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The Nature of Human Nature
the more he seeks quietude. the more he longs for complexity. the more leisure he has. the stronger is his desire for leisure. the more he feels the allure of unconcern. the more boredom he feels. the more tumultuous his life. 1 . the busier he becomes. the simpler his life becomes. the more he longs for simplicity.x x x x x x x x x x x x x x C H A P T E R 2 Human Nature: What Is It? CHAPTER OBJECTIVES In this chapter we will address the following questions: x What Does Metaphysics Have to Do with Human Nature? x Is There a Human Nature? x How Do Humans Differ from the Rest of Nature? x What Are Some Representative Images of Human Nature? It is a characteristic of man that the more he becomes involved in complexity. the more his concerns. the lonelier he becomes and the more he quests for liveliness. the more placid his life. the more he suffers from vacuousness. the more his unconcern.
” 4. holds that all life develops from lower.x Metaphysics (see Chapter 1. nationalism and racism were born. an unchanging essence. “Human nature. and even its sense. Aristotle. or. psychology.” and 5. what is unique or special to humans? What constitutes “human” nature in a continually evolving process? Another factor has contributed to the modern tendency to deny the phenomenon of a ﬁxed human nature. in the name of a certain abstract nature.” something that philosophically speaking constitutes the “essence of humans. for that matter. in its name. that when we hear it mentioned we are inclined to seriously doubt its moral value. what is “human” now must be different from what will be “human” ﬁfty thousand years from now. and everyday living involve the question of what it means to be human.2 in the biological sense. including the topics explored in this chapter and Chapters 3. the Middle Ages. people become what they are because their culture shapes them.3 Is it necessary to come to the conclusion that there is no human nature? Such an assumption seems to imply as many dangers as those belonging to the concept of a ﬁxed human nature. Most thinkers of Greek antiquity. the powerful to the helpless. yet we speak of “human nature” as if all individuals also have some quality in common. but there was agreement that such an essence existed. According to their view. the white man feels superior to the Negro. in the name of a supposedly superior Aryan nature. “The Self. and up to the period of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century assumed that there is something called “human nature. have led us to raise new and different questions about humans’ essential nature. p. En- Is There a Human Nature? vironmental factors are such a powerful inﬂuence in the development of personality that some anthropologists question the idea that there is a human essence that is common to all individuals no matter what cultural environment they are in. simpler forms to higher and more complex forms. how could there be the disciplines called the Human Nature: What Is It? x 27 . too often has been made to serve the purposes of state and society. Advances in the biological and social sciences in the twentieth century. How does the concept of evolution affect views on the nature of being human? Evolution. “Is there a human nature?” Metaphysics and Human Nature x What is it about being human that makes people different from x x x x x x x x x x stones or trees or rats? What do we mean when we say that all persons are brothers and sisters in some sense? People are obviously different from each other in so many ways. There were various ideas about what this essence was like. has been used as a shield behind which the worst injustices are committed. Is there such a thing as human nature? Where does it come from. In the name of human nature Plato.” They believed that there was a ﬁxed human nature. Homo sapiens is seen by the evolutionist as a development from onecelled animals. “The Mind.” in our days. has been abused so often. because human beings are subject to evolutionary change. “The Freedom To Choose. and what is it like? Almost all of the important issues in philosophy. how could there be values that are universally applicable to all persons. the Nazis exterminated more than six million human beings. however. If this is indeed the case. If there were no essence common to all of humanity. and most of the thinkers up to the eighteenth century defended slavery. of an essence of being human: The concept of human nature.” We shall begin our inquiry with the basic question. that there was something that makes a human being different from anything else. and religion. For example. the strong to the weak. something by virtue of which humans are humans. the study of so-called primitive peoples has shown such a diversity of customs and values that some anthropologists view a newborn child as a blank sheet of paper on which each culture ﬁlls in the text. 7) encompasses many issues rex x x x x x x x x x lated to the nature of human beings.
at least in any marked degree. no more than animals. cultural. psychology. There are certain physical characteristics that set humans apart from other higher animals. existential dimension. and intellectual traits and forms of behavior possessed exclusively by human beings. taste. We have already noted that most scientists view humans as a part of the physical order of nature and as one of more than a million species of animals. make complex sentences. None of these attributes.4 Should humans insist that they are simply children of nature. who respond only to their animal instincts and appetites? Or should we insist on our unique and distinctive place in nature. x Recent decades have seen rapid development not only in the biological and behavx x x x x x x x x x ioral sciences but also in computer technology and what is sometimes referred to as “thinking machines. and the rotation capacity of the arm. As one well-known theologian has pointed out. Not only is the human average skull capacity about three times that of the largest anthropoid ape. is it merely a matter of difference of degree or do humans differ in kind? Is there evidence to show that human behavior does include abilities not found in other living things or in machines of any degree of complexity? Let us 28 x How Humans Differ from the Rest of Nature in this chapter look at some of the objective evidence and at some widely accepted views of humans and our distinctive nature. in themselves. Upright posture frees the arms and hands for exploration and manipulation. after all. In the following chapter. we are manipulators. and if some computer-type machines can solve problems too complicated for the human mind. as those animals that can produce. thus. tool makers. for example. Humans are described. completely deﬁne or limit the nature of humans. Because of this ﬂexibility. personal. which permits the rotation of the arm. The free ﬂexible ﬁngers and prehensile thumb enable us to oppose the thumb to the other four ﬁngers in grasping objects. but in humans the greatest development is in the cerebrum. syntax (the arrangement of words in grammatical construc- Chapter 2 . and the sense of smell tends to recede. For example. as we move beyond strictly objective and measurable traits. then are humans in any sense unique? If there is a difference. and vary the order of the sentence elements. How do humans differ in our overt behavior and what can be readily inferred from this behavior? 1. Homo sapiens is a part of nature and partakes of nature’s ways. we also appear to transcend or rise above nature and to exercise considerable control over it. Humans employ a propositional language. 2. The well-developed collarbone. it is the human mind that interprets and discovers meaning in the process of life and history. and inventors. as social animals. we can handle objects. or sociology—which claim “human nature” as their subject matter.” If humans do not differ radically from the higher mammals. we are our own most vexing problem. smell. we come to certain social. Whereas most other animals can only scratch. we are problems to ourselves. Perhaps it would be helpful to distinguish— as many contemporary philosophers do—between the concept of human nature with an essence shared by all persons and that of certain characteristics that are common to all people. and bite. The question of human nature also has an immediate. as tool makers. The human sense of sight achieves greater prominence and use. or as symbol-making animals. (3) Our larger brain and head and more highly organized and intricate nervous system. (1) Our erect posture. They simply describe their common characteristics. This permits 5 more varied and subtle behavior. gives greater freedom and ﬂexibility to the arm than that present in the forelimbs of many animals. the seat of the higher mental processes. As we move beyond these physical traits and relationships. (2) Our free ﬁngers and prehensile thumb.social sciences—anthropology. the forelimb of the dog is stiff and limited in range compared with the arm of a human. we shall consider human beings as persons.
