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Who Are We?

Theories of Human Nature

Louis P. Pojman

Publication Date - 21 July 2005

ISBN: 9780195179279

320 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

A captivating and comprehensive look at diverse theories of human nature


What is our nature? What is this enigma that we call human? Who are we? Since the dawn of human history, people have exhibited wildly contradictory qualities: good and evil, love and hate, strength and weakness, kindness and cruelty, aggressiveness and pacifism, generosity and greed, courage and cowardice. Experiencing a sense of eternity in our hearts--but at the same time confined to temporal and spatial constraints--we seek to understand ourselves, both individually and as a species.
In Who Are We? Theories of Human Nature, esteemed author Louis P. Pojman seeks to find answers to these questions by exploring major theories in Western philosophy and religion, along with several traditions in Eastern thought. The most comprehensive work of its kind, the volume opens with chapters on the Hebrew/Christian view of human nature and the contrasting classical Greek theories, outlining a dichotomy between faith and reason that loosely frames the rest of the book. The following chapters cover the medieval view, Hindu and Buddhist perspectives, conservative and liberal theories, Kant's Copernican revolution, Schopenhauer's pessimistic idealism, and Karl Marx's theory. Freud's psychoanalytic view, the existentialist perspective, the Darwinian view, and scientific materialism are also discussed. Pojman concludes with a discussion of the question of free will, ultimately asserting that each one of us must decide for ourselves who and what we are, and, based on that answer, how we shall live.

Table of Contents

    1. The Biblical Views of Human Nature: Judaism and Christianity
    The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)
    The Concept of Human Nature
    Rules for Successful Living
    The Prophets' Message
    Summary for Hebrew Bible
    The New Testament
    Christ and the Concept of Human Nature
    Jesus' Radical Message: Humanity is Made to Love
    Paul's Vision of Human Nature
    Justice and Responsibility (Mt. 25:14-30)
    Summary for New Testament
    2. The Greek Tradition on Human Nature: The Sophists and Socrates
    The Rise of the Sophists
    Socrates' Simple Moralist View of Human Nature: Knowledge Is Virtue
    Socrates' Moral Philosophy: Virtue Is Knowledge
    3. Plato's Theory of Human Nature
    The Theory of Forms
    Plato's Theory of Recollection and A Priori Knowledge
    The Ascent to Knowledge
    Justice and Human Nature
    The Allegory of the Cave and the Meaning of Life
    4. Aristotle's Theory of Human Nature
    Plato and Aristotle
    The Nature of Ethics
    A Political Person
    The Functionalist Account of Human Nature
    What is the Good Life?
    The Ideal Type of Human
    5. St. Augustine's Theory of Human Nature
    Augustine's Life and Early Thought
    Evil and the Free Will Defense
    Augustine's Doctrine of Love as the Essence of Religion and Ethics
    The Doctrine of the Great Chain of Being
    6. The Hindu and Buddhist Theories of Human Nature
    History and Main Ideas
    Theory of Human Nature
    Morality, Dharma, and the Caste System
    Bhagavad Gita
    Conclusion to Hinduism
    Life of Buddha
    Buddha's Teachings
    The Four Noble Truths
    Conclusion to Buddhism
    7. Classical Conservative and Liberal Theories of Human Nature: Hobbes and Rousseau
    Thomas Hobbes: A Conservative Theory of Human Nature
    Hobbes' Account of Human Nature: Humans as Machines
    Hobbes' Account of Morality: The State of Nature
    Conclusion to Hobbes
    Jean Jacques Rousseau: A Liberal Theory of Human Nature
    Human Nature Is Good
    The Social Contract
    The Noble Savage and Emile
    Conclusion to Rousseau
    Summary: A Comparison Between Conservative and Liberal Perspectives
    8. Immanuel Kant's Copernican Revolution
    The Kantian Epistemic Revolution
    Kant's Moral Theory: The Categorical Imperative
    Kant's Transcendental Apperception: The Elusive Self
    Freedom of the Will
    On God and Immortality
    9. Arthur Schopenhauer's Pessimistic Idealism
    The World as Idea
    The Will to Live
    Salvation from the Sufferings of Existence
    Schopenhauer, Sex, and Psychoanalysis
    10. Karl Marx's Theory of Human Nature
    Ten Marxist Theses
    Secularity and Religion
    A Manifesto for a Revolutionary Program
    11. Sigmund Freud's Theory of Human Nature: Pansexuality and Psychoanalysis
    The Trinity of Personality
    Consciousness and the Unconscious
    Dreams as Wish Fulfillment
    Civilization and Its Discontents
    Rival Psychoanalytic Theories
    12. The Existentialist Theory of Human Nature: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Sartre
    Three Theses of Existentialism
    An Assessment of Existentialism
    13. The Darwinian Theory of Human Nature
    Introduction: The Shaking of the Foundations
    Darwinian Evolution
    Evolution and Evil
    Social Darwinism and Sociobiology
    Evolution and Ethics
    14. Human Nature in Contemporary Theories of the Mind
    Dualistic Interactionism
    The Classical Dualist Theory
    A Critique of Dualistic Interactionism
    Functionalism and Biological Naturalism
    Dualism Revisited
    15. The Paradox of Human Nature: Are We Free?
    Free Will and Determinism
    The Argument from Deliberation
    The Determinist's Objection to the Argument from Deliberation
    The Libertarian Counterresponse: Agent Causation
    Objection to Arguments from Introspection
    The Argument from Quantum Physics (A Peephole of Free Will)
    The Argument from Moral Responsibility
    Metaphysical Compatibilism
    What Is The Truth About Human Nature?
    Do We Have Free Will or Are We Wholly Determined by Antecedent Causes?
    What Is Our Telos or Destiny?
    What Can We Know?
    How Shall We Live?
    How Are the Two Sexes Related?
    What Is More Fundamental, the Individual or the Group?
    What Are Our Obligations to Others and How Far Do Our Ethical Obligations Extend?

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