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Does human nature exist?

It would seem that there are animal, vegetable and inanimate natures which determine how an entity is. Is there also a human nature? Does it aid or go against experience and logic to say that human nature does or does not exist?

As words can be used in different ways, I would clarify that the word nature is used in two ways; First, to speak of nature in terms of the commonality of all of existence. (The wind, the botanical world, the sun, biological processes etc. etc. ) This is not the sense of the word that I am asking of in this discussion.

The Second sense is to note what would specify something. This is the sense of the word for this discussion. It would be of subsistent quality(s) which adhere(s) as a specifying set of characteristics and define a being according to his capabilities and the purpose towards which he exists.

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    Sep 17 2012: The human animal is apart of nature, thus humans have a nature.
    • J Ale

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      Sep 18 2012: Thanks. So what is his nature? The dead leaf next to me is a part of nature too. Am I the same as that leaf. Maybe see the definition I wrote of above.

      ...of subsistent quality(s) which adhere(s) as a specifying set of characteristics and define a being according to his capabilities and the purpose towards which he exists.
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        Sep 18 2012: So your question is, what is the absolute nature of human beings?

        Well I am no cognitive researcher or biological scientist, but like all nature, humans are built to survive and that supervenes into the psyche. So thoughts are limitless, while our ability to act on them are limited.

        [Edited] We have a lot of capacities, capabilities, patterns, personalities, intelligences, behaviors, abilities, etc, etc. But, how it all works together, well those answers are being illuminated more and more today. How we are built individually is only unique because we have this abnormal ability of metacognition - we can change our nature and who we are to a high degree to essentially become very different than the person we were - not entirely, but in a great deal of traits, mannerisms and cognition.

        When the nature involves anticipation of change and is constantly changing, that nature is difficult to measure.
        • J Ale

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          Sep 19 2012: Nicholas thank you for your response. It gave me much food for thought. Here are a few responses to your ideas.
          If every act has an object, then what is the object of being a human. What is THE overarching object? While there may be many objects, I contend that the highest "most specific to that species' power “is the object that defines a nature as being that which is most specific to that species. That object, for a human, is to be rational . So, I contend that our nature is to be rational. We are animals too so I would say that human nature is to be a rational animal.


          I would take a little side track from you. I understand that many physical researchers are still learning of humans. But I would contend that because of the understanding of what it means to be a human is lacking that, indeed, we are only particularizing our understanding of “human” more and more so that every year we actually think of humanity as less and less human and more of some nonsensical amalgam of physical traits which we have no principle to join into (bc we think we will gain a unifying principle through empirical science)

          I respectively disagree with you on the idea that we can change our nature. I have never seen someone do that. I am going to do everything tomorrow that I do today ad infinitum until I am stopped by sickness or death. I do not see that we can change traits or cognition although we can function more aptly or less so depending on a host of variable. But those processes are set as per human nature. Manners change, yes, if you mean what we choose to act upon insofar as we can choose.

          I do not believe that nature is “difficult to measure” bc it cannot be measured at all. It has no quantity. It can be spoken of in terms of how well it functions. A human can choose to disregard his nature. So, for example, I can take a hallucinogenic that obfuscates my ability to rationally think and end up eating someone's face off. That act of drug use was irrational
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        Sep 20 2012: Perhaps a goal or striving point of humanity is/should be rational(ity) - indeed, I can get behind that knowledge claim. Buddhism says a lot about such a claim to understanding the 'mind'.

        However, I stand by my point in suggesting the meaning of our life is the same as all life... Survival. Now what our survival instincts does is create a metaphysical driving force to dominate the universe. This driving force overrides rationality. This survival force creates an innate desire to be the champion species (and all animals share this instinct). Being the best, is not rational - coexisting is rational, yet, obviously as human nature dictates in history and presently - we could care less about animals who differ from us (including when we identify other humans as different 'animals').

        Our nature being a vague sense of 'rationality' is more idealistic than realistic.

        Scientific research is the process of creating atomistic determinations about nature - to do so takes theory based on other theories and research. While you and I can make a theory of human nature, we should still rely on what science has to offer to justify those holistic ideologies.

        Now while you believe human nature cannot be measured, you also contend that it cannot change?

        Well usually what cannot be measured easily, is always changing in a manner that is beyond theory and evidence... So, I think you defeated yourself here. Just because our theory of the mind is incomplete does not mean it will not be completed and is not in the process of being completed.

        Of course we can change our nature.

        Look at personality theory - there is no unified, accepted and universal theory of how persona works, but we all agree there is in fact a personality to every human.

        If our nature has a persona, and we self actualize that personality, we can change our personality, thus we can change our nature.

