Human Nature, Metaphysics and Evolutionary Theory

Harry Smit*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper argues that the substance concept, as discussed by Aristotle in his Categories, aids us to improve our understanding of human nature. Aristotle distinguished the primary from the secondary substance, and substantial from accidental change. We explain these distinctions, their use for understanding phenomena, and discuss how we can integrate them with evolutionary explanations of human nature. For explaining of how the typical human characteristics evolved, we extend our investigations with a discussion of the concept of person. It is argued that psychological attributes, used to characterize persons, are not attributes of a separate mental substance, as Cartesians believe. The concept of a person, though not a substance concept, qualifies a substance concept of a human being possessing rational powers. The latter evolved as the result of language evolution.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalPhilosophia: philosophical quarterly of Israel
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Dec 2022


  • Names
  • Norms of representation
  • Ostensive definition
  • Person
  • Self
  • Substance

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