While most philosophers and theologists agree we can meaningfully talk about human nature, they often disagree when it comes to defining what its essence is. Those differences in opinion are to a large extent due to different perspectives.
According to Aristotle, reason, the ability to think and to use language, is the key factor distinguishing humans from other animals.
Religion often stresses the moral limitations of humans, how despite being created in God’s likeness, we are imperfect, sinful creatures.
Our conscience, coupled with our reason, is then the means by which we overcome our moral limitations.
With the rise of the mechanistic view of the world we have seen a growing tendency toward explaining away both morality and reason. From the mechanistic viewpoint, our actions are not guided by our free will, they are simply a consequence of the interaction of particles in the material world. Our reason is then irrelevant and our idea of moral responsibility too. And some philosophers even deny the existence of human nature as such.
With the increasing power of artificial intelligence, we are now at the point where outsourcing our thinking is fast becoming a realistic option. And the inconveniences of sinful behaviour might soon be fixed by medicine, which according to Adam Cifu and Michael Ostacher may soon eliminate the seven deadly sins.
Perhaps, in the end, the existence of human nature is all about choice. We can choose the option to be medicated in order to remove our moral imperfections, making our own conscience irrelevant. We can choose to outsource our thinking to machines, giving up our autonomy for the convenience of not having to think.
Or we can choose being human, choose to think for ourselves, choose to deal with our imperfections, choose to take responsibility for our decisions and our actions. We can choose to be human and by making that choice we affirm the existence, relevance and importance of our human nature.
Thorsteinn Siglaugsson is a Icelandic economist, consultant and writer. Chairman of the Icelandic Free Speech Society. Author: "From Symptoms to Causes" (Amazon). Regular contributor to The Daily Sceptic, Conservative Woman and Brownstone Institute. Siglaugsson also writes on Substack.