Human nature

Human nature

Overview
Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling
Feeling
Feeling is the nominalization of the verb to feel. The word was first used in the English language to describe the physical sensation of touch through either experience or perception. The word is also used to describe experiences, other than the physical sensation of touch, such as "a feeling of...

 and acting, that humans tend to have naturally.
Nature (philosophy)
Nature is a concept with two major sets of inter-related meanings, referring on the one hand to the things which are natural, or subject to the normal working of "laws of nature", or on the other hand to the essential properties and causes of those things to be what they naturally are, or in other...



The questions of what these characteristics are, what causes them and how this causation works, and how fixed human nature is, are amongst the oldest and most important questions in western philosophy
Western philosophy
Western philosophy is the philosophical thought and work of the Western or Occidental world, as distinct from Eastern or Oriental philosophies and the varieties of indigenous philosophies....

. These questions have particularly important implications in ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, politics
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

 and theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

.
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Quotations

If you give a man a hammer, he thinks he can solve all problems by pounding. Well, God gave men penises....

Jacob M. Appel in W:The Mistress of Wholesome|The Mistress of Wholesome (2007)
Encyclopedia
Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling
Feeling
Feeling is the nominalization of the verb to feel. The word was first used in the English language to describe the physical sensation of touch through either experience or perception. The word is also used to describe experiences, other than the physical sensation of touch, such as "a feeling of...

 and acting, that humans tend to have naturally.
Nature (philosophy)
Nature is a concept with two major sets of inter-related meanings, referring on the one hand to the things which are natural, or subject to the normal working of "laws of nature", or on the other hand to the essential properties and causes of those things to be what they naturally are, or in other...



The questions of what these characteristics are, what causes them and how this causation works, and how fixed human nature is, are amongst the oldest and most important questions in western philosophy
Western philosophy
Western philosophy is the philosophical thought and work of the Western or Occidental world, as distinct from Eastern or Oriental philosophies and the varieties of indigenous philosophies....

. These questions have particularly important implications in ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, politics
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

 and theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

. This is partly because human nature can be regarded as both a source of norms of conduct or ways of life, as well as presenting obstacles or constraints on living a good life.

The complex implications of such questions are also dealt with in art
Art
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

 and literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

, while the multiple branches of the Humanities
Humanities
The humanities are academic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences....

 together form an important domain of inquiry into human nature, and the question of what it means to be human.

The branches of contemporary science associated with the study of human nature include anthropology
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

, sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

, sociobiology
Sociobiology
Sociobiology is a field of scientific study which is based on the assumption that social behavior has resulted from evolution and attempts to explain and examine social behavior within that context. Often considered a branch of biology and sociology, it also draws from ethology, anthropology,...

 and psychology
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

, particularly evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology is an approach in the social and natural sciences that examines psychological traits such as memory, perception, and language from a modern evolutionary perspective. It seeks to identify which human psychological traits are evolved adaptations, that is, the functional...

 and developmental psychology
Developmental psychology
Developmental psychology, also known as human development, is the scientific study of systematic psychological changes, emotional changes, and perception changes that occur in human beings over the course of their life span. Originally concerned with infants and children, the field has expanded to...

. The so-called "nature versus nurture
Nature versus nurture
The nature versus nurture debate concerns the relative importance of an individual's innate qualities versus personal experiences The nature versus nurture debate concerns the relative importance of an individual's innate qualities ("nature," i.e. nativism, or innatism) versus personal experiences...

" debate is a broadly inclusive and well-known instance of a discussion about human nature in the natural science
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

s.

Brief history of the concept


The concept of nature as a standard by which to make judgments was a basic presupposition in Greek philosophy. Specifically, "almost all" classical philosophers accepted that a good human life is a life in accordance with nature.

On this subject, the approach of Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

, sometimes considered to be a teleological approach, came to be dominant by late classical and medieval times. This approach understands human nature in terms of final and formal causes
Causality
Causality is the relationship between an event and a second event , where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first....

. Such understandings of human nature see this nature as an "idea," or "form
Theory of Forms
Plato's theory of Forms or theory of Ideas asserts that non-material abstract forms , and not the material world of change known to us through sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. When used in this sense, the word form is often capitalized...

" of a human. By this account, human nature really causes humans to become what they become, and so it exists somehow independently of individual humans. This in turn has sometimes been understood as also showing a special connection between human nature and divinity
Divinity
Divinity and divine are broadly applied but loosely defined terms, used variously within different faiths and belief systems — and even by different individuals within a given faith — to refer to some transcendent or transcendental power or deity, or its attributes or manifestations in...

.

The existence of this invariable human nature is however a subject of much historical debate, continuing into modern times. Against this idea of a fixed human nature, the relative malleability of man has been argued especially strongly in recent centuries—firstly by early modernists such as Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and since the mid-19th century, by thinkers such as Hegel, Marx
Marx's theory of human nature
Marx's theory of human nature occupies an important place in his critique of capitalism, his conception of communism, and his 'materialist conception of history'. Marx, however, does not refer to "human nature" as such, but to Gattungswesen, which is generally translated as 'species-being' or...

, Nietzsche, Sartre, structuralists and postmodernists.

Still more recent scientific perspectives such as behaviorism
Behaviorism
Behaviorism , also called the learning perspective , is a philosophy of psychology based on the proposition that all things that organisms do—including acting, thinking, and feeling—can and should be regarded as behaviors, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behavior...

, determinism
Determinism
Determinism is the general philosophical thesis that states that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given them, nothing else could happen. There are many versions of this thesis. Each of them rests upon various alleged connections, and interdependencies of things and...

, and the chemical model within modern psychiatry
Psychiatry
Psychiatry is the medical specialty devoted to the study and treatment of mental disorders. These mental disorders include various affective, behavioural, cognitive and perceptual abnormalities...

 and psychology, claim to be neutral regarding human nature. (As in all modern science they seek to explain without recourse to metaphysical causation.) They can be offered to explain its origins and underlying mechanisms, or to demonstrate capacities for change and diversity which would arguably violate the concept of a fixed human nature.