        Thank you.
        • J Ale

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          Sep 20 2012: “Perhaps a goal or striving point of humanity is/should be rational(ity) - indeed, I can get behind that knowledge claim. Buddhism says a lot about such a claim to understanding the 'mind'.”

          To be rational is not a goal. It is our nature through which we act. To act in accord with our nature would be the goal (and not predetermined) as humans are the only entity, living or nonliving, that have the capacity to act against their nature. (That could be another TED question.) I would like to read of what Buddhism states on the mind. Can you write on it? By the way, why do you place mind in quotation marks? And, of what use is Buddhism to your idea that human nature is about survival. Buddhism is about death…death to desire of anything…including survival.
        • J Ale

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          Sep 20 2012: “However, I stand by my point in suggesting the meaning of our life is the same as all life... Survival. Now what our survival instincts does is create a metaphysical driving force to dominate the universe. This driving force overrides rationality. This survival force creates an innate desire to be the champion species (and all animals share this instinct). “
          So you are saying that the meaning of life (survival) is the same as human nature? But “meaning” is more than survival. It is a purely rational concept. If survival were our nature, then what purpose is knowledge? I propose that we would be better off as insects or bacteria if survival is our end. We should have been prevented from living (in a reductionist biological view of life) long ago.
          Did you mean to use the word ‘metaphysical’? Metaphysical means non-material reality and would not be part of any instinct which is a biological reductionism. And while on the word, ‘instinct’, since when does insinct create anything? Instinct is a predetermined, already present, nonrational form of knowledge which can only be disobeyed if superseded by a stronger instinct. It is meant only to interact with a physical reality. Instinct does not play a large role in the life of a rational animal as is a human.
          “Being the best, is not rational - coexisting is rational, yet, obviously as human nature dictates in history and presently - we could care less about animals who differ from us (including when we identify other humans as different 'animals').”
          Good, better, best are purely rational concepts. They do not exist outside of the mind. (Can you give me a pound of ‘better’ or an ounce of ‘good’?) They are concepts which apply to all that is true. And the more truth present, the more good I present in that thing thus the words of better and best. I would not say that we care less of animals. I would say that we understand and interact with animals according to a rational ordering. Part of that ordering holds that we may use
        • J Ale

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          Sep 20 2012: the life of animals for our sustenance. But we also enjoy animals and even conserve animals for the sake of the world. Humans are not different animals. Human is one type of animal. Differences in humans do not go to the definition of human nature but are nonessential…so if a white human and a brown human are considered, they are considered apart from their skin color which is nonessential to the idea of human
        • J Ale

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          Sep 20 2012: “Our nature being a vague sense of 'rationality' is more idealistic than realistic.”
          Well, if rationality is more idealistic than real, you and I are using idealistic processes to comment on the real. Doesn’t sound too plausible.

          “Scientific research is the process of creating atomistic determinations about nature - to do so takes theory based on other theories and research. While you and I can make a theory of human nature, we should still rely on what science has to offer to justify those holistic ideologies. “
          That might be what scientific research has become. That is not how it started. And it has become so bc of ideas like yours which divorce the science from preexisting truth. Science forgets that it relies as much as everything else on nonempirical, nonmaterial first principles which cannot be defined. As an example, in all this atomization you enjoin...the number one has no definition and cannot be atomized. It is the first principle of mathemeatics and as a first principle it is simply accepted. And the idea that atomistic determinations somehow arrive at truth is false. Note, for example, the inferior results of laboratory experiements to observation within the environment itself. We may rely on science to augement understanding. But, not before science relies on natures and truths. Science approaches the world in order to know more of what we know generally already through our minds. Truth is the first principle of science. Science is not the first principle of truth. And this first principle of truth I am speaking of is that something either is or it is not. Furthermore the science you are speaking of are the empirical sciences. Scientia is latin meaning “to know” – not “to measure”.
        • J Ale

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          Sep 20 2012: “Now while you believe human nature cannot be measured, you also contend that it cannot change?”
          Exactly. It can only be avoided or embraced. No other animal can do that.

          “”Well usually what cannot be measured easily, is always changing in a manner that is beyond theory and evidence... So, I think you defeated yourself here. Just because our theory of the mind is incomplete does not mean it will not be completed and is not in the process of being completed.”
          If something is changing in a manner beyond theory and evidence then not only can we not measure it but we shouldn’t even know it exists. So, no, I did not defeat myself. I just have a deeper understanding into some of these definitions than I believe you do.

          “Of course we can change our nature.”
          Can you give me one clear example? I cannot connect the one you gave to an argument. What do you mean by personality? What is persona in all of this. What is a person and how does it prove that we can change our nature… and….in your whole way of reducing things…how does the idea of a person matter if we are only meant to survive. These should be extraneous ideas to biological survivalism.

