Sunday, February 25, 2018

HUMAN NATURE


HUMAN NATURE

and the doom of humanity

D. R. Khashaba

Our kin in the animal kingdom have a clear advantage over us humans. They live their lives without check or hindrance (except for constraints and interferences imposed by humans) and when they die their death is a natural accomplishment of life.

Within certain limits, humans enjoy the life common to all animals; but, with the acquirement of conceptual thinking, humans have also created for themselves a ‘higher’ plane of being. Before proceeding further I have to make two cautionary remarks. (1) The word ‘higher’ here has only a locational, not an axiological, significance. The conceptual plane is only ‘upper’ as it rests on the biological plane just as the biological plane rests on the physical plane. (2) I do not rule out the possibility that some other animals, or maybe all animals, have some sort of cognizance corresponding to human conceptual thinking. This we can never know as it can only be known subjectively within ourselves.

In conceptual thinking humans have found for themselves a plane and a mode of being that properly defines the human character, the characteristic by virtue of which we are human, that (for all we know) sets us apart from other living beings. This was the core insight in Socrates’ moral philosophy. We are human inasmuch as our life and our action are governed by ideas, ideals, aims and purposes. It is this plane or mode of being that endows us with our spiritual life, our aesthetic enjoyments, our moral experiences, our imaginative flights. It is this plane or mode of being that Socrates regularly referred to as that within us that flourishes when we do what is morally right and is harmed when we commit what is morally wrong. It is this plane of being that Plato refers to as psuchê, nous, phronêsis. That is why I maintain that our soul is not something attached to our body or inhabiting our body but is our living body raised to the spiritual plane of being and why I believe that when I die my whole being will dissolve into the primary elements of which it was composed.

Thus in acquiring thinking human beings arrived at vistas of glory but, alas! the glory was bought at an onerous price. When human beings were able to form and to enjoy ideals of justice and nobleness and loyalty and amity, along with that came the possibility of forming and perpetrating vicious aims and purposes; like stink from a rotting swamp there arose greed and envy and vengeance and hate. When a tiger devours a deer, the tiger does not hate the deer or wish it harm or intend to give it pain. The tiger is simply appeasing its hunger as a human being might stretch out a hand to pluck an apple from a tree to quiet her or his hunger. But Macbeth murders his king moved by the deceptive prospect of pomp and vainglory.

Under normal conditions in a reasonably well ordered society most members of the society are governed by an assorted mix of mild virtues and tame vices and only an exceptional few exhibit outstanding virtue or exceeding vice. Throughout human history men and women of outstanding virtue have been rare, very rare, and also exceptionally vicious mn and women have not been too many. When the human population was divided into relatively small separate groups that sufficed for the human race to move on. But in our present-day world, while the human population is still divided into separate groups, that separation has become a flimsy remnant from the past; the apparent separateness deceptively hides a practically complete interdependence. A bomb exploded in Syria reverberates in France. The greed of weapon producers in the United Kingdom kills men, women, and children in Yemen. The avarice of pharmaceutical manufacturers in America is related to the death of millions in Africa. Today while the virtue of a few individuals cannot save humanity, the vice of even a fewer number of individuals can spell the doom of the whole of humanity. It seems, to me at any rate, that that doom is inescapable.

D. R. Khashaba

February 25, 2018

Posted to https://philosophia937.wordpress.com and Http://khashaba.blogspot.com

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