” and do not have this conceptual power. Moral progress usually comes through the insights of a quickened or haunted conscience or through creative individuals. if other creatures are more than “living robots. but they x x x x x x x x x x can be grouped into ﬁve fairly distinct viewpoints: (1) The classical or rational view of Western philosophers. They light ﬁres. whether these are responsible and intelligent or irresponsible and impulsive. philosophy. According to some social psychologists. which is not demonstrably evident in animal communication. They decorate themselves and their artifacts for the enjoyment it brings. Human Nature: What Is It? x Images of Human Nature 29 . build intricate shelters. we are impressed that human beings alone have the power of conceptual thought. occurs exclusively in the language of humans. Humans are religious beings in that they worship and engage in ritualistic or ceremonial practices. People can inﬂuence and make history. and are learning to cooperate in large units. industry. apparently. often without any utilitarian purpose. As we look back over this list of observable human characteristics. Cooperation among individuals and groups is essential for the development of the institutions of agriculture. They do not develop art. and build machines. That is. For example. In this development. to construct a shuttle between earth and manufactured satellites. In light of “what is. pray. They participate in the making of history by their decisions. oral and written language. Humans have aesthetic appreciation. science. are limited to the “perceptually apprehended present situation. 7. the human spirit exhibits the range and depth of its appreciation and imagination. establish rules of conduct. 6. 4. they tend to replace a personal god with an impersonal one—the state. education. human beings will have to reassess the treatment of other animals. In art. However.tions). People can not only appreciate beauty—they can create it. Even though some become agnostic or atheistic. Articulate speech. specialization and integration. government. Human progress appears to depend on the ability of people to cooperate in larger and larger groups. Although other species may well share with humans some higher mental abilities. They have learned to ﬂy. and ask forgiveness is a worldwide phenomenon. and religion. Social cooperation is one condition for a good life in an interdependent society. human analytical capabilities appear to remain vastly superior to anything demonstrated elsewhere in the animal kingdom. they are ethical creatures with a moral conscience.” our eternal restlessness are our hope. Animals. and the use of symbols are the principal vehicles of culture. They keep alive and continuously feed memory and imagination. to travel to interstellar space. or organization. Only humans are conscious of history and have a cumulative cultural tradition. today they can even annihilate the future.” they can ask “What ought to be?” Our conscience. only humans invent repeatedly. to journey under the sea. race. who also are capable of carrying on conversations. have gone hand in hand.” if to some extent they experience mental activity and feelings. 3. 8. held up to and through the period of the Enlightenment. make complex tools. or devotion to the search for truth or some other ideal. 5. do they have moral rights? To what extent are they mere resources for humanity? x There are many different interpretations of human nature. some process in nature. Language in its various forms is the instrument of both personal and social communication and is basic to human society. our sense of “ought. As far as we can discover. wear clothes and ornaments. especially the fact that we alone have a propositional language and possess the power of syntactical speech. repent. the invention of writing enabled us to pass from barbarism to civilization. Humans are social and political creatures who enact laws. That people worship. Human beings have a sense of right and wrong and of values. or a religious outlook. They look into the past and make plans for the future. and to project their images and voices around the world. science.
especially in its conﬁdence in human reason and its view that the intelligent person is virtuous. Only reason is able to penetrate to the nature of things. which is largely the product of the natural sciences. and transformations. there is an undertone of melancholy in Graeco-Roman civilization. Many Greek thinkers were impressed by the brevity and mortality of humans. what most distinguishes human beings is the fact that they are rational beings. Reason is independent and immortal in its essential nature. Their religious faith. (5) The scientiﬁc view. but these are the general images produced by civilizations throughout history. inherited mainly from Greece and Rome and revived in a slightly different form during the Renaissance. they shared with their classical predecessors the focus on practical applications of truths to human life in society. reason is the highest faculty of the soul. also. They did not believe that large numbers of people (or what they frequently referred to as “the Many”) could be among the wise. and Islam is the major motif that the individual is in a special relationship to the Creator. but on free inquiry and on making their own choices. and the behavioristic view. Christianity. reason is the highest part of the soul. The Renaissance view of human nature retained a ﬁrm. There are various subdivisions. Renaissance people sought harmony between philosophy and theology. is distinguished from the body. The Stoics believed in a cosmic reason. Although a Christian orientation set the perspective. Human uniqueness lies not chieﬂy in our reason or in our relation to nature. which is largely attributable to certain thinkers in the social sciences. CHRISTIANITY. For Aristotle. a human is to be understood primarily from the viewpoint of the nature and the uniqueness of his or her rational powers. Christianity. the intelligent human is the virtuous human. Mind is the unifying 30 x principle and. The goal of human effort and the meaning of progress are the harmonious development of all of human functions and capabilities through the supremacy and the perfection of reason in human beings and their society. It is our prize possession. (2) The religious view expressed in the Hebraic traditions. For Plato. modiﬁcations. Reason must check the testimony of the senses because the “assent of reason” is central in human knowledge. which can be divided into two parts: the biological understanding of humans. and the function of reason is to guide conduct. this stance has permeated the history of Western civilizations. because it was viewed as a series of cycles or endless recurrences. History had little meaning. According to this classical interpretation. With the purpose of understanding and justifying their capacity for initiative in the world. Instead. RELIGIOUS VIEWS OF HUMAN NATURE: JUDAISM. The Stoic sage is the ideal person who suppresses emotions and governs the world through self-control. Vice is the result of ignorance. To know what is right is to do it. (4) The opposing images of humans in relation to society offered by the philosophers Hobbes and Rousseau. Reason is the pride and glory of all human persons. we have singled out the Hindu and Buddhist heritages as representatives of the Eastern religious view. AND ISLAM Engrained in the sacred literature of Judaism. Plato. THE RATIONAL VIEW OF HUMAN NATURE According to the classical rationalistic view of human nature. Judaism. (3) In the Asian world. For Socrates. which pervades all things. and their followers. It differed from the classical view in that people’s uniqueness was understood in terms both of their rational independence and their relationship to God. Although the classical view of human nature is optimistic. optimistic conﬁdence in human reason. and Islam hold variations on a basic theme. as such. Chapter 2 .This view has been inherited largely from the world of Greece and Rome. however. which sets us apart from subhuman nature. was not based on authoritative pronouncements. or logos.
real self in the context of the eternal life. neighbor.”7 Both the diagnosis and the remedy are set in a world view very different from that of the West. and it is difﬁcult to delineate one particular view of humans in Hindu thought. In Buddhist thought. With an uncompromising emphasis on the omnipotence of God. ephemeral. the criterion for the exercise of human freedom is loving submission to the will of God. is now. Human beings are regarded by these religions as made “in the image of God”. Buddhist teaching begins with a diagnosis of the human situation and ﬁnds a remedy for that situation in “The Four Noble Truths.each person is a worthwhile.” It is this participation that empowers them with love. Muslims have included a strong sense of predestination in their image of humans: God directs all events. existence involves dukkha. Hinduism clearly delineates between the world of the senses—the visible world—which is changing. We can alter the paths of history. the Bible is the product of divine revelation such that the Creator is “he who was in the beginning. that is. No aspect of Buddhist thought is more puzzling to the Western mind than the Buddhist view of human nature. intentional creation of God. In Judaism and Christianity. a choice of false gods is one cause of an individual’s separation from the true God. reliable. we have the capacity to act under our own initiative. Human Human Nature: What Is It? x 31 . and temporary. and self. and the unchanging world. For these three religions. It is our task to be delivered from the wheel of existence in which we ﬁnd ourselves. nothing in present existence is permanent. is an essential nurturing of persons individually and corporately in their basic goodness as “children of God. other themes in the Qur’an point to individual responsibility for actions.” We suffer because we are attached to things which change. Turn where we will. the very act of submission to Allah’s will presupposing a measure of freedom. which is permanent. The main problem for the Western mind is that Buddhism also insists that we cannot prove one way or another that there is a “self” to experience either the suffering or the bliss. We must cut through the web of delusion as experienced by our senses. so that we can know the eternal and permanent life that is beyond the phenomena of existence. we have the freedom to move within the limits of time and space. We must pierce through all the misleading confusions and appearances of this life to see our true. We must begin with true knowledge about ourselves. unique individual created by God. and eternal. therefore. Nevertheless. Each understands the nature of that love and breaches of the relationship (sin) in a variety of ways in their holy writings and traditions. An implication of this religious image of humans is. THE ASIAN RELIGIOUS VIEW OF HUMAN NATURE The religions of Asia have many varying views of humans and their essence. the Creator has endowed us with the unique attributes of a free agent capable of love. and will be in all the future” (Revelations I:4). we can choose to disobey and rebel against the Creator. or “suffering. In Islam. which is indestructible and imperishable. characteristics analogous to God’s own self-expression. It is more difﬁcult to derive a doctrine of human freedom from the Qur’an6 than it is from the Bible. humans also are the primary. God appears and intervenes in history. Participation in the community of faith. Buddhism sees present human existence in terms of the reappearance of karmic (see karma in glossary) attributes in continuous sequential lives. In contrast. that personal fulﬁllment requires an individual and a communal loyalty or affection for God. but not God’s ultimate sovereignty or the ﬁnal outcome of the historical process. is distinctive for its complexity. the great theme of nearly all schools of Hindu thinking is that humans must recover eternal life. or Hinduism. as each deﬁnes that community. It is perhaps most fair to say that there is a problem of reconciling human free will with God’s omnipotence in Islam. The Hindu religion. However. because we have the freedom to make choices. In Judaism and Christianity alike.
