TED Conversations

Ryan Alexander

This conversation is closed.

Do humans have a "Human Nature" or are our behaviors motivated by our cultural backgrounds?

I have this conversation with thinkers all the time. In my opinion any beginning philosopher must identify their idea of human nature before they can move forward with their idea's about the world or about an ideal world.

Some individuals that I have talked to though have brought up the point of nature versus nurture. That possible fact that the ideas of the west that humans need instant gratification, are greedy and selfish may only apply to societies that allow this ideology to flourish and prosper.

So, I guess the real question is...is human behavior motivated by a universal "human nature" or is human behavior learned through culture? Are we really all that different?

I personally don't believe so.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Jul 2 2012: As a mother, I have witnessed certain behaviors that seem innate in my children, as well as some definitely learned behaviors.
    The drive to survive, to have basic needs met, to defecate, to sleep ~ those are basic, innate parts of the nature of the human animal. We would be able to go on living without language or hearing or any outside influence as long as those natural, instinctual needs were met.
    I think we can see the argument of 'nature vs. nuture' really coming into effect in distinctive personality traits. Some would be considered 'nature' ~ natural, innate qualities ~ and some 'nurture', or learned behaviors, like those attributed to an entitled child/adult (whining to get ones way, for example).

    There also really is no accounting for things like chemical imbalances, cognitive disturbances, narcissism, personality disorders, etc. Humans are far too intricate to really pigeonhole behaviors into a this or that ideology.

    In general I think humans are innately self-for-self at the onset, and depending on what they are programmed with, they can become self-for-others ~ it's the 'nurture' or lack thereof, that triggers perspective and behavioral changes....and positive nurturing doesn't always lead to positive behaviors.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.