Recent work on human nature: Beyond traditional essences

Philosophy Compass 9 (9):642-652 (2014)
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Abstract

Recent philosophical work on the concept of human nature disagrees on how to respond to the Darwinian challenge, according to which biological species do not have traditional essences. Three broad kinds of reactions can be distinguished: conservative intrinsic essentialism, which defends essences in the traditional sense, eliminativism, which suggests dropping the concept of human nature altogether, and constructive approaches, which argue that revisions can generate sensible concepts of human nature beyond traditional essences. The different constructive approaches pick out one or two of the three epistemic roles that are fused in traditional essentialist conceptions of human nature: descriptive, explanatory, definitional, or explanatory and definitional. These turns towards diverging epistemic roles are best interpreted pluralistically: there is a plurality of concepts of human nature that have to be clearly distinguished, each with a legitimate role in respective scientific contexts.

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Author's Profile

Maria Kronfeldner
Central European University

Citations of this work

The Psychological Speciesism of Humanism.Carrie Figdor - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178:1545-1569.
Divide and conquer: The authority of nature and why we disagree about human nature.Maria Kronfeldner - 2018 - In Elizabeth Hannon & Tim Lewens (eds.), Why we disagree about human nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 186-206.
Aristotelian Naturalism vs. Mutants, Aliens and the Great Red Dragon.Scott Woodcock - 2018 - American Philosophical Quarterly 55 (4):313-328.

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References found in this work

On Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse - 1999 - Oxford University Press.
Animal Species and Evolution.Ernst Mayr - 1963 - Belknap of Harvard University Press.
Natural Goodness.Philippa Foot - 2001 - Oxford University Press.
Undoing Gender.J. Butler - 2004 - Routledge.

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