Thursday, May 03, 2012

On Human Nature

One of my favorite theorists, Norman Geras, blogs on the topic of (denying) human nature, suggesting as well a rational, naturalistic foundation for ethics:

1 comment:

  1. Sharp stuff, but it doesn't really get into the tofu of the matter. Pinker goes well beyond defending the obvious material fact that there is a human nature, and makes rather specific claims about what that nature entails, psychologically, and exactly how much influence it has in our lives. All this on the basis of highly speculative accounts of what our evolutionary ancestors' lives were like on the African savannah. It's easy to see how reactionary such a just-so story could get.

    When Simone de Beauvoir says that "…within the human collectivity nothing is natural…" (The Second Sex, p. 761) it's clear from context that she is not denying basic needs or bodily facts -- she's a dialectical materialist, after all. What she means is that our material natures are only a starting point, not our destiny, and that it's always bad faith to assume reducibility to the givens of our nature.