If, as is sometimes claimed, behavioural modernity requires psychological capacities for planning, abstract thought, innovativeness and symbolism (McBrearty & Brooks 2000: 492) and if these were not yet widely or sufficiently present for several tens of thousands of years after speciation, then it may well be behaviourally, rather than anatomically modern humans whose “nature” is of interest to many theories.
One such set of claims derives from different meanings of the Greek equivalents of the term “nature”. This bundle of claims, which can be labelled the traditional package, is a set of adequacy conditions for any substantial claim that uses the expression “human nature”.
The beginnings of Western philosophy have also handed down to us a number of such substantial claims. Examples are that humans are “rational animals” or “political animals”. We can call these claims the traditional slogans. The traditional package is a set of specifications of how claims along the lines of the traditional slogans are to be understood, i.e., what it means to claim that it is “human nature” to be, for example, a rational animal.
Understanding the debates around the philosophical use of the expression “human nature” requires clarity on the reasons both for (1) adopting specific adequacy conditions for the term’s use and for (2) accepting particular substantial claims made within the framework thus adopted.
This entry aims to help clarify the adequacy conditions for claims about human nature, the satisfiability of such conditions and the reasons why the truth of claims with the relevant conditions might seem important.
The paradigmatic strategy for deriving ethical consequences from claims about structural features of the human life form is the Platonic and Aristotelian ergon or function argument
The first premise of Aristotle’s version (Nicomachean Ethics 1097b–1098a) connects function and goodness:
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