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Social Practices as Biological Niche Construction

A broad, synthetic philosophy of nature focused on human sociality.
In this book, Joseph Rouse takes his innovative work to the next level by articulating an integrated philosophy of society as part of nature. He shows how and why we ought to unite our biological conception of human beings as animals with our sociocultural and psychological conceptions of human beings as persons and acculturated agents. Rouse’s philosophy engages with biological understandings of human bodies and their environments as well as the diverse practices and institutions through which people live and engage with one another. Familiar conceptual separations of natural, social, and mental “worlds” did not arise by happenstance, he argues, but often for principled reasons that have left those divisions deeply entrenched in contemporary intellectual life. Those reasons are eroding in light of new developments across the disciplines, but that erosion has not been sufficient to produce more adequately integrated conceptual alternatives until now.
Social Practices and Biological Niche Construction shows how the characteristic plasticity, plurality, and critical contestation of human ways of life can best be understood as evolved and evolving relations among human organisms and their distinctive biological environments. It also highlights the constitutive interdependence of those ways of life with many other organisms, from microbial populations to certain plants and animals, and explores the consequences of this in-depth, noting, for instance, how the integration of the natural and social also provides new insights on central issues in social theory, such as the body, language, normativity, and power.

352 pages | 6 x 9

Biological Sciences: Evolutionary Biology

Language and Linguistics: Philosophy of Language

Philosophy: Philosophy of Mind

Philosophy of Science


“A compelling philosophical account of the human, which transcends the ancient and problematic dichotomies of biology and society, mind and body, and so on, requires both deep and multidisciplinary expertise and philosophical subtlety. Rouse is one of a very few contemporary philosophers with the requisite skill set for this task. Building on the core notions of practice and niche construction, Rouse provides a philosophy of what he calls natureculture that is fully naturalistic without being reductive. This book will provide a benchmark for approaches to this fundamental philosophical topic for some time to come.”

John Dupré, University of Exeter

“Rouse is once again on the vanguard of social theory. His naturecultural approach profoundly rethinks practice theory, demonstrating the interdependence of human practices with both the material environment and other organisms. It makes available new ways to think about central topics in philosophy and the social sciences, including normativity, discourse, power, and temporality. I will be reflecting on the consequences of this work for some time.” 

Mark Risjord, Emory University

Table of Contents

Introduction: Sociocultural Animals
1 The Social Theory of Practices
2 Ecological-Developmental Niche Construction
3 Postures
4 Practices
5 Normativity
6 Language
7 Discourse
8 Power
9 Finitude

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