Philosophy & Technology

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 459–474 | Cite as

Human Nature: The Very Idea

  • Tim LewensEmail author
Special Issue


The only biologically respectable notion of human nature is an extremely permissive one that names the reliable dispositions of the human species as a whole. This conception offers no ethical guidance in debates over enhancement, and indeed it has the result that alterations to human nature have been commonplace in the history of our species. Aristotelian conceptions of species natures, which are currently fashionable in meta-ethics and applied ethics, have no basis in biological fact. Moreover, because our folk psychology finds this misleading Aristotelian conception highly tempting, we are in fact better off if we refrain from mentioning human nature altogether in debates over enhancement.


Human nature Enhancement Essentialism 



I am grateful to Luciano Floridi and two anonymous referees from Philosophy and Technology for their very helpful comments on this paper. I would like to thank Russell Powell in particular for incisive comments on an earlier draft. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Grant agreement no 284123.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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