In Hinduism and Buddhism. How could people live together in peace and harmony? Would it be possible for a person to create a new form of life. sin is the ignorant clinging to the world that inhibits the process of migration and liberation from the universe. Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) published Leviathan (1651). where the Leviathan was a magniﬁcent crocodile who ruled the animal kingdom and could never be overthrown. and “brutish. Hinduism and Buddhism view human freedom such that we can conform to the ﬂow of rebirth in one life after another and thereby ﬁnd eventual freedom in a self-aware existence. The Buddhist doctrine asserts that rather than a self or soul. was mainly an agreement of equally selﬁsh and selfseeking persons not to commit mass murder and thereby destroy the human race.” There can be no ﬁxed human nature. Reason suggests that human beings make an agreement with the state in the form of a social contract that. What they began to ask was not merely how humans differ from other animals. (See biography and excerpt. feelings. but what pos32 x sibilities we possess for becoming more human. subject to change and decay. they would be continuously at war with one another. Other pictures of a social contract were developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth cen- Chapter 2 . in Hinduism all souls will eventually ﬁnd ultimate destiny in moksa. perceptions. for not only are the attachments the self makes impermanent but also anything that can be called “the self ” also is impermanent. was convinced that peace and order required a Leviathanlike state that would be able to resist attack and that had absolute authority over its subjects. Hobbes. the same destiny is the identical future for the entire universe. 34–35. to have self-regard). More of this will be explained in the chapter on Asian thought. Thus. aggressive. Unlike the Western traditions. In Asia. conceptions. In the philosophic schools of Hinduism and Buddhism. HUMAN NATURE AND SOCIETY: HOBBES AND ROUSSEAU With the advent of the Renaissance. In Leviathan. in the West. there is instead a coming together of “streams. for Hobbes.” If left to themselves. and consciousness. We ﬁnd a sense of “sin” different from the understandings in the Hebraic traditions. or we may choose to be out of step with this ﬂow and consequently retard our freedom from selfhood. Hobbes based his political position on an analysis of human nature. to be proud (that is. Is there an unchanging human nature that determines social forms—that makes suffering and war inevitable? Or would it be possible to alter the social form in a fashion that would lead to change and progress? Two different pictures of the relation between human nature and society developed. essentially an analysis of political authority. pp. However. He argued that human beings were naturally competitive. antisocial. human nature ﬁnds its fulﬁllment in ﬂowing toward freedom. First. philosophers became aware that an important philosophical consideration had remained untapped in the earlier classical and religious images of human nature.” of bodily sensations. one that would be more worth living? Or is there something so corrupt in human nature that we are doomed to repeat the errors of the past and present? These questions led naturally to a concern for the relation between human nature and society.beings are no exception to the rule that “all is change. greedy. particularly the passion for selfpreservation. on the other hand.) The title for his work came from the Old Testament. in the seventeenth century. Hobbes attacked the idealistic political philosophies of Plato and Aristotle for being unrealistic and for assuming wrongly that people were naturally capable of virtue and wisdom. at this point we should understand that human freedom in Western religious thought is crucial to an individual’s and a people’s destiny. a communal fellowship with a loving Creator is the goal that we may choose or reject. we must be vain and deluded. while in Buddhism all sentient beings can be assured of the eventual experience of nirvana. who had witnessed rebellion and civil war in England. He appealed to human passions. or release.
shape. Rousseau does not. anthropology. Rousseau’s aim is to develop a conception of the state that would allow us to live as morally as possible. We are alienated from our original nature and prevented from being our real selves. we are merely a more complex or “higher” form of life. We occupy space and time. to be a citizen is to want and to do what is good for the society as well as oneself. we can be manipulated.turies. a gunman. pp. as a result we must reexamine our social institutions. and may be explained by the same laws that govern all other matter. resulting in the disciplines we know as the social sciences: sociology. This scientiﬁc view of humanity does not consider the realm of science to extend beyond the objective “facts” disclosed by the various natural sciences. he asserts that humans must regain their freedom within society. we are ﬁlled with inner contradictions and seek after objects outside of ourselves. In his famous book. The possibility of shaping in any direction is almost endless. which is a force superior to the action of any particular will. take the social contract to be simply a doctrine of protection among mutually brutish individuals. Rather. which is not an external authority but a part of our own moral law—which is directed toward the general good—we achieve true freedom by obeying a law that we prescribe for ourselves.”8 Human Nature: What Is It? x 33 . or free association of intelligent human beings who deliberately choose to form the type of society to which they will owe allegiance. he believed that the institution of any genuine political society must be the result of a social pact. but with the clear opposition of their views in respect to the moral nature of humans. a “natural” person is “naturally” good. however. the laws of physics. contrary to Hobbes. The Social Contract (1762). I’ll make it climb and use its hands in constructing buildings of stone or wood. a citizen chooses the type of society on the basis of the general will. We are part of the physical order of nature. most notable was that of John Locke (1632–1704). political science. the function of the state is to allow people to regain the “natural goodness” that they once had in the absence of any state at all. instead. however. The cry of the behaviorist is: “Give me the baby and my world to bring it up in and I’ll make it crawl and walk. In this fashion. we have size. and color. (See biography and excerpt. SCIENTIFIC VIEWS OF HUMANS One strict scientiﬁc interpretation of humanity asserts that we and all our activities are determined by the laws of physics and chemistry. and psychology. therefore. According to behaviorism. A social contract. Rousseau further believed it was competition and our lust for private property that was responsible for this corruption. In this view. I’ll make it a thief. such as the law of gravitation. always at the expense of another. humans in the “state of nature” desire only to outdo their fellow humans. apply to us as well as to other physical objects. In accepting the authority of the general will. weight. which greatly inﬂuenced the formulation of the American Constitution. the individual gains another kind of goodness: the genuine virtue of a person who is not an isolated being but part of a great whole. Rousseau has properly been regarded as the father of the most liberal and revolutionary theories of our time. For Rousseau. they mainly seek gain and glory.) Rousseau. or a dope ﬁend. We neglect the true lessons of nature to pursue the illusions of opinions. and contemporary society has corrupted us. human psychology has become the study of human behavior. formed. the scientiﬁc method has been applied in many of the human studies. is most frequently thought of in connection with the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778). For Hobbes. Our basic concern here is not so much with the theory of the state that Hobbes and Rousseau proposed. and developed in much the same manner as any other animal. Since the nineteenth century. like other objects. 36–37. In contemporary behavioral science. He believed that people were “naturally good” and it was only the corruptions of society that made them selﬁsh and destructive. on the other hand. For Rousseau. had an extremely optimistic view of human nature.
