Philosophy of mind and human nature

In Brian Davies & Eleonore Stump (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas. Oxford University Press (2011)

Robert Pasnau
University of Colorado, Boulder
A theory of human nature must consider from the start whether it sees human beings in fundamentally biological terms, as animals like other animals, or else in fundamentally supernatural terms, as creatures of God who are like God in some special way, and so importantly unlike other animals. Many of the perennial philosophical disputes have proved so intractable in part because their adherents divide along these lines. The friends of materialism, seeing human beings as just a particularly complex example of the sort of complex organic structure found everywhere on Earth, suppose that we are ultimately constituted out of just the same material from which squirrels and rabbits are made. The friends of dualism, instead, think that such a story can hardly do justice to what is special about human nature. Likewise, the friends of a libertarian, robustly non-deterministic conception of free will see something special in human spontaneity and moral responsibility. To their opponents, human beings operate on the same principles, albeit more complex, as do squid and plankton. These and other such disputes need not divide along religious lines. One may oppose naturalism without embracing a supernatural theistic perspective; one might, for instance, think it simply a matter of fact that human beings are fundamentally unlike other biological organisms, but yet not suppose we are made that way by any higher power. Conversely, the theist may think it part of the divine plan to have made human beings as nothing more than the most complex of biological organisms, constituted out of the same stuff and constrained by the same laws. So although the choice I have described between two perspectives –
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 62,513
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Incarnational Anthropology.John Haldane - 1991 - In David Cockburn (ed.), Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement. Cambridge University Press. pp. 191-211.
“Our Fellow Creatures”.Jeff McMahan - 2005 - The Journal of Ethics 9 (3-4):353 - 380.
8 The Evolution of Knowledge.David Papineau - 2000 - In Peter Carruthers & A. Chamberlain (eds.), Evolution and the Human Mind: Modularity, Language and Meta-Cognition. Cambridge University Press. pp. 170.
Human Nature: An Oxymoron?David Heyd - 2003 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 28 (2):151 – 169.
Persons, Human Beings, and Respect.Peter Baumann - 2007 - Polish Journal of Philosophy 1 (2):5-17.
Duties Regarding Animals.Patrick Kain - 2010 - In Lara Denis (ed.), Kant's Metaphysics of Morals: A Critical Guide. Cambridge University Press. pp. 210--233.
Radical Cognitive Limitation.Jeff McMahan - 2009 - In Kimberley Brownlee & Adam Cureton (eds.), Disability and Disadvantage. Oxford University Press.
Towards Cosmopolitanism in East and West.Tomonobu Imamichi - 2012 - Journal of Philosophical Research 37 (Supplement):191-196.
Culture by Nature.Neil Levy - 2011 - Philosophical Explorations 14 (3):237-248.
Rachels on Darwinism and Theism.John Lemos - 2003 - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 77 (3):399-415.


Added to PP index

Total views
121 ( #87,408 of 2,446,485 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #456,659 of 2,446,485 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes