Human ontogenies as historical processes: an anthropological perspective

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Across the human sciences one finds theoretical perspectives that recognize the nature–culture distinction as untenable. At the same time, the gap between demonstrating its inadequacy and developing a viable alternative approach is wide indeed. The recognition that autopoiesis (self-creation, self-production) is through and through a historical process puts paid to ideas of culture and nature as analytical categories. In the case of humans and other social organisms, autopoiesis is necessarily grounded in relations with others. This chapter explores the idea of history as lived (that is to say, embodied), and argues for a unified model of human being that is able to provide for, and explain, how we humans come to be who we are in all our historical particularity and, in the self-same process, how we make sense of ourselves and the world.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWhy we disagree about human nature
EditorsElizabeth Hannon, Tim Lewens
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780198823650
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2018


  • Autopoiesis
  • Historical processes
  • Embedded history
  • Unified model
  • Ontogeny
  • Intersubjectivity


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