The social bearing of nature

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 43 (1):21 – 37 (2000)
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Abstract

This essay examines how nature pertains to social life. Part I describes the social ontology the essay employs to address this issue. This ontology is of the site variety and is opposed to ontologies of both the individualist and socialist sorts. Part II describes where nature appears in this ontology. Artifacts are differentiated from nature, and much of ?nature? is shown to be second nature, a type of artifact that looks and feels like nature. Part II concludes by disputing the idea that nature forms a backdrop against which society develops semi-autonomously. Part III examines the idea of human history as a natural history. Opposing construals of natural history that treat human-social existence as a piece of nature, it defends the necessity of maintaining distinctions between social life and nature and between social history and natural change. None the less, it continues, human history is a natural history. These claims are held together via a neo-Marxian conception of human natural history as the development of humankind through its entanglement with nature. Elements of the ?metabolism of humankind with nature are described.

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Theodore Schatzki
University of Kentucky

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