Human nature is the concept that there is a set of inherent distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that humans tend to have.
The question of what causes these distinguishing characteristics of humanity and how fixed human nature is (e.g. nature versus nurture) has important implications in ethics, politics and theology because they are seen as providing standards or norms that humans can use when judging how best to live. The complex implications of such discussion are often themes which are dealt with in art.
The branches of science associated with the study of human nature include sociology, sociobiology and psychology, particularly evolutionary psychology and developmental psychology.
In pre-modern scientific understandings of nature, human nature is understood with reference to final and formal causes. Such understandings imply the existence of an ideal, "idea," or "form" of a human which exists independently of individual humans. (This in turn is sometimes understood to imply the existence of a divine interest in human nature.)
The existence of an invariable human nature is a subject of much historical debate, continuing into modern times. Most famously, Darwin gave a widely accepted scientific argument that humans and other animal species have no truly fixed nature, at least in the long term. Before him, the malleability of man, even within one lifetime, had been asserted by Jean Jacques Rousseau.( Abramson, 2007)
Since the mid-19th century, the concept of human nature has been called into question by thinkers such as Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Sartre, a number of structuralists and postmodernists.
Scientific perspectives such as behaviorism, determinism, and the chemical model within modern psychiatry and psychology, are neutral regarding human nature. They can be offered to explain its origins and underlying mechanisms, or to demonstrate capacities for change and diversity which would arguably violate the concept of a fixed human nature.
Freud theory of human nature
Desire is the essence of the human being (attain pleasure and avoid pain)
Society represses desire because of the demands of objective reality and as an expression of certain desires
Thus, culture and society are created
Repressed desires remain in the unconscious, leaving people perpetually frustrated
Some frustration is relieved through socially acceptable alternatives (war, creation and differential treatment of "out groups," banning books--general projection)
Fundamentally, however, all civilized people are neurotic and behavior is conditioned according to these neurotic needs
The "pursuit of happiness," then, cannot be the kind of rational, tolerant, cooperative, inclusive, compromise among equals envisioned by democratic theory
We are estranged in essence due to our conflicting drives: Eros and Thanatos.
Cooperative, human-scale community (including, but not limited to, "family" relations) is the political, social, and cultural root-source of civilization. Cooperative, human-scale community is also the primary political, social, and cultural condition that civilization tends to destroy. Therefore, the struggle to re-establish cooperative, human-scale community—and, in turn, to re-establish (within the larger political, social, and cultural order) the virtues characteristically associated with cooperative, human-scale community—is the constant necessity and the principal political, social, and cultural revolution whereby civilization can be purified of its negative effects, and whereby ...