Thus, the principal thesis of this chapter is that in order to understand the controversy over criteria for competence we must turn to an examination of the contexts in which the controversy arises and the objectives that permeate those contexts. Although there is a multitude of possible contexts, the argument is made in this chapter that these might profitably be organized into a family of only four contexts . These four are shown to be strongly associated with four images of nature, that is , images that capture how it is that we as
humans conceive our relationship to the natural environment. The chapter is organized into four major sections. In the first of these, various historical and contemporary usages of the concept of nature are brought together within a conceptual framework that generates the four images of nature. In the second section, the four images are employed to shed light on the kinds of situations in which controversy over competence arises and the objectives of the actors in those situations, in particular, parent-child relationships and the contexts of child rearing. Third, some general implications for assessment of children's abilities associated with each of the four contexts are briefly set forth. In the final section, the four images are employed to elucidate the conflicting objectives and interpretations that arise in an area of heated debate over children's abilities, namely, the issue of whether or not young children are competent to provide eyewitness testimony during legal proceedings.