4 Aug

Mark P. Cosgrove, The Essence of Human Nature (Zondervan/Probe Ministries International, 1977)

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 08/04/03

"It is especially important to clarify our understanding of the nature of man because our view of human nature affects critical issues of society, such as capital punishment, abortion, and biological and psychological engineering, to name a few." Mark P. Cosgrove, The Essence of Human Nature

In The Essence of Human Nature, Mark P. Cosgrove attends to psychology's presuppositions about the nature of man and the conclusions those presuppositions have led it to draw. At its dawning, he writes, psychology assumed that how people function could be explained through physical realities and animal instincts alone; its research, therefore, has tended to disregard evidence that points to other explanations for people's behavior. The data gathered through the discipline's studies, however, indicate that people are more than just material or animals, and that their behavior is not wholly determined. This is contrary to what has been assumed, Cosgrove states, and consequently a "fresh look at the nature of man is a most pressing need."

The Essence of Human Nature comprises six chapters; in chapters one and two (titled "The Pressing Question" and "The Presuppositions and Methods of Psychology") Cosgrove frames the direction of the discussion, explaining why he is re-evaluating the psychological work done on what human nature is and how psychology has gone about studying human nature in the past. Chapters three through five ("Is Man Just Material?", "Is Man's Behavior Determined?", and "Is Man an Animal?") demonstrate why psychology's various presuppositions about man encourage the discipline to a myopic account of the nature of man. Chapter six ("What Can We Conclude?") states, "Man's unique capabilities are impossible to explain by any purely biological theory. . . . The materialistic, mechanical, and animal view of man, thus, is not only inadequate to explain man, but it is also destructive to him." The book concludes with a "Response" section, "References," and a "For Further Reading" list. [Posted August 2005, ALG]