Philosophy Colloquium
Grant Ramsey
University of Notre Dame
Human Nature in a Post-Essentialist World

In this paper I examine a well-known articulation of human nature skepticism, a paper by Hull (1986). I then review a recent reply to Hull by Machery (2008), which argues for what he claims is an account of human nature that is both useful and scientifically robust. I show that Machery’s account of human nature, though it successfully avoids Hull’s criticisms, is not very useful and is scientifically suspect. Finally, I introduce an alternative account of human nature—the “life-history trait clusterâ€ù conception of human nature—which I hold is scientifically sound, pragmatically useful, and makes sense of (at least some of) our intuitions about—and desiderata for—human (or, more generally, species) nature. The desiderata that it satisfies are that human nature should (1) be the empirically accessible (and thus not based on occult essences) subject of the human (psychological, anthropological, economic, biological, etc.) sciences, (2) help clarify related concepts like innateness, naturalness, and inevitability, which are associated with human nature, and (3) characterize human uniqueness.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Skinner 1115