drive. For Watson. Skinner reduced the “science” of human behavior to a study of human responses to the effects of the environment. Deeply impressed by the precision of science. The position of the majority of the behavioral scientists is that all individuals are “by nature” identical—empty organisms furnished with the same Chapter 2 . always claiming a close identity in their methods with those of the natural sciences. gave expression to his view of the relationship between nature. all subjective terms such as sensation. Watson. Because people wanted preservation and peace. F. Animal psychologists undertook extensive research on rats. a state of perpetual strife and war. the individual. they transferred their will to the will of the state in a social contract that justiﬁes absolute sovereign power. and society. which developed from the Darwinian revolution in biology. where he became acquainted with the philosophy of Descartes and other French thinkers. could be controlled from birth. and prominent people. the behaviorist was led to conclude that the task of a psychologist is to investigate human behavior rather than the human mind and its consciousness. Hobbes describes humans as they appeared in what he called the state of nature. held that the scientiﬁc investigation of human nature must be limited to the objectively observable. His royal sympathies at a time when England was torn by civil strife led him to ﬂee to France. He attended Oxford University. His chief philosophical work. cats.”9 The far-reaching implication of this limitation is that the scope of observation does not include what the human organism means or intends by speech and action. John B. Skinner. Life in the state of nature is brutish and short. and thus society.”10 Many contemporary behaviorists. and chimpanzees as substitutes for the human subject. a person was simply “an assembled organic machine ready to run. and tried to apply the new mechanical conceptions of the physical world to his thinking about humans and mental life. foreign travel. A direct forerunner of behaviorism during the nineteenth century was the ﬁeld of animal psychology. Hobbes rejected the scholastic tradition in philosophy. then became a tutor to a prominent family that gave him access to books. chickens. which is the condition of humans prior to the creation of a state or civil society. he sought to work out a philosophy on a mathematical basis.x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) was born prematurely when his mother became fearful because of the threat of invasion of England by the Spanish Armada. As a result of these studies. perception. have been fascinated by the possibility that people. including B. and purpose are dropped. Leviathan (1651). “Now what can we observe? We can observe behavior—what the or34 x ganism says and does. who founded the behaviorist school of psychology.
XIII (1651) So that in the nature of man. All other time is PEACE. the second. their nation. in our everyday lives through the constraints of government. and the third. their friends. E. but in the known disposition thereto. and has operated. . First. They see a person as a robot or a machine. as is of every man against every man. thirdly. It’s a little late to be proving that a behavioral technology is well advanced. neural and mechanical equipment. and education. children. consisteth not in battle only. The English Philosophers from Bacon to Mill (New York: Modern Library. they are in that condition which is called war. and in his utopian novel. but in a tract of time wherein the will to contend by battle is sufﬁciently known and therefore the notion of time. The ﬁrst use violence to make themselves masters of other men’s persons. Look at their frightful misuse in the hands of the Nazis! And what about the techniques of the psychological clinic? What about education? Or religion? Or practical politics? Or advertising and salesmanship? Bring them all together and you have a sort of rule-of-thumb technology of vast power. and such a war. For as the nature of foul weather lieth not in a shower or two of rain but in an inclination thereto of many days together. difﬁdence. and cattle. the law. is to be considered in the nature of war as it is in the nature of weather. the second. as a word. ed. Ch. Science and Human Behavior. for triﬂes. so the nature of war consisteth not in actual ﬁghting. for reputation. or by reﬂection in their kindred. either direct in their persons. Skinner indicated that this kind of behavior control operates. a smile.12 Strict behaviorists deny that humans have an essential nature. The ﬁrst maketh men invade for gain. Skinner sought to demonstrate through the simpliﬁcations of the laboratory and of biology that changes in human behavior can be broken down to two basic processes: Pavlovian conditioning and operant modiﬁcation through the use of the controls of positive and negative reinforcement. or their name. For WAR. a different opinion.Excerpt from Hobbes: Leviathan. wives.11 Operant modiﬁcation occurs when the experimenter selects from the organism’s network of responses a particular response to trigger positive reinforcement or to remove a negative stimulus. glory. all individuals come equipped with the same potential for manipulation by the world around them. Human Nature: What Is It? x 35 . waiting to be formed accidentally or purposefully by the forces around them. the third. Burtt.. Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe. religion. or in the act of ﬁghting. for safety. competition. second. during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. . Many of its techniques and methods are really as old as the hills. economics. Walden Two. we ﬁnd three principal causes of quarrel. 1939). In his well-known book. . to defend them. and any other sign of undervalue. their profession.
The Social Contract. In 1728. he saw a notice indicating that the Academy of Dijon was offering a prize for an essay on the question of whether the revival of the sciences and the arts had helped to corrupt or to purify morals.”13 Reﬂections x x x x x x x x x x x Modern. “Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts. to the level of a conditioned and behaving animal. the Jewish and Christian beliefs. A forerunner of Romanticism whose thinking and writing inﬂuenced the development of the French Revolution. and he was brought up by his father who gave him no regular schooling during his ﬁrst ten years. because he thought modern society was rotten to the core. They give us valuable and expert information about segments of human life. This subject fascinated him. The scientiﬁc view of humans is one that can be accepted as far as it goes.x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x Jean Jacques Rousseau Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) was a Swiss-born French philosopher of the Age of Reason. On his way to visit Diderot. and Confessions. and our intelligence quotients is important. who was then in prison. a discourse on inequality. He was later apprenticed to an engraver who punished him and left him with a strong resentment against injustice. the Mendelian laws of inheritance. 36 x as complicated animals. Western culture is a synthesis of ideals and ways of living that have come primarily from the early Greek culture. he ran away from Geneva and began an adventurous life in France and Italy. our allergic sensitivity. a work on education that has had inﬂuence in the ﬁeld of education. His mother died soon after his birth. In addition to his prize-winning essay. such facts to live well. Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) (see biography and excerpt. There is a great quantity of technical knowledge we could not gain by other methods. was contemptuous of what she called the “allcomprehensive pretension of the social sciences which as ‘behavioral sciences’ aim to reduce man as a whole. rather than fewer. and the scientiﬁc progress of recent centuries. Rousseau was the victim of severe emotional distress. knowledge of our metabolism. We need more. which is sentimental ﬁction. and in his later years he suffered from delusions of persecution. 38–39) for example. At times during his life. as stimulus-response mechanisms. the principal authority for the ﬁrst ﬁfty-three years of Rousseau’s life. Where it is deﬁcient Chapter 2 . pp. These sciences have furnished us with a mass of facts or descriptive material regarding human life and relationships. our defense mechanisms. Heavy criticism has been leveled at this approach. he was born in Geneva. For example. Emile. His essay won ﬁrst prize and he became famous. in all his activities.” his writings include: The New Héloise. and no limitations to the humane study of its proper subject matter should be placed in its way. and as social beings. The sciences study humans as physical objects.
