Talk:Human nature

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old discussion on similarity with nature versus nurture[edit]

ěCan anyone suggest a principled distinction between this article and nature versus nurture, as the two seem to be headed along redundant paths? --Ryguasu 21:46 26 Jun 2003 (UTC)

The title "nature versus nurture" suggests a dichotomous framework for thinking about human behavior. The title of this article is open as to whether the proper framework is dichotomous or trichotomous or some higher number of hotomouses! I believe there's a principled distinction and this article ought to stay, but I acknowledge its development thus far hasn't been promising. I hope to work on it. --Christofurio 12:23, Sep 22, 2004 (UTC)


As it stands, this article is pretty feeble. Without citations, the paragraphs under the "Arguments for innate behaviour" heading are merely anecdotal. I don't think there is much chance for a NPOV here, the nature versus nurture article would probably be the better place for any discussion on the subject. Shoehorn 22:28, 25 Aug 2003 (UTC)


I'm curious. Why is "the way we use our eyes" preferable to "how we use our eyes"? I have problems with the most recent editing job than that, but I'll start with that, because in this instance I didn't write the phrase that's now being changed, so it should be obvious no "agenda" of mine (except for the truth-seeking agenda) is at stake.

My edit wasn't just about your agenda (so to speak). It was a general edit. In the example you mentioned, I just thought "the way we use our eyes" sounded better. -- Mihnea Tudoreanu 20:16, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I'm reminded of the story of a very dedicated grammarian on his deathbed. All his friends leaned in to hear the scholar's final words. He said, "'I am about to leave this world,' 'I will soon leave this world,' -- either expression is correct." --Christofurio 16:07, Oct 2, 2004 (UTC)

Revision for accuracy[edit]

In the section Metaphysics and Ethics, I changed "in the image of" to "by a single", as the original definition was not inclusive of all representative belief systems.

Subheads needed?[edit]

And, okay, I accept your deletion of my heading on Austrian intellectuals, which linked together two very different schools of thought on the slender basis of a connection to Austria. Point taken. But do we need a subhead or two within our survey of what social theorists since Plato have said re: human nature?

Well, the section includes one or two paragraphs on every thinker, so we have the choice between making innumerable single-paragraph sections or keeping the current structure with one single large section. I vote for the latter option. -- Mihnea Tudoreanu 16:49, 3 Oct 2004 (UTC)
We'll stick with this structure for now. If it gets too bulky, we'll have to reconsider. BTW, I just made a change without logging in first, so it may appear that I tried to do something anonymously. Nothing could be further from the truth -- you know by now that anonymity and sock puppets aren't my style. ;-) --Christofurio 15:43, Oct 5, 2004 (UTC)
We can't really say that "furthermore" after criticizing Marxist theory, Freud just happened to criticize the Bolsheviks. That makes it sounds as if the two points are utterly unrelated, and they aren't (either in Freud's mind, the relevant texts, or in the history of Russia). I replaced it with the phrase "in that spirit," which creates a nice parallelism to the use of the same phrase a few sentences before. BTW, you might be interested in the Martin Miller book on this issue that I've cited at bottom of the article. --Christofurio 15:43, Oct 5, 2004 (UTC)
Seems reasonable. I agree with this latest version, except for the removal of that economics-related sentence of mine. From reading your paragraph, one might conclude that the idea of humans having bounded rationality is disputed by Marxists, which is not (or at least usually not) the case. The dispute is elsewhere, and that's what my sentence was trying to convey. -- Mihnea Tudoreanu 11:12, 6 Oct 2004 (UTC)
There are several key points about bounded rationality. (a) no set of planners are free of it, not even a set that thinks of itself as a "vanguard" of the "progressive class" -- so no one is qualified to plan an economy, and (b) this isn't something that is true only of one stage of history, subject to some further twist of our wondrous "adaptability" -- it has always been the case and by all appearances will always remain the case that our rationality is bounded, and no one qualified to plan, furthermore (c) my rationality is best adapted to make decisions about my utilities in my circumstances, yours is best adapted to make decisions about your utilities in your circumstances. I'd be happy to spell this all out in the article and then we can work on the wording of what in there Marxists do or don't quarrel with. But your sentence takes us off into the discussion of economics, rather than the basis of that science within human nature, which is where I'd like to stay. --Christofurio 14:23, Oct 8, 2004 (UTC)
Oh, please excuse me, I wasn't aware the Austrian School had elevated capitalism to the status of religion. Because that's what your description of "bounded rationality" sounds like: quasi-religious mysticism. "Mysterious are the ways of the market, and thou shalt not interfere with it, because thou art stupid". Philosophically, it seems Marxists hold the humanist moral high ground, since you attempt to degrade human beings to the status of dumb animals who cannot possibly comprehend, let alone control, the "forces of nature" (or, in this case, the forces of the market). I am tempted to ask you whether you have been living under a rock for the past 500 years. Human knowledge has expanded with incredible speed - and at a practically exponential rate - during these past few centuries. We are learning how to build ever more complex things - and you think that something like a national economy is beyond our understanding? It may be far beyond the understanding of any single planner, of course - just like no single human being knows how to build an aircraft carrier - but two minds are better than one, and three minds are better than two. The rationality of any single human being may be bounded, but the rationality of Humanity is limitless. To claim that "no one is qualified to plan an economy" is the same as claiming that "no one is qualified to build a skyscraper". It is perfectly true that no single person is qualified to build a skyscraper. But a team of people with different skills, working together, can build a skyscraper quite easily.
And finally, there is the argument that even imperfect order would be preferable to chaos.
But to sum up, your views strike me as something right out of the Dark Ages, and going directly against all the things that have been proven time and time again by history (human ingenuity, resourcefullness, and ability to understand and build ever more complex structures). However, you have proven that Marxists do actually dispute this idea of "bounded rationality" (or at least your version of it), so I agree with the current version of the article. -- Mihnea Tudoreanu 14:18, 9 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I'm not sure what the "humanist high ground" is, or why I should want to live there. It sounds like some planet other than earth. Have you been around for the last forty years or so, during a period when one of the major developments in the sciences has been the evolution of chaos theory and fractal geometry in their broadest applications? The human species now understands that the limits to, say, weather prediction aren't at all mysterious, and aren't just a temporary problem awaiting stronger computers. So long as it remains impossible to know the location of every butterfly on the planet and how it's flapping its wings, it will remain impossible to know in detail about the path of the next tornado in Texas. --Christofurio 14:20, Oct 11, 2004 (UTC)

