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Human nature is a concept that denotes the fundamental dispositions and characteristics—including ways of thinking, feeling, and acting—that humans are said to have naturally.[1][2][3][4] The term is often used to denote the essence of humankind, or what it 'means' to be human. This usage has proven to be controversial in that there is dispute as to whether or not such an essence actually exists.

Arguments about human nature have been a central focus of philosophy for centuries and the concept continues to provoke lively philosophical debate.[5][6][7] While both concepts are distinct from one another, discussions regarding human nature are typically related to those regarding the comparative importance of genes and environment in human development (i.e., 'nature versus nurture'). Accordingly, the concept also continues to play a role in fields of science, such as neuroscience, psychology, and social science (such as sociology), in which various theorists claim to have yielded insight into human nature.[8][9][10][11] Human nature is traditionally contrasted with human attributes that vary among societies, such as those associated with specific cultures.

The concept of nature as a standard by which to make judgments is traditionally said to have begun in Greek philosophy, at least in regard to its heavy influence on Western and Middle Eastern languages and perspectives.[12] By late antiquity and medieval times, the particular approach that came to be dominant was that of Aristotle's teleology, whereby human nature was believed to exist somehow independently of individuals, causing humans to simply become what they become. This, in turn, has been understood as also demonstrating a special connection between human nature and divinity, whereby human nature is understood in terms of final and formal causes. More specifically, this perspective believes that nature itself (or a nature-creating divinity) has intentions and goals, including the goal for humanity to live naturally. Such understandings of human nature see this nature as an "idea", or "form" of a human.[13] However, the existence of this invariable and metaphysical human nature is subject of much historical debate, continuing into modern times.

Against Aristotle's notion 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. In his Emile, or On Education, Rousseau wrote: "We do not know what our nature permits us to be."[14] Since the early 19th century, such thinkers as Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Sartre, as well as structuralists and postmodernists more generally, have also sometimes argued against a fixed or innate human nature.

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution has particularly changed the shape of the discussion, supporting the proposition that mankind's ancestors were not like mankind today. Still, more recent scientific perspectives—such as behaviorism, determinism, and the chemical model within modern psychiatry and psychology—claim to be neutral regarding human nature. As in much of modern science, such disciplines seek to explain with little or no recourse to metaphysical causation.[15] They can

Arguments about human nature have been a central focus of philosophy for centuries and the concept continues to provoke lively philosophical debate.[5][6][7] While both concepts are distinct from one another, discussions regarding human nature are typically related to those regarding the comparative importance of genes and environment in human development (i.e., 'nature versus nurture'). Accordingly, the concept also continues to play a role in fields of science, such as neuroscience, psychology, and social science (such as sociology), in which various theorists claim to have yielded insight into human nature.[8][9][10][11] Human nature is traditionally contrasted with human attributes that vary among societies, such as those associated with specific cultures.

The concept of nature as a standard by which to make judgments is traditionally said to have begun in Greek philosophy, at least in regard to its heavy influence on Western and Middle Eastern languages and perspectives.[12] By late antiquity and medieval times, the particular approach that came to be dominant was that of Aristotle's teleology, whereby human nature was believed to exist somehow independently of individuals, causing humans to simply become what they become. This, in turn, has been understood as also demonstrating a special connection between human nature and divinity, whereby human nature is understood in terms of final and formal causes. More specifically, this perspective believes that nature itself (or a nature-creating divinity) has intentions and goals, including the goal for humanity to live naturally. Such understandings of human nature see this nature as an "idea", or "form" of a human.[13] However, the existence of this invariable and metaphysical human nature is subject of much historical debate, continuing into modern times.

Against Aristotle's notion 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. In his Emile, or On Education, Rousseau wrote: "We do not know what our nature permits us to be."[14] Since the early 19th century, such thinkers as Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Sartre, as well as structuralists and postmodernists more generally, have also sometimes argued against a fixed or innate human nature.

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution has particularly changed the shape of the discussion, supporting the proposition that mankind's ancestors were not like mankind today. Still, more recent scientific perspectives—such as behaviorism, determinism, and the chemical model within modern psychiatry and psychology—claim to be neutral regarding human nature. As in much of modern science, such disciplines seek to explain with little or no recourse to metaphysical causation.[15] They can be offered to explain the origins of human nature and its underlying mechanisms, or to demonstrate capacities for change and diversity which would arguably violate the concept of a fixed human nature.

Philosophy in classical Greece is the ultimate origin of the Western conception of the nature of things.[12]

According to Aristotle, the philosophical study of human nature itself originated with Socrates, who turned philosophy from study of the heavens to study of the human things.[16] Though leaving no written works, Socrates is said to have studied the question of how a person should best live. It is clear from the works of his students, Plato and Xenophon, and also from the accounts of Aristotle (Plato's student), 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, amongst Islamic, Christian, and Jewish philosophers.

The human soul in the works of Plato and Aristotle has a nature that is divided in a specifically human way. One part is specifically human and rational, being further divided into (1) a part which is rational on its own; and (2) 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 (epithūmíā).[17] 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

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: An animal that is born to couple in adulthood. In doing so, man builds a household (oikos) and, in more successful cases, a clan or small village still run upon patriarchal lines.[18]
  • Man is a political animal: An animal with an innate propensity to develop more complex communities (i.e. the size of a city or town), with systems of law-making and a division of labor. This type of community is different in kind from a large family, and requires the special use of human reason.[19]
  • Man is a mimetic animal: Man loves to use his imagination, and not only to make laws and run town councils: "[W]e enjoy looking at accurate likenesses of things which are themselves painful to see, obscene beasts, for instance, and corpses.… [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.'"[20]

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 our best. Much of Aristotle's description of human nature is still influential today. However, the particular teleological idea that humans are "meant" or intended to be something has become much less popular in modern times.[21]

Theory of four causes

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, whereby every living thing exhibits four aspects, or "causes:"

  1. matter (hyle);
  2. form (eidos);
  3. effect (kinoun); and
  4. end (telos).

For example, an oak tree is made of plant cells (matter); grows from an acorn (effect); exhibits the nature of oak trees (form); and grows into a fully mature oak tree (end). According to Aristotle, human nature is an example of a formal cause. Likewise, our 'end' is to become a fully actualized human being (including fully actualizing the mind). Aristotle suggests that the human intellect (νοῦς

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, whereby every living thing exhibits four aspects, or "causes:"

  1. matter (hyle);
  2. form (eidos);
  3. oak tree is made of plant cells (matter); grows from an acorn (effect); exhibits the nature of oak trees (form); and grows into a fully mature oak tree (end). According to Aristotle, human nature is an example of a formal cause. Likewise, our 'end' is to become a fully actualized human being (including fully actualizing the mind). Aristotle suggests that the human intellect (νοῦς, noûs), while "smallest in bulk", is the most significant part of the human psyche and should be cultivated above all else.[22] The cultivation of learning and intellectual growth of the philosopher is thereby also the happiest and least painful life.

    Chinese philosophy

    Confucianism

    Mencius argues that human nature is good,[23][25] understanding human nature as the innate tendency to an ideal state that's expected to be formed under the right conditions.[26] Therefore, humans have the capacity to be good, even though they are not all good.[26]

    According to Mencian theory, human nature contains four beginnings (; duan) of morality:[27]

    1. a sense of compassion that develops into benevolence (; ren);
    2. a sense of shame and disdain that develops into righteousness (; yi);
    3. a sense of respect and courtesy that develops

      Mencius argues that human nature is good,[23][25] understanding human nature as the innate tendency to an ideal state that's expected to be formed under the right conditions.[26] Therefore, humans have the capacity to be good, even though they are not all good.[26]

      According to Mencian theory, human nature contains four beginnings (; duan) of morality:[27]According to Mencian theory, human nature contains four beginnings (; duan) of morality:[27]

      The beginnings of morality are characterized by both affective motivations and intuitive judgments, such as what's right and wrong, deferential, respectful, or disdainful.[27]

      In Mencius' view, goodness is the result of the development of innate tendencies toward the virtues of benevolence, righteousness, wisdom, and propriety.[25] The tendencies are manifested in moral emotions for every human being.[25] Reflection (; si) upon the manifestations of the four beginnings leads to the development of virtues.[25] It brings recognition that virtue takes precedence over satisfaction, but a lack of reflection inhibits moral development.[27] In other words, humans have a constitution comprising emotional predispositions that direct them to goodness.[25]

      Mencius also addresses the question why the capacity for evil is not grounded in human nature.[25] The tendencies are manifested in moral emotions for every human being.[25] Reflection (; si) upon the manifestations of the four beginnings leads to the development of virtues.[25] It brings recognition that virtue takes precedence over satisfaction, but a lack of reflection inhibits moral development.[27] In other words, humans have a constitution comprising emotional predispositions that direct them to goodness.[25]

