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Why We Disagree About Human Nature$
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Elizabeth Hannon and Tim Lewens

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198823650

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198823650.001.0001

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Sceptical Reflections on Human Nature

Sceptical Reflections on Human Nature

Chapter:
6 Sceptical Reflections on Human Nature
Source:
Why We Disagree About Human Nature
Author(s):

Kim Sterelny

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198823650.003.0007

David Hull famously argued that the very idea of human nature was pre-Darwinian; once we genuinely embrace Darwin’s insights into unbounded variation and plasticity over time, no robust account of human nature can survive. There have been a variety of responses to Hull’s critique, variously showing that some concept of human nature can be rebuilt in ways consistent with contemporary evolutionary biology. In this chapter, I argue that, in one sense, some of these reconstructive attempts succeed. One can develop a concept of human nature consistent with evolutionary insights into variation and potentially unbounded change. But in a deeper sense these reconstructive projects are in trouble: the cost of making a concept of human nature evolutionarily credible is, arguably, to rob that concept of explanatory salience.

Keywords:   Hull, evolutionary biology, explanation, evolutionary explanations, species essentialism, evolution and human nature, human uniqueness

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