Amidst all of the Efforts to Describe Human Nature, We Wonder, “But Why Are We Different?”

Do you find persuasive the existentialist claim that we are different because of the choices we make? Begs the question in important ways, doesn’t it?  In terms of the manner in which they attribute responsibility to individuals, economists similarly tend to place immense weight on the causal power of “choices” as shaping what differentiates one of us from another.

But suppose those choices are heavily influenced by personality. Then we are immediately interested in what shapes personality such that identical twins raised in the same home often possess quite different personalities.

Judith Harris’s No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality makes the argument that personality is our primary hidden shaper, and that it in turn is forged by the interrelationship between genes, experiences, and differences in our brains. It is important to note that this argument is decidedly contrary to the choice models to which I referred earlier in that personality is not a variable that one can select on behalf of becoming the person I might wish to be.

I cannot think of a human judgment that is not based in part on an assumption that choices do or do not emerge from calculations of individual choosers.

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