„The notion that we "have a nature" far from threatening the concept of freedom, is absolutely essential to it.“
— Mary Midgley British philosopher and ethicist 1919
Context: The notion that we "have a nature" far from threatening the concept of freedom, is absolutely essential to it. If we were genuinely plastic and indeterminate at birth, there could be no reason why society should not stamp us into any shape that might suit it. The reason people view suggestions about inborn tendencies with such indiscriminate horror seems to be that they think exclusively in one particular way in which the idea of such tendencies has been misused, namely, that where conservative theorists invoke them uncritically to resist reform. But liberal theorists who combat such resistance need them just as much, and indeed, usually more. The early architects of our current notion of freedom made human nature their cornerstone. Rousseau's trumpet call "Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains," makes sense only as description of our innate constitution as something positive, already determined, and conflicting with what society does to us. Kant and Mill took similar positions. And Marx, though he officially dropped the notion of human nature and attacked the term, relied on the idea as much as anybody else for his crucial notion of Dehumanization. Introduction, Beast and Man: The Roots of Human Nature (1979).