Is the concept that there is a set of inherent distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that all humans tend to have.
The questions of what causes these distinguishing characteristics of humanity and in turn how fixed human nature is are amongst the oldest and most important questions in western philosophy. They have particularly important implications in ethics, politics and theology because human nature is seen as providing standards or norms that humans can use when judging how best to live either as individuals, or members of a community.
In pre-modern scientific understandings of nature, human nature is understood with reference to final and formal causes. Such understandings imply the existence of an ideal, "idea," or "form" of a human which exists independently of individual humans. This in turn is sometimes understood to imply the existence of a divine interest in human nature, and indeed the concepts of formal and final cause are today often associated with attempts to reconcile religious and scientific understandings of nature.
The existence of an invariable human nature is 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 modern thinkers as Robert Merrifield and his brother Allen.
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.
Spiritual versus natural... [continues]
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