The Myth of Human Nature
Jose Ortega y Gasset, the finest 20th c. philosopher you've never heard of
Gave This A Shot on the Beliefs Forum, Doubt It Goes Anywhere -- Try It Here
One often reads about "human nature" or claims about humans having a nature. For example: it is often said that people are, by nature, greedy or violent or what have you.
Further, serious ethical claims are traditionally made in the name of human nature by claiming some actions "unnatural." On these boards and elsewhere, the common opinion is that homosexuality, for example, is "unnatural" and, thus, wrong.
Consider for a moment this proposition: Humans have no nature. What humans have is choice, freedom within the limitations of environment and inheritance. Or, as the philosopher Ortega y Gasset once wrote: "Humans do not have a nature. What humans have is. . . history."
This would mean we are mainly (auto)biographical beings, not biological ones.
What evidence would we have to make such a controversial statement?
What makes a human a human is what we have in common, not with other animals (biology) but with one another (culture). I may have a genetic inheritance closely related to all other mammals, for example, but that does not describe why I am not "just another mammal" -- a zebra or a primate or what have you.
Sure, I have similar or the same needs as other animals, but I have choice about the way I pursue these needs -- or even whether I pursue them at all, or whether I invent new needs and wants to substitute for the inherited ones (no one, biologically, needs to read or write or make art, for example; humans invented those needs and the means to pursue them).
So, what sets humans apart from the rest of reality isn't our nature, but the very un-naturalness of our being, the very artificial, cultural, free way in which we choose to live.
If this is true, one will have to do better when discussing ethics to determine whether something is right or wrong (such as homosexuality) than simply saying it's "unnatural." Human being is unnatural. Or, quoting Ortega again, "It is the nature of a human to have no nature."
What do you think and why?
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