Material artefacts consist of many smaller – and ultimately natural – objects such as molecules and atoms that have been intentionally rearranged in such a way as to take the shape of a particular artefact (e.g. a hammer) and fulfil its functions. Whenever the arrangement of several parts results in properties that go beyond the properties of the individual parts or their sum, it can be said that this arrangement has resulted in a new object. Once created, material artefacts may take part in natural processes such as reproduction and evolution and cannot be fundamentally distinguished from fully natural objects. This article provides a number of – mainly biological – examples that show the traditional Aristotelian dichotomy between nature and artefacts to be highly problematic and suggest a continuum instead. Most importantly, it is argued that living beings and artefacts are equally capable – or sometimes incapable – of self-reproduction and that there are numerous objects which are both living beings and artefacts.
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