Human nature is best conceived of as a cluster of homeostatic properties, ie of traits that are dynamically changing and yet sufficiently stable over evolutionary time to be statistically clearly recognisable. These properties include characteristics that are either unique to the human species, or so quantitatively distinct from anything similar found in other animals that our version is unquestionably and solely human.
Take language, for instance. But no other living species has anything even remotely like human language, with its complex grammar and high levels of recursion where a linguistic rule can be applied to the results of the application of the very same rule, and so on. Other animals, such as octopuses, have large, complex brains and nervous systems, but no other animal has both the size relative to the body and especially the structural asymmetry and layering of the human brain; for instance, its enormously developed frontal cortex, which is in charge of reward, attention, short-term memory tasks, planning and motivation.
The list could go on and on, but the basic point is that it is fallacious to state that there are no fundamental differences between humans and other animals just because the boundaries are fuzzy and dynamic over evolutionary time. But I know it when I see it.
33 Spectacular Quotes About The Human Condition That You Need In Your Life Right Now
We all know it when we see it. Now, if human nature is real, what are the consequences from a philosophical perspective? Why should a philosopher, or anyone interested in using philosophy as a guide to life, care about this otherwise technical debate?
T he temptation to link existentialism with the idea of a tabula rasa is understandable. We had lost all our rights, and first of all our right to speak. They insulted us to our faces … They deported us en masse … And because of all this we were free. Even Simone de Beauvoir thought he took it too far, particularly when he told her that her seasickness was all in her head. I, on the other hand, claimed that stomach and tear ducts, indeed the head itself, were all subject to irresistible forces on occasion. This is human nature: perpetually seeking to escape our natural condition, to transcend — surpassing the given — towards self-chosen, concrete goals.
A few philosophical ruminations on the human condition and choosing to live well
To be human is to live in ambiguity because we are forever caught in a tension between the facts of our lives and the will to overcome them. Biology might seem to offer a simple explanation for some limitations. This is both a wrong and a harmful way to think about our nature. Historically, women have been defined primarily by the same biological functions they share with other animals, tethered in myths about femininity, and robbed of the opportunity to transcend. Natural obstacles provide a different sort of limitation.
It might be absurd for de Beauvoir to persist with sailing if she vomits constantly, but giving up on her goals because of seasickness is stupid, too. To transcend is to recognise our resistances and failures, and to rebel against them creatively. This perspective matters because it emphasises that, while there are fixed elements to our being, we are not fixed beings, since we are or ought to be free to choose our projects. Neither biology nor natural obstacles limit our futures to a great extent, and how we live out our human nature will vary because we give different meanings to our facticities.
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An authentic life is about acknowledging these differences, and stretching ourselves into an open future. It does not follow that this openness is unlimited or unconstrained. We are limited, but mostly by our own imagination. For the Stoics, human nature circumscribes what humans can do, and what they are inclined to do.
I invite you to reflect on these words during your darkest hour.
Pain and suffering recedes to give way to a harmonious solution. Painful challenges dissolve in the same way morning fog lifts to reveal a brilliant day. So, yield to your challenges by leaning in to them instead of opposing them. What happens when you move into your challenges instead of run away from them?
You face them head on and build self-confidence. The storm represents your darkest hour amid the backdrop of uncertainty. Known as the dark night of the soul, the storm serves a purpose. It endows you with vital resources intended for your personal growth. It is by no mistake that the bigger you play, the harder you will fall. Challenges can arise suddenly, yet lead you to a deeper knowledge of yourself.
Your personal growth is impeded were it not for the difficult times. Man does not rise to his best under the kindest conditions, yet in the harshest storm he discovers his true potential. The happiest people are those who have undergone hardship to emerge with deep wisdom to share with others.
You prevail not in waiting for the storm to pass, but in proceeding through it. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. This way you acquire the lessons, and experience the pain. Venture beyond your comfort zone often if you wish to awaken your potential. Those who settle, burn out well before their time has come. Similarly, strive to nurture patience and self-compassion as you endure the storm. Our original instinctive state was the opposite of being competitive, selfish and aggressive: it was cooperative, selfless and loving.
Human Nature: 3 Deep Lessons to Change Your Life
At about 11 or 12 years of age we all, in our naivety, did naturally start thinking about the incredible imperfection of human life — about why there is so much suffering in the world when, seemingly, there could and should be so much happiness, togetherness and love, and about all the hatred, cruelty, indifference and greed that is causing all that suffering. By about 14 or 15 our thinking about the human condition deepened to the point where we realised that those imperfections, like indifference towards others, anger, even hatred, selfishness and greed, also existed within ourselves.
It was at this point of discovering that the human condition existed not only in the world without but also within that trying to understand the human condition without an honest explanation for it became so unbearably — in fact, suicidally — depressing that we realised we had no choice but to resign ourselves to never ever again revisiting the subject of the human condition. He had stopped going to school…he sat in his room for hours listening to rock music, the door closed…I asked him about his head-shaking behavior: I wondered whom he was thereby addressing.
The boy was in tears because Coles had reached him with some recognition and acknowledgement of what he was wrestling with; Coles had shown some honesty about what the boy could see and was struggling with, namely the horror of the utter hypocrisy of human behaviour — which all those who had already resigned to living in denial of the human condition had determinedly committed their minds to not recognising.
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Have you ever thought or wondered, why the Man and God were sundered [torn apart]? Do you think the Maker blundered?
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The person slumped at the table with owls and bats gyrating around his head perfectly depicts the bottomless depression that occurs in humans just prior to resigning to a life of denial of the issue of the human condition, and someone in that situation would have recognised that meaning instantly, almost wilfully drawing such a perfect representation of their state out of the world around them.
So there are some very revealing admissions of just how fearfully depressing the issue of the human condition has been. The depression and glandular fever experienced by young adolescents are a direct result of the trauma of having to resign to never again revisiting the subject of the human condition. Much, much more is said about Resignation in Part of Freedom: Expanded Book 1 , for it is the most important and yet almost completely unacknowledged psychological event in human life.
Hull; in The Collected Works of C. Jung , Vol. Constantly surrounded by this empty feeling…Never good enough for those ideals that seem to mean the most…Driven into madness, I see no end in sight, and inadequacy seems like the only means to pass through this life. And I sit and ask myself when will it end?
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