and yet we see him everywhere in chains. but because it is incomplete. for the recovery of their liberty. it is therefore founded on conventions. J. The question is. Reason gives us dignity and is the logical basis of our demand for freedom. because philosophy seeks completeness and a comprehensive answer to questions.” or Marx’s interpretation of humans according to economic processes—these are not totally false but extremely lopsided views. or unjustiﬁably torn from them. The Greek view of human nature as rational is sound insofar as it goes. To limit the investigation of human experience to one or even a few of its segments is unphilosophical. Yet this right comes not from nature. Spengler’s interpretation of humans as “beasts of prey. then. How this happens I am ignorant. are likely to neglect what is distinctively human about us. J. and then attempt to interpret the organism totally according to physical and chemical action and reaction. and does throw it off. 1947). Rousseau. and the effects of it. it is unlikely that there ever would be a unity of all people. If I were only to consider force. I believe it may be in my power to resolve the question. We may learn Human Nature: What Is It? x 37 . to come to the conclusion that there is no human nature? Such an assumption seems to invite as many dangers as those inherent in the concept of a ﬁxed nature. what those conventions are. C. I should say. it is usually not because it is false. which has humans as its subject matter. The sciences. Is it necessary. When a people is constrained to obey. Neither could there be a science of psychology or anthropology. Frankel (New York: Hafner. yet it is not complete either. but as soon as it can throw off its yoke. Those who believe themselves the masters of others cease not to be even greater slaves than the people they govern. we are potentially rational beings.Excerpt from Rousseau: The Social Contract (1762) Man is born free. the same right that was employed to deprive them of it: it was either justiﬁably recovered. If there were no essence common to all people. it does well. The Social Contract. ed. if I am asked what renders it justiﬁable. But the social order is a sacred right which serves for the basis of all others. and does obey. There is the danger that we may reduce the rich qualities of human personality to the functioning of the biological organism. with their emphasis on objectivity. but. Freud’s interpretation of humans according to “libido” or sex striving. Though no human is completely and consistently rational. it does better: for a people may certainly use.
Arendt devoted most of her time to university teaching and writing at the University of Chicago. modern humans are likely to explain the tension in our lives as a conﬂict between our animal characteristics and our higher aspirations. In 1941. It helped establish her reputation as a political scientist.x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x Hannah Arendt Hannah Arendt (1906–1975). Germany. The religious emphasis on humans as creatures whose lives have meaning in a meaningful universe—on the worth and dignity of each person. antisemitic tendencies that arose in its wake. and educated at the Universities of Marburg. she left her homeland in 1933 for France. and the New School for Social Research in New York. We have great possibilities for both evil and good. in continuous interaction with our environ- 38 x Chapter 2 . Princeton. Thereafter. we live at the point where “nature” and “spirit” meet. Freiburg. On Violence (1970). Crises of the Republic (1972). Her less-than-optimistic views on human nature were no doubt due in large measure to her exposure to the roots of Nazism in the late 1920s and early 1930s. she arrived in the United States and worked for Jewish relief agencies until 1952. But this outlook is crucial. On Revolution (1963). and philosopher. was born in Hanover. We are children of nature. Under the inﬂuence of the biological sciences. Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963). because it does not reduce personality to uncontrolled “natural” impulses or conceive of it as perfect. and on love and social-mindedness in human relations—is another contribution. This is not to deny. which accompany the development of our higher powers. The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) is a study of the decline of the political systems of nineteenth-century Europe and the expansionist. from the Greeks in respecting reason and cultivating it in human society. and The Life of the Mind (1977). that many earlier theological conceptions of humans need to be revised or discarded. a teacher. and Heidelberg. writer. of course. Arendt wrote several other books. She became known as a philosopher who viewed the human condition pessimistically and thus generated much controversy. As we noted before. including The Human Condition (1958). Fleeing the Nazis.
But. not even to the splitting of the atom. We see. far from being the accidental slip of some American reporter. could behold there a thing of their own making. was relief about the ﬁrst “step toward escape from man’s imprisonment to the earth. Yet. the understanding of human nature has never been more difﬁcult than in our contem- porary society. an earth-born object made by man was launched into the universe. who now. For these reasons. In this process. more than twenty years ago. bound by earthly time. when they looked up from the earth toward the skies. we have concentrated all our energies on the production and consumption of things. manipulating machines and being manipulated by them. had been carved on the funeral obelisk for one of Russia’s great scientists: “mankind will not remain bound to the earth forever. If this is the case. ment. the moon. We are nature’s rebels. that there are many images of human nature.Excerpt from Arendt: The Human Condition (1958) In 1957. the man-made satellite was no moon or star. The immediate reaction. this joy was not triumphal. would have been greeted with unmitigated joy if it had not been for the uncomfortable military and political circumstances attending it. is our belief that persons are not things and not means for ends outside of themselves. There is a clear. The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. second in importance to no other. This event.” And this strange statement. unwittingly echoed the extraordinary line which. however. it is most important today to reassess continually the traditions of thought about the nature of being human. expressed on the spur of the moment. 1958). and the stars. where for some weeks it circled the earth according to the same laws of gravitation that swing and keep in motion the celestial bodies—the sun. for a time it managed to stay in the skies. Most important. it dwelt and moved in the proximity of the heavenly bodies as though it had been admitted tentatively to their sublime company. present danger that people may forget they are persons. Arendt. we continually experience ourselves as things. no heavenly body which could follow its circling path for a time span that to us mortals. lasts from eternity to eternity. who refuse to accept conditions as we ﬁnd them. animals living a precarious existence on a small planet. then. To be sure. it was not pride or awe at the tremendousness of human power and mastery which ﬁlled the hearts of men. But we are also self-conscious beings who stand outside nature. Stimulated by our increasing technical capacity.” H. curiously enough. Human Nature: What Is It? x 39 .
