Skip to main content

Part of the book series: Theory and Decision Library A: ((TDLA,volume 39))

Abstract

Are cultural differences superimposed upon a universal human nature? The appeal to an essentialist concept of human nature is a defensive reaction to the legacy of racist science left by Darwin’s argument in The Descent of Man. Humans are made to appear different in degree from their evolutionary antecedents by attributing the movement of history to a process of culture that differs in kind from the biological process of evolution. The specifications of evolved human nature are supposed to lie in the genes. However, human capacities are not genetically specified but emerge within processes of ontogenetic development. Moreover the circumstances of development are continually shaped through human activity. There is consequently no human nature that has escaped the current of history.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 169.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 219.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book
USD 219.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  • Boas, F. 1940. Race, language and culture. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bock, K.E. 1980. Human nature and history: A response to sociobiology. New York: Columbia University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, D.E. 1991. Human universals. New York: McGraw Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Clark, D.J. 1990. The common heritage: The significance of hunter-gatherer societies for human evolution. Canberra: Australian National University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Darwin, C. 1872. The origin of species, 6th Ed. London: John Murray.

    Google Scholar 

  • Darwin, C. 1874. The descent of man and selection in relation to sex, 2nd Ed. London: John Murray.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dent, C.H. 1990. “An ecological approach to language development: An alternative functionalism.” Developmental Psychobiology 23: 679–703.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dunbar, R. 1994. “Sociality among humans and non-human animals.” In: Ingold, T. (ed.), Companion encyclopaedia of anthropology: Humanity, culture and social life 756–782. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Griffiths, P.E.; and Gray, R.D. 1994. “Developmental systems and evolutionary explanation.” Journal of Philosophy XCI(6): 277–304.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hull, D. 1984. “Historical entities and historical narratives.” In: Hookway, C. (ed.), Minds, machines and evolution 17–42. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ingold, T. 1986. Evolution and social life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ingold, T. 1998. “The evolution of society.” In: Fabian, A.C. (ed.), Evolution: Society, science and the universe 79–99. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ingold, T. 2000. The perception of the environment: Essays on livelihood, dwelling and skill. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ingold, T. 2001. “From the transmission of representations to the education of attention.” In: Whitehouse, H. (ed.), The debated mind: Evolutionary psychology versus ethnography 113–153. Oxford: Berg.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kawada, J. (n.d.). “Postures de portage et de travaux manuels, en rapport avec d’autres domaines de la vie Japonaise.” Paper presented to the Fyssen Foundation Colloquium on Culture and the uses of the body. Saint Germain en Laye, Paris, March 1996.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kay, L.E. 1998. “A book of life? How the genome became an information system and DNA a language.” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 41: 504–528.

    Google Scholar 

  • Keller, E.F. 2001. “Beyond the gene but beneath the skin.” In: Oyama, S.; Griffiths, P.E.; and Gray, R. (eds.), Cycles of contingency: Developmental systems and evolution 299–312. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kroeber, A.L. 1952. The nature of culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lehrman, D.S. 1953. “A critique of Konrad Lorenz’s theory of instinctive behavior.” The Quarterly Review of Biology 28: 337–363.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lewontin, R.C. 1983. “Gene, organism and environment.” In: Bendall, D.S. (ed.), Evolution from molecules to men 273–285. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lovejoy, A.O. 1936. The great chain of being. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mauss, M. 1979. Sociology and psychology: Essays. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

    Google Scholar 

  • Medawar, P. 1957. The uniqueness of the individual. London: Methuen.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mellars, P.; and Stringer, C. (eds.). 1989. The human revolution: Behavioural and biological perspectives on the origins of modern humans. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Oyama, S. 1985. The ontogeny of information: Developmental systems and evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Premack, D.; and Premack, A.J. 1994. “Why animals have neither culture nor history.” In: Ingold, T. (ed.), Companion encyclopaedia of anthropology: Humanity, culture and social life 350–365. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reynolds, P.C. 1981. On the evolution of human behavior: The argument from animals to man. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thelen, E. 1995. “Motor development: A new synthesis.” The American Psychologist 50: 79–95.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tooby, J.; and Cosmides, L. 1992. “The psychological foundations of culture.” In: Barkow, J.H.; Cosmides, L.; and Tooby, J. (eds.), The adapted mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture 19–136. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wallace, A.R. 1870. Contributions to the theory of natural selection. London: Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2006 Springer

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Ingold, T. (2006). Against human nature. In: Gontier, N., Van Bendegem, J.P., Aerts, D. (eds) Evolutionary Epistemology, Language and Culture. Theory and Decision Library A:, vol 39. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/1-4020-3395-8_12

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics