Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that humans tend to have naturally, independently of the influence of culture. The questions of what these characteristics are, what causes them, and how fixed human nature is, are amongst the oldest and most important questions in western philosophy. These questions have particularly important implications in ethics, politics, and theology. 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 and literature, while the multiple branches of the Humanities together form an important domain of inquiry into human nature, and the question of what it is to be human.
The branches of contemporary science associated with the study of human nature include anthropology, sociology, sociobiology, and psychology, particularly evolutionary psychology, and developmental psychology. The "nature versus nurture" debate is a broadly inclusive and well-known instance of a discussion about human nature in the natural sciences.
1.1 Socratic philosophy
1.3 Natural science
2 See also
4 Further reading
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.
(Notions and concepts of human nature from China, Japan or India are not taken up in the present discussion.)
On this subject, the approach of Socrates, 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. Such understandings of human nature see this nature as an "idea," or "form" 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.
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, the latter of whom stated: “
We do not know what our nature permits us to be. – Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile
Since the early 19th century, thinkers such as Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, structuralists and postmodernists have also sometimes argued against a fixed or innate human nature.
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 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 in classical Greece 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, 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 and Xenophon, and also what was said by Aristotle (Plato's student) about...
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