Socratic philosophy


Philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 in classical Greece
Classical Greece
Classical Greece was a 200 year period in Greek culture lasting from the 5th through 4th centuries BC. This classical period had a powerful influence on the Roman Empire and greatly influenced the foundation of Western civilizations. Much of modern Western politics, artistic thought, such as...

 is the ultimate origin of the western conception of the nature of a thing. The philosophical study of human nature itself originated, according to Aristotle at least, with Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

, who turned philosophy from study of the heavens to study of the human things. Socrates is said to have studied the question of how a person should best live, but he left no written works. It is clear from the works of his students Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 and Xenophon
Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

, and also what was said by Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 (Plato's student) about him, that Socrates was a rationalist and believed that the best life and the life most suited to human nature involved reasoning. The Socratic school was the dominant surviving influence in philosophical discussion in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, amongst Islamic
Islamic philosophy
Islamic philosophy is a branch of Islamic studies. It is the continuous search for Hekma in the light of Islamic view of life, universe, ethics, society, and so on...

, Christian
Christian philosophy
Christian philosophy may refer to any development in philosophy that is characterised by coming from a Christian tradition.- Origins of Christian philosophy :...

 and Jewish philosophers
Jewish philosophy
Jewish philosophy , includes all philosophy carried out by Jews, or, in relation to the religion of Judaism. Jewish philosophy, until modern Enlightenment and Emancipation, was pre-occupied with attempts to reconcile coherent new ideas into the tradition of Rabbinic Judaism; thus organizing...

.

The human soul
Soul
A soul in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions is the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing or object. Many philosophical and spiritual systems teach that humans have souls, and others teach that all living things and even inanimate objects have souls. The...

 in the works of Plato and Aristotle has a divided nature, divided in a specifically human way. One part is specifically human and rational, and divided into a part which is rational on its own, and a spirited part which can understand reason. Other parts of the soul are home to desires or passions similar to those found in animals. In both Aristotle and Plato spiritedness, thumos, is distinguished from the other passions or epithumiai. The proper function of the "rational" was to rule the other parts of the soul, helped by spiritedness. By this account, using one's reason is the best way to live, and philosophers are the highest types of humans.

Aristotle, Plato's most famous student, made some of the most famous and influential statements about human nature. In his works, apart from using a similar scheme of a divided human soul, some clear statements about human nature are made:
  • Man is a conjugal animal, meaning an animal which is born to couple when an adult, thus building a household (oikos) and in more successful cases, a clan or small village still run upon patriarchal lines.
  • Man is a political animal, meaning an animal with an innate propensity to develop more complex communities the size of a city or town, with a division of labor and law-making. This type of community is different in kind from a large family, and requires the special use of human reason
    Reason
    Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

    .
  • Man is a mimetic
    Mimetic
    In mathematics, mimesis is the quality of a numerical method which imitates some properties of the continuum problem. The goal of numerical analysis is to approximate the continuum, so instead of solving a partial differential equation one aims to solve a discrete version of the continuum problem...

     animal. Man loves to use his imagination (and not only to make laws and run town councils). He says "we enjoy looking at accurate likenesses of things which are themselves painful to see, obscene beasts, for instance, and corpses." And the "reason why we enjoy seeing likenesses is that, as we look, we learn and infer what each is, for instance, 'that is so and so.


For Aristotle, reason is not only what is most special about humanity compared to other animals, but it is also what we were meant to achieve at his or her best. Much of Aristotle's description of human nature is still influential today, but the particular teleological idea that humans are "meant" or intended to be something, has become much less popular in modern times
Modern Times
Modern Times can refer to modern history.It may also refer to:* Modern Times , a 1936 Charlie Chaplin film* Modern Times , a 1975 album by Al Stewart...

.

For the Socratics, human nature, and all natures, are metaphysical concepts. Aristotle developed the standard presentation of this approach with his theory of four causes
Four causes
Four Causes refers to a principle in Aristotelian science that is used to understand change. Aristotle described four different types of causes, or ways in which an object could be explained: "we do not have knowledge of a thing until we have grasped its why, that is to say, its cause", He argued...

. Human nature is an example of a formal cause according to Aristotle. Their teleological concept of nature is associated with humans having a divine component in their psyches, which is most properly exercised in the lifestyle of the philosopher, which is thereby also the happiest and least painful life.

Modernism


One of the defining changes occurring at the end of the Middle Ages, is the end of the dominance of Aristotelian philosophy, and its replacement by a new approach to the study of nature, including human nature. In this approach, all attempts at conjecture about formal and final causes was rejected as useless speculation. Also, the term "law of nature" now applies any regular and predictable pattern in nature, not literally a law made by a divine law-maker, and in the same way "human nature" becomes not a special metaphysical cause, but simply whatever can be said to be typical tendencies of humans.

Although this new realism applied to the study of human life from the beginning, for example in Machiavelli's works, the definitive argument for the final rejection of Aristotle was associated especially with Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, KC was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and pioneer of the scientific method. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England...

, and then René Descartes
René Descartes
René Descartes ; was a French philosopher and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed the 'Father of Modern Philosophy', and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day...

, whose new approach returned philosophy or science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 to its pre-Socratic focus upon non-human things. Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

, then Giambattista Vico
Giambattista Vico
Giovanni Battista ' Vico or Vigo was an Italian political philosopher, rhetorician, historian, and jurist....

, and David Hume
David Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment...

 all claimed to be the first to properly use a modern Baconian scientific approach to human things.

Hobbes famously followed Descartes in describing humanity as matter in motion, just like machines. He also very influentially described man's natural state (without science and artifice) as one where life would be nasty, short and brutish. Following him, John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

's philosophy of empiricism
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

 also saw human nature as a tabula rasa
Tabula rasa
Tabula rasa is the epistemological theory that individuals are born without built-in mental content and that their knowledge comes from experience and perception. Generally proponents of the tabula rasa thesis favour the "nurture" side of the nature versus nurture debate, when it comes to aspects...

. In this view, the mind is at birth a "blank slate" without rules, so data is added, and rules for processing them are formed solely by our sensory experiences.

Jean Jacques Rousseau pushed the approach of Hobbes to an extreme and criticized it at the same time. He was a contemporary and acquaintance of Hume, writing before the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 and long before Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 and Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

. He shocked Western Civilization
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 with his Second Discourse by proposing that humans had once been solitary animals, without reason or language or communities, and had developed these things due to accidents of pre-history. (A proposal which was also made, less famously, by Giambattista Vico.) In other words, Rousseau argued that human nature was not only not fixed, but not even approximately fixed compared to what had been assumed before him. Humans are political, and rational, and have language now, but originally they had none of these things. This in turn implied that living under the management of human reason might not be a happy way to live at all, and perhaps there is no ideal way to live. Rousseau is also unusual in the extent to which he took the approach of Hobbes, asserting that primitive humans were not even naturally social. A civilized human is therefore not only imbalanced and unhappy because of the mismatch between civilized life and human nature, but unlike Hobbes, Rousseau also became well known for the suggestion that primitive humans had been happier, "noble savage
Noble savage
The term noble savage , expresses the concept an idealized indigene, outsider , and refers to the literary stock character of the same...

s."

