Thursday, December 6, 2007

Human Nature

Thought on human nature has formed a continuum, between Locke's Blank Slate and between the Unknown Philosopher's Caste System. Equality and Aristocracy. Nurture and Nature. Sadly thinkers cluster at the extremes.

Naturally, as in most cases like this, rigorous consistent thinking from either idea as a pure principle ends up including the other.

I will do both.

So, are people blank slates, just waiting to be written with the programming that makes up their habits, intelligence, talents and personality?

No, obviously not. At the very least, there are things humans are physical incapable of doing. Flying without mechanical assistance. Others more subtle, such as resistance to learning obviously contradictory things, like Orwellian counterlogicals. These things shape the personality, as undoubtedly as culture does.

So, are people then simply a product of their pre-birth programming, whether that comes about through an eternal soul or through their ancestors?

Clearly not. At the very least, the language in which they express themselves is arbitrary. The clear contradictions in 'offensive' gestures across cultures also exposes the effect of environment.

The question remains then where the line is drawn. First, what exactly is the cause of human actions? Is that question even meaningful? Second, where is the line drawn, what are the exact causes?

In reality, Nurture blends continuously into Nature. The environment is natural. The word artificial does not have a profound meaning. Similarly, relative to your mind, your genes are part of your environment, as are your emotions and your memories.

In fact, rigorously speaking, the idea of identity is very sticky. I will go into this later.

So that's the Nature and Nurture thing in a nutshell. In other entries, I'll be addressing some of the more cogent objections, discussing coherent definitions of various important words, and outlining what my evidence suggests human nature is.

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