Human Nature

Conservative        -          Progressive
Fixed                    -          Fluid
Limited                -           Limitless
Immanent             -          Transcendent

[…] it is impossible to deny that there is a doctrine behind the whole of our political position. It is not necessarily the doctrine of the religious authority which I myself receive; but it cannot be denied that it must in a sense be religious.

That is to say, it must at least have some reference to an ultimate view of the universe and especially of the nature of man. 

Those who are thus ready to see property atrophied would ultimately be ready to see arms and legs amputated. They really believe that these could become extinct organs like the appendix. In other words, there is indeed a fundamental difference between my own view and that vision of man as a merely intermediate and changing thing - a Link, if not a Missing Link. The creature, it is claimed, once went on four legs and now goes on two legs. 

The obvious inference would be that the next stage of evolution will be for a man to stand on one leg. And this will be of very great value to the capitalist or bureaucratic powers that are now to take charge of him. It will mean, for one thing, that only half the number of boots need be supplied to the working classes. It will mean that all wages will be of a one-legged sort. 

But I would testify at the end, as at the beginning, that I believe in Man standing on two legs and requiring two boots, and that I desire them to be his own boots. You may call it conservative to want this. You may call it revolutionary to attempt to get it. But if that is conservative, I am conservative; if that is revolutionary, I am revolutionary - but too democratic to be evolutionary, anyhow.

[G. K. Chesterton]
The Outline of Sanity, p. 180

Let us regard all ideas of what we ought to do simply as an interesting psychological survival: let us step right out of all that and start doing what we like. 

Let us decide for ourselves what man is to be and make him into that: not on any ground of imagined value, but because we want him to be such. Having mastered our environment, let us now master ourselves and choose our own destiny.

This is a very possible position: and those who hold it cannot be accused of self-contradiction like the half-hearted sceptics who still hope to find 'real' values when they have debunked the traditional ones. 

This is the rejection of the concept of value altogether. 

Either we are rational spirit obliged for ever to obey the absolute values of the Tao, or else we are mere nature to be kneaded and cut into new shapes for the pleasures of masters who must, by hypothesis, have no motive but their own 'natural' impulses. 

Only the Tao provides a common human law of action which can over-arch rulers and ruled alike. A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.

Traditional values are to be 'debunked' and mankind to be cut out into some fresh shape at the will (which must, by hypothesis, be an arbitrary will) of some few lucky people in one lucky generation which has learned how to do it. The belief that we can invent ‘ideologies' at pleasure, and the consequent treatment of mankind as mere matter, specimens, preparations, begins to affect our very language. 

[C.S. Lewis]
‘The Abolition of Man’, Selected Books, p.418, 426

Extropianism, also referred to as the philosophy of Extropy, is an evolving framework of values and standards for continuously improving the human condition. 

Extropians believe that advances in science and technology will some day let people live indefinitely.

Originated by a set of principles developed by Dr. Max More, The Principles of Extropy, extropian thinking places strong emphasis on rational thinking and practical optimism. According to More, these principles "do not specify particular beliefs, technologies, or policies". Extropians share an optimistic view of the future, expecting considerable advances in computational power, life extension, nanotechnology and the like. Many extropians foresee the eventual realization of indefinite lifespans, and the recovery, thanks to future advances in biomedical technology or mind uploading, of those whose bodies/brains have been preserved by means of cryonics.


Transhumanism is an international intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.

Transhumanist thinkers study the potential benefits and dangers of emerging and hypothetical technologies that could overcome fundamental human limitations, as well as study the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies. They predict that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities as to merit the label "posthuman."

'Outline of Transhumanism'

The anti-aging movement is a social movement devoted to eliminating or reversing aging, or reducing the effects of it. A substantial portion of the attention of the movement is on the possibilities for life extension, but there is also interest in techniques such as cosmetic surgery which ameliorate the effects of aging rather than delay or defeat it.

Two popular proponents of the anti-aging movement include Ray Kurzweil, who thinks humanity can defeat aging through the advance of technology, and Aubrey De Grey, who thinks the human body is a very complicated machine and thus, can be repaired indefinitely. Other scientists and significant contributors to the movement include molecular biologists, geneticists, and biomedical gerontologists such as Gary Ruvkun, Cynthia Kenyon, and Arthur D. Levinson.

'Anti-aging movement'

According to transhumanist thinkers, a posthuman is a hypothetical future being "whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards."

Posthumans could be completely synthetic artificial intelligences, or a symbiosis of human and artificial intelligence, or uploaded consciousnesses, or the result of making many smaller but cumulatively profound technological augmentations to a biological human, i.e. a cyborg. 

Key to this posthuman practice is the ability to fluidly change perspectives and manifest oneself through different identities.


The stances of left and right, while seemingly opposed in the day-to-day struggles of conventional politics in liberal polities, share deep underlying premises.

