Mittwoch, 04. Mai 2016, 17:15 - 19:00 iCal

Guest Lecture Prof. Maria Kronfeldner

Should we eliminate human nature talk? Essentialism, dehumanization and the elimination question.

Hörsaal 2i im Neuen Institutsgebäude (NIG), 2. Stock
Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Wien


The concept of human nature is currently under attack: scientifically it has been criticized for relying on outdated essentialist thinking and politically it has been criticized because it facilitates dehumanization. Given post-essentialism and dehumanization, should we stop using the term human nature, i.e., should we eliminate human nature talk in science as well as society? Revisionists claim that the concept of human nature can be freed from outdated essentialist baggage. If so, a successor notion could then be reclaimed for proper scientific usage. Eliminativists, by contrast, claim that what is left after revision is scientifically useless. Both sides so far mostly ignore the politics of human nature. They ignore that the concept of human nature transgresses the boundary between science and society, with dehumanization as a dark side of the concept’s usage in society. This paper will show that, first, there is no way to get rid of dehumanization and that, second, the elimination question is relying on value-laden epistemic attitudes, in particular clarity and conceptual continuity, which are hard to trade-off. The talk concludes with applying a precautionary principle: given that the risk of misuse is high and the prize of elimination is low, we should eliminate human nature talk.

Maria Kronfeldner is Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy, Central European University Budapest (HU).


Doktoratskolleg "Naturwissenschaften im historischen, philosophischen und kulturellen Kontext"


Mag. Mag. Mag. Ramon Pils, DipTrans
Institut für Geschichte
01 4277 40872