Culture by nature

Philosophical Explorations 14 (3):237-248 (2011)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

One of the major conflicts in the social sciences since the Second World War has concerned whether, and to what extent, human beings have a nature. One view, traditionally associated with the political left, has rejected the notion that we have a contentful nature, and hoped thereby to underwrite the possibility that we can shape social institutions by references only to norms of justice, rather than our innate dispositions. This view has been in rapid retreat over the past three decades, in the face of an onslaught from several different strands of psychology purporting to show that human nature has a content. In this paper, I argue for a third view: that human beings have a contentful nature, but that nature is uniquely flexible and therefore places relatively few constraints on the shape of our social institutions. Human beings are shaped, by nature, to be cultural animals. We are innately disposed to imitate the behavior of those around us, to a far greater degree than other animals: this disposition toward overimitation allows us to construct local traditions of behavior and thereby to adapt to an enormous variety of environments. These facts, in turn, ensure that human populations live embedded in local forms of life; thus our nature entails that we are deeply cultural animals

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 74,429

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Can Natural Behavior Be Cultivated? The Farm as Local Human/Animal Culture.Pär Segerdahl - 2007 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 20 (2):167-193.
Human Nature in a Post-Essentialist World.Grant Ramsey - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (5):983-993.
Duties Regarding Animals.Patrick Kain - 2010 - In Lara Denis (ed.), Kant's Metaphysics of Morals: A Critical Guide. Cambridge University Press. pp. 210--233.
Human Nature: An Oxymoron?David Heyd - 2003 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 28 (2):151 – 169.
Following Human Nature.Nathan Kowalsky - 2006 - Environmental Ethics 28 (2):165-183.
Nature in Aristotle's Ethics and Politics.Richard Kraut - 2007 - Social Philosophy and Policy 24 (2):199-219.
Toward an Ethics of the Domesticated Environment.Roger J. H. King - 2003 - Philosophy and Geography 6 (1):3 – 14.
The Social Bearing of Nature.Theodore R. Schatzki - 2000 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 43 (1):21 – 37.
Nature and Supernature.Frederick Sontag - 1978 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 9 (3):146 - 157.

Analytics

Added to PP
2011-08-27

Downloads
132 (#93,445)

6 months
1 (#416,470)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Neil Levy
Oxford University

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations