The Natural, the Social, and Historical Materialism
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 46:1 (1985), pp. 139-154
14 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2013
Date Written: January 31, 1984
Much social scientific research has focused on the relationship between, in humans, what is, on the one hand, natural to them – features or characteristics that are biological-genetic, chemical, or geometrical-physical – and, on the other hand, what is largely "social" – features that derive, through a processes known as social constructionism or constructivism, from the natural by a modification (or destruction, magnification, or rearrangement) of it, or even the birth of new or emergent features (or, nearly equivalently, features that are, in part or entirely, causally the result of the influence of culture on the development of humans in their particular environments or contexts). This essay attempts to fashion and take a new (or under-developed) approach to understanding the natural and the social and the various relationships between them. This attempt has been influenced by a type of historical materialism that suggests four different ways of conceiving of the natural and the social. One proposal is that the entire category of the natural is itself a social construction and that a general linguistic-metaphysical mechanism that I have named "double reification" is important as a linguistic-conceptualizing or concept-making strategy.
Keywords: Human nature, socialization, social constructivism, sexuality, reification, historical materialism, Marx, Engels, J. S. Mill, Freud
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