Attempts to identify the characteristics of wildness are varied. One consideration sees wildness as that part of nature which is not controllable by humans. Nature retains a measure of autonomy, or wildness, apart from human constructions (Evanoff, 2005). Another version of this theme is that wildness produces things that are natural, while humans produce things that are artificial (man-made). Ambiguities about the distinction between the natural and the artificial animate much of art, literature and philosophy. There is the perception that naturally produced items have a greater elegance over artificial things. Modern zoos seek to improve the health and vigour of animals by simulating natural settings, in a move away from stark man-made structures.
Another view of wildness is that it is a social construct (Callicott 1994), and that humans cannot be considered ‘unnatural’. As wildness is claimed to be a quality that builds from animals and ecosystems, it often fails to be considered within reductionist theories for nature.
Tameness implies a reduction in wildness, where animals become more easily handled by humans. Some animals are easier to tame than others, and are amenable to domestication.
|Wildness rating:||Behavioral response to capture:||Behavioral response to handling:|
|0||Minimal resistance to capture.||Minor struggle.|
|1||Evades touch by running around cage.||Squeaks or squeals.|
|2||Jumps onto wall of cage.||Vigorous struggle or twisting/shaking.|
|3||Jumps out of cage completely onto table.||Attempts to bite.|
|4||Runs from vicinity of cage.||Bites experimenter.|
|5||Jumps off table or apparatus onto floor.|
|6||Runs around room.|
In this sense "wildness" may be interpreted as "tendency to respond with anxiety to handling". That there is no necessary connection between this factor and the state of wildness per se, given that some animals in the wild may be handled with little or no cause of anxiety. However, this factor does clearly indicate an animal's resistance to being handled.
A classification system can be set out showing the spectrum from wild to domesticated animal states:
This classification system does not account for several complicating factors: genetically modified organisms, feral populations, and hybridization. Many species that are farmed or ranched are now being genetically modified. This creates a unique category of them because it alters the organisms as a group but in ways unlike traditional domestication. Feral organisms are members of a population that was once raised under human control, but is now living and multiplying outside of human control. Examples include mustangs. Hybrids can be wild, domesticated, or both: a liger is a hybrid of two wild animals, a mule is a hybrid of two domesticated animals, and a beefalo is a cross between a wild and a domestic animal.
The basic idea of ecopsychology is that while the human mind is shaped by the modern social world, it can be readily inspired and comforted by the wider natural world, because that is the arena in which it originally evolved. Mental health or unhealth cannot be understood in the narrow context of only intrapsychic phenomena or social relations. One also has to include the relationship of humans to other species and ecosystems. These relations have a deep evolutionary history; reach a natural affinity within the structure of their brains and they have deep psychic significance in the present time, in spite of urbanization. Humans are dependent on healthy nature not only for their physical sustenance, but for mental health, too. The destruction of ecosystems means that something in humans also dies.
The concept of a state of nature was first posited by the 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan. Hobbes described the concept in the Latin phrase bellum omnium contra omnes, meaning "the war of all against all." In this state any person has a natural right to do anything to preserve their own liberty or safety. Famously, he believed that such a condition would lead to a "war of every man against every man" and make life "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."
Hobbes's view was challenged in the eighteenth century by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who claimed that Hobbes was taking socialized persons and simply imagining them living outside of the society they were raised in. He affirmed instead that people were born neither good nor bad; men knew neither vice nor virtue since they had almost no dealings with each other. Their bad habits are the products of civilization specifically social hierarchies, property, and markets. Another criticism put forth by Karl Marx is his concept of species-being, or the unique potential of humans for dynamic, creative, and cooperative relations between each other. For Marx and others in his line of critical theory, alienated and abstracted social relations prevent the fulfillment of this potential (see anomie).
David Hume's view brings together and challenges the theories of Rousseau and Hobbes. He posits that in the natural state we are born wicked and evil because of, for instance, the cry of the baby that demands attention. Like Rousseau, he believes that society shapes us, but that we are born evil and it is up to society to shape us into who we become.