Recent Work on Human Nature: Beyond Traditional Essences
Version of Record online: 4 SEP 2014
© 2014 The Authors. Philosophy Compass Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
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Volume 9, Issue 9, pages 642–652, September 2014
How to Cite
2014) Recent Work on Human Nature: Beyond Traditional Essences. Philosophy Compass, 9: 642–652. doi: 10.1111/phc3.12159., , and (
- Issue online: 4 SEP 2014
- Version of Record online: 4 SEP 2014
- Manuscript Accepted: 20 MAY 2014
- Manuscript Revised: 16 APR 2014
- Manuscript Received: 30 SEP 2013
Recent philosophical work on the concept of human nature disagrees on how to respond to the Darwinian challenge, according to which biological species do not have traditional essences. Three broad kinds of reactions can be distinguished: (1) conservative intrinsic essentialism, which defends essences in the traditional sense, (2) eliminativism, which suggests dropping the concept of human nature altogether, and (3) constructive approaches, which argue that revisions can generate sensible concepts of human nature beyond traditional essences. The different constructive approaches pick out one or two of the three epistemic roles that are fused in traditional essentialist conceptions of human nature: descriptive (descriptivism), explanatory (explanativism), definitional (taxonomic relationalism), or explanatory and definitional (property cluster essentialism). These turns towards diverging epistemic roles are best interpreted pluralistically: there is a plurality of concepts of human nature that have to be clearly distinguished, each with a legitimate role in respective scientific contexts.