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Bruno Latour and the Ontological Dissolution of Nature in the Social Sciences: A Critical Review

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The concept of nature is central in any reflection about the relationships between humans and their environment. It is frequently under attack, which created a divide in academia that might partly explain the science war of the 1990s and that is still latent. This article is an attempt to make a step ahead in this debate. It responds to the anti-essentialist critique of nature formulated by Bruno Latour in his influential book Politiques de la nature. It shows that nature as an objective nonsocial reality must be conceptualised and studied if the relationships between humans and their environment are to be properly understood and managed. It proposes a definition of the word nature that is compatible with both an essentialist view of nature and the nonseparation of nature and culture. Eventually, it argues that such a return to an essentialist view of nature does not imply the use of nature as a benchmark to measure morality.
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Keywords: Bruno Latour; critical realism; epistemology; nature; social constructionism

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2013-02-01

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  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2016) of 1.279.
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