Re: human nature (not as short; but just as final... where Richard is concerned)

Sun, 27 Apr 1997 18:28:58 -0400 (EDT)
Andrew Wayne Austin (


Eating, sleeping, and walking are not human nature. Kangaroos eat, sleep,
and walk, and they are not humans. What discriminatory power does the
phrase "human nature" have if it can describe the nature of nonhumans? To
say that something is an example of human nature, then it must be
NATURALLY arising (unlearned) and UNIQUE to people (e.g., symbolic logic).
Although symbolic logic is unique to humans, it is learned, and thus not
natural. Scratching flea bites is naturally arising, but it is not unique
to humans.

What you are doing is conflating the term "human," which is a social
category, with "Homo sapiens" which is a biological category. If you want
to say that Homo sapiens have a nature, then you have no argument from me.
We are morphologically and physiologically dissimilar enough from other
animals, even in our own genus, to have our own nature (we are, of course,
more similar than dissimilar). But if you want to suggest that a social
production has a natural constitution then you are mixing apples and
oranges. This is what the sociobiologists do.

Why is it so important to you that we keep the matter ambiguous? Why does
it pain you so for there to be conceptual clarity? It seems logical to me
that what is natural and what is social should be distinguished. How are
we to talk about these concepts if we confuse them constantly in language?
The term "human nature" itself is, as of right now, an oxymoron. Since
everything that we know of thus far as "human" is social, human is not
natural. What I have done is to carefully specify conditions under which a
human characteristic might be naturally arising. Find an example of
naturally arising exclusively human behavior and I will admit I am wrong.

Andrew Austin