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The Great Debate at Newcastle Science Festival 2004

The Great Debate: Of Blank Slates and Zombies
(Modern Theories of Human Nature)

Day school: Saturday 13th March 2004


Human Nature: The Story So Far by Caspar Hewett
Of Blank Slates and Zombies - Modern Theories of Human Nature by Caspar Hewett
What Science Can and Cannot Tell Us About Human Nature by Caspar Hewett
Philosophical Overview: Body, Spirit, Zombie by David Large
Having Your Cake Before Itís Made by David Large
Do we need a biological theory of human nature? by David Large

David Large Caspar Hewett International Centre for Life
Times Square, Newcastle upon Tyne
Location Map

Tutors: Dr Caspar Hewett and David Large

Is there a universal human nature? If so, what defines it?
Is it consciousness? Is it our capacity for rational thought?
Is it our ability to adapt our environment rather than adapt to it?

In recent years there has been an explosion of knowledge about our genes and our brains which is revolutionising the way we view ourselves. This has given rise to a whole range of claims and counter claims about human nature. Some argue that only the social sciences can answer questions about what we are. Others argue that new developments in neurobiology and artificial intelligence will be able to reveal our nature. One recent theory, Evolutionary Psychology, attempts to explain human nature exclusively in terms of evolved predispositions to behave in a particular way.

So where are the appropriate places to look if we want to understand human nature? What are the implications?

This one day course will examine some modern ideas of what human nature is and will attempt to draw some conclusions about these questions. Come along, join the discussion and have your say.

Principal texts

Man, Beast and Zombie by Kenan Malik
The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker

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Man, Beast and Zombie The Blank Slate Evolutionary Psychology: A Critical Introduction Alas Poor Darwin Nature via Nurture

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© C J M Hewett, 2004