Academic journal article Style

Human Nature's Human Nature

Academic journal article Style

Human Nature's Human Nature

Article excerpt

Joseph Carroll's overview of an evolutionary paradigm for literary study is so comprehensive and lucid that there isn't very much I would care to criticize. But I would like to expand its reaches. The whole notion of "human nature" has had a fairly bad history, exploited as it has been to reinforce conservative and reactionary programs to force human beings into conformity with transient social imperatives. Homer and Nature may have been the same for Alexander Pope, and Jon Gottschall does very well with his literary analyses of The Iliad in terms of the updated human nature that has been so improved upon by biology and neuroscience, but we obviously will continue to need revised contemporary models. Freud's picture of human nature now strikes us as verging on the bizarre: penis-envy, myths buried in neurons somehow inscripted with Oedipus and Elektra? Put otherwise, "human nature" as a concept needs to be open-ended, since its particular biological foundations will be subject to revision like all scientific truths. Even Joseph Carroll, coming as he does from Victorian Studies and its constitutive elements, such as the 19th century novel, is bound to seem limited by criteria that eventually won't appear as "scientific" as he would hope, since "scientific" is best understood along a sliding scale. (Think of the pre-Foucauldian misdirections of Thomas Kuhn.)

Scientists themselves tend not to speak of "the" scientific method. Alan Sokal, a physicist notorious for his famous hoax, speaks in his new book of "epistemological opportunism" as the best bet for validation in the sciences, since there is no single "method" that equals "science" (249 et passim). …

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