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Confronting Variation in the Social and Behavioral Sciences

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


I pose problems for the views that human nature should be the object of study in the social and behavioral sciences and that a concept of human nature is needed to guide research in these sciences. I proceed by outlining three research programs in the social sciences, each of which confronts aspects of human variation. Next, I present Elizabeth Cashdan and Grant Ramsey’s related characterizations of human nature. I go on to argue that the research methodologies they each draw on are more productive resources for social scientists than their competing characterizations of human nature.

Putting Pressure on Human Nature
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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I would like to thank the participants at our PSA 2014 Symposium session for helpful comments on the presentation this paper was based on, especially Matt Haber, Maria Kronfeldner, Tim Lewens, Edouard Machery, and Grant Ramsey. My colleague Jim Tabery and three anonymous referees also made very helpful comments on the manuscript, for which I am very grateful.


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