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Theories of Human Nature

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Introduction

Theories of Human Nature Over the ages human nature, man's image of himself, has been one of the most engrossing and mystifying human concerns. For generations the question of human nature has been considered largely, if not primarily, a problem of morals, on which theological statements have been accepted as important. The aim of this paper is to examine the essentialist theory of human nature and the questions that arise from it, such as, Is there such a thing as an essential "human nature" which transcends history, culture, race and gender? So much depends on our conception of human nature: for individuals, the meaning and purpose of our lives. There are many different theories as to human nature. One of these theories exists under the thoughts of a prominent philosopher, and founder of Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Freud's view of human nature is generally consistent with the experience of capitalist competition and its adjunct philosophy at the extreme, Social Darwinism. The inevitable tendency of human motivation is toward competition. Inevitably struggles ensue and yield a "survival of the fittest" dominance hierarchy. Civilization with its manners, cooperation, sympathy for those suffering, and altruism is a useful achievement, but it is only a "thin sugar coating" over our truer instinctual essential nature. ...read more.

Middle

Freud regarded it as the fundamental premise of Psychoanalysis. There are instincts it seems within us of which we are unaware, and which we often do not want to acknowledge. Freud systematically tried to find logic in dreams, and argued that they had inner logic as in madness. Analysis was actively trying to expose the hidden, important material through interpretation. The language of dreams is symbolic. Decrypting the language through psychoanalysis provides insights into the nature of instincts. The symbols' main function, so he argued, was hiding.4 If what we do is the result of powerful instinctual drives, which are unconscious, rather than of deliberate and rational decision, many traditional views of human nature may seem at risk. In particular it may be questionable whether we are sufficiently in control of ourselves to be morally responsible. The distinction between reasons and causes is an important, but controversial one. We can be ignorant of the causes operating on us, and be surprised when they are pointed out to us. Our reasons however, are intimately connected with how we conceive what we are doing. A reason cannot be detached from how we understand our action. ...read more.

Conclusion

If someone underwent a traumatic experience in early childhood, and suffers a neurosis as a result, that seems a clear case of cause and effect. The sexual aspect of our infancy is one of the core themes in Freud's theory. Infant sexuality lacks differentiation, and contains all the nuclei for perversions - it is innocent and polymorphous. Pathology, than, differs only in degree from the normal - since the roots of perversion exist in every one of us. Freud classified neuroses according to the stage in which they were fixated.9 All thinking people entertain certain implicit assumptions about human nature and personality theorists are no exception. The suppositions that people make about the nature of human beings are, presumably, rooted in their personal experiences. Such basic assumptions profoundly influence the way that individuals perceive one another, treat one another, and, in the case of personality theorists, construct theories about one another. The assumptions themselves may or may not be fully recognized by the individual. 1 (Gay, 1995; Seinfeld, 1981) 2 (Freud, (1930), pp. 59-145.) 3 Freud, 'The interpretation of dreams', p. 608. 4 (Gay, 1995; Stafford-Clark, 1992; Storr, 1996). 5 (Brown, 1994; Stafford-Clark, 1992). 6 Freud, S, ' An outline of Psychoanalysis' p. 13. 7 ibid. 8 (Stafford-Clark, 1992). 9 (Atkinson et al, 1994; Brown, 1994; 1996; Hayes; Stafford-Clark, 1992; Gay, 1995). 1 ...read more.

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