Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Human Nature

Mar 24, 2021

This is a pretty awful article, but the subject is really important and an encyclopedia entry is long overdue. The concept of 'human nature' is used in a wide variety of ways, from ethics to psychology to sociology to software design to (as we heard on CBC Spark today) innovation. Most appeals to human nature are misguided, either because the speaker is misinformed about humans, has confused innate properties with learned or cultural properties, or applied human nature to domains where it shouldn't be applied, such as (as Hume would argue) ethics. This article starts with a long digression about what counts as human, and to a lesser extent, that would count as human nature (not what is human nature, but what sort of things an appeal to human nature might be). The author also mires the discussion in ancient Greek philosophy long before thinking about what a 21st century discussion of human nature would look like. If your work involves an appeal to 'human nature' you should read this article, but I'm sure the Encyclopedia will be looking at a revision sooner rather than later. Image: Rutgers.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Dec 01, 2023 12:37 p.m.

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