Human Nature

Human nature explanations for war—that is, explanations that root conflict in some immutable aspect of human psychology, biology, or morality—have a long and diverse history. Such accounts for war were present as early as the writings of Greek historians, such as Thucydides, as well as in contemporary scholarship on the role that psychology, or biology, plays in leaders’ decisions to go to war. However, these accounts have always existed in tension with alternatives and are very often not widely accepted today as convincing arguments for why states fight one another. This entry begins with an overview of the history and diversity of these theories, highlighting important arguments. Political philosophers and historians have, through the present day, very forcefully argued that human nature is an important ...

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