Rousseau's conception of human nature has been seen as the origin of many intellectual and political developments of the 19th and 20th centuries. He was an important influence upon Kant
KANT
KANT is a computer algebra system for mathematicians interested in algebraic number theory, performing sophisticated computations in algebraic number fields, in global function fields, and in local fields. KASH is the associated command line interface...

, Hegel and Marx, and the development of German Idealism
German idealism
German idealism was a philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant in the 1780s and 1790s, and was closely linked both with romanticism and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment...

, Historicism
Historicism
Historicism is a mode of thinking that assigns a central and basic significance to a specific context, such as historical period, geographical place and local culture. As such it is in contrast to individualist theories of knowledges such as empiricism and rationalism, which neglect the role of...

, and Romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

.

What human nature did entail, according to Rousseau and the other modernists of the 17th and 18th centuries, were animal-like passions that led humanity to develop language and reasoning, and more complex communities (or communities of any kind according to Rousseau).

In contrast to Rousseau, David Hume was a critic of the over-simplifying and systematic approach of Hobbes and Rousseau and some others whereby, for example, all human nature is assumed to be driven by variations of selfishness. Influenced by Hutcheson
Francis Hutcheson (philosopher)
Francis Hutcheson was a philosopher born in Ireland to a family of Scottish Presbyterians who became one of the founding fathers of the Scottish Enlightenment....

 and Shaftesbury
Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury
Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury was an English politician, philosopher and writer.-Biography:...

, he argued against over-simplification. On the one hand he accepted that for many political and economic subjects people could be assumed to be driven by such simple selfishness, and he also wrote of some of the more social aspects of "human nature" as something which could be destroyed, for example if people did not associate in just societies. On the other hand he rejected what he called the "paradox of the sceptics" saying that no politician could have invented words like honourable' and 'shameful,' 'lovely' and 'odious,' 'noble' and 'despicable, unless there was not some natural "original constitution of the mind."

Hume, like Rousseau, was controversial in his own time for his modernist approach, following the example of Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, KC was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and pioneer of the scientific method. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England...

 and Thomas Hobbes, of avoiding consideration of metaphysical
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

 explanations for any type of cause and effect. He was accused of being an atheist. Concerning human nature also, he wrote for example:
After Rousseau and Hume, the nature of philosophy and science changes, branching into different disciplines and approaches, and the study of human nature changes accordingly. Rousseau's proposal that human nature is malleable became a major influence upon international revolutionary movements of various kinds, while Hume's approach has been more typical in Anglo-Saxon countries including the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.

Natural science


As the sciences concerned with humanity split up into more specialized branches, many of the key figures of this evolution expressed influential understandings about human nature.

Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 gave a widely accepted scientific argument for what Rousseau had already argued from a different direction, that humans and other animal species have no truly fixed nature, at least in the very long term. However he also gave modern biology a new way of understanding how human nature does exist in a normal human time-frame, and how it is caused.

Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

, the founder of psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

, famously referred to the hidden pathological character of typical human behavior. He believed that the Marxists were right to focus on what he called "the decisive influence which the economic circumstances of men have upon their intellectual, ethical and artistic attitudes." But he thought that the Marxist view of the class struggle was too shallow, assigning to recent centuries conflicts that were, rather, primordial. Behind the class struggle, according to Freud, there stands the struggle between father and son, between established clan leader and rebellious challenger. Freud also popularized his notions of the id
Id, ego, and super-ego
Id, ego and super-ego are the three parts of the psychic apparatus defined in Sigmund Freud's structural model of the psyche; they are the three theoretical constructs in terms of whose activity and interaction mental life is described...

 and the desires associated with each supposed aspect of personality.

E.O. Wilson's sociobiology
Sociobiology
Sociobiology is a field of scientific study which is based on the assumption that social behavior has resulted from evolution and attempts to explain and examine social behavior within that context. Often considered a branch of biology and sociology, it also draws from ethology, anthropology,...

 and closely related theory of evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology is an approach in the social and natural sciences that examines psychological traits such as memory, perception, and language from a modern evolutionary perspective. It seeks to identify which human psychological traits are evolved adaptations, that is, the functional...

 give scientific arguments against the "tabula rasa" hypotheses of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. In his book, Consilience
Consilience
Consilience, or the unity of knowledge , has its roots in the ancient Greek concept of an intrinsic orderliness that governs our cosmos, inherently comprehensible by logical process, a vision at odds with mystical views in many cultures that surrounded the Hellenes...

: The Unity of Knowledge
(1998), Edward O. Wilson claimed that it was time for a cooperation of all the sciences to explore human nature. He defined human nature as a collection of epigenetic rules: the genetic patterns of mental development. Cultural phenomena, rituals, etc. are products, not part of human nature. Artworks, for example are not part of human nature, but our appreciation of art
Art
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

 is. And this art appreciation, or our fear for snakes, or incest taboo (Westermarck effect
Westermarck effect
The Westermarck effect, or reverse sexual imprinting, is a hypothetical psychological effect through which people who live in close domestic proximity during the first few years of their lives become desensitized to later sexual attraction. This phenomenon was first hypothesized by Finnish...

) can be studied by the methods of reductionism
Reductionism
Reductionism can mean either an approach to understanding the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things or a philosophical position that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts, and that an account of it can...

. Until now these phenomena were only part of psychological, sociological and anthropological studies. Wilson proposes it can be part of interdisciplinary research.

An example of this fear is discussed in the book An Instinct for Dragons
An Instinct for Dragons
An Instinct for Dragons is a book by University of Central Florida anthropologist David E. Jones, which seeks to explain the alleged universality of dragon images in the folklore of human societies...