          “Look at personality theory - there is no unified, accepted and universal theory of how persona works, but we all agree there is in fact a personality to every human. If our nature has a persona, and we self actualize that personality, we can change our personality, thus we can change our nature.”
          What does it mean to self actualize. That seems a redundant use of words. As a self I already act.
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        Sep 20 2012: Finding reason and understanding is the result of our survival. Again I would say the strive to be rational is just the result of our higher mental desire to survive. No longer just physical requirements to be satisfied (although they apply), but in fact psychological requirements. Whether those desires are knowledge and/or happiness is individualistic.

        Although this survival force permeates all life. The nature of how that force drives human psychological evolution is pure theory.

        Buddhism is primarily concerned with rationality... so my statement is collective from my understanding of the philosophy. Buddhist suggest desire is a central point of our Psyche. Yet even desire itself can be manipulated by interpersonal environments and experiences. To recognize how desires craft our lives is to kill the very essence of being human. Yet survival is still the force that produces everything... it is one thing to kill pieces of our Psyche to develop rationally, but it is another entirely to reject surviving.
        • J Ale

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          Sep 20 2012: No, I would say it is the cause of our survival.Before we survived we had to have a means to survival. Hence it precedes survival as its cause. It also precedes survival as the purpose of survival which to perdure for the purpose of our nature...to know.

          I will get to the rest of your comment later
        • J Ale

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          Sep 21 2012: Thank you for your response.

          “Again I would say thestrive to be rational is just the result of our higher mental desire to survive.”
          It may be that you say such, but it is illogical because reason is a higher order of existence than simple survival and nothing greater can come from what is less.
          “No longer just physical requirements to be satisfied (although they apply), but in fact psychological requirements. Whether those desires are knowledge and/or happiness is individualistic.”
          I don’t know what you trying to say

          “Although this survival force permeates all life. The nature of how that force drives human psychological evolution is pure theory.”
          What is a survival force and how does it stand apart from the operation “to live.” Also, I have no idea how humans have “psychologically evolved. “Can you give an example?

          .
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        Sep 20 2012: So how can a cause of our survival be the meaning? The cause being rationality. No that is idealism rather than realistic when pertaining to the human condition let alone our nature.

        Various points:
        *Metaphysical* does not mean - not physical ... It means beyond what we understand -or- what is beyond our understanding in/of the physical... Everything besides thought constructions have a physical nature.

        While you may strive to be rational, you must anticipate that our instinctual natures are irrational. Cognitive bias theory has craft a variety of dispositions suggesting just that, a long with Eastern thought traditions. What may be rational, is not necessarily apart of our decision making.

        Truth is not a yes or no entity... Truth is variable, has degrees, and is overall relative. Therefore there could be good, bad, partial, sometimes - truth.

        Although there are nonessential details in which separate human beings - when belief systems craft those subtle differences they become very real occurrences in separation. (Agreeing with the innate nature we are the center of the universe - anthropocentrism - as being an instinctual bias).

        **If something is changing in a manner beyond theory and evidence then not only can we not measure it but we shouldn’t even know it exists. So, no, I did not defeat myself. I just have a deeper understanding into some of these definitions than I believe you do.**

        ... No, it is obvious it exist - we are humans... Just because our theory isn't efficient right now only means we need better ones and not that something is impossible that is just ill-minded thinking.

        My last statement - Although I know we can measure our human psyche, it will take a great deal of effort... But at the same time I also think the ideal of suggesting there is no nature is far better to challenge people philosophically. But, we do have a real nature, what is the pattern to that nature is being illuminated more and more each day. You should do real research.
        • J Ale

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          Sep 21 2012: How can a cause be a meaning? It is not idealistic in any sense of the word. It is a logical reality. And you are using the word meaning not I. And, you are using the word cause in only the 'efficient'sense of the word. What I mean is that you are considering cause as what immiediatly and directly precedes it. This is only one type of cause. However, it is considered the only type of cause by modern mind. It is called Efficient cause. so the efficient cause of the letter I am typing is, me! No one goes beyond this cause because we are steeped in nominalism..simplest answer is always the best. Not!
          But, there is another cause, isn't there. Yes, I am the efficent cause. I am doing it. But was there not an electrical circuit that was connected when I pressed the key. That caused it too. So, that is the material cause.

          Yet there is another cause. There is an act I wish to perform. What is that act? It is to convey something to you by means of typing. That is the formal cause....it is the motivation for the act.

          And, last there is even something else that is causing me to type. Yes, I desire to type and yes I am thusly pressing typing keys and yes the circuit is causing the typewritten text. But there is an ultimate reason that I wish to type and that is to communicate. This is the final cause.

