Human Nature

3 credits


College of Arts and Science

(same as ANTHRO¬†3340H, ANTHRO 3340HW, GN_HON¬†3241H). We will investigate the topic of human nature, asking such questions as: What are we like? Why do we behave the way we do? Are we inherently selfish or social? Do we have a unitary “self” or are we made up of many (and sometimes contradictory) selves? Is there a single “human” nature or are there distinct “male” and “female” natures? Does human nature vary across cultures? Insights come from fields ranging from genetics to literature. The concept of “human nature” is fiercely contested and debated both within and between academic disciplines. We will be focusing on the scientific study of human nature, seeking naturalistic explanations by formulating and testing hypotheses. In particular, we will use evolutionary theory to unify explanations from disparate disciplines like biology, psychology, and anthropology. In each class, we will discuss one specific topic like sex or violence and seek to make sense of it from both the proximate level (what triggers the behavior and how does it develop?) and the ultimate level (why and how did our evolutionary history imbue us with the capacity?). Graded on A-F basis only.

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