Conference: Why we disagree about human nature

Registration is now open for the conference ‘Why We Disagree about Human Nature’, to be held at CRASSH, University of Cambridge, 10–11 December 2015

Is human nature something that the natural and social sciences aim to describe, or is it a pernicious fiction? What role, if any, does ‘human nature’ play in directing and informing scientific work? Can we talk about human nature without invoking—either implicitly or explicitly—a contrast with human culture? It might be tempting to think that the respectability of ‘human nature’ is an issue that divides natural and social scientists along disciplinary boundaries, but the truth is more complex. Some evolutionary theorists have enthusiastically embraced ‘human nature’, while others have rejected it. Many social scientists have explicitly rejected it, while implicitly gesturing towards universal ‘cognitive schemas’. Philosophers, meanwhile, have recently put forward a variety of suggestions for how, if at all, we might make sense of this divisive notion.
 
With speakers from psychology, the philosophy of science, the philosophy of medicine, social and biological anthropology, evolutionary theory, and the study of animal cognition, this conference will explore these different approaches to the concept of ‘human nature’ and attempt to uncover and understand the sources of disagreement.
 
Programme details:
  • Gillian Brown (St Andrews) and Kevin Laland (St Andrews): The social construction of human nature
  • Heidi Colleran (Toulouse) and Fiona Jordan (Bristol): Bridging divides in anthropology using evolutionary theory
  • Stephen Downes (Utah): Understanding the evolutionary challenges to human nature
  • John Dupré (Exeter): The nature of human processes
  • Cecilia Heyes (Oxford): The development of human nature
  • Maria Kronfeldner (Central European University): Divide and conquer: The authority of nature and why we disagree about human nature
  • Edouard Machery (Pittsburgh): A plea for human nature, redux
  • Peter J Richerson (UC Davis): What work (or mischief) does ‘human nature’ do in the work of scientists?
  • Christina Toren (St Andrews): Human ontogenies as historical processes: Lessons from ethnography
 
Convenors: Beth Hannon, Tim Lewens, Sam Murison

Please go here for more information and to register.

Please direct all queries to Sam Murison (sjtm3[at]cam.ac.uk).

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