Recent work on human nature: Beyond traditional essences

Philosophy Compass 9 (9):642-652 (2014)
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Recent philosophical work on the concept of human nature disagrees on how to respond to the Darwinian challenge, according to which biological species do not have traditional essences. Three broad kinds of reactions can be distinguished: conservative intrinsic essentialism, which defends essences in the traditional sense, eliminativism, which suggests dropping the concept of human nature altogether, and constructive approaches, which argue that revisions can generate sensible concepts of human nature beyond traditional essences. The different constructive approaches pick out one or two of the three epistemic roles that are fused in traditional essentialist conceptions of human nature: descriptive, explanatory, definitional, or explanatory and definitional. These turns towards diverging epistemic roles are best interpreted pluralistically: there is a plurality of concepts of human nature that have to be clearly distinguished, each with a legitimate role in respective scientific contexts.
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