          Now, here is the answer to your question. the final cause both directs an action towards it as its true end. And, it causes all of the other causes as the purpose. So, considered as the ultimate purpose for the act to begin, it is first in intention. Yet after it causes the start of the act, it is also the goal and to what all the other causes exist for. The Final cause it is before as the motivator and it is also at the end as the outcome. Before I type I want to communicate. Once I do the typing and all of the causes occur then I am oriented towards the thing that got me started. Thus final cause is both beginner and end (goal) of an act.
        • J Ale

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          Sep 21 2012: Before you jump into the idea that this is ideal, test it out. Try to find one thing that does not have four causes. If you think you can find one, which you can't, send it my way. And if you cannot, there is nothing ideal about it. So I will concede to you if you can.

          By the way, can you use another word besides ideal? Ideal can mean something that functions as it is supposed to. I know you mean something that does not exist. Maybe you want to use the word fictional or nonexistent or errant. Or if you maintain ideal can you tell me exactly how you mean it?
        • J Ale

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          Sep 21 2012: *Metaphysical* does not mean - not physical ... It means beyond what we understand -or- what is beyond our understanding in/of the physical... Everything besides thought constructions have a physical nature

          No, I believe you are a bit off. Metaphysical can mean either " behind or under"as in the truth behind an object or the truth that is under (supports) an object. Either way is compatible with the other. metaphsyical is not physical as you imply. However, it IS understandable in universal terms. As a matter of fact it is understanding in terms of the universal. No appeal to the universal, no comprehension and no abilty to reason. Period. A simple example of metaphysical reasoning is "exists vs does not exist."Truth also is a metaphysical concept.
        • J Ale

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          Sep 21 2012: “While you may strive to be rational, you must anticipate that our instinctual natures are irrational. Cognitive bias theory has craft a variety of dispositions suggesting just that, a long with Eastern thought traditions. What may be rational, is not necessarily apart of our decision making.”

          If you do not mind, can you describe for me our “instinctual nature.” I do not believe we do much by way of instinct. I am hard pressed to think of something. I won’t get into “cognitive bias” and “eastern thought” because I think I need to know what you mean by instinctual nature.

          Its funny, I notice that when people come up against a difficulty in arguing, they turn to “eastern thought” or something like it…like Buddhism. I think it is an underlying use of syncretism… that everything is the same thing.
        • J Ale

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          Sep 21 2012: "Truth is not a yes or no entity... Truth is variable, has degrees, and is overall relative. Therefore there could be good, bad, partial, sometimes – truth"

          Well, you’re lumping a whole lot together. Bad truth? I know maybe what you mean…like it is a bad truth that someone murders someone else. But that is only our way of speaking. In fact, truth is simply truth. We are infinitely more accurate if we were to characterize the act as good or evil and not the truth.
          Can you give me a strict degree of truth. Or can you give me a relative truth?
        • J Ale

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          Sep 21 2012: **... No, it is obvious it exist - we are humans... Just because our theory isn't efficient right now only means we need better ones and not that something is impossible that is just ill-minded thinking.**
          The use of ignorance to prove a point is a fallacy of argument. I will restate your argument for you
          I posit that X exists.
          I have no access to X and no way of knowing that X exists
          Therefore X exists.



          **My last statement - Although I know we can measure our human psyche, it will take a great deal of effort... But at the same time I also think the ideal of suggesting there is no nature is far better to challenge people philosophically. But, we do have a real nature, what is the pattern to that nature is being illuminated more and more each day. You should do real research.**

          Ok, tell me in general terms how you propose we might measure our psyche. By the way, can you tell me what a psyche is as well? Seems like you are assessing the situation (it will take a great deal of effort) before you even know the nature of the situation.
          I think the best way to challenge a person philosophically is not to use sophist tactics but to appeal to reason and truth. After all, philosophy means love of wisdom…
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        Sep 21 2012: By ideal - I meant preferred or preferable.

        Nice lesson on the ancient four causes... but nothing that suggest human nature's meaning is rationality.

        Cause =/= meaning, rather, meaning = multiple causes

        Again, a meaning (the definition) of human nature cannot be a cause (explanation/reasoning). Rationality is the potential we have, not the entire actuality. Rationality is a cause as well as a result of our surviving evolutionary challenges. While being rational is a striving point, it is often not the case in our unreflected behaviors.

        Tags: Cognitive bias theory, groupthink theory, emotional intelligence, and evolutionary psychology paradigm

        Please, for your further research into the human neurophysiology, reference the above terms and phrases.

        Have a great one.

        *You should really investigate the meaning of metaphysical again...
        * Instinctual thought - check out the ideas behind - evolutionary psychology paradigm - plenty of examples there (I am no expert)

        I am actually uninterested in continuing conversation here as you appear to be set in your ways of thinking. Rather I know I do not know a great deal and seek out both alternative philosophies and scientific investigations.. as to be holistic even with the atomistic.

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