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Views of Human Nature

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  1. Views of Human Nature

  2. The Selfishness View • Sigmund Freud, Thomas Hobbes and Morritz Schlick believed that humans are basically self-interested

  3. Sigmund Freud • 1856-1939 • “Men are not gentile, friendly creatures wishing for love, who simply defend themselves if they are attacked, but …. A powerful measure of desire for aggressiveness has to be reckoned of their instinctual endowment” • Freud’s view was based on his theory of EGO, ID and SUPEREGO

  4. Freud’s Model • ID – the drive to fulfill all desires of a physical nature ; exists in the unconscious • Superego – the conscience ; the opposition to the Id. Also exists on the unconscious level • Ego – the balance between id and superego ; the conscious component of the individual • Conclusion : we are not free …. We are bound by the decisions that our desires decide to throw into our consciousness

  5. Thomas Hobbes • 1588-1679 , a materialist • “Leviathan” his greatest work • Humans are motivated by the anti-social desire for power over others • “… I put for a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power that ceasest only in death.”

  6. Morritz Schlick • 1882-1936, founder of Logical Positivism • Argued for psychological egoism … human beings are so constituted that they always act out of self interest • Even a seemingly heroic act is performed on the basis of personal gratification

  7. The Rationalist View • The Rationalist View claims : • Humans have a self, the “I” that exists in the physical body • The self is spiritual and exists after the death of the body • The self is conscious and rational • Sometimes referred to as Dualism

  8. Plato 427-347 BC • Claimed that the human is made up of distinct parts …. Rational “reason,” and non-rational “appetites” and “emotions” • Reason = the human capacity for thinking and reflecting • Appetites = physical desire • Emotion- can be controlled by reason or uncontrolled, depending on habit • It is the battle between reason and appetite that constitutes the life of the individual … when reason wins happiness is achieved

  9. Rene Descartes • 1596-1650 • “I think therefore I am.” … I cannot conceive of myself without thinking • Thinking is part of the essence of the soul • In the rationalist view we see ourselves as reasoning, free, moral beings that have an immaterial soul

  10. Western Religious View • According to the Judeo-Christian tradition humans are made in the image and likeness of God • Humans are animated bodies … they have a spark of the divine in them • Their life goal is to love and serve God • Ancient Jews did not subscribe to body : soul dualism of Plato • View shapes the development of Western Civilization …both positively & negatively

  11. Creation Narratives • Two Creation Narratives in Genesis : • Genesis 1:1-2:3 • Made in God’s image ; Dominion over creation • Genesis 2:4-2:25 • Made from dust ; lonely • Creation is essentially good ! ; humans introduce evil through free choice

  12. St. Augustine 354-430 CE • Adopted a lot of Plato’s teachings • Believed the immaterial self could control it’s desires (spirit > flesh) • Humans are composed of reason and will which allow us to know the truth about God and choose to love God • Humans are free and responsible for our moral choices • Evil is the product of human refusal to love and serve God

  13. The Scientific View • The scientific view claims that human beings and the physical world can be explained through observable physical and chemical phenomina • Charles Darwin (1809-1882) rejects notion that there are qualities that are uniquely human …we have evolved from apes • Associated with “Determinism” … causal laws govern everything in the universe …humans are essentially not free

  14. Reductionism • Complex processes like life and thought can be explained completely in terms of simpler physical & chemical processes • ….Thomas Hobbes …“For what is the heart but a spring, and the nerves, but so many strings, and the joints but so many wheels” • There is no immaterial mind or soul

  15. Behavioralism • A school of psychology associated with B.F. Skinner (1904-1990) that restricts the study of human nature to what can be observed • Human beings are “an assembled organic machine ready to run” • He believed that all human behavior could be predicted based on contingencies of re-inforcement

  16. Functionalism • D.M. Armstrong 1926- • Holds that mental activities are to be explained in terms of inputs and outputs • Related to the Computer View of Alan Turing (1912-1954) …father of artificial intelligence … if a computer can recreate human consciousness we are essentially computers

  17. Existentialism • A 20th century philosophy that denies any essential human nature • Each of us creates our own essence through free action • Key Figures : Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Victor Frankl (1905-1997) • “We are our choices” … we are free to make ourselves whatever we want …rejects determinism !

  18. The Feminist View • Western Philosophy inherently “sexist” dating back to Plato • For Plato …. Soul/Reason > Desires/Emotions • Aristotle associates Soul/ Reason with the male and Desires/Emotions with the female • This distinction influences Judeo-Christian tradition

  19. The No-Self View • The no-self view is based on the notion that the individual self does not exist and that the delusion that it does is the source of all pain and suffering

  20. Siddhartha Gautama • a.k.a. “The Buddha” 563-483 B.C. • Did not believe in the self or the existence of a soul because … • All things are aggregates composed of elements that inevitably change over time • The universe is in a constant state of flux – since nothing is permanent, a “self” cannot be permanent • The idea of a self is evidence of the “mind clouded over by impure desires … that stubbornly insists in thinking “me” and mine

  21. David Hume • 1711-1776 • We are a bundle of perceptions with our inner experience being one of flux and change • Genuine knowledge depends on sensory experience • Since we cannot perceive a “self” it is not real