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AbstractRecent advances in epigenetics are reinvigorating the old nature-nurture (N/N) debate in (political) philosophy and the social sciences. Many scholars start from epigenetics to think through the implications that epigenetics is having - or might have - on N/N. In that sense, they make a bet on the future advances of epigenetics and the increasing evidence it is expected to bring about the inseparability of N/N. In this article, we take up a pragmatist position and ask to what extent such a bet is fruitful to rethink responsibility and solidarity. We take stock of the questions recent authors raise, and argue that, by focussing on ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ as categories mobilized, reified or invalidated by the life sciences, a fundamental issue is left unaddressed: the moral dimension of N/N. This dimension is particularly salient in situations and institutions where solidarity is at stake while being bound to specific conditions. We argue that the N/N opposition is unavoidable in practice, because our current institutions are geared at delimiting causes and responsibilities in order to draw the limits of inclusion and exclusion into organized systems of solidarity such as insurance and health care. These limits, as we will show, depend on metaphysical justifications that require N/N as general categories. From a pragmatist and political viewpoint, it is not useful to interrogate or criticize such general categories, because it only reifies a generalized problem-frame. Rather than asking whether epigenetics will finally resolve the N/N debate, we ask how morality can be re-politicized instead of being bound to a metaphysical knot of generalizations concerning what the world ‘is’ and what ‘ought’ to be inferred from that with respect to responsibility and solidarity. From the perspective that we defend, responsibility and solidarity precede N/N, as questions about the collectives we want to form – collectives that might generate situated conceptions about, and dealings with, natures and nurtures. This is an argument for speculative and political ontology against a naturalist metaphysics of morality, and we argue that this is precisely what epigenetics is teaching us as a manifold of scientific practices.
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