Human Nature

Philosophy and theories of human nature.

Here, the term nature is used differently than in everyday conversation, where nature is more typically used to mean particular features. In conversational terms, nature is described through a set of characteristics but not the fundamental nature itself.

In philosophical analysis, nature is meant as something universal. It is that which is  unique to our species and shared by most or all members. It must have “explanatory fundamentality,” which is just a fancy philosophical term that means we can explain the fundamentals of it. In the Western philosophical tradition, human nature is that which is “unique to our species and explains the most about us.”

So the basic criteria that human nature is assessed against is:

  • uniqueness
  • universality
  • fundamentally explainable

One question that arises is whether there is a common human nature to all beings, or are there several? Such as:

  • male vs female
  • eastern vs western
  • primitive vs modern
  • original vs recosntructed

Or is there no such thing as human nature?

If there is a human nature, where did it come from? God, evolution, one’s environment, one-self?

There are also broader questions like whether human nature has always been the same or can it change, and what would cause it to change? Evolution, culture, catastrophic event?

Do human beings have free-will or are our actions predetermined? Are humans morally good, bad or neutral? Can a human change their nature?

If there is a definable human nature, what does this mean for ethics and politics?

Over the next posts I will attempt to summarize the views of the following philosophers regarding human nature:

  • Plato & Aristotle
  • Hobbes & Rousseau
  • Immanuel Kant
  • Jean-Paul Sartre

And if left with enough time:

  • St Augustine
  • Evolutionary theories of human nature
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