Both are ultimately derived from a dualistic view of the relationship between man and nature, one that sees man not as an indwelling steward of nature, but as an instrumental master of it. Man stands outside of nature and controls it; it is only a question where and how he wills to intervene into nature, in order to distort and transform it.

Left and right disagree about where and how these instrumental interventions should occur, but both assume that it is man’s unfettered right to decide on such questions.

The Party of Nature, in contrast to both left and right, believes that plants, animals, the human body, the landscape, even the climate all have a real and objective inner integrity, unchosen by man, that man is obligated to respect, tend, and if necessary repair.

[Adrian Vermeule]
'The Party of Nature'

Premodern political thought - particularly that informed by an Aristotelian understanding of natural science - understood the human creature as part of a comprehensive natural order.

Humans were understood to have a telos, a fixed end, given by nature and unalterable.

Human nature was continuous with the order of the natural world, and thus humanity was required to conform both to its own nature and, in a broader sense, to the natural order of which it was a part. Human beings could freely act against their own nature and the natural order, but such actions deformed them and harmed the good of human beings and the world.

Liberal philosophy rejected this requirement of human self-limitation. It displaced first the idea of a natural order to which humanity is subject and later the notion of human nature itself.

Liberalism inaugurated a transformation in the natural and human sciences and humanity's relationship to the natural world. The first wave of this revolution - inaugurated by early-modern thinkers dating back to the Renaissance - insisted that man should employ natural science and a transformed economic system to seek mastery of nature. The second wave - developed largely by various historicist schools of thought, especially in the nineteenth century - replaced belief in the idea of a fixed human nature with belief in human “plasticity" and capacity for moral progress.

These two iterations of liberalism - often labeled “conservative” and “progressive"

[Patrick J. Deneen]
Why Liberalism Failed, p.35

Every animal has a nest for its young that matches up with the maturational schedule of the offspring. Humans do too. Moreover, humans are especially influenced by their post-natal experiences because we are born 18 months early compared to other animals, and more epigenetic effects (gene expression influenced by experience) occur postnatally for humans than for any other animal. Each person is a dynamic system whose early experiences influence the trajectory of who and what he or she becomes.

Adults in “civilized” societies have degraded the nest for the young for some time (10,000 years?), meaning that a species-atypical developmental system is now “normal” for the young. This, of course, necessarily results in species-atypical individuals, communities and cultures. But this has happened gradually over time so that we don’t realize it, except to know sense that something is terribly wrong with humanity.

How do we know what is species typical? 

The anthropologists have noted that all over the world the same nest is provided by small-band hunter-gatherers (SBHG), the type of society in which the human genus spent 99% of its history. The members of studied SBHG societies have similar personalities: pleasant, calm, fiercely egalitarian, generous, content, and generally peaceful. 

Of course we do not want to and could not return to living like these societies, but we can learn about how a species-typical nest shapes personality and morality.

[Darcia Narvaez]
'“Each person is a dynamic system” – interview with psychologist Darcia Narvaez'

Narvaez points out that each species including our own has an “evolved nest” — a set of environmental conditions that is necessary to optimize its unique maturational imperatives. The evolved human nest should, therefore, possess the qualities of Fromm’s sane society, enabling us to develop and live according to the fullness of our human potential.

Utilizing the sciences of anthropology, psychology and neurobiology, one of Narvaez’ central projects has been to identify and describe the evolved human nest, and the characteristics of people who are raised in and live their lives accordingly. She reminds us that for 99% of human history, all of our ancestors lived as small band hunter-gatherers (SBHG). Farming was discovered only 10,000 years ago and the industrial age came about 300 years ago, a mere second in the sweep of human history.

And so, she makes the compelling argument that to understand how we evolved to live, and who we evolved to become, a close study of the shared qualities of SBHG groups spanning hundreds of thousands of years is the ideal place to start.

[Sharna Olfman]
'Reclaiming Humanity at the Dawn of Posthumanism: Conversation with Darcia Narvaez'

The debate about abortion illustrates the difference between the enlightened ethic of competitive achievement and the petty-bourgeois or working-class ethic of limits.

“The values and beliefs of pro-choice [people] diametrically oppose those of pro-life people," Kristin Luker writes in her study of the politics of abortion in California. Pro-life activists resented feminist disparagement of housework and motherhood. They agreed that women ought to get equal pay for equal work in the marketplace, but they did not agree that unpaid work in the home was degrading and oppressive.

What they found “disturbing (in) the whole abortion mentality,” as one of them put it, is the idea that family duties - rearing children, managing a home, loving and caring for a husband - are somehow degrading to women.”

They found the pretense that "there are no important differences between men and women" unconvincing. Upper-middle-class feminists, on the other hand, saw the belief in biologically-determined gender differences as the ideological basis of women’s oppression.

Their opposition to a biological view of human nature went beyond the contention that it served to deprive women of their rights.

