What do you think you are? A discussion of modern theories of human nature

Rose, Elliot (2017) What do you think you are? A discussion of modern theories of human nature. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis looks at the way in which human nature has been construed and examined, with the focus on modern theorisations and conceptualisations. Here I separate theories of human nature according to a taxonomy of location – where they “place” human nature in the wider context of human existence (physical/biological, interpersonal, psychological, social, cultural etc.). I assert that this is the key to assessing theories of human nature; such theories can be evaluated on how well their placement encapsulates some meaningful aspect of what it means to be human. To this end, each of the first three chapters is concerned with a grouping of approaches within the aforementioned taxonomy – what I refer to as “schemas” – which I assert have affinities due to similarities in the ways they address what they understand to be human nature. I dissect their approaches, considering each on its own merits, and discuss their strengths and weaknesses. I devote a fourth chapter to objections to the very idea of human nature. Here I address a number of complications or issues that might affect any given theory of human nature (as opposed to specific issues relating to particular schemas). However whilst these objections pose a challenge for human nature theories, in that they complicate our ability to accurately know and describe what makes us quintessentially human, they do not conclusively disprove the existence of human nature per se.

Thus I conclude by suggesting how this location-based taxonomy might help us construct a consistent and accurate human nature theory. I argue for an interdisciplinary, synthetic human nature theory that elaborates on a political interpretation of ethological and anthropological approaches, which I ultimately characterise as analogous to critical theory or evolutionary theory – in that it forms a general paradigm centred on a particular phenomenon rather than a fixed theoretical construct.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > Philosophy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General) > B0790 Modern (1450/1660-)
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2017 12:08
Last Modified: 09 Aug 2017 13:42
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/68754

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