Human Nature and the Limits of Science

Human Nature and the Limits of Science

John Dupré

Print publication date: 2003

ISBN: 9780199248063

Publisher: Oxford University Press


This book applies to the study of human nature the generally pluralistic metaphysics and methodology developed in the author's earlier work. It begins with detailed criticism of two popular projects for understanding human nature, evolutionary psychology, and rational‐choice theory. The argument shows how the flaws in these projects reflect deep misconceptions about the nature and the legitimate ambitions of science. Such scientific theories necessarily provide highly simplified accounts of a phenomenon as complex as human nature and can provide only a small part of the total picture of such a phenomenon. Only a pluralistic approach, an approach that combines insights from a variety of perspectives not limited to the scientific, can hope to provide anything close to an adequate account of human nature. In addition to a variety of partial perspectives from science, the humanities, and, not least, common human experience, it is argued that there is also room for a conception of human autonomy. The details of this conception, including a sketch of a novel voluntarist theory of freedom of the will, are provided in a concluding chapter.