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Nature, Human Nature, and Human DifferenceRace in Early Modern Philosophy$
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Justin E. H. Smith

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691153643

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691153643.001.0001

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Diversity as Degeneration

Diversity as Degeneration

(p.114) Chapter 5 Diversity as Degeneration
Nature, Human Nature, and Human Difference

Justin E. H. Smith

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on those early modern accounts of human phenotypic diversity that do not resort to claims of essential difference, but instead appeal to some form or other of degeneration to account for human diversity. Degenerationism is the view that there was an original, ideal type of the human species (and generally also of animal species), but that different groups have deviated from this perfect state as a result of migration, changes in diet and in climate, and hybridity with other species. The chapter shows that degenerationist accounts of human variety are particularly interesting in the way they conflate descriptive and normative claims. It also considers in some detail the place of apes, and in particular of higher primates, in degenerationist reflections on the lower limits of the human species.

Keywords:   degeneration, human diversity, degenerationism, human variety, apes, higher primates, human species

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