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Human Nature: The Categorial Framework

ISBN: 978-1-4443-3248-3
340 pages
June 2010, Wiley-Blackwell
Human Nature: The Categorial Framework (1444332481) cover image


This major study examines the most fundamental categories in terms of which we conceive of ourselves, critically surveying the concepts of substance, causation, agency, teleology, rationality, mind, body and person, and elaborating the conceptual fields in which they are embedded.
  • The culmination of 40 years of thought on the philosophy of mind and the nature of the mankind
  • Written by one of the world’s leading philosophers, the co-author of the monumental 4 volume Analytical Commentary on the Philosophical Investigations (Blackwell Publishing, 1980-2004)
  • Uses broad categories, such as substance, causation, agency and power to examine how we think about ourselves and our nature
  • Platonic and Aristotelian conceptions of human nature are sketched and contrasted
  • Individual chapters clarify and provide an historical overview of a specific concept, then link the concept to ideas contained in other chapters
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Table of Contents


Chapter 1 The Project.

1. Human nature.

2. Philosophical anthropology.

3. Grammatical investigation.

4. Philosophical investigation.

5. Philosophy and 'mere words'.

6. A challenge to the autonomy of the philosophical enterprise: Quine.

7. The Platonic and Aristotelian traditions in philosophical anthropology.

Chapter 2 Substance.

1. Substances: things.

2. Substances: stuffs.

3. Substance-referring expressions.

4. Conceptual connections between things and stuffs.

5. Substances and their substantial parts.

6. Substances conceived as natural kinds.

7. Substances conceived as a common logico-linguistic category.

8. A historical digression: misconceptions of the category of substance.

Chapter 3 Causation.

1. Causation: Humean, neo-Humean and anti-Humean.

2. On causal necessity.

3. Event causation is not a prototype.

4. The inadequacy of Hume's analysis: observability, spatio-temporal relations and regularity.

5. The flaw in the early modern debate.

6. Agent causation as prototype.

7. Agent causation is only a prototype.

8. Event causation and other centres of variation.

9. Overview.

Chapter 4 Powers.

1. Possibility.

2. Powers of the inanimate.

3. Active and passive powers of the inanimate.

4. Power and its actualization.

5. Power and its vehicle.

6. First- and second-order powers; loss of power.

7. Human powers: basic distinctions.

8. Human powers: further distinctions.

9. Dispositions.

Chapter 5 Agency.

1. Inanimate agents.

2. Inanimate needs.

3. Animate agents: needs and wants.

4. Volitional agency: preliminaries.

5. Doings, acts and actions.

6. Human agency and action.

7. A historical overview.

8. Human action as agential causation of movement.

Chapter 6 Teleology and Teleological Explanation.

1. Teleology and purpose.

2. What things have a purpose?

3. Purpose and axiology.

4. The beneficial.

5. A historical digression: teleology and causality.

Chapter 7 Reasons and Explanation of Human Action.

1. Rationality and reasonableness.

2. Reason, reasoning and reasons.

3. Explaining human behaviour.

4. Explanation in terms of agential reasons.

5. Causal mythologies.

Chapter 8 The Mind.

1. Homo loquens.

2. The Cartesian mind.

3. The nature of the mind.

Chapter 9 The Self and the Body.

1. The emergence of the philosophers' self.

2. The illusion of the philosophers' self.

3. The body.

4. The relationship between human beings and their bodies.

Chapter 10 The Person.

1. The emergence of the concept.

2. An unholy trinity: Descartes, Locke and Hume.

3. Changing bodies and switching brains: puzzle cases and red herrings.

4. The concept of a person.


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Author Information

P. M. S. Hacker is the leading authority on the philosophy of Wittgenstein. He is author of the four-volume Analytical Commentary on the Philosophical Investigations, the first two volumes co-authored with G. P. Baker (Blackwell, 1980–96) and of Wittgenstein’s Place in Twentieth-century Analytic Philosophy (Blackwell, 1996). He has also written extensively on philosophy of language and philosophy of mind, most recently Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience (Blackwell, 2003) and History of Cognitive Neuroscience (Wiley-Blackwell, 2008), both co-authored with M. R. Bennett. He is also co-editor (with Joachim Schulte) and co-translator of the 4th edition of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009).
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"Full of helpful distinctions and arguments which show in different ways how carefully we must proceed … and how sensitive we must be to contexts." (Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews)

"an outstanding contribution to contemporary metaphysics and philosophical anthropology"' (Stephen Mulhall, Philosophical Quarterly)

"an amazing achievement when writing about such potentially confusing and hotly contested issues" (Duncan Richter, Metapsychology)

"A remarkable contribution. A brilliant work in philosophical anthropology. This is philosophy as it should be. Thoroughly original and completely convincing. It is difficult to imagine a more perspicuous rendering of the ramifying network of concepts that comprise 'the human.'"
Dennis Patterson, Rutgers University

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