The Concept of Human Nature
Those who defend human nature argue that humans are essentially good and that they can only become bad by the choices they make. This belief is rooted in the ancient Chinese philosophy of Mencius and Wang Yangming.
One way to understand human nature is through nomological accounts. These account circumscribe properties that are shared by all humans as a result of evolution.
Human nature is good
Human nature is a controversial concept that has provoked much debate throughout history. Some philosophers believe that humans have a good nature that is corrupted by society, while others believe that we have a bad nature that is kept in check by society. Regardless of the perspective, most philosophers agree that it is important to understand our fundamental characteristics. One way to do this is by looking at the behavior of babies. Babies have the least amount of cultural influence, making them the perfect example of human nature.
A key challenge for the concept of human nature is that it must be compatible with evolutionary biology. Some contemporary philosophers have argued that the concept of human nature is incompatible with modern evolutionary biology, while others have proposed alternative interpretations. These non-essentialist interpretations attempt to make the notion of human nature compatible with evolution. In particular, they attempt to replace the traditional notion of an intrinsic essential property with a more complex model that includes genetic, ecological, and phylogenetic species concepts.
Human nature is bad
The concept of human nature has been the subject of centuries of debate and continues to be a source of interest in many fields, including biology and philosophy. Some philosophers believe that humans are naturally good and any evil in them is the result of society’s influence. Others believe that humans are born with an evil nature and must learn to overcome it.
One way to understand the concept of human nature is as a set of predispositions that are the result of one’s environment. This idea of human nature contrasts with the more cynical view that assumes all people are self-interested and only act out of necessity.
The term ‘human nature’ is often used as a generalized grouping of properties that are the focus of current behavioural, cognitive and social science. However, it can also be used as a taxonomic label for the properties that distinguish an organism as part of the Homo sapiens species.
Human nature is intangible
There is a broad debate over whether human nature is fixed or malleable. Some believe that human nature is intangible and cannot be changed, while others believe that it can be changed through education and experience. The truth is likely somewhere in between.
A third way to construe human nature is to take the term in a non-normative sense. In this case, it is seen as a set of microstructural properties that figure decisively in explanations and that are causally responsible for the manifesting of morphological and behavioural properties typical of the human species.
This approach is very different from the slogan that has traditionally dominated discussions of human nature in Western philosophy, namely that humans are rational animals. It is also open to temporally indexed investigations of what it is that can be regarded as human nature. For example, if it turns out that skin colour is polymorphic, then the phenomenon of dark skinnedness can be considered to have been part of human nature in the past but not now.
Human nature is a gift
In general, people are attracted to good and revolted by evil. This principle is echoed in the Confucian and Buddhist traditions, and also in Western philosophy from Socrates to Habermas. There are, however, some concerns about this idea.
For one, some think that human nature is too broad a concept to have normative significance. This is because the term human nature encompasses many different aspects of humans, including their physical appearance, mental abilities, and social skills.
Another concern is that human nature is a nomological notion, i.e., it circumscribes a set of properties that are common to all humans. This may not have the kinds of explanatory or descriptive functions that philosophers and scientists expect from the concept. However, Machery argues that the nomological conception of human nature still fulfils many roles. For example, it provides a conceptual tool for picking out what is shared among humans and thus can be used to make scientific or psychological generalizations about them.