First of all: Tsk, tsk, tsk... you should learn a little patience, my friend. It seems you were under the horribly mistaken impression that I was going to let you get away with all this without any further reply. You should have taken a look over at my recent contributions page, and perhaps then you would have noticed that I simply haven't been active on Wikipedia for the past few days - there is such a thing as real life, you know.
But now that we've got that unfortunate little misunderstanding out of the way, let us resume our discussion.
You seem to do a pretty good job of tearing up your own argument. I quote: "The human species now understands that the limits to, say, weather prediction aren't at all mysterious, and aren't just a temporary problem awaiting stronger computers." Indeed, that is precisely what I have been trying to explain! Our ability to understand complex systems (such as the weather, or the much less complex system of the market) has nothing to do with any mystical limitations to our rationality. It's all a matter of processing power. A brain has a limited amount of processing power. Two brains have double that amount of processing power. Three brains have triple that amount. And so on. ANY system, no matter how complex, can be perfectly understood if you've got a large enough number of brains (i.e. persons) working on it. Furthermore, we can get hold of much additional processing power by building computers. With a large enough number of people and computers, the weather can be predicted with a very high degree of accuracy - and so can the trends of the economy. If your computers are powerful enough, you can have a near-perfect planned economy. -- Mihnea Tudoreanu 18:43, 14 Oct 2004 (UTC)

The problem, though, isn't just that I believe your notion of a collective humanity that is utterly unbounded in its rationality to be lacking in realism -- to be, itself, as mystical as any view ever expressed. "Mysterious are the ways of the collective will of the species, and thou shalt not interfere with it, unless thou be a member of the vanguard," to adapt your own formulation -- if you were only fantasizing I could allow your freedom of religion unperturbed. But those who believe that they represent something truly unbounded are, quite naturally, intolerant of those of us who stand in its way -- so I must be ready to resist for the sake of pursuing my own rationality, in my bounded (humble) way looking only for self interest and not for anything as grand as the unbounded fire-river. How does one spell "fire-river" in German, by the way?

The above paragraph screams STRAW MAN out of every sentence. First of all, let me make myself clear: Humanity can only be utterly unbounded in its rationality if it contains an infinite number of human beings. In practice, the collective rationality of Humanity is limited by the maximum possible number of human beings that can physically exist in the Universe. Second of all, the statement "thou shalt not interfere with the collective will of the species" is completely nonsensical, since the "collective will" is only the sum of all individual wills. Telling a human being not to interfere with the collective is like telling a neuron not to interfere with the brain. Such a thing would be bad for the neuron, and bad for the brain. Third of all, when did I ever mention anything about any "vanguard"? You assume that I am a strict Leninist, and I'm afraid you assume wrong. I see a very limited role for the vanguard of the proletariat, and that role only exists before the revolution. Fourth of all, you seem utterly incapable of understanding the communist position. Our ideal is the utilitarian ideal: The greatest good for the greatest number. Intolerance and rigidity does nothing to further that goal - on the contrary, dogmatism greatly reduces one's capacity to react and adapt to changes. Dogmatism imposed on society is the surest way to guarantee the death of that society. -- Mihnea Tudoreanu 18:41, 14 Oct 2004 (UTC)

It is interesting, since I've mentioned a certain famous butterfly, that you should talk about building a "national economy" as the task for hypothetical planners. Is there such a thing as a national economy? Or is it more accurate to say that there is only one economy, and it includes the whole species over the whole globe? A "national economy" is like a national weather map -- none of the pertinent forces stop at its borders.

Indeed. The phrase "national economy" was just something I used for lack of a better term. I didn't want to get too far ahead of myself and talk about the entire global economy being planned - although that is, of course, one thing I would love to see. -- Mihnea Tudoreanu 18:41, 14 Oct 2004 (UTC)

That isn't religion. It's science. On such issues, contemporary science supports the old Austrian insights.

Oh really? You have already described what science has shown (see a few paragraphs above), and I have already thanked you for it, because it provided a powerful argument in favour of my position, not yours. If the Austrian School says that we can never know better than the market, then science has clearly shown the Austrian School to be wrong. There is no reason why we cannot gather the necessary amount of data and processing power to make a planned economy far better than the market. There is no mystical limitation to our rationality embedded in some sort of "human nature" - there are only the physical limits of our brains and our computers, which can be pushed further by getting more people to work on an issue and by building better computers. -- Mihnea Tudoreanu 18:43, 14 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Yes, people with different skills working together can build skyscrapers. They don't do so by voting on competing blueprints. They do so by co-ordinating in a manner that recognizes the value of specialization -- something markets bring about very well, and public planning does only very clumsily. Still, a skyscraper is that is child's play compared to the organization of all material and human resources all around the globe -- which is what "the economy" is, nothing less. But it isn't always in the broad interests of society that the skyscraper be built, is it? Isn't it rather Stakhanovite of you to suppose that the more skyscrapers the better? Skyscrapers can represent the conglomeration of wealth and power in a few urban centers, and public decisions that subsidize skyscrapers subsidize that centralization, although market forces might be working centrifugally. My own view is that a skyscraper that doesn't turn a profit in a free market is a misdirection of resources.

And if saving a man's life does not turn a profit, is that also a "misdirection of resources"? But going back to my skyscraper example, you should notice that its construction is planned to the tiniest detail. That was my point - a point which you've unsuccessfully attempted to avoid. The people who build the skyscraper are not co-ordinated by any sort of market. They are co-ordinated by a planned structure, and they do a damn good job. Similar examples can be found in every field of human endeavour. We are already planning the organization of all material and human resources on a "local" or "micro" level. All we need is to expand that concept to the "macro" level.
But who said that "the more skyscrapers the better"? I only gave the skyscraper as an example of a very large structure built entirely through careful planning. -- Mihnea Tudoreanu 18:41, 14 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Nor is it necessarily clear how majorities would make such a decision even if we agreed they should. A majority of the neighbors of the planned skyscraper? Of the province? the nation? the world? should someone living at the planetary antipodes of the proposed skyscraper have one vote in a world referendum on it and its nearest neighbor also have just one vote?