, where anthropologist David E. Jones suggests a hypothesis that humans, just like other primates, have inherited instinctive reactions to snakes, large cats and birds of prey. Folklore dragons have features that are combinations of these three, which would explain why dragons with similar features occur in stories from independent cultures on all continents. Other authors have suggested that especially under the influence of drugs or in children's dreams, this instinct may give raise to fantasies and nightmares about dragons, snakes, spiders, etc., which makes these symbols popular in drug culture and in fairy tales for children. The traditional mainstream explanation to the folklore dragons does however not rely on human instinct, but on the assumption that fossils of, for example, dinosaur
Dinosaur
Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals of the clade and superorder Dinosauria. They were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period until the end of the Cretaceous , when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of...

s gave rise to similar fantasies all over the world.

Metaphysics and ethics



Differing understandings of human nature lead to different conclusions about ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, or in other words the philosophical question of how people should best live. Some of the most important differences between different understandings of human nature and ethics involve different metaphysical understandings about how human nature relates to nature as a whole, sometimes considered as "creation
Creation
Creation may refer to:In religion and philosophy:*Creation myth, stories of the supernatural creation of the Earth and its inhabitants*Genesis creation narrative, The Biblical account of creationIn science and technology:...

" or the "cosmos
Cosmos
In the general sense, a cosmos is an orderly or harmonious system. It originates from the Greek term κόσμος , meaning "order" or "ornament" and is antithetical to the concept of chaos. Today, the word is generally used as a synonym of the word Universe . The word cosmos originates from the same root...

".
  • Philosophical naturalism
    Naturalism (philosophy)
    Naturalism commonly refers to the philosophical viewpoint that the natural universe and its natural laws and forces operate in the universe, and that nothing exists beyond the natural universe or, if it does, it does not affect the natural universe that we know...

     (which includes materialism
    Materialism
    In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance...

     and rationalism
    Rationalism
    In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

    ) encompasses a set of views that humans are purely natural phenomena; sophisticated being
    Being
    Being , is an English word used for conceptualizing subjective and objective aspects of reality, including those fundamental to the self —related to and somewhat interchangeable with terms like "existence" and "living".In its objective usage —as in "a being," or "[a] human being" —it...

    s that evolved to our present state through natural mechanisms such as evolution
    Evolution
    Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

    . Humanist philosophers determine good and evil
    Evil
    Evil is the violation of, or intent to violate, some moral code. Evil is usually seen as the dualistic opposite of good. Definitions of evil vary along with analysis of its root motive causes, however general actions commonly considered evil include: conscious and deliberate wrongdoing,...

     by appeal to universal human qualities, but other naturalists regard these terms as mere labels placed on how well individual behavior conforms to societal expectations, and is the result of our psychology and socialization.
  • Abrahamic religions
    Abrahamic religions
    Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham or recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with him...

     (most notably Judaism
    Judaism
    Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

    , Christianity
    Christianity
    Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

     and Islam
    Islam
    Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

    ) hold that a human is a spiritual being which was deliberately created by a single God
    God
    God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

     in his image (according to the former two), and exists in continued relationship with God. Good and evil are defined in terms of how well humans conform to God's character or God's law.
  • Polytheistic or animistic notions vary, but generally regard humans as citizens in a world populated by other intelligent spiritual or mythological beings, such as gods
    Deity
    A deity is a recognized preternatural or supernatural immortal being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, and respected by believers....

    , demons, ghosts, etc. In these cases, human evil is often regarded as the result of supernatural influences or mischief (although it may have many other causes as well).
  • Holistic, pantheistic, and panentheistic spiritual traditions regard humanity as existing within God or as a part of the divine cosmos. In this case, human "evil" is usually regarded as the result of ignorance of this universal Divine nature. Traditions of this kind include the Indian religions such as Buddhism
    Buddhism
    Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

     and Hinduism
    Hinduism
    Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

     and other forms of Eastern philosophy
    Eastern philosophy
    Eastern philosophy includes the various philosophies of Asia, including Chinese philosophy, Iranian philosophy, Japanese philosophy, Indian philosophy and Korean philosophy...

    , and also schools of western philosophy
    Western philosophy
    Western philosophy is the philosophical thought and work of the Western or Occidental world, as distinct from Eastern or Oriental philosophies and the varieties of indigenous philosophies....

     such as Stoicism
    Stoicism
    Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early . The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of "moral and intellectual perfection," would not suffer such emotions.Stoics were concerned...

    , Neoplatonism
    Neoplatonism
    Neoplatonism , is the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus, and his teacher Ammonius Saccas...

    , or Spinoza's pantheistic cosmology. Certain kinds of polytheism
    Polytheism
    Polytheism is the belief of multiple deities also usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own mythologies and rituals....

    , animism
    Animism
    Animism refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle....

    , and monism
    Monism
    Monism is any philosophical view which holds that there is unity in a given field of inquiry. Accordingly, some philosophers may hold that the universe is one rather than dualistic or pluralistic...

     have similar interpretations.
  • Astrologers
    Astrology
    Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

     believe that a person's personality and many of the challenges they will face in life are determined by the placements of the planets
    Horoscope
    In astrology, a horoscope is a chart or diagram representing the positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, the astrological aspects, and sensitive angles at the time of an event, such as the moment of a person's birth. The word horoscope is derived from Greek words meaning "a look at the hours" In...

    , each represents different aspects of their mental and physical nature. At the time of birth they may use many different techniques to "guesstimate" the issues that will unfold throughout their lives and the actions that can be taken to gain the best results.

Free will and determinism


The issue of free will and determinism underlies much of the debate about human nature. Free will
Free will
"To make my own decisions whether I am successful or not due to uncontrollable forces" -Troy MorrisonA pragmatic definition of free willFree will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. The existence of free will and its exact nature and definition have long...

, or agency, refers to the ability of humans to make genuinely free choices (in some sense). As it relates to humans, the thesis of determinism implies that human choices are fully caused by internal and external forces.
  • Incompatibilism
    Incompatibilism
    Incompatibilism is the view that a deterministic universe is completely at odds with the notion that people have a free will. Strictly speaking, there is a dichotomy between determinism and free will where philosophers must choose one or the other...

     holds that determinism and free will are contradictory (i.e. both cannot be true). Incompatibilist views can either deny or accept free will.
    • Incompatibilist views holding to free will
      Free will
      "To make my own decisions whether I am successful or not due to uncontrollable forces" -Troy MorrisonA pragmatic definition of free willFree will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. The existence of free will and its exact nature and definition have long...

       include:
      • Libertarianism
        Libertarianism (metaphysics)
        Libertarianism is one of the main philosophical positions related to the problems of free will and determinism, which are part of the larger domain of metaphysics. In particular, libertarianism, which is an incompatibilist position, argues that free will is logically incompatible with a...

         holds that the human perception of free choice in action is genuine, rather than seemingly genuine, so that some of our actions are performed without there being any compulsion by internal or external forces to do so (i.e., indeterminism
        Indeterminism
        Indeterminism is the concept that events are not caused, or not caused deterministically by prior events. It is the opposite of determinism and related to chance...

