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Is there such a thing as human nature?

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Bright Idea From Skye C. Cleary and Massimo Pigliucci at Aeon:

A strange thing is happening in modern philosophy: many philosophers don’t seem to believe that there is such a thing as human nature. What makes this strange is that, not only does the new attitude run counter to much of the history of philosophy, but – despite loud claims to the contrary – it also goes against the findings of modern science. This has serious consequences, ranging from the way in which we see ourselves and our place in the cosmos to what sort of philosophy of life we might adopt. Our aim here is to discuss the issue of human nature in light of contemporary biology, and then explore how the concept might impact everyday living.

It’s not only modern science that tells us that there is such thing as human nature, and it’s no coincidence that a number of popular modern therapies such as logotherapy, rational emotive behaviour therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy draw on ideas from both existentialism and Stoicism. No philosophy of life – not just existentialism or Stoicism – could possibly exist without it.

If we were truly tabulae rasae, why would we prefer certain things to others? What could possibly urge us to seek meaning, to build relationships with other people, to strive to improve ourselves and the world we live in? We do all that because we are a particular kind of intelligent social animal, just as the Stoics thought. And we do it within the broad constraints imposed by our (biological as well as contingent) facticity, as the existentialists maintained. There is no single path to a flourishing human life, but there are also many really bad ones. The choice is ours, within the limits imposed by human nature. More.

Whatever one thinks of Cleary and Pigliucci’s approach, it’s helpful to see the bigger picture. As I (O’Leary for News) told the friend who kindly forwarded the link, the war against a theory of human nature is not coming from science, but rather from progressivism, which has murdered the liberal arts and now reigns on campus in their place. It is currently licking its chops at science. Ask former Evergreen biology prof Bret Weinstein how that plays out. Ask Deborah Soh. Eventually, it becomes impossible to maintain an evidence-based position; one succumbs to dictated insanity or moves on.

And Big Science is still clutching its collective pocket fuzz, fearful of hitting back, endorsing marchin’, marchin’ for “science” (including post-modernism’s war on science) while the real problems go unaddressed.

See also: Scientists concerned about March for Sciences’ special interests should, in the view of Big Science, shout louder. As if a typical scientist can outshout a seasoned campus progressive.

Marchin’, marchin’ for Science (Hint: the problems are back at your desk, not out in the streets)


Naturalism and the human mind


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