The Natural, the Social, and Historical Materialism

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 46:1 (1985), pp. 139-154

14 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2013

See all articles by Alan Soble

Alan Soble

University of New Orleans

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

Suggested Citation

Soble, Alan, The Natural, the Social, and Historical Materialism (January 31, 1984). Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 46:1 (1985), pp. 139-154. Available at SSRN:

Alan Soble (Contact Author)

University of New Orleans ( email )

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New Orleans, LA 70148
United States

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