        ).
      • Thomism
        Thomism
        Thomism is the philosophical school that arose as a legacy of the work and thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, philosopher, theologian, and Doctor of the Church. In philosophy, his commentaries on Aristotle are his most lasting contribution...

         holds that humans have a genuine experience of free will, and this experience of free will is evidence of a soul that transcends the mere physical components of the human being.
    • Incompatibilist views that deny free will include:
      • Determinism refers to the logic that humans, like all physical phenomena, are subject to cause and effect. Determinism also holds that our actions stem from environmental
        Social environment
        The social environment of an individual, also called social context or milieu, is the culture that s/he was educated or lives in, and the people and institutions with whom the person interacts....

        , biological
        Biological process
        A biological process is a process of a living organism. Biological processes are made up of any number of chemical reactions or other events that results in a transformation....

        , or theological factors. A common misconception is that all determinists are fatalists, who believe that deliberation is pointless as the future is already caused, when in fact most determinists hold the idea that we should deliberate on our actions and that deliberating on our actions is part of the complex interplay between cause and effect.
      • Predestination
        Predestination
        Predestination, in theology is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God. John Calvin interpreted biblical predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others...

         is the position that God orchestrates all the events in the universe, human and otherwise, according to his will; however he does it in a way that includes the free choices of humans.
      • Biological determinism
        Biological determinism
        Biological determination is the interpretation of humans and human life from a strictly biological point of view, and it is closely related to genetic determinism...

         and social determinism
        Social determinism
        Social determinism is the hypothesis that social interactions and constructs alone determine individual behavior ....

         are the views that human actions are determined by their biology and social interaction, respectively. The debate between these two positions is known as nature versus nurture.
  • Compatibilism
    Compatibilism
    Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are compatible ideas, and that it is possible to believe both without being logically inconsistent. It may, however, be more accurate to say that compatibilists define 'free will' in a way that allows it to co-exist with determinism...

     is the view that free will and determinism can conceptually coexist. Compatibilist views include:
    • Human compatibilitism is the view that they are compatible because free will is merely the hypothetical ability to choose differently if one is differently disposed according to the physical factors of determinism.
    • Molinism
      Molinism
      Molinism, named after 16th Century Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina, is a religious doctrine which attempts to reconcile the providence of God with human free will. William Lane Craig is probably its best known advocate today, though other important Molinists include Alfred Freddoso, Alvin...

       is the view that God is able to predestine all events on Earth because he knows in advance what people will freely choose.
    • Contemporary compatibilists seek definitions of free will that permit determinism.

Spiritual versus natural


Another often-discussed aspect of human nature is the existence and relationship of the physical body with a spirit
Spirit
The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...

 or soul that transcends
Transcendence (religion)
In religion transcendence refers to the aspect of God's nature which is wholly independent of the physical universe. This is contrasted with immanence where God is fully present in the physical world and thus accessible to creatures in various ways...

 the human's physical attributes, as well as the existence of any transcendent purpose. In this area, there are three dominant views:
  • The philosophical naturalist
    Naturalism (philosophy)
    Naturalism commonly refers to the philosophical viewpoint that the natural universe and its natural laws and forces operate in the universe, and that nothing exists beyond the natural universe or, if it does, it does not affect the natural universe that we know...

     position is that humans are entirely natural, with no spiritual component or transcendent purpose. Subsets of the naturalist view include the materialist and physicalist positions, which hold that humans are entirely physical. However, some naturalists are also dualists
    Dualism (philosophy of mind)
    In philosophy of mind, dualism is a set of views about the relationship between mind and matter, which begins with the claim that mental phenomena are, in some respects, non-physical....

     about mind and body
    Philosophy of mind
    Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind, mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness and their relationship to the physical body, particularly the brain. The mind-body problem, i.e...

    . Naturalism, combined with the natural
    Natural science
    The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

     and social sciences, views humans as the unplanned product of evolution, which operated in part by natural selection
    Natural selection
    Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

     on random mutation
    Mutation
    In molecular biology and genetics, mutations are changes in a genomic sequence: the DNA sequence of a cell's genome or the DNA or RNA sequence of a virus. They can be defined as sudden and spontaneous changes in the cell. Mutations are caused by radiation, viruses, transposons and mutagenic...

    s. Philosophical naturalists do not believe in a supernatural afterlife
    Afterlife
    The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

    . Philosophical naturalism is often promoted by many prominent philosophers and thinkers. The philosophical naturalist often will view religious belief as similar to superstition
    Superstition
    Superstition is a belief in supernatural causality: that one event leads to the cause of another without any process in the physical world linking the two events....

     and as the product of unsound or magical thinking
    Magical thinking
    Magical thinking is causal reasoning that looks for correlation between acts or utterances and certain events. In religion, folk religion, and superstition, the correlation posited is between religious ritual, such as prayer, sacrifice, or the observance of a taboo, and an expected benefit or...

    .

  • In contrast to materialism, there is the Platonic
    Platonism
    Platonism is the philosophy of Plato or the name of other philosophical systems considered closely derived from it. In a narrower sense the term might indicate the doctrine of Platonic realism...

     or idealist position. It can be expressed in many ways, but in essence it is the view that there is a distinction between appearance
    Phenomenon
    A phenomenon , plural phenomena, is any observable occurrence. Phenomena are often, but not always, understood as 'appearances' or 'experiences'...

     and reality
    Noumenon
    The noumenon is a posited object or event that is known without the use of the senses.The term is generally used in contrast with, or in relation to "phenomenon", which refers to anything that appears to, or is an object of, the senses...

