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What is human nature?

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  1. What is human nature? Metaphysics – an introduction

  2. metaphysics • One of our branches of philosophy • Deals with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it

  3. What is your nature? • Who am i? • Already understanding things about yourself • You are different from rocks, tables, and other people • As human beings, you walk upright, within family groupings, and probably appreciate laughter in the use of language

  4. Growing wisdom • As you grow in wisdom and knowledge…. • You want to understand more precisely who you are, and what you nature is as a human being • What are discussions about human nature?

  5. 1) Individual nature • Refers to certain exceptional talents that you may have • Personal traits • Moral characteristics • Refers to a collection of strictly human abilities (write, play sports)

  6. 2) Human nature • Refers to a general set of distinguishing features – belong to all human beings, regardless of where when and how they live • Distinguish human beings from all other beings

  7. What does nature mean? • Can sometimes mean the same thing, depending on how it is used • Found in discussions about things as divers as blue skies, plants, minerals, ad foods • May also refer to genes and the stuff of which a thing is made – furniture is made of wood, it may be advertised as all natural – someone is good at baseball – a natural • Depending on the context, nature may refer to something: 1)External – such as how a fruit is grown 2)Internal – such as your genes or soul

  8. Nature can also refer to the potential you have to become either this or that type of person • Features of a nature – (seed with the potential to grow into a yellow flower) is this feature typical of the seed? • Likewise, there may be many features typical of humans (in their nature) – walking upright, use of tools, rationality

  9. What human nature is not!!! • Good example – flying is not something that comes natural to humans!!! • What else is not natural to humans?

  10. Are there good and evil natures? • Some people perform good actions, while others commit evil actions – paulbernardo, 9/11 terrorists • There are also people who perform acts to help others –rick Hansen • Rick Hansen continues to raise money for research, while paulbernardo is rotting is prison • What motivated these individuals to their actions? Is there something in human nature that makes people do good or evil things? • Is human nature inherently good or evil?

  11. Questions ?????????? • Should criminals be punished or reformed? • Can a criminal be cured of his/her criminal tendencies? • Do criminals have a criminal nature that is an unchangeable part of them?

  12. Thomas hobbes (1588-1679) • English philosopher • Humans born self interested, only looking out for themselves • Leviathan – describes human life in the state of nature as: • solitary, poor, brutish, nasty, an short • In the absence of a state and a strong political authority capable of maintaining law and order, the member of society being purely self interested, would find themselves in a constant state of war with one another

  13. Hobbes … • In these circumstances (in the state of nature) humans wouldn’t be able to lead civilized lives • Humans would be prevented from protecting the most basic of their interests • Realizing this….people agree to submit themselves to the authority of the state

  14. What is conscience? • In cartoons we have seen it! Angel and devil on your shoulders • Something to listen to before making an important decision • The idea of conscience is prominent in western culture • If it plays such a prominent part in nature, what is it? Voice in your head? • It may be a function of the mind ---- a moral barometer

  15. Moral barometer • Can gauge each action or possible actions the person may commit • Mind will gauge if the action is good or bad • Giving the person a good or ad feeling – this can influence whether the person will commit the act • Maybe conscience is just another word for common sense? Or reasonable thinking?

  16. Alternatively, it might be a survival instinct – like animals sense danger • Maybe conscience is how your body looks out for its best interest • Is it part of human nature? Are we all born with it?

  17. Is your nature defined by soul??? • Remember your soul?? • Perhaps the good and bad feelings associate with conscience are part of something bigger • Some think that who you are, your nature is a function of soul

  18. Plato on the soul train • Believe that the soul is what animated the body, when a person dies, the corpse is not referred to as a person, rather the person is spoken of as being gone • For plato, soul is a non material life force • The centre of all that is a person

  19. Plato on Human nature • Described it from a dualistic point of view • Dualism:the view that humans are made of 2 parts – body + soul (mind) • believed that the soul is made of a physical substance, but nonetheless is indestructible • The soul exists before birth, and continues after the body’s death

  20. Plato on soul train…again • Further divided the soul into 3 parts: • Appetite – desires, lusts, and hungers (car accident , look at carnage) • Spirit - will direct you to turn away in disgust, or offer help • Reason – will engage in thought, deliberates, and makes judgements • - Plato thought the best type of human is guided mostly by reason

  21. Bertrand Russell on conscience • English philosopher (1872 – 1970) • Point out problem with conscience – cannot be trusted • One person will say it is their conscience to go to war, while another person’s will tell them to condemn war • Conscience responsible for opposite positions • This confusion casts doubt on the reliability of conscience (learned behaviour, not internal)

  22. Why is the soul problematic? • Much like conscience, discussion presents problems • It its not physical, like the brain, can it be found? • Questions are problematic • Therefore, you may conclude that the view that humans have souls, an invisible and mysterious entity within each person, is deeply problematic

  23. Is human nature physical? Thomas h. Huxley (1825 – 1895) • British writer • Thought that beneath a thin veneer of civilized behaviour, human beings are dominated by animal like desires that constantly thrive for satisfaction and pleasure • Places humans as party evil (according to religious beliefs) • defined as the struggle to conquer the brute within

  24. Existentialism – the free doctrine • Believe that there is no human nature or human essence pre-existing our appearance of the world • Humans thrown randomly into a different world without any higher, or god given plan or purpose • Adrift, rootless, and abandoned, human beings must define and choose themselves from the ground up • Humans are completely free in this project of self-definition

  25. Most people flee this overwhelming freedom, or deny it, or deceive themselves about it Albert Camus (1913-1960) -wrote about Greek hero Sisyphus – condemned to push a rock up a hill for eternity -would spend all day pushing this rock up a hill only to watch it roll back down -camus believed this represented the absurdity of life – unending, frustrating tasks with no final meaning -admired Sisyphus for not giving up in the face of his challenges

  26. Jean-paul Sartre (1905-1980) • An atheist, just like camus • Believed there was no plan for humans by a god or supreme being • Being radically free makes it important to live authentically and responsibly • Sometimes this can mean choosing to help others and contribute to society • Cowardice in suicide • You must take full responsibility for your existence

  27. Is your choice limited? • Since existentialists believe there is no god with a plan • Human beings must choose their own path • Social, historical, and cultural forces influence this decision

  28. George Hegel (1770-1831) germanphilosopher • Human nature highly dependent on history and culture • Human nature cannot be understood independently of the relationships among human beings • Larger historical and social forces that sweep them along the path of history