You seem to deliberately avoid answering your own question, although the answer is quite obvious. There isn't a single level of planning. There are local issues (like building a road) and global issues (like inter-continental trade). The local and global planners communicate in order to co-ordinate their activities. The global plan is more general (i.e. "more office space is needed in city X, and you have Y resources to build it"), while the local plan goes into details (i.e. "we will create the extra office space by building a skyscraper, with the following characteristics..."). -- Mihnea Tudoreanu 18:43, 14 Oct 2004 (UTC)

How THAT decision is made, is the real problem. That is where the bounds of rationality become crucial. And, no -- two minds are not necessarily better than one, nor are three better than two, nor is a majority better than a minority, (there is old folk wisdom in the saying "too many cooks spoil the broth" and I see no good reason for humanism to require the denial of that possibility) nor is some appointed "vanguard" of any theorist's "progressive class" better than any other possible self-appointed elite (say, the army's Generals?) for making such decisions. Better to leave them unmade except by the forces of spontaneous order, and to turn over the world's armies to private investors too, while we're at it -- so that these frankly mercenary outfits will also be subject to those forces.

You are right about one thing: Self-appointed "elites" are worthless. As I have already asked you a few paragraphs above, when did I ever mention anything about any "vanguard"? If you assume that I am a strict Leninist, then I'm afraid you assume wrong. As for the fact that two minds are better than one, we have already been over this subject twice. Two minds DO have more processing power than one. And "too many cooks spoil the broth" only if the cooks don't work together properly. In addition, we now have those things called "computers" which can be used to analyze and plan ever more complex structures.
Oh, and by the way, some places have already turned the army over to private investors - places like Somalia, for example. Or Iraq, for that matter. I heard it's very profitable to be a warlord in Afghanistan too. If that's your vision of an ideal world, why don't you go to one of these wonderful places to enjoy it? -- Mihnea Tudoreanu 19:12, 14 Oct 2004 (UTC)

"And finally," you tell me, "there is the argument that even imperfect order would be preferable to chaos." Yes, there is that. Some good guess about what the weather is, might well be better than a shrug. But your assumption that spontaneous order, that which arises from the higgle-haggle of rational beings each looking out for his/her own interest, is "chaos" in the negative sense you require is simply your assumption. It isn't supported by the latest results of that 500 year old enterprise called science that we both respect -- because those latest results have given the word a more positive connotation.

Coming from someone who champions the utterly unfounded assumption that "spontaneous order" is naturally better than any other kind of order, your comments are very funny - in a hypocritical sort of way. Especially since that little branch of science called History supports my views, not yours. Tell me, where was your magical "spontaneous order" during the Dark Ages? In fact, almost in every case, order (any kind of order) has proven better than chaos (which I define as "letting things run themselves with no regulatory interference", just so as to avoid any kind of confusion). -- Mihnea Tudoreanu 19:12, 14 Oct 2004 (UTC)

At any rate, I'm glad I've persuaded you that this is a crucial difference in the Austrian/Marxist view of human nature. It looks like I'm spreading good cheer as usual. Check out the liberty article when you get a chance. I've made some recent additions there you might also enjoy. --Christofurio 14:15, Oct 10, 2004 (UTC)

Oh, don't worry, I'll certainly go have a look when I get the time. Until then, I'm also happy that we've reached an agreement on the Human Nature article - although this little debate looks like it's going to be very time-consuming. -- Mihnea Tudoreanu 19:12, 14 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Not so Horribly Mistaken[edit]

I am not sure where you got the "impression" that I was under the "horribly mistaken impression" that you wouldn't respond to my thoughts. From my creation of a separate subhead for them? That was an aesthetic decision, of no predictive significance whatsoever. I'm always glad to see your thoughts and had no beliefs at all about how much time it would require you to return to this page -- that is your concern, of course, not mine.

Likewise, how you label yourself is your concern and not mine, but if you don't believe that there is a need for an enlightened "vanguard" of the working class than your self-labelling as a Trotskyite may be a tad heterodox. But let me move on to concerns that are as much my concern as yours.

The comparison of human individuals with neurons in the brain strikes me as an extraordinarily dangerous one, as if leading up to the decision to treat dissidents as tumor cells, which of course have to be removed (killed) for the good of the whole organ. The humanist high ground? But if we must have such a horribly organicist image, let us acknowledge that these neurons decide how they interact. They can't decide each to live as a hermit, but they can decide to interact by buying, selling, and investing rather than by voting.

After all, that is how skyscrapers generally do get built. Some people invest by buying the stocks or bonds of a construction company. Its managers hire subcontractors, who hire employees, some of whom are architects, others of whom are brick-layers, etc. The neurons interact by buying goods and services from one another, on terms driven by supply and demand, like the purchase and sale of canvases on which painters can express themselves.

Your planned global economy with all sorts of voting-driven levels of majoritarianism down to the town council and up to the Planet Government, is an improvement upon this ... why? Because its more coercive? That's a negative, not a positive. Because it involves voting? Why is that a good thing? Because those who don't like it can leave by opting out of the social contract, as you promised on your Talk page? No sovereign yet has agreed with you in giving such an opt out an institutional reality. I would gladly endorse it -- anarcho-capitalists ask for nothing more. We would expect that the opting outs would soon reach the level that would allow for the opters to build skyscrapers (if and only if the market realities supported them). But I also suspect that as soon as that appeared likely, the opt-out "privileges" would be revoked by the planners, the addicts of sovereignty. There has to be a general withering of the myth of sovereignty for anarcho-capitalism to succeed on the global level.