    , and that the world we see around us is simply a reflection of some higher, divine
    Divinity
    Divinity and divine are broadly applied but loosely defined terms, used variously within different faiths and belief systems — and even by different individuals within a given faith — to refer to some transcendent or transcendental power or deity, or its attributes or manifestations in...

     existence, of which the human (and perhaps also the animal) soul/mind or spirit may be part. In his Republic, Book VII, Plato
    Plato
    Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

     represents humankind as prisoners chained from birth inside an underground cave, unable to move their heads, and therefore able to see only the shadow
    Shadow
    A shadow is an area where direct light from a light source cannot reach due to obstruction by an object. It occupies all of the space behind an opaque object with light in front of it. The cross section of a shadow is a two-dimensional silhouette, or reverse projection of the object blocking the...

    s on the walls created by a fire outside the cave, shadows that, in their ignorance
    Ignorance
    Ignorance is a state of being uninformed . The word ignorant is an adjective describing a person in the state of being unaware and is often used as an insult...

    , the cave dwellers mistake for reality. For Plato, therefore, the soul is a spirit that uses the body. It is in a non-natural state of union, and longs to be freed from its bodily prison (cf. Republic, X, 611).

  • Between materialism and idealism lies the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, whose system of thought is known as Thomism
    Thomism
    Thomism is the philosophical school that arose as a legacy of the work and thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, philosopher, theologian, and Doctor of the Church. In philosophy, his commentaries on Aristotle are his most lasting contribution...

    . His thought is, in essence, a synthesis of Christian theology
    Christian theology
    - Divisions of Christian theology :There are many methods of categorizing different approaches to Christian theology. For a historical analysis, see the main article on the History of Christian theology.- Sub-disciplines :...

     and the philosophy of Aristotle
    Aristotle
    Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

    . Aristotle describes man as a "rational animal," i.e., a single, undivided being that is at once animal (material) and rational (intellectual soul). Drawing from Aristotelian hylomorphism, the soul is seen as the substantial form of the body (matter). The soul, as the substantial form, is what is universal, or common, to all humanity, and therefore, is indicative of human nature; that which differentiates one person from another is matter, which Aquinas refers to as the principle of individuation. The human soul is characterized as spiritual, immortal, substantial, and subsistent: it is the spiritual and vital principle of the human being, but is also dependent on the body in a variety of ways in order to possess these characteristics. Thus, no division is made between the "physical" and the "spiritual," though they are in fact distinct. This position differentiates Thomism from both materialism and idealism. Unlike idealism, it holds that the visible universe is not a mere shadow of a transcendent reality, but instead is fully real in and of itself. However, unlike materialism, Thomism holds that empiricism
    Empiricism
    Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

     and philosophy, when properly exercised, lead inevitably to reasonable belief in God, the human soul, and moral objectivism
    Moral objectivism
    Moral objectivism may refer to:* Robust moral realism, the meta-ethical position that ethical sentences express factual propositions about robust or mind-independent features of the world, and that some such propositions are true....

    . Thus, to a Thomist, it is obvious from the evidence that there is a God and an eternal
    Eternity
    While in the popular mind, eternity often simply means existence for a limitless amount of time, many have used it to refer to a timeless existence altogether outside time. By contrast, infinite temporal existence is then called sempiternity. Something eternal exists outside time; by contrast,...

     soul.


In addition to these traditional philosophical distinctions between the soul and body, recent adaptations in humanistic psychology attempt to explain the natural transcendent purpose of human life. Richard Shweder of the University of Chicago separated human morality into three components: the ethic of autonomy, the ethic of community, and the ethic of divinity. The idea of religious fundamentalist countries is to uphold the ethic of divinity, which consists of protecting the divinity that exists in each person, even if that means imposing religious and moral laws on people of other faiths. Abraham Maslow, one of the founders of humanistic psychology attempted to demonstrate that spiritual life can be rationally explained as a naturalistic meaning. He claims that "peak experiences," moments of extreme self-transcendence, are the same amongst religious and secular people alike. Peak experiences make people see beyond the two-dimensional world of self-advancement and try live a nobler life. Religions can thus be explained in a naturalistic sense as the coordination of transcendent ideas in order to maximize "peak experiences."

Psychology and biology


A long standing question in philosophy and science is whether there exists an invariant human nature. For those who believe there is a human nature, further questions include:
  • What determines/constrains human nature?
  • To what extent is human nature malleable?
  • How does it vary between people and populations?


Since human behavior is so diverse, it can be difficult to find absolutely invariant human behaviors that are of interest to philosophers. A lesser (but still scientifically valid) standard for evidence pertaining to "human nature" is used by scientists who study behavior
Ethology
Ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior, and a sub-topic of zoology....

. Biologists look for evidence of genetic predisposition to behavioral patterns. Human behavior can be influenced by the environment, so penetrance
Penetrance
Penetrance in genetics is the proportion of individuals carrying a particular variant of a gene that also express an associated trait . In medical genetics, the penetrance of a disease-causing mutation is the proportion of individuals with the mutation who exhibit clinical symptoms...

 of genetically predisposed behavioral traits is not expected to reach 100%. A type of human behavior for which there is a strong genetic predisposition can be considered to be part of human nature. In other words, human nature is not seen as something that forces individuals to behave in a certain way, but as something that makes individuals more inclined to act in a certain way than in another.

An enduring evolutionary psychology controversy
Evolutionary psychology controversy
From its beginning, evolutionary psychology has generated substantial controversy and criticism. Criticisms include 1) disputes about the testability of evolutionary hypotheses, 2) alternatives to some of the cognitive assumptions frequently employed in evolutionary psychology, 3) vagueness...

 often revolves around "human nature." Common evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology is an approach in the social and natural sciences that examines psychological traits such as memory, perception, and language from a modern evolutionary perspective. It seeks to identify which human psychological traits are evolved adaptations, that is, the functional...

 explanations posit that the mind
Mind
The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies. Most agree that minds are constituted by conscious experience and intelligent...

 is made up of a massive number of interacting adaptations or "mental modules," the genes for which are a common human inheritance and result in a common human phenotype
Phenotype
A phenotype is an organism's observable characteristics or traits: such as its morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, behavior, and products of behavior...

 in the typical environments in which humans find themselves, and which constitute "human nature." This view has been critiqued as essentialist, as neglecting "natural" genetic, environmental and individual variation (and that the closest you can come is norms of reaction
Norms of reaction
In ecology and genetics, a norm of reaction describes the pattern of phenotypic expression of a single genotype across a range of environments. One use of norms of reaction is in describing how different species—especially related species—respond to varying environments...

