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Evolution and MoralityNOMOS LII$
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James E. Fleming and Sanford Levinson

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780814771228

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814771228.001.0001

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Against Nature

Against Nature

(p.293) 11 Against Nature
Evolution and Morality

Elizabeth F. Emens

NYU Press

This chapter addresses the progressive resistance to nature talk by tracing key themes in the rhetoric of the nature-versus-culture debate across five identity categories: sex, disability, sexual orientation, age, and race. Reflecting on the role of nature in the rhetoric of identity-group politics reveals three recurring assumptions about nature, making nature talk seem threatening to social change: immutable nature, the idea that nature cannot be changed; normative nature, the idea that nature should not be changed; and guiltless nature, the idea that nature need not be changed because it is no one's fault. Looking across identity categories demonstrates that, first, nature has no constant meaning, as it relates to group identity and arguments for social change. Second, the assumptions about nature do not always hold up in the areas to which they commonly apply. Third, these assumptions nonetheless have some background purchase, so arguments about nature may well reflect sensible assessments of each group's hurdles to social change.

Keywords:   progressive resistance, nature talk, nature-versus-culture, identity categories, identity-group politics, immutable nature, normative nature, guiltless nature, social change

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