By Gordon Rugg
There’s a wryly humorous summary of models of humanity that floats around in academia. It appears in various forms; the one below has an astute punch line that highlights the amount of implicit assumption in the early models.
Models of humankind:
- Man the fallen creation (the Bible)
- Man the thinker (the Enlightenment)
- Heroic man (Nietzsche)
- Economic man (Marx)
- Man the rat (Skinner)
- Man the woman (feminism)
It’s humorous, but it cuts to the heart of the matter. The models that shape our lives – political models, religious models, economic models – are based on underlying assumptions about how people think and what people want. As is often the case with models, these assumptions are often demonstrably wrong.
In this article, I’ll examine some common assumptions, and I’ll discuss some other ways of thinking about what people are really like.
Images from Wikipedia and Wikimedia; details at the end of this article