), and as equivocating between the levels of genes, developmental programs, and actual human psychology/culture, and between individuals and population averages.

Arguments for invariance


All individuals and all societies have a similar facial grammar
Face
The face is a central sense organ complex, for those animals that have one, normally on the ventral surface of the head, and can, depending on the definition in the human case, include the hair, forehead, eyebrow, eyelashes, eyes, nose, ears, cheeks, mouth, lips, philtrum, temple, teeth, skin, and...

. Everyone smiles the same, and the way we use our eyes to convey cognition or flirtatiousness is the same. Human females find male faces that are rated more masculine and aggressive, less feminine and sensitive, more attractive during ovulation
Ovulation
Ovulation is the process in a female's menstrual cycle by which a mature ovarian follicle ruptures and discharges an ovum . Ovulation also occurs in the estrous cycle of other female mammals, which differs in many fundamental ways from the menstrual cycle...

, the stage of their menstrual cycle
Menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle is the scientific term for the physiological changes that can occur in fertile women for the purpose of sexual reproduction. This article focuses on the human menstrual cycle....

 when women are most fertile.

No success has ever been scientifically demonstrated in re-assigning an individual's handedness
Handedness
Handedness is a human attribute defined by unequal distribution of fine motor skills between the left and right hands. An individual who is more dexterous with the right hand is called right-handed and one who is more skilled with the left is said to be left-handed...

. Although individuals may change their external behavior (picking up scissors with their right hand instead of the left, for instance), their internal inclination never changes. Even people who lose a limb
Limb (anatomy)
A limb is a jointed, or prehensile , appendage of the human or other animal body....

, who physically do not possess the ability to pick up scissors with their left hand, will try to do so if they are "left-handed." The percentage of left-handers in all cultures at all times remains constant (because left-handedness is a recessive trait.)

Newborn babies, far too young to have been acculturated to do so, have measurable behaviors such as being more attracted to human faces than other shapes and having a preference for their mother's voice over any other voice.

In his book Human Universals
Human Universals
Human Universals is a book by Donald Brown, an American professor of anthropology who worked at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It was published by McGraw Hill in 1991...

, Donald E. Brown presents his case and identifies approximately 400 specific behaviors that are essentially invariant among all humans.

Arguments for social malleability


The Duke of Wellington
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS , was an Irish-born British soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century...

 is said to have become indignant upon hearing someone refer to habit
Habituation
Habituation can be defined as a process or as a procedure. As a process it is defined as a decrease in an elicited behavior resulting from the repeated presentation of an eliciting stimulus...

 as "second nature." He replied, "It is ten times nature!"

William James
William James
William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

 likewise referred to habit as the fly-wheel of society
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

. Habits, though, are by definition acquired, and different habits will be both the effect and the cause of very different societies.

Different human societies have held very different moral codes. Thus, regardless of whether objective morality exists or not, humans are clearly capable of imposing a wide variety of different moral codes on themselves.

Some have argued that the role for nurture comes not from the absence of impulses
Impulse (psychology)
An impulse is a wish or urge, particularly a sudden one. It can be considered as a normal and fundamental part of human thought processes, but also one that can become problematic, as in a condition like obsessive-compulsive disorder....

 in human nature but from the plethora of such impulses—so many, and so contradictory, that nurture must sort them out and put them into a hierarchy.

Some believe there is no single universal law of behavior that holds true for all human beings. There are many such laws that apply to the majority of individuals (for example, the majority of individuals try to avoid dying), but there are always exceptions (some individuals commit suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

). Most animals, including humans, have an innate self-preservation instinct
Instinct
Instinct or innate behavior is the inherent inclination of a living organism toward a particular behavior.The simplest example of an instinctive behavior is a fixed action pattern, in which a very short to medium length sequence of actions, without variation, are carried out in response to a...

 (fear of injury and death). The fact that humans may override this basic instinct is seen as evidence that human nature is subordinate to the human mind, and/or various outside factors. However, this may not be entirely unique to the human mind, as certain animals are observed to willfully commit suicide.)

See also


  • Human condition
    Human condition
    The human condition encompasses the experiences of being human in a social, cultural, and personal context. It can be described as the irreducible part of humanity that is inherent and not connected to gender, race, class, etc. — a search for purpose, sense of curiosity, the inevitability of...

  • Nature
    Nature
    Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

  • Norm (sociology)
    Norm (sociology)
    Social norms are the accepted behaviors within a society or group. This sociological and social psychological term has been defined as "the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. These rules may be explicit or implicit...

  • Norm (philosophy)
    Norm (philosophy)
    Norms are concepts of practical import, oriented to effecting an action, rather than conceptual abstractions that describe, explain, and express. Normative sentences imply “ought-to” types of statements and assertions, in distinction to sentences that provide “is” types of statements and assertions...

  • Normality (behavior)
    Normality (behavior)
    In behavior, normal refers to a lack of significant deviation from the average. The phrase "not normal" is often applied in a negative sense Abnormality varies greatly in how pleasant or unpleasant this is for other people.The Oxford English Dictionary defines "normal" as "conforming to a standard"...

  • Common sense
    Common sense
    Common sense is defined by Merriam-Webster as, "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts." Thus, "common sense" equates to the knowledge and experience which most people already have, or which the person using the term believes that they do or should have...

  • Homo sapiens
  • Humanism
    Humanism
    Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

  • Cynicism
    Cynicism
    Cynicism , in its original form, refers to the beliefs of an ancient school of Greek philosophers known as the Cynics . Their philosophy was that the purpose of life was to live a life of Virtue in agreement with Nature. This meant rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, health, and...

  • Diathesis-stress model
    Diathesis-stress model
    The diathesis–stress model is a psychological theory that explains behavior as a result of both biological and genetic vulnerability , and stress from life experiences....

  • Differential susceptibility hypothesis
    Differential susceptibility hypothesis
    According to the differential susceptibility hypothesis by Belsky individuals vary in the degree they are affected by experiences or qualities of the environment they are exposed to...

  • Defence mechanism
    Defence mechanism
    In Freudian psychoanalytic theory, defence mechanisms are unconscious psychological strategies brought into play by various entities to cope with reality and to maintain self-image. Healthy persons normally use different defences throughout life...

