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Why We Disagree About Human Nature$
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Elizabeth Hannon and Tim Lewens

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198823650

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198823650.001.0001

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Divide and Conquer

Divide and Conquer

The Authority of Nature and Why We Disagree about Human Nature

Chapter:
(p.186) 10 Divide and Conquer
Source:
Why We Disagree About Human Nature
Author(s):

Maria Kronfeldner

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198823650.003.0011

The term ‘human nature’ can refer to a classificatory nature, descriptive nature, or an explanatory nature. In the main, this chapter focuses on the explanatory concept and why this usage has led to the continual contestation of the term within the sciences. The claim is that even if the contents of talk about ‘nature’ varied historically, the term’s pragmatic function of demarcation stayed the same. Analysing this demarcation, which has social as well as epistemic aspects, in various historical contexts will help us to understand why the explanatory role has been important. The term ‘nature’ conveys scientific authority over a territory; ‘human nature’ is a concept used to divide causes, as well as experts, and thereby conquer others who threaten to invade one’s epistemic territory.

Keywords:   nature/culture divide, history of science, demarcation, explanation, pragmatism, authority

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