Theories of Human Nature – Third Edition
  • Publication Date: January 6, 2006
  • ISBN: 9781551116532 / 1551116537
  • 304 pages; 7" x 9"

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Theories of Human Nature – Third Edition

  • Publication Date: January 6, 2006
  • ISBN: 9781551116532 / 1551116537
  • 304 pages; 7" x 9"

This book explores the idea of human nature and the many understandings of it put forward by such diverse figures as Aristotle, Rousseau, Marx, Freud, Darwin, and E.O. Wilson. Each chapter looks at a different theory and offers a concise explanation, assessing the theory’s plausibility without forcing it into a mould. Some chapters deal with the ideas of only one thinker, while others (such as the chapters on liberalism and feminism) present a variety of different positions. A clear distinction is made between theories of human nature and the political theories which so often follow from them.

For the new edition, Loptson has addressed the new developments in the rapidly expanding genetic and paleontological record, as well as expanded the discussion of the Christian theory of human nature by incorporating the ideas of the Marx scholar and social theorist G.A. Cohen. The new edition has also been substantively revised and updated throughout.


“This is a very fine text—engagingly written and full of wide learning without any trace of pedantry. The quotations and bibliographies are excellent, and Peter Loptson’s judgments are consistently wise and culturally sensitive. It will be valuable both for those new to the theories it describes and to those who have reflected on them before. Good philosophy isn’t often as enjoyable to read as this is.” — Terence Penelhum, University of Calgary

“I cannot think of a better book to which to refer someone who wants to understand in a short compass what Aristotle, liberalism, Rousseau, Marx, or feminism are all about.” — Julian Young, University of Auckland, Dialogue


Preface to Second Edition

Preface to Third Edition

  1. Introduction
  1. Essentialism, Materialism, and Idealism
  1. Aristotle
  1. Christian Philosophy of Human Nature
  1. Liberalism
  1. Conservative Individualism
  1. Rousseau
  1. Marx
  1. Darwin and Some Biological Successors
  1. Freud
  1. Non-self Theories
  1. Feminism
  1. Marvin Harris
  1. Conclusion

Postscript: Do Humans Have a Nature?


Peter Loptson is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Guelph and also the author of Reality: Fundamental Topics in Metaphysics (University of Toronto Press, 2001).