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1 December 2011

Negotiating Human Nature

“Human nature” is a controversial term. The terms suggest that something within humans is “natural,”
outside of the power of individuals or societies to change. T his idea of human nature further suggests that if such a thing does exist, it should be shared by all people, across time, across places, and across cultures. In this version, human nature comprises the “essence” of what it means to be human.
But not everyone agrees that such an “essence” exists. Some writers have argued that humans are shaped
not by nature, but by “culture.” What we consider to be natural about humans is actually the result of our social development: how we are raised, how we are educated, and the experiences and expectations of the world in which we live. Claims to “human nature,” in this perspective, are actually claims which express particular ideas of cultural, social, and political power. F or people who support this position, claims about human nature are not about how humans actually are, but how certain people think they should be.