Dialectical Model of Human Nature

…A theory that explores what makes each of us who we are…
The DMoHN is a graphical representation of my current understanding and conceptualization of human nature, in addition to embodying the guiding ethos of social neuroscience. The dialectic is a logic, or way of thinking that joins opposite elements together in a uniting fashion to create emergent attributes not present in the elements alone. The dialectical structure of this model explicitly links Culture and Biology within the human brain in order to convey the symbiotic and dynamic interaction between these two realms of scientific thought and the natural world. It is always under revision, so check back for updates.

The Dialectical Model of Human Nature (DMoHN) explores the interactions between humans and the environment, as a way to understand the nature(s) of cognition and behavior. In it’s entirety, the DMoHN places human nature as a process within time and the natural environment.


The Hegelian Dialectic asserts that a proposed thesis is countered by an antithesis, only to be reconciled through a synthesis, propelling the dialectical argument towards enlightenment.

‘Aufheben’ was the German word Hegel utilized to denote the synthesis. An English translation of ‘aufheben’ is indicative of a ‘lifting up’, ‘abolishment’ and ‘sublation’ of both the thesis and antithesis. In this sense, aspects of both the thesis and antithesis are stored, discarded and transformed in the development and emergence of a synthesis.

In many ways, these verbs accurately reflect the actions of consciousness in that sensations and perceptions of the external environment are acquired, consolidated, learned and forgotten through the actions of a conscious being.

Moreover, the physiology of any biological nervous system is fundamentally reducible to a complex balance between excitation and inhibition of neurons, further elaborated in the last dialectic.


In order to interpret historical phenomenon, physical, or material artifacts and substrates must be examined in addition to the progression of metaphysical or nonphysical ideas, knowledge and social conventionality.

Hegel classically interpreted history as motivated by the fundamental progression of ideas or knowledge. Whereas a young Hegelian, Karl Marx, famously stated he ‘turned Hegel on his head’ by interpreting natural history through the progression and innovation of material changes within the modes of production.

These methodological traditions, Historical Idealism and Historical Materialism, must not be exclusive. Rather, an empirical analysis of natural history must dialectically include and appreciate both.


Ultimately, there are two factors that determine human nature; the Regulation of Biology and the Manipulation of Culture. Both biology and culture are comprised of distinct and variable factors with observable and foreseeable effects on human behavior; which is, in the end, derived from synthetic action of the brain.

The dominant model of human nature, found primarily in contemporary economics, conceptualizes human behavior as rational and utility maximizing. Unfortunately, this model overlooks some of our most powerful and uniquely human traits. Specifically, it ignores the influence of affect on cognition and behavior. The notion that emotional states can significantly affect rational thought is far from old, but the explicit incorporation of emotionality into models of human nature has just begun to take empirical interest. In this sense, human beings are both rational, in the Enlightenment sense, and subjectively emotional, in the Romantic tradition.

Just like any other animal on this planet, human beings are biological organisms. Effectively, the emergence of uniquely human capacities occurs shortly after birth. A human child is born “eye’s wide-open” into a complex matrix of social interaction and exchange, commonly referred to as culture. Benefiting from millions of years of human experience, contemporary cultures socialize children with language and behavioral guidelines or expectations that fundamentally structure the framework of consciousness. Psychologists and sociologists know this process of ontogenetic development as Enculturation.

Moreover, the conventionally misguided debate over the influence of nature or nurture on human cognition and behavior is alleviated in this model by explicitly joining aspects of both culture and biology with dialectic logic. In other words, the Dialectical Model of Human Nature poses that human nature is not a matter of nature or nurture, but rather a matter of influence between and within nature and nurture.


Novel conceptions, theories, or models of the natural world develop as a curious mind attempts to systematize, or understand the external world. Many times, innovative ideas clash with the contemporary ‘nomos’, or prevailing social conventions, causing a cultural friction between the innovative individual and the ‘nomos’. The Dialectical Model of Human Nature reflects cultural friction by opposing idealistic input from the individual to that of natural history.

There are many examples of great thinkers in human history who were treated ignominiously by their culture for their contributions to human knowledge. Socrates was sentenced to death for questioning the authority of political power as he attempted to find a balance between philosophy and democracy; Galileo suffered religious persecution for promoting a heliocentric model of the universe; and in a more recent example Rosa Parks shattered conventional racial persecution by refusing to give up her seat on the bus. In almost every case, the inquiries of each individual led him or her to a subjective negation of their local ecology and to take action against this cognitive dissonance. The Dialectical Model of Human Nature illustrates this concept by opposing input from an individual with that of natural history.


The most evident and well-understood physical substrate of human history is found within our body as a biological organism. Charles Darwin provided the unifying theory of biological evolution for the natural sciences, which includes physics, chemistry, and biology.

However, a materialistic approach to natural history also includes the study of physical artifacts, or relics of human production as they are left from generation to generation. Classically categorized as social sciences, anthropology and archeology epitomize this interpretation of natural history.


The historical progression and accumulation of ideas, knowledge and social behaviors are typically studied within the realm of the social sciences. Unlike the natural sciences, anchored by the empirically validated theory of neo-Darwinian evolution, the social sciences lack such a unifying theory of evolutionary progression.

This absence inhibits the elucidation and understanding of historical change in metaphysical aspects of human nature and culture. However, the mechanisms of social progression are likely to occur in a Lamarckian fashion.

A contemporary of Darwin, Lamarck proposed evolution as a process in which the ‘use’ and ‘disuse’ of certain phenotypes strengthen or weaken their materialization. In other words, idealistic factors of human history are selected for based on the rate and magnitude at which they are actualized by human action.


This aspect of human nature describes the subjective phenomenon of being a conscious human being – it is ‘what it is’ to-be human. Ultimately, we refer to this subjectivity, self-awareness and sentience as consciousness. Consciousness has and continues to puzzle scholars from all academic disciplines. The clarification and understanding of consciousness is antagonized by the investigation of the qualitative nature of individual experience. In other words, the ways in which I am different from you and how these polymorphisms differentiate our perceptions of the external world. The Dialectical Model of Human Nature proposes that differences in biological inheritance and enculturation fundamentally organize and reorganize cerebral cortical networks – the landscape of human thought – to create the uniqueness of every human individual.

Therefore, a genuine picture of human nature can only be developed through a combination of knowledge from the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities across multiple levels of analysis. During ontogenetic development the biologically based elements of sex, age, pharmakon and vices are synthesized with the culturally determined elements of language, politics, economics, technology, science, arts and spirituality to cultivate the subjective consciousness and qualities of each human individual.

Moreover, the natural history progresses as historical inheritance travels through subjective human experiences and knowledge, the origin of innovation and refinement.

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