Conceptions of Human Nature and their Role in Social Theory

My current thesis proposal is to examine the link between conceptions of human nature and social theories reliant upon them in order to demonstrate the on-going philosophical and social relevance of such questions. First, I will show that the linking of human nature and social theories has historical precedent, i.e. it is a philosophically relevant question; secondly, that there are perennial accounts of what might qualify as ‘human nature’; thirdly, show that social theories necessarily require anchoring in some conception of human nature, and fourthly, that the possibility of real world impact deriving from social theories requires that philosophical questions about human nature are indeed still relevant and important. 

Accordingly, the first section is an examination of the history of such links as they are found within the work of prominent political theorists such as Rousseau, Hobbes or Locke. This section will seek to demonstrate the extent to which particular conceptions of human nature have been deployed to justify specific political and social theories.

The second section will draw together the common elements that are included in the particular conceptions of human nature found with the above authors in order to help us build a picture of i) what considerations might inform our understanding of the whole question of human nature, and have in the past, informed the philosophical discourse of human nature, and ii) to provide the material for section three when it discusses the necessity of some form of conception of human nature.

Section three argues for a necessary role that a conception of human nature must play in the advancement of social theory, and, will go into details regarding how specific aspects of our conception of human nature – for example the question of self-interest – can evolve within the context of a social theory into specific policies within a political framework. 

Section four will examine some contemporary examples of philosophical conceptions of the self and human nature have been utilised to advance specific political programs. This will be carried out with aim of further substantiating the claim that such theoretical conceptions are of crucial significance to real world situations.

One thought on “Conceptions of Human Nature and their Role in Social Theory

  1. Is the problem of human nature up to date? Was it ended in Modern Philosophy – by Rousseau and Hume?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *