Honors | Human Nature (HPSC)
X320 | 17698 | Elisabeth Lloyd

W 11:15am-1:45pm

Assignments: Grades will be assigned on the basis of class
preparation, attendance, participation in class discussions, and
five writing assignments.  Paper assignments will be distributed in
class, and will be due the following week. Grades for the papers
will be based on both conceptual interest and clarity of written

Methods: Students will be expected to have done the readings ahead
of class. Time in class will be devoted to a critical examination of
the readings and of their relation to the other texts examined in
class and in addition to wider issues that may be affected by views
on human nature.

Issues: Are we bad? Are we good? Does primate behavior inform us
about our own nature? Does biology tell us about our nature? Do we
have a nature? If we do have a nature can we study it scientifically
or is it better to do so introspectively?  What are the consequences
for social and political thought of different views about human

Readings include:
Voltaire’s Candide,
Machiavelli’s The Prince,
Marx and Engels, “The Communist Manifesto”
Freud, selections
Durkheim, selections
Lorenz, selections
Thoreau, Walden
B.F. Skinner’s Walden Two
Lewontin, selections
De Waal, Peacemaking among Primates


The nature of humanity is a subject that has intrigued thinkers
throughout history and this class will sample some of the classics
from this tradition.  In the Twentieth Century human nature has
become the subject of scientific investigation and the core of this
class will focus on the recent history of the ‘science’ of human
nature and on some current scientific thinking on this topic.

We will explore several basic views about human nature. Readings
will include proposals about what it is to be human, and claims
about what all human beings have in common. Our topics will be drawn
from the philosophical, political, anthropological, and biological
literature. Discussion will focus on understanding the implications
of views of human nature that are present in contemporary thought.