A Developmental Systems Account of Human Nature

In Elizabeth Hannon & Tim Lewens (eds.), Why We Disagree About Human Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 00-00 (2018)
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It is now widely accepted that a scientifically credible conception of human nature must reject the folkbiological idea of a fixed, inner essence that makes us human. We argue here that to understand human nature is to understand the plastic process of human development and the diversity it produces. Drawing on the framework of developmental systems theory and the idea of developmental niche construction we argue that human nature is not embodied in only one input to development, such as the genome, and that it should not be confined to universal or typical human characteristics. Both similarities and certain classes of differences are explained by a human developmental system that reaches well out into the 'environment'. We point to a significant overlap between our account and the ‘Life History Trait Cluster’ account of Grant Ramsey, and defend the developmental systems account against the accusation that trying to encompass developmental plasticity and human diversity leads to an unmanageably complex account of human nature.

Author Profiles

Paul Edmund Griffiths
University of Sydney
Karola Stotz
Last affiliation: Macquarie University


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