Human nature

From ArticleWorld

Human nature is the essence of what it is to be human and as could be expected from such a subject, theories abound as to what determines and guides human thought and behaviour. For some philosophists, humans are by nature good, while others believe that to be human is to be bad. Is the mind a blank slate at birth as John Locke believes or does evolution imprint a set of ready made codes of behaviour?


Philosophical thought maintains that humans have evolved to their present state through the natural process of evolution and what constitutes good and bad is based on socialization. Abrahamic religion believes that humans are spiritual beings created by God and good and evil is based on God’s law. Polytheists claim that humans share the world with spiritual or mythological beings such as gods, demons and ghosts and human wrongdoing is due to the influence of the supernatural.

Holistic traditions such as Buddhism and Taoism maintain that humans exist as a part of God and evil results because of the ignorance of divine nature.

Free will

Free will is something that is considered fundamental to the debate about what constitutes human nature. On one end of the scale, there is the view that humans have genuine free will and decisions they make are not influenced by higher forces. On the other, there are those, such as fatalists or those who believe in predestination, who consider free will to be an illusion and any decision is based on environmental, biological or theological factors. Then there are those who believe in a bit of both, the compatibilists.

Spiritual or natural?

Another facet to what comprises human nature is whether there is a soul. The philosophical naturalists maintain that man is an entirely natural creature with no spiritual side while the Thomists believe that the soul is the human, and flesh simply the material component of it. One again there is a middle road, the idealists, for whom the world is a reflection of a divine existence of which the human soul is a part.