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Nature and convention

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-R012-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 19, 2024, from

Article Summary

The nature–convention distinction opposes instinctual or ‘spontaneous’ modes of comportment (those which follow from ‘human nature’) to those which are socially instituted or culturally prescribed. Its philosophic interest resides in its use to justify or contest specific forms of human behaviour and social organization. Since the ‘conventional’ is opposed to the ‘natural’ as that which is in principle transformable, the adherents of a particular order in human affairs have standardly sought to prove its ‘naturality’, while its critics have sought to expose its merely ‘conventional’ status. Relatedly, ‘conventions’ may be associated with what is distinctive to ‘human’, as opposed to ‘bestial’ nature, or denounced for their role in repressing our more ‘natural’ impulses.

Citing this article:
Soper, Kate. Nature and convention, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-R012-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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