Causality and Human Nature in the Social Sciences
Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie
Springer for VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften
Human nature is of course a fundamental concept for social science. There is a widespread belief, even among some social scientists, that human nature is a biological given something that should be elucidated by the biological sciences. This perspective has recently been especially associated with the evolutionary perspective of the human offered by sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists. In this paper I will argue that a number of developments within the biological sciences, both in evolutionary theory (cultural evolution, niche construction, developmental systems) and elsewhere (especially epigenetics) contribute to demonstrating the poverty of these approaches to evolutionary theory. On the contrary, I argue, contemporary biological theory is much more congenial to a view of the human as highly flexible and adaptable to change, much of which is generated by humans themselves. Humans are, by nature, developmentally and behaviourally plastic. I conclude with an account of how a conception of human freedom fits within this general picture.
Vol. 62, Issue Special issue 50, pp. 507 - 525