      Mencius also addresses the question why the capacity for evil is not grounded in human nature.[25] If an individual becomes bad, it is not the result of his or her constitution, as their constitution contains the emotional predispositions that direct to goodness, but a matter of injuring or not fully developing his or her constitution in the appropriate direction.[25] He recognizes desires of the senses as natural predispositions distinct from the four beginnings.[27] People can be misled and led astray by their desires if they do not engage their ethical motivations.[25] He therefore places responsibility on people to reflect on the manifestations of the four beginnings.[27] Herein, it is not the function of ears and eyes but the function of the heart to reflect, as sensory organs are associated with sensual desires but the heart is the seat of feeling and thinking.[28] Mencius considers core virtues—benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom—as internal qualities that humans originally possess, so people can not attain full satisfaction by solely pursuits of self-interest due to their innate morality.[29] Wong (2018) underscores that Mencius' characterization of human nature as good means that "it contains predispositions to feel and act in morally appropriate ways and to make intuitive normative judgments that can with the right nurturing conditions give human beings guidance as to the proper emphasis to be given to the desires of the senses."[27]

      Mencius sees ritual (i.e., the standard for how humans should treat and interact with each other) as an outward expression of the inherent moral sense in human nature.[29]

      Mencius' view of ritual is in contrast to Xunzi, who does not view moral sense as an innate part of human nature.[30] Rather, a moral sense is acquired through learning, in which one engages in and reflects upon a set of ritual practices.[30] Xunzi's claim that human nature is bad, according to Ivanhoe (1994), means that humans do not have a conception of morality and therefore must acquire it through learning, lest destructive and alienating competition inevitably arises from human desire.[30]

      Xunzi understands human nature as the basic faculties, capacities, and desires that people have from birth.[26] He argues that human nature is evil and that any goodness is the result of human

      Xunzi understands human nature as the basic faculties, capacities, and desires that people have from birth.[26] He argues that human nature is evil and that any goodness is the result of human activity.[23][31] It is human nature to seek profit, because humans desire for sensory satisfaction.[31] Xunzi states that "Now the nature of man is evil. It must depend on teachers and laws to become correct and achieve propriety and righteousness and then it becomes disciplined."[23] He underscores that goodness comes from the traits and habits acquired through conscious actions, which he calls artifice (; wei).[26] Therefore, morality is seen as a human artifice but not as a part of human nature.[32]

      Human nature is one of the major pillars of Legalism in China.[33] However, Legalists do not concern themselves with whether human goodness or badness is inborn, and whether human beings possess the fundamental qualities associated with that nature.[33]

      Legalists see the overwhelming majority of human beings as selfish in nature.[33] They hold the view that human nature is evil, in which individuals are driven by selfishness.[34] Therefore, people are not expected to always behave morally.[33] For instance, due to the corrupt nature of humans, Legalists did not trust that officials would carry out their duties in a fair and impartial manner.[35] There is a perpetual political struggle, characterized by conflict among contending human actors and interests, where individuals are easily tempted due to their selfish nature at the expense of others.[34]

      According to Legalism, selfishness in human nature can not b

      Legalists see the overwhelming majority of human beings as selfish in nature.[33] They hold the view that human nature is evil, in which individuals are driven by selfishness.[34] Therefore, people are not expected to always behave morally.[33] For instance, due to the corrupt nature of humans, Legalists did not trust that officials would carry out their duties in a fair and impartial manner.[35] There is a perpetual political struggle, characterized by conflict among contending human actors and interests, where individuals are easily tempted due to their selfish nature at the expense of others.[34]

      According to Legalism, selfishness in human nature can not be eliminated or altered by education or self-cultivation.[33][36] It dismisses the possibility that people can overcome their selfishness and considers the possibility that people can be driven by moral commitment to be exceptionally rare.[33] Legalists do not see the individual morality of both the rulers or the ruled as an important concern in a political system.[33] Instead, Legalist thinkers such as Han Fei emphasize clear and impersonal norms and standards (such as laws, regulations, and rules) as the basis to maintain order.[33]

      As human nature has an unchanging selfish but satiable core, Han Fei argues that competition for external goods during times of scarcity produces disorder, while times of abundance simply mean that people do not fall back into chaos and conflict but not that they are necessarily nice.[36] Additionally, Han Fei argues that people are all motivated by their unchanging selfish core to want whatever advantage they can gain from whomever they can gain such advantage, which especially comes to expression in situations where people can act with impunity.[36]