As to the question whether the saving of a single life can be a misdirection of resources: yes. Of course it can! If you think through what you describe as the utilitarian elements of your own world-view you will soon reach the same conclusion. How much resource use has to be extended in the saving of one life before that becomes prohibitively expensive in terms of other opportunities lost, including the opportunities of other rescues? That is a question for any form of consequentialism, of course. Is the profit motive worse as a way of answering tht question than some alternative? Perhaps. Saying so won't make it so, though.

Do capitalists plan? Yes, of course. Does such planning prove that planning at a greater "macro-level" is required, or even rational? No. Planning within a market framework is consistent with the premise of bounded rationality, with an understanding of the impossibility of predicting the results of all the flaps of the butterfly wings. Planning in a way that would esssentially abolish the market framework requires a coterie of planners with coercive sovereign power -- capable of regarding dissidents as cancerous cells requiring removal, as your analogy indicates. It is the difference between the planning of the kulaks and the planning of those who liquidated the kulaks. Majoritarianism doesn't affect that issue at all -- since even self-appointed vanguardist dictators find it easy to "plan" the liquidation of unpopular relatively affluent minorities, to everybody's loss.

Let us consider the sentence, "too many cooks spoil the broth only if the cooks don't work together properly." Is that anything but a tautology? If the broth is spoiled than we consider that the working-together must have improper, right? The point of the folk saying, though, seems to be that the more cooks there are working on the same soup, the more likely it is that there will be some such impropriety in their working together. Better to have one cook who likes to make salty soups, and another who makes them salt-free, then to have them arguing in the kitchen while the soup boils over. In the case of two competing cooks, the market will decide what amount of saltiness eventually prevails. And that is a bad method of making that decision because...?

Ah, because letting the cooks go their own way subject to market forces leads us to Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan. Oh, great logician, I bow in awe at your leaps of faith. The problem in all those places arises not from the general rejection of the myth of sovereignty but from its acceptance, and the competition of different would-be governments to control the levers that this myth creates.

Your appeal to the dark ages in Europe is more interesting. Consider an average serf in France in, say, 799 AD. Compare his lot to that of a slave or other humbly born schmoe in late-imperial Gaul in, say, 299 AD. Is it obvious to you that the former had a worse life than the latter? Is it obvious that the collapse of the western Empire and its sort of planning had hurt the common folk? It isn't obvious to me, although I concede that it is possible.

If bottom-of-the-hierarchy life in France was worse in 799 than it had been in Gaul in 299 (a big "if"), then I submit the most likely explanation was the diminution in trade around the Meditteranean basin. When Rome controlled the whole basin and called it "Our Ocean," there was a lot of trade, subject always to the nuisance of piracy. After the rise of Islam, the basin was in effect split in two, and trade between the two halves became a rare and surreptitious practice. That may have hurt our hypothetical serf much more than the fall of Rome itself. And of course the rise of Islam was a lot of things, some of them positive (the creation of algebra, etc.) but it was not a test of anarcho-capitalism. What was the situation in terms of trade in between the fall of Rome and the Rise of Islam? Ah, a complicated question, see the article on Henri Pirenne, who addressed this point.

Not a bad little essay for a lazy Saturday afternoon. Reply when and if you get the notion. I am, for the most part, simply endeavoring to cure you of your reflex of letting cliches like "the dark ages" or "the humanist high ground" do your thinking for you. Those too-ready phrases, like your usage of italics in other cases, avoid thought and substance. --Christofurio 19:03, Oct 16, 2004 (UTC)

I may have excluded some points, in that lazy Saturday way of mine, that you would expect me to cover. So here we go. Your comments about how I have refuted myself seem based on the idea that I first (a) put forward a quasi-mystical notion of human boundedness and later (b) refuted it by putting forth a naturalistic account of the same phenomenon based on chaos theory. But this isn’t self refutation at all. It isn’t even a change of emphasis. I never said that there was anything mystical about the idea, and have always been perfectly willing to take it as naturalistic.

You, on the other hand, do seem top be backing off an earlier statement. You said that the “high ground” position was that human rationality is in principle unbounded ("limitless" was your word) if understood collectively. But now you have added that this will only be true when there are an infinite number of humans – which means, I infer, that it will never be true. If you mean infinite population as a real project you must be a fun guy at conventions of the ZPG folks! There will always be an infinite gulf between infinity and any actual finite number, however large, so we’re stuck with boundedness.

Ah, yes, but we have computers! I’m not clear on why they are more important to the principles at stake here than is an abacus, though. Are the computers going to make resource allocation decisions for us, or will humans make them? If the computers make them, then we’ve abandoned the market and abandoned any notion of majority rule, too. Digitocracy is neither anarchy nor democracy. On the other hand, if humans are going to continue to make decisions, then human boundedness remains as important a fact about human nature as it has always been, and the conclusions the Austrian school deduced from it a century ago followed logically then and still follow logically now – despite the availability of abacuses and related tricks.

twins[edit]

"Identical twins have identical genes, and therefore identical innate behavior." <-- This is wrong. Human genes can at best provide a predisposition to certain patterns of behavior. Here are two reasons why identical genes do not produce identical innate behavior in identical twins:

  1. It has been shown that identical twins do not have identical patterns of gene expression. Two individuals developing in the same womb will still have slightly different environmental influences which will alter gene expression.
  2. Even if there were identical patterns of gene expression in twins, the development of the human brain is not exactly determined by genes. There are many small steps in neural development that are sensitive to the environment and/or dependent on esentially random events. The brains of identical twins are not identical. This would be better: "Identical twins have identical genes and similar brains and therefore they are predisposed to having similar patterns of innate behavior." --Memenen 23:37, 23 July 2005 (UTC)


I agree, and have removed the material. There's a lot of good twin info to include, but it needs to be written accurately, and i don't have time. Best for now to just remove what is patently inaccurate. "alyosha" (talk) 20:23, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
The only reason so many lead themselves to the conclusion that twins are - in nature completly identical to each other even in their behaviour - has nothing to do with their genes or DNA, rather it has everything to do with illusion. They look exactly the same, except their hair style, and that should be your first clue. Because of this extreme and vivid similarity we forgo other small differences and then begin to show how their behaviour is so identical, even though if you have two brothers that are not twins of very similar age, still behaving similar to each other. However we don't say that their behaviour is identical, solely for the fact that they are not twins. You see this happens because they live identical lives, they both live in the same house, they both grow up the same way, they are both treated the same by their parents as they are both born at the same time, to they get equal attention, and no one has a chance to grow on to the parents and become their favourite son or daughter. Therefore it is this same lifestyle that makes them so similar and in error makes us conclude it is so because they are twins. If they where both to grow up a wold apart, this would not be the case they would be completely different, even by their appearance would be clearly different because of different lifestyles. --Turbinator (talk) 14:11, 13 May 2009 (UTC)

deletion[edit]

I deleted a fallacious statement, recently added, to the effect that debates over socialism, central planning, etc., have "little to do" with bounded rationality. The subjects could hardly have more to do with one another! Here is what Freidrich Hayek said, for example, in his lecture upon winning the Nobel Prize.