and 5. 2. organized society is brought into being and secures mutual protection and welfare for its members. characterized by belief in the power of human reason. as held by Hindu and Buddhist philosophers generally. liberation or release from the bondage of the physical world. Each person is a unique individual. Contrasting positions on the individual’s relationship to society are found in Hobbes and Rousseau. KARMA In Hinduism. Action is seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results. HOW HUMANS DIFFER FROM THE REST OF NATURE 1. Comprehensive investigations attempt to deﬁne the essence of being human and the characteristics common to all people. a free agent capable of making choices. 2. which necessitate a social contract enforced by a sovereign power. the cosmic law of sowing and reaping.) The voluntary agreement among individuals by which. 4. and intellectual traits and forms. Hobbes emphasizes our natural hostility and conceit. SOCIAL CONTRACT The theory of evolution is an interpretation of how the development of living forms has taken place. The Asian view. 40 x Chapter 2 . existence. including the topics of Chapters 2. Christianity. Rousseau argues for a social contract based on laws resulting from the general agreement of the governed. Metaphysics encompasses many issues related to the nature of human beings. The religious view of Judaism. Some contemporary philosophers deny the phenomenon of a ﬁxed human nature.x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x Glossary Terms BEHAVIORISM A theory of psychology which asserts that the proper subject matter of human psychology is the observed behavior of the human being. as of Hobbes. which can be found in only an eternal and permanent life. Locke. 4. or Rousseau. human nature can be explained by the same laws that govern all other matter. IMAGES OF HUMAN NATURE 1. 3. (See Chapter 19. of an essence of being human. according to any of various theories. 3. and Islam focuses on a special relationship between human beings and their Creator. MOKSA OR MOKSHA A philosophical period of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The classical view stresses human reason. 2. 3. Humans have certain observable physical characteristics. is that humans need to search for a “true” self. 5. People also possess certain exclusive social. of cause and effect in human life. cultural. Scientiﬁc views regard human beings as part of the natural order. ENLIGHTENMENT EVOLUTION In Hinduism. good or bad. IS THERE A HUMAN NATURE? 1. The law determines the form that will be taken in each new x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x Chapter Review METAPHYSICS AND HUMAN NATURE 1. What is it about being human that makes people different from stones or trees or rats? Throughout history several philosophical interpretations of human nature have emerged.
so that they will function smoothly for the beneﬁt of all? That’s also an experimental question. the thinker. What would be the implications of the discovery that life exists elsewhere in the universe? Would it affect your view of human nature? 3. Discuss the inﬂuence of the theory of evolution on views of human nature and indicate why there have been sharp differences of opinion on this question. Experimentation with life—could anything be more fascinating?14 Describe some experiments of your own devising that would measure human nature as it has been discussed in this chapter.” (c) “We must deal with persons as they are with a view to what they may become. life was a chemical phenomenon. In discussing the nature of human beings.) has contributed important insights? Explain your answer and indicate to what degree you agree with the evaluations of these interpretations given in this chapter. . . Skinner wrote a utopian novel.” He says. the brain is likened to a telephone exchange. the engineering practices. Study Questions and Projects 1. Human Nature: What Is It? x 41 . 152. Some scientists think that life may exist in other parts of the universe. The scientiﬁc view of humans is one that can be accepted as far as it goes. Jewish and Christian beliefs. p. . V. Comment on the following statements: (a) “Life can be understood only by living. 2. . . That’s certainly an experimental question—for a science of behavior to answer. in Science and Human Life (New York: Basic Books. Even in science the machine is being worshipped.) 7. . is being forgotten . Describe the various characteristics of human beings listed in this chapter. living things were regarded as machines. Whatever image of human nature is being studied or proposed. Modern. Do you agree that each one of the interpretations of human nature (the classical or rational.” (d) “There is no wealth but life . “Because they contain mechanical contrivances. protests against certain “grotesque simpliﬁcations. qualities of human nature cannot be measured experimentally? 5. (Refer also to Chapter 11. 1957). J. which describes a society governed by the principles of behaviorism. What is the “original nature of man?” . And what are the techniques. . while the inventor—the scientist who thought it out—is set aside. because they were made of chemical substances. F. B. etc. and the scientiﬁc progress of recent centuries. . 6. which will shape the behavior of members of a group.” (b) “The scientist. 2. Castle—to be answered by a behavioral technology. or omit some of those listed. because the nervous tissue conducts electrical currents. What. no consummation of life except in the perpetual growth and renewal of the person. One of the main characters explains this society’s approach to questions about human nature: I wish I could convince you of the simplicity and adequacy of the experimental point of view. 3. Butler. A.REFLECTIONS 1. if any. . and indicate whether you would add others. Mr.” Can the dynamic and creative inner worlds of humans be subsumed under scientiﬁc headings? Discuss. . Walden Two. it is most important to always regard persons as neither things nor means for ends outside of themselves. See what you can ﬁnd on this topic in your library and marshal the evidence for and against the view that life as we know it exists beyond the area of our earth.” 4. . and no limitations to x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x the humane study of its proper subject matter should be placed in its way. Western Culture is a synthesis of ideas and ways of living that have come primarily from the early Greek culture. . or both.
