Re: human nature (not as short; but just as final... where Richard is concerned)

Sun, 27 Apr 1997 21:39:04 -0400 (EDT)
Andrew Wayne Austin (


On a metaphysical level (and this seems to me to be axiomatic), the
quality of being social as essentially different from all other things in
the universe. We are self-aware, and it is because of society that this is
possible. Human being is something qualitatively different from all things
that have passed before it.

The distinction is logically necessary, for if everything is natural, then
the term natural does not distinguish anything. So I make a distinction,
and thereby can discuss the character of being human nontautologically.
For example, the way my body processes food, the end result, whatever you
want to call it, is a natural occurrence. My physiology produces this
natural by-product through its functioning. But the way my cognition
processes symbols, the end result might be an essay, or the plans for a
house. This is not the result of natural processes; rather it is the
result of social processes. Writing an essay, or producing a draft of a
house is a uniquely human thing. Whereas the other end product, whatever
you want to call it, is not a uniquely human thing. Without society I
cannot do those things that humans do. I am not human. I am biologically a
Homo sapiens. But unsocialized I am not human. Socialization is not a
natural process because it does not happen naturally. Homo sapiens must be
in society to become human. What was it that Marx said? Something like "an
individual becoming a human outside society is like a child talking
without ever hearing people speak," or something like that. I will try to
hunt down the quote. I regard this as essentially true.

On this notion of "unnatural." I don't like that term at all. It is used
for all sorts of reactionary purposes. For example, if heterosexuality is
"human nature" (and certainly our sociobiological brothers and sisters
will say that it is) then homosexuality must be unnatural. This is
offensive to me. Homosexuality is social, and some societies at certain
times have regarded it as deviant, but it is not unnatural. Since I see
the social being as qualitative different from the natural being, the term
unnatural (the opposite of natural) is not synonymous with the term
social, because social not the opposite of natural, but something
completely different.

I am sitting here trying to imagine what in nature is unnatural.

Andrew Austin