"This brings me to the crucial issue. Unlike the position that exists in the physical sciences, in economics and other disciplines that deal with essentially complex phenomena, the aspects of the events to be accounted for about which we can get quantitative data are necessarily limited and may not include the important ones. While in the physical sciences it is generally assumed, probably with good reason, that any important factor which determines the observed events will itself be directly observable and measurable, in the study of such complex phenomena as the market, which depend on the actions of many individuals, all the circumstances which will determine the outcome of a process, for reasons which I shall explain later, will hardly ever be fully known or measurable. And while in the physical sciences the investigator will be able to measure what, on the basis of a prima facie theory, he thinks important, in the social sciences often that is treated as important which happens to be accessible to measurement. This is sometimes carried to the point where it is demanded that our theories must be formulated in such terms that they refer only to measurable magnitudes."

What rationality can do, then, is the "crucial issue" for the Austrian school of which Hayek was a spokesman. It may not be crucial for other schools, but let's not sweep it under the rug in an encyclopedia.--Christofurio 19:01, July 29, 2005 (UTC)

Locke under neutral[edit]

Just a small suggestion but shouldn't Locke be categorized under philosophers who thought human nature to be neutral?

Incomplete Article[edit]

There was something about Human Nature that has no mention here, and really should. The basic feeling of "incomplete" as well as "contradictions" within specific mental states. For example, one may desire to move forward and change, while also desiring to stay the same. Or one might feel like being or acting in one way, while doing the complete opposite. The world over people can be seen to act in this way or that, the driving force often being desire or intention, and the fuel behind that is the wish to fill something. People often express a need to fill, nd live their whole lives not happy with what they have gained. This basic pattern, I observe to be a fundamental core to human nature and worth mention. I'm just not sure what it would be called, or how to properly express it.


Another point I'd like to make is in regards to "Free will and determinism" - I think a very important view was left out. Some feel that we have free will, and that much of it flows from the depths of conciousness, or a soul, which can belie expectations based on the conditions placed on it, however it can also be seen as true that even with Free will, one can observe a number of conditions and predict an outcome. One may even be ale to step in, giving or withholding information (Manipulation) as a means of predetermining free will. According to this view, we have Free Will, and that our choices are based on both the determined and the undertermined, that many actions may be expected given the right conditions while many others do not. It would be my understanding that large scale "end results" involving many people would be much easier to predict through determinism than individual patterns because it may leave itself open to variation. (I hope I am making sense?)


This ideal is also core behind various belief systems. For example, in one Biblical text the Future is told and so choices are made which ensures it will happen. The argument for "Divine intervention" would state that the information was given so to ensure that it would happen, operating under the assumption that the resulting actions could be predicted. However, in other texts of predition, such as Nostradamus, it is specifically stated that the future is not determined. In this case, the future predicted may be a "most likly scenario" based on determinism, but with the understanding that Free will cannot be fully predicted. However, it may be argued just the same that information predicted may in itself cause a change in potential outcome. Because it adds a factor into the equation of expectation.

Gwaeraurond 6:03 PM EST, 3 March 2006


This article was about human nature. It is very abstract, it tells us who talks about human nature: the artist, the philosopher. However, I see very little about what human nature is. Can someone please show us what human nature include. Here is example: desire to be accepted is a human nature, afraid of dark is human nature, dreaming is human nature. I think you get my idea. Please add some more examples to this topic.

Gaffe[edit]

I seem to have made a terrible gaffe and deleted this article. I have reported myself to Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard, and hope it gets resolved quickly. Tim! 09:15, 14 April 2006 (UTC)

Marx's theory of human nature[edit]

Hi - just a heads up, it's my belief that the section on Marx's view of human nature is almost entirely innacurate, and certainly very unclear. I intend to sort this out over the next week or so. I'll be working from books such as Marx's Theory of Human Nature: Refutation of a Legend by Norman Geras, and Karl Marx by Allen Wood. I'm saying now so that people know they can discuss things with me if they have an issue with the changes I'm making. My basic contention is that Marx does affirm a human nature, indeed that he has quite a strong conception of what that involves. Breadandroses 10:46, 13 May 2006 (UTC)

Aristotle[edit]

I think Aristotle made some of the most famous short statements on human nature and should be given a sub-heading - especially if Marx and the Austrian economists are!--Andrew Lancaster 10:39, 5 July 2006 (UTC)

First sentence[edit]

I think that "fundamental" and "substance" should be removed from the definition.

1. All natures are fundamental.

2. Substance is precisely what nature is contrasted to. It is the nature of clay to be sticky. Clay is a substance, and when we refer to its nature we are referring precisely to those things we understand about it which go beyond that. --Andrew Lancaster 10:42, 5 July 2006 (UTC)


Furthermore: why are philosophy and theology mentioned only as an afterthought, as if they add secondary or unimportant ideas? Human Nature is primarily a philosophical topic, as the nature of anything is certainly not the object of the empirical sciences. Even the "soft" empirical sciences like psychology and sociology can only add so much to the discussion. The first sentence should probably focus mainly on the fact that this is a philosophical concept about how the nature of human beings differs (or doesn't differ) from the essences of other things, to which helpful considerations might be added by psychology, sociology and in some cases, other empirical sciences. --Billy Duraney 11:16, 28 November 2007

malleability[edit]

I think the historical distinction between those who argue there is a human nature should be more clearly contrasted with those who argue, especially in modern times, that human have no fixed nature. Of course mention should indeed be made of the compromise argument, which I think is now orthodox, that human nature is relatively fixed. I think the contrast is a little under-played right now - for example in the definition of rationalism. Rationalism should be slpit into its modern and classical+humanist divisions. Only the moderns are purely materialistic.