Chicago: Chicago. A phenomenological treatment of human nature by one of the founders of “philosophical anthropology. The continuation of the ﬁrst volume. A renowned psychologist tells the story in this famous work of the human effort to perceive our true nature by means of the revelations of sixteenth-through twentieth-century science. Lorenz. R.) 9. Trans. Man on His Nature. Ideas of Human Nature: An Historical Introduction. M. New Haven. Cranston. The Great Chain of Being. Meticulously traces the idea that the universe is a rationally ordered whole. Cassirer. An Essay On Man. L. Sartre. and Plato. 1936. Cambridge: Mass. A. Particularly memorable is his discussion of the symbol as a clue to human nature. Sir C. Hans Meyerhoff. Discuss the relation between the theory of evolution and the account of creation in the ﬁrst two chapters of Genesis. Dodds. R. Theories of Human Nature: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Freud. M. E. Why are different words for God used in these two sections? Is the order of creation the same in the two accounts? (See also Chapter 11. 10.8. Is there any evidence for two accounts. 1982. from its Greek origins to the nineteenth century. Seven Theories of Human Nature. R.” Sherrington. Man’s Place in Nature. Marx.: Yale University Press. New York: New American Library. Niebuhr’s Gifford lectures. Cassirer’s book has become a classic study of human nature. E. Stevenson. Jean-Jacques: The Early Life and Work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. New York: Scribner’s. Examines ten of the most inﬂuential Western thinkers in their historical context and explores their relevance to contemporary controversies. 1951. The Noble Savage: Jean-Jacques Rousseau. 1712–1754. The ﬁrst volume of a study that corrects many of the misunderstandings concerning Rousseau. 1943. The Nature and Destiny of Man. as many Biblical scholars claim? Note carefully Genesis 1:1–2:4a and Genesis 2:4b–3. Skinner. 2nd ed. New York: Noonday. 42 x Chapter 2 .: Harvard University Press. 2 vols. Cranston. M. London: Blackwell. 1991. D. 1987. Does Hobbes or Rousseau describe you and your relationship to society? Does either reﬂect well individuals other than yourself and their relationship to society? How would you account for any differences in your view of yourself and your view of others? x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x Suggested Readings Abel. New York: Oxford University Press. 1962. Lovejoy. Compare the Jewish-Christian-Muslim religious view of human nature with the Asian religious view. 1951. Berkeley: University of California Press. Conn. An historically organized collection of readings at an introductory level. Indispensable to an understanding of the complex cultural context of Greek rationalism. The Greeks and The Irrational. which afford us a Christian interpretation of both the nature and the destiny of humanity. 1754–1762. Niebuhr. An introductory exploration of human nature in Christianity. Trigg. New York: McGrawHill. 1944. Subtitled An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture. 1992. Read those two chapters and list the events as they are related verse by verse. Scheler. 1988. Mentor Books. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
The Diversity of Life. E. A tour through evolutionary time that describes the creation of the living world’s biological wealth and the threat that humans now pose to the diversity of nature. 4. Both a shock absorber and a pliable platform. J. 1968). E. females tend to be about 20 percent smaller. habitually walks upright. 412–416. 1965).” New York University Education Quarterly 12 (1981): 29. 7. “Zen: Its Meaning for Modern Civilization. See also Don Williams’ review of Walden Two. E. The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 1958). Watson. p. 3. 10. H. 18) describes Homo sapiens as follows: The bipedal primate. protracted infancy and adolescence in humans are devoted to learning survival skills and social behavior. The hand’s muscular thumb is opposable and rotates to touch any ﬁnger. Often written as “Koran. 1. F. B. 39. The Nature of Man (New York: Macmillan. p. Note the explanation of Buddhist terms in The Buddhist Quest for Enlightenment. p. “The Social Scientist as Philosopher and King. O. Watson. See Chapter 19. the human.” Contemporary Islamic scholars prefer Qur’an.. 35–36. B. conferring an enhanced ability to reason and develop spoken language. B. Niebuhr. x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x Notes 1. 3. Mass. 240. 8. Bordin. Skinner. 13. S. p.: Harvard University Press. Fromm. 9. See Chapter 11 for an extended exploration of evolution. I (New York: Scribner and Sons. and comments in Psychology Today (August 1971). 1958). 145. The Nature and Destiny of Man. 269. p. and R. Shin’Ichi Hisamatsu. 1992. 1948). The human brain is two to three times the volume of any great ape’s and more complex. 6. Xirau. “Two Views of Human Nature. R. 1943). the human foot is uniquely adapted for bipedal walking. p. No. March 1992. Walden Two (New York: Macmillan. 45. Watson. 6. Cambridge. I. 5 A recent edition of National Geographic (Vol.” The Philosophical Review 58 (1949): 345–59. J. A curve in the lower spine places the center of gravity in the pelvis. p. pp. Arendt. 2. Behaviorism. 11. Over the species’ world-wide range. 1 (Kyoto. Japan: The Eastern Buddhist Society. (New York: Macmillan. increasing dexterity. pp.Wilson. Sept. male weight averages 150 pounds. 1948). Vol.” in The Eastern Buddhist (new series). J. Vol. 4. No. 181. eds. Human Nature: What Is It? x 43 . 12. a central theme notes that humankind must rediscover its evolutionary origins and be true to them. p. The Ways of Behaviorism (New York: Harper. Behaviorism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Skeletal adaptations to this mode of locomotion and posture include legs that are longer and stronger than the arms and muscular buttocks and thighs that permit sprinting and long-distance walking. 1928). In common with other primates. 14.
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