'Human nature' refers to something that humans -- all humans -- will naturally do, or skills and wants that they will naturally have.

Many people try to claim that various behaviors are in fact 'human nature'. Unfortunately, there is very little in the way of a scientific basis to most of these claims. But by looking at the field of anthropology we can look at things that probably are human nature (as opposed to American nature, or Western nature). Anything that appears in each and every human culture could be considered human nature. Things like love, anger, religion, making art, fighting, making tools, breaking things with them, and overeating are all part of human nature. Probably.

We can debate most of these -- romantic love isn't valued in some cultures, religion is falling out of fashion in many parts of the world, some would like to think that we can rise above anger without loosing our 'human nature', we may be reluctant to think of someone too mentally disabled to make tools as 'sub-human'... And so it goes. Most of us are happy to let 'human nature' mean 'human average'.

Generally, we think of human nature as being genetically determined, although many people dislike basing too much of our humanity on genetics. Speech, for example, is clearly part of human nature, but there is a long standing debate as to how much of it is pre-programmed.

Anything considered natural and essential to (and by) humans in all cultures is human nature. Probably the best candidate for human nature is human biology, plain and simple.

"Human nature" is a term used by people to describe behavior in human beings that they feel is biologically driven and therefore unavoidable. Frequently, these people are incorrect; they believe the behavior to be driven by our genes, but further investigation reveals that the behavior is in fact cultural.

The idea of human nature is often used to discourage young idealists from trying to make the world a better place.

This 2001 comedy features cast of quirky characaters engaged in strange and unlikely pursuits, yielding a movie that could be truly profound, but might be just plain nonsense.

The extremely hirsute Lila Jute (Patricia Arquette) escapes from a society which condemns her copious body hair to a cabin in the woods. She supports herself writing books and lives happily free from human contact until, after some years, she becomes unbearably horny. She returns to the city, begins an aggressive hair removal campaign, and falls in love with Dr. Nathan Bronfman (Tim Robbins), a scientist who is teaching mice table manners, beginning with the proper use of forks. On a hike in the woods one day, this unlikely couple meet a wild man (Rhys Ifans), whose father, fancying himself an ape, had fled with his son to live a life in the state of nature; after his father died, the ape-man lived happily on, unaware until this chance meeting that he is human.

Lila is thrilled by the ape-man's innocent naturalness, but Nathan sees him as the logical culmination of his life's work: a wild man he can civilize! So they take him back to Bronfman's office, put him in a plastic box with a diaper and an electric shock-delivering collar, and begin his reprogramming. Add in to the mix Gabrielle (Miranda Otto) as Bronfman's sexy assistant who names the wild man "Puff" after a "little doggy" she had as a child and seems intent on seducing every man she sees.

Much of the oddness is explained if you know that this movie was written by Charlie Kaufman ("Being John Malkovich", "Adaptation") and directed by his frequent accomplice Michael Gondry (the two collaborated on "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"). It's a wild but interesting movie, recommended for those with a sense of humour and a tolerance for the ambiguous and bizarre.

Human Nature

A beggar-man crept to my side
 One bitter, wintry time;
“I want to buy a drink,” he cried;
 ”Please give me, sir, a dime.”
If he had craved this boon forlorn
 To buy his family meat,
I had passed on in silent scorn,
 And left him in the street.

I tossed the money in his hand,
 And quoth: “As o'er your wine
Within the tippling-room you stand
 Drink thou to me and mine.”
He let an earnest “Thank ye” drop---
 Then up the street he sped,
And rushed into a baker's shop,
 And bought a loaf of bread!

I know not why it was, and yet,
 So sudden was the blow,
I felt emotions of regret
 That he had duped me so.
Yet, had the hungry beggar said
 That he was sore in need
Of that necessity called "bread,"
 What man would pay him heed?

Eugene Field, October 10, 1883.


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