CONTENTS - VOL. 13, NUMBER 2, DECEMBER 2003
THE NATURE OF HUMAN NATURE?
EMIL VIŠŇOVSKÝ: Introduction
JOHN DUPRÉ: On Human Nature
KENNETH J. GERGEN: Constructing Human Nature: The Primordial as Prophetic
PETER SÝKORA: Human Nature as a Part of Historical Essence
JAAN VALSINER: Sensuality and Sense: Cultural Construction of the Human Nature
RICHARD WOODFIELD: Ernst Gombrich and the Idea of Human Nature
VIKTOR KRUPA: An Ideal Language of Worldwide Communication?
LUDWIG D. MORENZ: Tomb Inscriptions: the Case of the I versus Autobiography in Ancient Egypt
Kalnická, Z. Obrazy ženy a vody. Filozoficko-estetické úvahy (Images of Woman and Water. Philosophical-Aesthetic Essays) by S. CHROBÁKOVÁ - REPAR
Call for Papers
ON HUMAN NATURE
The widely accepted interactionist picture of human development makes it clear that, given the historical and geographical differences in the cultures in which human develop, we should expect a great historical and geographical diversity of human natures. This makes it advisable not to talk about a singular human nature at all, and consider only diverse human natural histories. This view is reinforced by the contemporary move from preformationist to epigenetic understandings of the role of the genome in development. Among the defects of evolutionary psychologists' claims to delineate a universal human nature is the implicit commitment to an obsolete preformationist view of development. Their misguided project has political dangers as well as epistemological shortcomings.
pp. 109-122 | Full version (PDF)
CONSTRUCTING HUMAN NATURE: THE PRIMORDIAL AS PROPHETIC
KENNETH J. GERGEN
Questions about human nature can only be formulated and answered within a particular tradition of discourse. The major question we may thus ask about any conception of human nature concerns its implications for cultural life. As our formulations of primordial nature enter cultural life, so may they become prophetic in terms of their effects. Largely replacing religious institutions, the sciences are now perhaps the major authorities on human nature. In this context I first consider the core conception of human nature prevailing in psychological science. In my view the socio-political ramifications of this cognitive-biological conception are deeply problematic. I then take up newly emerging conceptions of humans as constituents of relational process. The outcomes of this view for human well-being in a globalizing world seem far more promising.
HUMAN NATURE AS A PART OF HISTORICAL ESSENCE
Human nature has until recently been put together with essences of biological species, chemical elements, human races, female and male genders into the same class. In this essay I will show that this class is not homogenous and what follows from this for our understanding of human nature. From a biological point of view all humans belong to the species of Homo sapiens and therefore the problem of human nature has to be discussed also with the relation to the ontological status of biological species. For biological species are not natural kinds the essence of Homo sapiens (and human nature) cannot be conceptualised in the same way as the essence of Aurum. I am going to show that this difference in conceptualisation demands introduction of a new concept - historical essences, which are not in contrast to essences of chemical elements spatiotemporally unrestricted. Historical essences define biological species, including Homo sapiens, not by common features, but by referring to common ancestor. Despite of the fact that historical essences are outcome of historical events appearing during biological evolution they are not cultural/social constructions. Human nature is a part of a historical essence. I believe that a traditional nature-nurture dichotomy of human nature is satisfactorily solved by imprinting-like behaviour models: genetically determined forms of behaviour on one hand and environmentally constructed contents of behaviour on the other hand.
SENSUALITY AND SENSE: CULTURAL CONSTRUCTION OF THE HUMAN NATURE
Human psyche is culturally constructed subjective reality. Sensuality is the starting condition for human adaptation, and it becomes the arena for cultural regulation of the human psyche. Contrary to the traditions of psychoanalysis that have emphasized the unconscious basis for the human psyche, a cultural-psychological analysis concentrates on the transformation of the domain of personal affect into semiotic mediation fields that regulate conduct in toto. Sexuality is only one of the differentiated sub-domains of sensuality, and plays secondary role to culturally organized affect in its multitude of forms. Semiotic mediation of the psychological life-worlds is socially guided-leading to the establishment of the private (personal-cultural) mechanisms of self-regulation is constrained by the Semiotic Demand Settings (SDS) of the collective-cultural input. The SDS set up the ways in which it becomes possible to bring some of the material from the hyper-generalized semiotic fields into focus of social discourse. It operates as a mechanism of social regulation at both the societal level (freedom of speech, paralleled with freedom of not listening) and at the level of individual persons. The role of SDS can be observed in the regulation of scientific discourse itself-the history of enabled talking about sexuality in psychology has led to lack of focus on the person-environment relationships in terms of sensuality.
ERNST GOMBRICH AND THE IDEA OF HUMAN NATURE
E.H. Gombrich's famous book Art and Illusion argued that while the practice of art within the Western naturalist tradition was thoroughly impregnated by the use of pictorial conventions, its artists made real discoveries about the nature and the simulation of the appearance of the natural world. His work has led to debates over the respective roles of nature and convention in responses to that imagery. In the background he has, from time to time, reflected on the relationship between nature and culture and this paper is intended to draw attention to these reflections.
AN IDEAL LANGUAGE OF WORLDWIDE COMMUNICATION?
The modern world cannot do without a language capable to fulfill the function of a medium of the worldwide communication. Such a language is by definition a second language to most of its users and should meet some pragmatic and some structural criteria. Is it the case of English, at present the only language in this category? Why English?
TOMB INSCRIPTIONS: THE CASE OF THE I VERSUS AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN ANCIENT EGYPT
LUDWIG D. MORENZ
Ancient Egyptian tomb inscriptions were written in order to construct a permanent social and personal identity of the dead for the hereafter as well as for the mémoire collective. They always included names, the titles of the deceased and offered formulae. In the case of well-off people, epithets and other additions or variations to the core formula were used. Traditionally the genre is called "autobiography", but in fact these Egyptian texts are neither biography nor are they usually "auto" (in the sense of authorship). They present a self sub specie aeternitatis and therefore should be called self-presentations or presentations of self. My considerations on verbal constructions of identity are combined here with a discussion of specific examples from the late third millennium BC. An analysis of topics and rhetorical strategies aims at casting a fresh light on a supposedly dark period.
Kalnická, Z. Obrazy ženy a vody. Filozoficko-estetické úvahy (Images of Woman and Water. Philosophical-Aesthetic Essays) by S. CHROBÁKOVÁ-REPAR
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