Human Nature - Psychology and Biology - Arguments For Social Malleability

Arguments For Social Malleability

The Duke of Wellington is said to have become indignant upon hearing someone refer to habit as "second nature." He replied, "It is ten times nature!" William James likewise referred to habit as the fly-wheel of society. Habits, though, are by definition acquired, and different habits will be both the effect and the cause of very different societies.

In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke posits that the human mind is at birth a tabula rasa or blank slate, and that the individual has freedom to shape their nature. Nayef Al-Rodhan argues that such freedom is restricted by inbuilt predilections and moral sensitivities.

Different human societies have held very different moral codes. Thus, regardless of whether objective morality exists or not, humans are clearly capable of imposing a wide variety of different moral codes on themselves.

Some have argued that the role for nurture comes not from the absence of impulses in human nature but from the plethora of such impulses—so many, and so contradictory, that nurture must sort them out and put them into a hierarchy.

Some believe there is no single universal law of behavior that holds true for all human beings. There are many such laws that apply to the majority of individuals (for example, the majority of individuals try to avoid dying), but there are always exceptions (some individuals commit suicide). Most animals, including humans, have an innate self-preservation instinct (fear of injury and death). The fact that humans may override this basic instinct is seen as evidence that human nature is subordinate to the human mind, and/or various outside factors. However, this may not be entirely unique to the human mind, as certain animals are observed to willfully commit suicide.

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