Two important references that must therefore be added, and which I think will clarify why EO Wilson can appear so close in the text to Nietzsche, are to Rousseau, who first clearly argued that human nature had changed over time, and Darwin, who did it most famously and set us on our current path.

Lastly, all these gives opportunities to both link to, and distinguish from, the discussion about nature and nurture. This argument happens in the modern context where modernists see human nature as only relatively fixed. The argument becomes one of the relative importance of this fixedness versus the implied malleability.

--Andrew Lancaster 10:49, 5 July 2006 (UTC)

suggested re-write of the metaphysics and ethics section[edit]

DRAFT. Please consider if this is not more accurate and to the point:

Human nature is sometimes conceived as being a permanent problem which must always be argued by human beings. The following is a very simplified set of alternatives, but in practice nuanced positions are common.
1. Rationalism encompasses a set of views that humans are natural phenomena, the causes of which are able to be comprehended by human reason.
  • Classical and Humanist philosophical rationalists determined good and evil by appeal to universal human qualities, which they regarded as fixed.
  • Modern rationalism has come to regard these human qualities as only relatively fixed. What is fixed in nature are the laws of nature which are behind all cause and effect including human nature. In this sense modern rationalism and modern science are normally called materialist. See also naturalism. Within modernism, two extreme positions are often contrasted, which are usually referred to as the "nature" and "nurture" positions...
  • Fixed human nature. Others argue that even if it Darwinism has led to the end of the idea that there is a truly fixed human nature, in practice human nature is fixed.
  • Malleability. One extreme is the argument that most of what gets called human nature are really just determined by social conditioning or "nurture".
2. Religious understandings of what is normal (and therefore what is good or bad) for humans do not rely on the concept of human nature. Instead, humans are seen as subject to human-like intentions of a God or gods or divine beings of some kind, and are generally seen as somehow especially closely linked to the divine compared to other beings in nature. Arguably, such an understanding of what is human is not in conflict with the possibility that there is such a thing as human nature. Indeed, in late classical and medieval philosophy, classical rationalism was often argued to be compatible with Abrahamic religion. And in our time, it is sometimes argued that various religions are compatible with modern scientific rationalism.

--Andrew Lancaster 21:49, 5 July 2006 (UTC)

Things that Make You Say 'Huh'?[edit]

"the chemical model within modern psychiatry and psychology, which have tended to emphasize the idea that human beings might conceivably be explained as 'matter in motion' in a way that is similar to the rest of nature. Recently the biologist E. O. Wilson formulated a scientific definition."

I find it odd, to say the least, that this is on a list of modern challenges to the "very concept" of human nature. Wouldn't the 'chemical model' confirm that 'concept' by giving it a microcosmic basis? --Christofurio 03:01, 1 October 2006 (UTC)

I agree. I altered the science material, while leaving the wording as similar as possible, to reflect the diversity of views on this. Please feel free to reword, expand, cite. And i removed the Wilson material, since he's not a critic of HN, not even according to this very article (at bottom). "alyosha" (talk) 19:59, 27 January 2009 (UTC)

Why is it stated that exposure to testosterone in the womb makes men naturally more adept at math, while verbal skill is caused by the lack of this exposure that female fetuses experience? This statement is not verified in the article, and I was under the impression that its validity is debatable.

Cross-cultural Studies and Cultural Anthropology[edit]

The definition of "human nature" states:

"Human nature is the fundamental nature and substance of humans, as well as the range of human behavior that is, believed to be invariant over long periods of time and across very different cultural contexts ... According to the accepted modern scientific understanding human nature is the range of human behavior that is believed to be normal and/or invariant over long periods of time and across very different cultural contexts."

The article then goes on listing a number of different conceptions of human nature.

Yet, cross-cultural studies, cultural anthropology and social anthropology are not even being mentioned!

Hey, to find out what varies across different cultures and what is constant (and thus may be rooted in human nature, since it´s not culturally variable), and especially to falsify speculative a priori conceptions of "human nature" - wouldn´t the first thing a sensible empirical researcher would do be to actually compare different cultures? Hey, there are branches of research who have been doing that for about 100 yrs now.

I think the article needs to reference those.

Also missing is a discussion of the purposes different conceptions of human nature may serve or have been serving. If a certain pattern of behavior that is typical for a specific culture is attributed to human nature, a misgeneralization is being made. One of the purposes behind such an attribution may be to label a certain pattern of behavior - which may be rooted in specific social institutions - as essentially unchangeable, when in fact it COULD be changed (if such a change then would be desirable or not is another question).

Of course, such a misgeneralization may easily be falsified by providing counterexamples from other cultures, which may be one of the reasons why certain conceptions of human nature avoid any reference to cultural anthropology and cross-cultural studies. They may try to keep their generalizations about human nature from being falsified with counterexamples from other cultures. It seems, for example, that many adherents of a "homo oeconomicus" conception of human nature systematically avoid contradictory evidence from economic anthropology. --Thewolf37 19:35, 3 July 2007 (UTC)

Reliable sources for the term dharmic religions?[edit]

Where are the reliable sources that use the term dharmic religions in the context of this article? Dharmic religions is a now deleted obscure neologism and should not be used throughout Wikipedia. Andries 15:55, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

It is not an obscure neologism. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 17:03, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
If it is not an obscure neologism then it would be easy to provide multiple reliable sources books, peer reviewed articles etc. I am waiting. I am also waiting for use of the phrase in the context of this article. Andries 17:07, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
I propose to use the alternative phrase Indian religions. The number of google scholar results for "Indian religions"+"Indian religion" is (45.600 + 84.200) while it is only (492+475) for "dharmic religions" +"dharmic religion". See Wikipedia:Deletion_review/Log/2007_September_8. Andries 19:21, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

Metaphysics and Ethics - question on Naturalism[edit]

Quotation from article: Philosophical naturalism (which includes materialism and rationalism) encompasses a set of views that humans are purely natural phenomena; sophisticated beings that evolved to our present state through natural mechanisms such as evolution. Humanist philosophers determine good and evil by appeal to universal human qualities, but other naturalists regard these terms as mere labels placed on how well individual behaviour conforms to societal expectations, and is the result of our psychology and socialization.

