence, the distinction between artificial and natural activity is false.
While fire is a clear example of artificial activity, it can also be found in nature. Aristotelian categories, however, do not distinguish between natural and artificial activity. In this sense, art products are not necessarily artificial. Thomas Aquinas, for example, continued the empirical approach to chemical technology and used the burning of wood to illustrate this point. Similarly, Aquinas argued that the four elements are equivalent and do not differ in their application.
Alchemy was a kind of art that attempted to mimic the qualities of natural products. It is different from painting, sculpture, or lifelike automata. The process involved cutting, molding, or compounding matter. There is no inherent principle of change in these types of operations. Nevertheless, art is not natural in the sense that it cannot produce natural products. For this reason, it is not a valid definition of art. It is, however, a legitimate pursuit.