Fayerweather Hall (Room 411), Columbia University, 1180 Amsterdam Avenue, New York
Joseph Rouse's book, Social Practices as Biological Niche Construction draws on the social theory of practices and recent developments in evolutionary biology to overcome a familiar conceptual split of human ways of life between our biologically explicable bodies and the diverse social worlds we inhabit. His talk develops the book’s implications for understanding the complex normative accountability of human ways of life. Practice theorists claim that social practices provide the background orientation, understanding, or competence that enables following rules, answering to norms, and articulating and grasping meanings. He argues that the characteristic normative diversity of normative concerns with which we assess human lives and actions emerged from the niche constructive evolution of a practice-differentiated way of life. That normative complexity is thus biologically grounded as an evolved, “two-dimensional” descendant of the one-dimensional biological normativity of most organismic lineages. This recognition has important implications for how normative concerns arise and interact, how their content is embedded in
practices, and how those concerns are expressed and assessed discursively.
Joseph Rouse, Hedding Professor of Moral Science at Wesleyan University
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