What's "First Nature" (as opposed to "Second Nature")

The title pretty much says it all.

When you are learning something, like tying your shoes, it will often be said that such a thing will become second nature to the person eventually. This would suggest that there are things that are first nature and I’m cursious what that is.

My speculation is that ‘first nature’ would be something such as breathing but that’s just a guess. Is there any such defined thing as ‘first nature’?

“First nature” would be your instincts. “Second nature” would be things you learn, but can now do pretty automatically, such as tying your shoes, speaking English (or any language), using utensils to eat, etc.

I always assumed that first nature referred to things that you have to do.

You have to urinate.

You have to eat.

Thus, the are things that you just know (well, I suppose your body does).

Things that are second nature, are just like Casey1505 said.

That’s always been my understanding.

First nature refers to something that you do because of nature or biology, like walking, breathing, eating, smiling, or scratching an itch.

Second nature means that you do something so naturally that it’s as if it had been part of your biological first nature, even though it really isn’t. It’s really learned or cultural, like eating with a fork, dribbling a basketball, dancing, and many aspects of driving a car.

My reading shows a lot of different, sometimes contrasting, ideas about first and second nature.

When we say “second nature” colloquially, it suggests natural or inborn talent. It suggests an unconscious ability without thought.

Another view is that “first nature” is the natural world with no human intervention. An example is the physics of a distant star; there is no human effect on this aspect of nature. “Second nature” is anything that is transformed by by human thought. This is a modern re-interpretation of the terms, and I don’t like them. Too academic and postmodern for me.

The most egregious example of postmodern re-interpretation is this description of “third nature”: *Third nature or appearing consists of the global dispersal of mediated specular image flows through such spaces as television program texts, Internet web sites and virtual reality simulations. Third nature, which has assumed an increasing importance within the postindustrial world over the last twenty years, deterritorialises us from immediate face to face contact characteristic of first nature, and wires us into an interconnected global stratosphere. * Puh-leeeze.

Older concepts are more interesting.
First nature is seen as evil or animalistic, similar to the concept of “original sin.” By this definition we are all born with first nature (original sin from Adam and Eve), and must learn to acquire virtue, or second nature.

On the other hand, consider this quote from the play “Rule of the Bone” by Russell Banks wherein first nature is some zen awareness of the present moment: *
But life is short I guess and you have to celebrate it when you can…
-“No plans, no regrets”, he said, “Praise an’ thanks mus’ be sufficient unto ev’ry day”.
-I said, “Yeah but it’d be hard to do that the rest of my life. Making plans and having regrets, man, they’re like second nature to me”.
-“Y’ first nature, dat be what you got to come to mon”, he explained.*

Then there is the Aristotelian notion that second nature is created by habit – through repetition the learning becomes automatic. The I Ching also suggests this in hexagram 21 (Wilhelm/Baynes version) “through repetition, the [student’s] material becomes his own”