How Social Institutions Can Imitate Nature

Topoi 35 (1):327-338 (2016)
  Copy   BIBTEX


The opposition between nature and culture has always been paradigmatic in the philosophy of society, and in this sense it is certainly striking that, in contemporary theories of collective acceptance in social ontology—theories which actually entail the presence of individual mental content in the form of beliefs—the shaping role of culture has not found significant recognition. However, it cannot but be trivially true that cultural presuppositions play a role in the maintenance and development of beliefs on rules and other kinds of abstract artifacts. But once we recognize that the reality of social institutions is at least culturally-dependent, the question emerges whether there is still room for nature as a possible determinant of social reality. Many authors maintain that there is and argue that there are objective natural features shared by human beings which are necessary conditions to explain the emergence of institutional structures within society. This is a culture-independent relation between nature and social institutions. In this paper, however, I will try to argue that there is another, very peculiar, way in which nature can work as a possible determinant of social reality, a way which is instead culture-dependent. In particular, I will give three examples of this kind of culture-dependent relations—examples about states, corporations, and contracts—and I will introduce a new concept to account for it, that of “institutional mimesis.” I will then provide an explanation of how institutional mimesis can have an impact on the content of collective acceptance by appealing to two influential theories in contemporary cognitive psychology. Finally, I will explain the ontological significance of institutional mimesis using Ian Hacking’s concept of historical ontology.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 91,219

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

Culture by nature.Neil Levy - 2011 - Philosophical Explorations 14 (3):237-248.
Conceptualizing institutions.Corrado Roversi - 2014 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 13 (1):201-215.
When is imitation imitation and who has the right to imitate?Mikael Heimann - 1998 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (5):693-693.
On the nature of social and institutional reality.Eerik Lagerspetz - 2003 - Jyvaskyla: SoPhi. Edited by Heikki Ikäheimo & Jussi Kotkavirta.
Biological explanations and social responsibility.Inmaculada de Melo-Martín - 2003 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 34 (2):345-358.
Self, identity, and social institutions.Neil Joseph MacKinnon - 2010 - New York, NY: Palgrave-Macmillan. Edited by David R. Heise.
Rational authority and social power: Towards a truly social epistemology.Miranda Fricker - 1998 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 98 (2):159–177.


Added to PP

44 (#346,435)

6 months
3 (#928,914)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Corrado Roversi
Università degli Studi di Bologna

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind.John R. Searle - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The concept of law.Hla Hart - 1961 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Economy and Society.Max Weber - 2013 - Harvard University Press.

View all 20 references / Add more references