What is “human nature”

I’ve been discussing this with a friend in social media, and I thought it was relevant to the concept of Open Empire, because it relates to the reasons why some people cannot shift their thinking and respond to the proposal with invalid arguments which they claim make OE impossible … but such is not the case at all, and far from proving their claim, all they’ve done is fail to contemplate because their existing belief paradigm is an assertion which they claim to be universal & thus a “deal-killer” so to speak.

Basically what people say is “oh that’ll never work, it’s human nature to be greedy, you’re expecting people to be altruistic or you’re trying to create a utopia” << or something to this effect. None of which is the case.

  1. It is not human nature to be greedy, some people are not greedy … are they not human?
  2. No, I’m not expecting people to be altruistic, quite the opposite … clearly you didn’t read the proposal;
  3. No I’m not trying to create a utopia, I’m merely trying to create the foundations by which a utopia might be possible.

So here’s the thing … people labour under the misapprehension that a behaviour that is almost universal (in their eyes), which sometimes isn’t even the majority behaviour, and sometimes isn’t even consistent in those who do display the behaviour … is somehow “human nature”. BUT the term “human nature” implies that it is underlying and common to ALL humans.

So when I pointed out that point, and that what human nature was the underlying mechanism, and what most people were referring to wasn’t so much human nature, but the response of human nature … I was then asked:

“If the underlying mechanism can be referred to as a constant and that constant can be referred to as Human Nature, then isn’t that … [bell curve response] … Human Nature?”

No. Because IF something is “human nature” (which name implies universality, or in other words “common to all humans”), BUT it isn’t common to all humans (non-universality self-contradiction), THEN you’re arguing by naming it as such:

  1. that those who do not behave that way are not human, thus resolving the non-universality issue, but stating a nonsense, or;
  2. you’re saying only 1 set or choice of responses count & the others don’t (which is bias & just ignores the implied claim of universality), or;
  3. that language & meaning are immaterial, ambiguity is just fine, and we should all just be lazy with our language … and if 99% of people (not necessarily the case, but always the claim when this kind of thing happens in communication) “knew what you meant” then the issue simply doesn’t exist (sticking ones head in the sand about it) … and/or;
  4. you’re effectively arguing that the consequences of such laziness of language don’t exist, or should be ignored, or should be solved by a bandaid approach retrospectively, rather than by simply removing the problem at the outset by being more precise with our language.

… this general scenario is common in the degradation of the use of language, and quite to the contrary of these claim, there are plenty of consequences … BECAUSE people who discuss ideas & thus convey meaning, are forming BELIEFS in themselves &/or in others, and these beliefs result in both individual & collective human decisions, thus action or inaction.

One of the biggest detrimental consequences of describing something as human nature, thus implying that such behaviour is universal, thus implying it is unavoidable … is that people form the belief the behaviour cannot be changed, and effort in attempting to do so is futile, which is not a desirable outcome.

THUS it is vital we cease being lazy with language, and in this particular case make the distinction between that which is ACTUALLY COMMON (the psychological mechanism CAUSING human response), versus that which IS NOT COMMON (the actual behavioural end-response to the internal & external environmental / circumstantial variables which influence that mechanism).


  • The mechanism “human nature” is common (human behavioural psychology);
  • The specific instance of the mechanism is unique (a human’s psyche);
  • The influencing variables are both common AND uncommon (need for life such as food air water etc., versus need/want for specific resources, geographic location, cultural location etc.)
  • The RESULT is human behaviour, which is both inconsistent & variable … and is the “result of”, but not human nature itself.

FINAL NOTE: Open Empire begins with the worst case scenario (& quite reasonable) assumption that the responses of human nature will not significantly change until the variables causing them change, and these variables cannot & will not significantly change while the underlying foundational systems of civilisation which give rise to them have not changed …

THEREFORE: Open Empire gets on with the job of reducing harm, generating benefits, and evolving new foundations which begin to change those variables from day one of operation, increasing as time goes by, but not relying on those changes for its success in reducing harm & generating benefits.

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