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Philosophy 224. What is a Theory of Human Nature?. Philosophical Anthropology. Our work this semester will be concentrated in a particular region of philosophy. Our first task then is to specify the nature of philosophy in general.

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philosophy 224

Philosophy 224

What is a Theory of Human Nature?

philosophical anthropology
Philosophical Anthropology
  • Our work this semester will be concentrated in a particular region of philosophy.
  • Our first task then is to specify the nature of philosophy in general.
  • Then we can think about the particular set of philosophical concerns that we are going to address.
what is philosophy
What is Philosophy?
  • Philosophy is the attempt to address some general, fundamental questions, about the the world and our place in it.
  • Three main branches:
    • Metaphysics - Studies what sorts of things in general exist, and what sort of world this is.
      • Examples: existence of God, free will vs. determinism.
    • Epistemology- Studies the nature of knowledge, what we know and how we can know it.
    • Ethics - Studies the prescriptive and evaluative dimensions of experience.
      • Examples: Is lying wrong? What is the good life?
how does philosophy do it
How does Philosophy do it?
  • There are a number of different schools and methods of philosophical inquiry, but common to them all is a reliance on arguments to justify claims or assertions.
  • An argument in the philosophical sense is a set of statements, some of which (the premises) provide reasons or justification for another (the conclusion).
  • Logic, a sub-discipline of philosophy, studies arguments and provides us with tools for evaluating them.
an example
An Example
  • This is a famous example from Aristotle.
    • Imagine a wooden ship sailing for a decade around the Mediterranean. Over the course of the voyage, every plank in the ship wears out and must be replaced. Is it the same ship that docks at the end of the voyage that left port 10 years before?
  • Notice some things about this question:
    • Not empirical, requires deduction.
    • Far-reaching implications (identity of composite objects over time).
    • Puzzling. Compelling arguments for incompatible positions
why do philosophers do it
Why do Philosophers do it?
  • The Cardinal Rule of Philosophy: Truth comes first.
  • When doing philosophy, we are trying to identify what is true. That comes before personalities, feelings, and desires.
  • How is the dependence on argument reflective of this rule?
cardinal rules of philosophy
Cardinal Rules of Philosophy
  • Philosophers question.
    • Question the claims of others.
    • Question their own beliefs.
  • Philosophy is impersonal.
    • The philosopher does not choose beliefs based on his personality or feelings.
    • The philosopher does not take criticism of ideas personally.
    • The philosopher does not accept or reject philosophical claims based on who says them.
    • The philosopher does not go along with ideas because of personal or social consequences.
cardinal rules of philosophy1
Cardinal Rules of Philosophy
  • Philosophers are guided by reason.
    • The philosopher has reasons for her beliefs.
    • The philosopher asks for the reasons for others’ beliefs.
    • The philosopher is moved by good reasons presented to her.
  • Philosophers are open-minded and critical.
    • Our ideas and arguments are open to criticism.
    • The philosopher looks for objections to her beliefs.
    • The ideas and arguments of others are also open to criticism.
what about human nature
What about human nature?
  • Given this account of philosophy, what sort of conclusions should we draw about the attempt to provide a philosophical account of human nature?
  • To what branch of philosophy does philosophical anthropology belong?
  • What are we going to be concentrating on when we read philosophical treatments of human nature?
  • What sort of attitude should we adopt about the subject matter and the various claims we will consider?
some common features
Some Common Features
  • As we will see, theories of human nature typically include some common elements. Identifying these elements will help us appreciate what specific theories have to offer us.
  • Though not every theory we will consider includes specific consideration of each element, it is helpful to focus on these four.
    • Nature: All THNs offer some account of what makes us the creatures that we are.
    • Crisis: Generally, it is acknowledged that aspects of our natures or existence are less than ideal, generating problems or challenges that we need to address.
    • Diagnosis: In the recognition of these challenges, THNs will frequently specify those dimensions of out natures that are the source of the difficulties.
    • Prescription: On the basis of the diagnosis, THNs will typically suggest what we can do to address these difficulties.