  • Enneagram of Personality
    Enneagram of Personality
    The Enneagram of Personality is a model of human personality which is principally used as a typology. Principally developed by Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo, it is also partly based on earlier teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff...

  • Aggressionism
    Aggressionism
    Aggressionism is the philosophical theory that the only real cause of war is human aggressiveness. This theory has dominated much evolutionary thought about human nature. Nonetheless, many evolutionary biologists discount aggressionism as it promotes extinction....

  • Passion: An Essay on Personality
    Passion: An Essay on Personality
    Passion: An Essay on Personality is a philosophical inquiry into human nature by philosopher and politician Roberto Mangabeira Unger. Published in 1986 by the Free Press, the book explores the individual and his relation to society from the perspective of the root human predicament of the need to...



Further reading

  • Introduction and Updated Information on the Seville Statement on Violence
  • www.human-nature.com
  • Newcastle University debate on Steven Pinker's book The Blank Slate
  • Abel, Donald C., ed. Theories of Human Nature: Classical and Contemporary Readings. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1992.
  • Arnhart, Larry. Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological Ethics of Human Nature. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1998.
  • Benthall, Jonathan, ed. The Limits of Human Nature. London: Allen Lane, 1973.
  • Berry, Christopher J. Human Nature. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1986.
  • Cantril, Hadley. Human Nature and Political Systems. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1961.
  • Chomsky, Noam. Powers and Prospects: Reflections on Human Nature and the Social Order. London: Pluto Press, 1996.
  • Christopher J. Berry, Human Nature (MacMillan, 1986).
  • Coward, Harold. The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Eastern and Western Thought. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008.
  • Cumming, Robert Denoon. Human Nature and History: A Study of the Development of Liberal Political Thought. 2 vols. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1969.
  • Curti, Merle E. Human Nature in American Thought: A History. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1980.
  • David Hume, A Treatise on Human Nature (Oxford University Press, 2007, originally 1739/1740).
  • Davies, James C. Human Nature in Politics: The Dynamics of Political Behaviour. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1963.
  • Edmund O. Wilson, On Human Nature (Harvard University Press, 2004).
  • Forbes, Ian, and Steve Smith, eds. Politics and Human Nature. London: Frances Pinter, 1981.
  • Freud, Sigmund, The Future of an Illusion (Norton).
  • Sigmund Freud, A Philosophy of Life, Lecture XXXV, The Question of a Weltanschauung (Hogarth Press, 1933).
  • Freyberg-Inan, Annette. What Moves Man: The Realist Theory of International Relations and Its Judgment of Human Nature. New York: SUNY Press, 2004.
  • Fruehwald, Edwin Scott. "Law & Human Behavior." Vandeplas, 2011.
  • Geras, Norman. Marx and Human Nature: Refutation of a Legend. London: Verso, 1983.
  • Habermas, Jürgen. The Future of Human Nature. Cambridge: Polity, 2003.
  • Hacker, P.M.S. "Human Nature. The Categorial Framework." London: Blackwell, 2007.
  • Heinze, Andrew R. Jews and the American Soul: Human Nature in the Twentieth Century. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2004.
  • Hewitt, Martin. Welfare and Human Nature: The Human Subject in Twentieth Century Social Politics. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000.
  • Jaggar, Alison M. Feminist Politics and Human Nature. Sussex, UK: Harvester Press, 1983.
  • Kaplan, Morton A. Justice, Human Nature, and Political Obligation. New York: Free Press, 1976.
  • Loptson, Peter. Theories of Human Nature. 3rd ed. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2006.
  • Low, Albert. 2008. "The Origin of Human Nature: A Zen Buddhist Looks at Evolution, Sussex Academic Press. ISBN 9781845192600
  • Miller, Martin A., Freud and the Bolsheviks: Psychoanalysis in Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union (New Haven, CT 1998).
  • Niebuhr, Reinhold. The Nature and Destiny of Man, Vol. 1: Human Nature. London: Nisbet, 1941.
  • Noam Chomsky & Michel Foucault, The Chomsky-Foucault Debate: On Human Nature (Full Text) (New Press, 2006)
  • Orudzhev, Zaid
    Zaid Orudzhev
    Zaid Melikovich Orudzhev is a Russian academic specialising in the history of philosophy, dialectical logic and sociological methodology. He is a doctor of philosophy and currently a professor at the Moscow State Academy for Business Administration....

    . Human Nature and the Sense of History. Moscow: Librocom, 2009. (Russian edition).
  • Paul, Ellen Frankel, Fred Dycus Miller, and Jeffrey Paul, eds. Ethics, Politics, and Human Nature. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991.
  • Pennock, J. Roland, and John W. Chapman, eds. Human Nature in Politics. New York: New York University Press, 1977.
  • Pinker, Steven. The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. New York: Norton, 2002.
  • Pojman, Louis P., Who Are We? (Oxford University Press, 2005).
  • Pompa, Leon. Human Nature and Historical Knowledge: Hume, Hegel and Vico. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
  • Rosen, Stephen. War and Human Nature. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.
  • Sarles, Harvey B. Language and Human Nature (University of Minnesota Press, 1985).
  • Sayers, Sean. Marxism and Human Nature. London: Routledge, 1998.
  • Schleidgen, Sebastian/Jungert, Michael (ed.): Human Nature and Self Design. Paderborn: Mentis, 2011.
  • Schuett, Robert. Political Realism, Freud, and Human Nature in International Relations: The Resurrection of the Realist Man. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
  • Smith, David Livingstone. The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2007.
  • Stephens, William O., ed. The Person: Readings in Human Nature. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2006.
  • Stevenson, Leslie & David Haberman, Ten Theories of Human Nature, 4th ed. (Oxford University Press, 2004).
  • Stevenson, Leslie, and David L. Haberman. Ten Theories of Human Nature. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • Stevenson, Leslie, The Study of Human Nature, 2nd ed. (Oxford University Press, 1999).
  • Unger, Roberto Mangabeira. Passion: An Essay on Personality
    Passion: An Essay on Personality
    Passion: An Essay on Personality is a philosophical inquiry into human nature by philosopher and politician Roberto Mangabeira Unger. Published in 1986 by the Free Press, the book explores the individual and his relation to society from the perspective of the root human predicament of the need to...

    . New York: Free Press, 1986
  • Wells, Robin Headlam, and Johnjoe McFadden, eds. Human Nature: Fact and Fiction. London and New York: Continuum, 2006.