Their insistence that women ought to assume "control over their bodies" evinced an impatience with biological constraints of any kind, together with a belief that modern technology had liberated humanity from those constraints and made it possible for the first time to engineer a better life for the human race as a whole.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.489-90

Beauvoir refuses any political program that demands we deny our bodily possibilities in order to be fully human and proclaims that bodies and bodily difference are integral to projects of selfhood, and not merely accidental contingencies of a rational and disembodied mind.

For Beauvoir, as for Freud, there is no such thing as a disembodied, non-sexed human being; any ideal of the human apart from sexual identity or difference is an abstraction that can only be affirmed on the basis of a mind/body dualism.

[Emily Zakin]
‘Psychoanalytic Feminism’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Individualism, the self unconstrained by society, leads to the coarser servitude of constraint by nature.

Every road from Rousseau leads to Sade. The mystique of our birth from human mothers is one of the daemonic clouds we cannot dispel by tiny declarations of independence. Apollo can swerve from nature, but he cannot obliterate it.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.14

Ironically, the more modern woman thinks with Apollonian clarity, the more she participates in the historical negation of her sex. Political equality for women, desirable and necessary as it is, is not going to remedy the radical disjunction between the sexes that begins and ends in the body.

Political equality will succeed only in political terms. It is helpless against the archetypal. Kill the imagination, lobotomize the brain, castrate and operate: then the sexes will be the same. Until then, we must live and dream in the daemonic turbulence of nature.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.21, 23

[...] in tribal life, woman has an extended or collective identity; tribal religion honors nature and subordinates itself to it. It is precisely in advanced western society, which attempts to improve or surpass nature and which holds up individualism and self-realization as a model, that the stark facts of woman’s condition emerge with painful clarity.

The more woman aims for personal identity and autonomy, the more she develops her imagination, the fiercer will be her struggle with nature—that is, with the intractable physical laws of her own body. And the more nature will punish her: do not dare to be free! for your body does not belong to you.

The female body is a chthonian machine, indifferent to the spirit who inhabits it. Organically, it has one mission, pregnancy, which we may spend a lifetime staving off. Nature cares only for species, never individuals: the humiliating dimensions of this biologic fact are most directly experienced by women, who probably have a greater realism and wisdom than men because of it. Woman’s body is a sea acted upon by the month’s lunar wave-motion. Sluggish and dormant, her fatty tissues are gorged with water, then suddenly cleansed at hormonal high tide. Edema is our mammalian relapse into the vegetable.

Pregnancy demonstrates the deterministic character of woman’s sexuality. Every pregnant woman has body and self taken over by a chthonian force beyond her control. In the welcome pregnancy, this is a happy sacrifice.

But in the unwanted one, initiated by rape or misadventure, it is a horror. Such unfortunate women look directly into nature’s heart of darkness. For a fetus is a benign tumor, a vampire who steals in order to live. The so-called miracle of birth is nature getting her own way.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.10-11

Incarnation, the limitation of mind by matter, is an outrage to imagination.

Equally outrageous is gender, which we have not chosen but which nature has imposed upon us. Our physicality is torment, our body the tree of nature on which Blake sees us crucified.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.3

Individualism, the self unconstrained by society, leads to the coarser servitude of constraint by nature.

Every road from Rousseau leads to Sade. The mystique of our birth from human mothers is one of the daemonic clouds we cannot dispel by tiny declarations of independence. Apollo can swerve from nature, but he cannot obliterate it.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.14

To get to the point, the historical process ends, reaches its own complete realization, when it offers to human beings the conditions of possibility for a mutual recognition of their freedom from the bond to biological life.

For Hegel, this condition of possibility is realized by Napoleon’s victory at the battle of Jena (1806) in which Hegel sees the germ of the universal and homogeneous state, where the differences between slaves and masters are definitively cancelled.

In other words, in this new form of the state, which Hegel saw in Napoleon’s Empire, each individual recognizes itself in the world, in which, therefore, absolute truth, identity, appears.

[Riccardo Paparusso]
'Kojève’s idea of the end of history: a philosophical key to the European economic crisis', openDemocracy

A similar reversal of values has flooded the market with novels filled with pointless clinical descriptions, presented in obscene language and in fictional form, of swamps of perversions ranging from homosexuality, incest, sadism, and masochism, to cannibalism, necrophilia, and coprophagia.

These performances, as the critic Edmund Fuller has said, represent not so much a loss of values as a loss of any conception of the nature of man.

Instead of seeing man the way the tradition of the Greeks and of the West regarded him, as a creature midway between animal and God, “a little lower than the angels?” and thus capable of an infinite variety of experience, these twentieth-century writers have completed the revolt against the middle classes by moving downward from the late nineteenth century’s view of man as simply a higher animal to their own view of man as lower than any animal would naturally descend.

From this has emerged the Puritan view of man (but without the Puritan view of God) as a creature of total depravity in a deterministic universe without hope of any redemption.

[Carroll Quigley]
Tragedy and Hope, ‘The Future in Perspective,’ p.794

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