      Legalists posit that human selfishness can be an asset rather than a threat to a state.[33] It is axiomatic in Legalism that the government can not be staffed by upright and trustworthy men of service, because every member of the elite—like any member of society—will pursue their own interests and thus must be employed for their interests.[33] Herein, individuals must be allowed to pursue their selfish interests exclusively in a manner that benefits rather than contradicts the needs of a state.[33] Therefore, a political system that presupposes this human selfishness is the only viable system.[33] In contrast, a political system based on trust and respect (rather than impersonal norms and standards) brings great concern with regard to an ongoing and irresolvable power struggle.[33] Rather, checks and controls must be in place to limit the subversion of the system by its actors (such as ministers and other officials).[33] Legalists view the usage of reward and punishment as effective political controls, as it is in human nature to have likes and dislikes.[34] For instance, according to the Legalist statesman Shang Yang, it is crucial to investigate the disposition of people in terms of rewards and penalties when a law is established.[33] He explains that a populace can not be driven to pursuits of agriculture or warfare if people consider these to be bitter or dangerous on the basis of calculations about their possible benefits, but people can be directed toward these pursuits through the application of positive and negative incentives.[33] As an implication of the selfish core in human nature, Han Fei remarks that "Those who act as ministers fear the penalties and hope to profit by the rewards."[36]

      In Han Fei's view, the only realistic option is a political system that produces equivalents of junzi (君子, who are virtuous exemplars in Confucianism) but not junzi.[36] This does not mean, however, that Han Fei makes a distinction between seeming and being good, as he does not entertain the idea that humans are good.[36] Rather, as human nature is constituted by self-interest, he argues that humans can be shaped behaviorally to yield social order if it is in the individual's own self-interest to abide by the norms (i.e., different interests are aligned to each other and the social good), which is most efficiently ensured if the norms are publicly and impartially enforced.[36]

      In Christian theology, there are two ways of "conceiving human nature:" The first is "spiritual, Biblical, and theistic"; and the second is "natural, cosmical, and anti-theistic".[37]:6 The focus in this section is on the former. As William James put it in his study of human nature from a religious perspective, "religion" has a "department of human nature".[38]

      Various views of human nature have been held by theologians. However, there are some "basic assertions" in all "biblical anthropology:"[39]

      1. "Humankind has its origin in God, its creator."
      2. "Humans bear the 'image of God'."
      3. Humans are "to rule the rest of

        Various views of human nature have been held by theologians. However, there are some "basic assertions" in all "biblical anthropology:"[39]

        The Bible contains no single "doctrine of human nature". Rather, it provides material for more philosophical descriptions of human nature.[40] For example, Creation as found in the Book of Genesis provides a theory on human nature.[41]

        Catechism of the Catholic Church, under the chapter "Dignity of the human person", provides an article about man

        Catechism of the Catholic Church, under the chapter "Dignity of the human person", provides an article about man as image of God, vocation to beatitude, freedom, human acts, passions, moral conscience, virtues, and sin.[42]

        As originally created, the Bible describes "two elements" in human nature: "the body and the breath or spirit of life breathed into it by God". By this was created a "living soul", meaning a "living person".[43] According to Genesis 1:27, this living person was made in the "image of God".[44] From the biblical perspective, "to be human is to bear the image of God."[45]:18

Hull reasons that properties universally shared by all members of a certain species are usually also possessed by members of other species, whereas properties exclusively possessed by the members of

Periodically a biological species might be characterized by one or more characters which are both universally distributed among and limited to the organisms belonging to that species, but such states of affairs are temporary, contingent and relatively rare.

Hull reasons that properties universally shared by all members of a certain species are usually also possessed by members of other species, whereas properties exclusively possessed by the members of a certain species are rarely possessed by all members of that species. For these reasons, Hull observes that, in contemporary evolutionary taxonomy, belonging to a particular species does not depend on the possession of any specific intrinsic properties. Rather, it depends on standing in the right kind of relations (relations of genealogy or interbreeding, depending on the precise species concept being used) to other members of the species. Consequently, there can be no intrinsic properties that define what it is to be a member of the species Homo sapiens. Individual organisms, including humans, are part of a species by virtue of their relations with other members of the same species, not shared intrinsic properties.

According

According to Hull, the moral significance of his argument lies in its impact on the biologically legitimate basis for the concept of "human rights". While it has long been argued that there is a sound basis for "human rights" in the idea that all human beings are essentially the same, should Hull's criticism work, such a basis – at least on a biological level – would disappear. Nevertheless, Hull does not perceive this to be a fundamental for human rights, because people can choose to continue respecting human rights even without sharing the same human nature.[87]

Several contemporary philosophers have attempted to defend the notion of human nature against charges that it is incompatible with modern evolutionary biology by proposing alternative interpretations. They claim that the concept of human nature continues to bear relevance in the fields of neuroscience and biology. Many have proposed non-essentialist notions. Others have argued that, even if Darwinism has shown that any attempt to base species membership on "intrinsic essential properties" is untenable, essences can still be "relational" – this would be consistent with the interbreeding, ecological, and phylogenetic species concepts, which are accepted by modern evolutionary biology.[93] These attempts aim to make Darwinism compatible with a certain conception of human nature which is stable across time.

"Nomological" account (Machery)