Science - the foundation of materialism and rationalism - is about the measurement of objective phenomena, and explaining the causes of said phenomena, is it not? From a purely scientific view, humans cannot be "sophisticated" (though, can be chemically complex), nor can any person or thing be "good" or "evil", as these are non-quantifiable, and have no cause or effect within a scientific framework. Hence, I wonder why all these unreconcilable ideas make it into the same paragraph.

Perhaps I don't know enough about philosophy... Someone else can take the responsibility of expanding or better explaining this section if they see it fit. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 124.189.68.140 (talk) 10:48, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

Wounded human nature: Catholic view vs Protestant view[edit]

I added the Catholic view on wounded human nature to distinguish it from the Protestant view on totally corrupt human nature. The previous version gave the Protestant view as the only Christian view-- human nature as inherently evil. The Catholic view is that man was created good but was wounded by his own sin. Marax 09:17, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

I've also changed "Christian doctrine" under "inherently bad" state of nature, to "protestant doctrine", because Catholic doctrine is also Christian and it is different, as I said above. Marax (talk) 04:27, 28 October 2009 (UTC)

Human Crisis[edit]

Dear Friends I am writing to you because I believe we all should interact when crisis happens.My name is Nuha Dafaalla I am one of the Sudanese refugee live in Australia and I got the Australian Citizen,I am one of the Women here suffer from the conspiracy by the Australian Government.Targeting the sick refugees women who have medical problem with the Uterus and we never got the cure.I was forced to travel overseas of my own to be cured I travel twice to another countries for help and now I am fighting but alone because the other women scared to face the Australian Government .I Have been for nearly 4 years fighting the Australian Government for my right and other women rights. But the legal System discriminated against me and most of the solicitors do not want to proceed against the Australian Government .And am every day facing problem from Department to another department every day I am suffering of the bad treatment from the this Government.I do not have any citizenship except the Australian Citizenship and I came to Australia as a Political Refugee. Thanks —Preceding unsigned comment added by 121.218.200.105 (talk) 03:31, 10 July 2008 (UTC)

Change to first sentence[edit]

From: Human nature is set of logical characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that all normal human beings have in common. To: Human nature is the concept that there are a set of logical characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that all normal human beings have in common.

The idea that there is a verifiable set of characteristics which can be labelled 'human nature' is just that - an idea, a concept. There are those who follow the Tabula rasa idea of no pre-ordained, invariable set of characteristics, as well as Antihumanism. The previous wording of the first sentence doesn't read as if there is any debate. --Cooper-42 (talk) 16:59, 29 July 2008 (UTC)


I have a different problem with the current first sentence. It is dangerously tautological (and prejudiced) in defining "human nature" as the characteristics of "normal people". This is actually sourced to a book where, from what I gather from the relevant bits accessible on Google books, this is part of the author's depiction of the evolutionary psychology concept of human nature that he is attempting to refute. So I'm going to try moving his points and source down to the evolution section, and add a very general sentence that can cover the diverse range of more specific definitions covered in this article. Pile-Up (talk) 14:21, 2 February 2010 (UTC)
It is not a good opening, because it has been academicized un-necessarily. I have changed it and would like to know what others think. I think your comment about it being tautological is OK given that the version you refer to makes you ask what the point of the subject is. But this is because it was beating around the bush. The term human nature is originally a term to refer to whatever things we humans use to identify a human as a human, and when you think about it, that is STILL all it means. Trying to say this in a complicated way has actually led to saying less and more and getting it wrong. --Andrew Lancaster (talk) 15:01, 2 February 2010 (UTC)
I'm happier with it, doesn't stray too far from just combining concepts of humanity and essence, and their contrasts... Pile-Up (talk) 15:37, 2 February 2010 (UTC)

Austrian school but no mention of David Hume?[edit]

Hmmm.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 12:56, 4 December 2009 (UTC)

Concrete proposal: this Austrian section says nothing worth saying and should be removed. The Austrians disagreed with Marx, but they did not have an original theory on this subject. I think Hume was a source? Hume of course should be mentioned. He was before Marx, but both Kant and Rousseau were to some extent writing with him in mind. In the end Hume's approach has become the normal one. Rousseau and Kant and Marx no longer convince many people.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 15:26, 2 February 2010 (UTC)

which disciplines[edit]

In the current opening section there is this sentence: "The branches of science associated with the study of human nature include sociology, sociobiology and psychology, particularly evolutionary psychology and developmental psychology." I would like to ask someone to defend this. I do not recall seeing the term "human nature" get used in these fields very often. Yes, they study humans and what it is to be human, but then (1) what would the justification be for just picking out this small range of academic disciplines, and demoting philosophy, theology etc? (2) don't these fields in their modern form generally try to positively avoid discussing "human nature" and whether there is a such a thing in any fixed sense? Do others also think this looks very odd?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 15:08, 2 February 2010 (UTC)

doing some work on the historical section[edit]

The historical section is a collection of interesting stuff which can be structured and I'll try to do it without loosing too much. One thing I already noticed though was this bit

In one disguise or another, Plato's dualism between the soul and the body was immensely influential. It insinuated itself deeply into Christian theology — a process that began, perhaps, as early as the Gospel of John. Descartes' famous contrast between the soul that thinks and the body that is extended is a distinctive take on Plato, as is Kant's contrast between the noumenal and the phenomenal aspects of human nature.[1]

Dualism's connection to the history of human nature is not a simple and direct one but maybe a connection can be made. However this paragraph as it stands is not yet showing the link. Does that make sense?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 20:40, 5 October 2010 (UTC)


BTW, I know the section needs better sourcing. I have left that tag there and that job should be made easier by the work I've been doing. Everything I have written or worked on this evening so far can easily be sourced. It is just a matter of getting to it. However if others want to change the section tag to specific inline tags that might be a useful guideline for me or anyone else to prioritize that job of getting the sources most needed, first. --Andrew Lancaster (talk) 21:14, 5 October 2010 (UTC)

Concerning the arguments for invariance in psychology and biology[edit]

Using the statement that all individuals and all societies have faces, smile and use their eyes for thinking and flirting to define human nature as being invariable may seem a little too simple for such a complex feature of humans. The statement is true but the conclusion is irrelevant for the following reason: - cognitive processes may trigger simmilar movements of our eyes (like accessing memory) but it's not the eyes that convey cognition process.

Also the source concerning the females attraction of more masculin faces during the ovulation period, may have a title that suggest that, but the contents of the study shows that men with more symmetrical faces and rugged looks have higher level of hormones, the so called smell of manhood being the cause for the attraction of fertile women. This is also supported by the fact that choices made by women who use oral contraceptives (not fertile) do not vary in this particular case.

No success has ever been scientifically demonstrated in re-assigning an individual's handedness statement is also untrue if we consider the information supported by citations and references to research made by the "science people". Man can even become left-handed if the right hand is injures or he is incapable of using it for long periods of time.

I believe that newborn babies are attracted to human faces because they interact with humans since they are born.

In conclusion I suggest the deletion of "arguments for invariance" since the arguments don't have any reliable information concerning the Human nature. I have a couple of suggestions also for the questionable objectivity on "social maleability" but I want to learn the editing guidelines since this article is rated as high importance and i'm a rookie. Any advice (or pointing out biased logic) from the experienced wikipedians would be apreciated.

CuttingEdgeSeeker (talk) 07:21, 19 February 2011 (UTC)

On Wikipedia we summarize what has been published in sources of good repute even if we think it is wrong. The question comes with getting the balance right. If there is debate in the world, we try report all the mainstream positions, in about the same balance as they appear in those mainstream reputable publications. So rather than deleting something, we'd normally tend to try to get balance right by adding information about context and criticisms. Deletions would normally be reserved for WP:fringe materials. There is sometimes a need on Wikipedia to reduce the emphasis given to a particular theory or single publication which some editor might have over-favored.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 09:03, 19 February 2011 (UTC)

After reading the editing guidelines and starter guides I can say that you expressed the important essence of useful contribution in a maner I wish to learn too in time. Although the argument for invariation may seem shallow, pointing out the underlying causes beneath simple choices or behaviours (hormons, adaptability, evolution) can raise awarness about how the body affects the individual through biological means and also the psyche at a more basic level. This creates a connection between a body holding certain universal laws of functioning that aply to all individuals, and the mind which is one of a kind in every human but flexible enough to support societies and culture. Having a biological fixed human nature doesn't have to deny the social malleability of human nature since societies are formed by humans who share common goals, beliefs and not identic minds.

CuttingEdgeSeeker (talk) 16:10, 19 February 2011 (UTC)

For sure we are constantly working on getting subtle points like this right. Perhaps you should also look at the Nature versus nurture article. Maybe this is a good place to start when familiarizing yourself with those policies which give us our rough boundaries: Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 18:38, 19 February 2011 (UTC)

Nayef Al-Rodhan[edit]

Recent addition on Nayef Al-Rodhan seemed a little too WP:SOAP. 5 links to the guy's page over 3 paragraphs. Also, it lacked much in the way of citations - quotes were not cited and it's all based on a single book by him (with a link to amazon to buy it!)

Anyway, I know little about the man's work, so cannot really edit it. Apologies for the complete removal, feel free to edit it down, add citations and put it back in if relevant. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Cooper-42 (talkcontribs) 12:07, 17 June 2011 (UTC)

It came back and I cut it down to a single sentence, although even this may be WP:UNDUE, if we're giving an Oxford academic the same weight as Darwin or Hobbes. --McGeddon (talk) 11:41, 11 September 2012 (UTC)

Anarchist conceptions of human nature?[edit]

I'm kind of disappointed at the lack of any mentions to mutual aid in this article. Can we make a section devoted to it?--CapitalistOverlord (talk) 03:49, 18 September 2011 (UTC)

Your comment is rather brief so I am not sure it is clear what you are suggesting. Just guessing, if you are talking about human socialbility and empathy as being part of human nature then this possibly also raises the question of whether we should have sections on other things that have been proposed to be part of human nature. I do not think the article contains any attempt to even list them yet. Of course things like social/communal instincts would need to also be discussed in sourcable terms explaining how human sociality is different from that in other animals.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 12:10, 17 October 2011 (UTC)

Additional Citations[edit]

Perhaps this article should have a few more references. The first paragraph, for example, has none. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 96.52.46.97 (talk) 18:39, 16 October 2011 (UTC)

Perhaps yes, of course. Improvement never stops on Wikipedia. But be careful about judging it based on the first paragraph. These tend to summarize the rest of the article and therefore they do not tend to be full of footnotes if it can be avoided.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 12:06, 17 October 2011 (UTC)

Western Focus[edit]

The introduction to this article states "The questions of what [natural human characteristics] are (...), are among the oldest and most important questions in western philosophy".

The 'History' segment states "(Notions and concepts of human nature from China, Japan or India are not taken up in the present discussion.)".

Why not? Why is "Human nature" import specifically in western philosophy? Why are notions and concepts from China, Japan or India not considered? This seems arbitrary, a waste of interesting and valuable ideas, and not in accordance with the actual history of notions of "Human nature" (notions from all over the world have influenced each other).

-- Koen — Preceding unsigned comment added by 84.202.73.110 (talk) 22:12, 5 April 2013 (UTC)

Reason for adding Sec 1.4 Theology[edit]

The article’s lead says that understanding human nature has “important implications” for “theology.” However, the article did not follow-up on this. So I researched and wrote Sec 1.4 Theology. Vejlefjord (talk) 20:53, 16 April 2015 (UTC)

  1. ^ Ferguson, Everett, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003, ISBN 0802822215, Pg. 335-337