In this brief paper, I wish to define human nature and as thoroughly as possible describe the salient components of this entity that I regard as human nature.
In order for us to have a satisfactory discussion with regard to any topic, or to investigate the aforementioned topic with sufficient rigor, clarity and thoroughness, we must clearly define our terms.
Sartre claimed that there is no human nature, or that existence precedes essence. What he meant was that we define ourselves by our choices and our unwillingness to take responsibility for our actions is merely bad faith. To Sartre, Bad Faith is simply the unwillingness to acknowledge our ability to change our circumstances for the better. If Sartre was right, we have no dispositions that we cannot countervail through pure resolution. From this it follows that a man who is crippled and is unable to participate in physical activities is unable to do so as a result of self-deception. Or quite simply he is able to change his circumstances for the better or to engage in physical activities despite his lack of physical resources, or specifically the limitation the lack of his physical faculties imposes upon him.
That is obviously false, therefore there is a need for such a view to be mitigated. It should be noted however that one of the tenets of existentialist ethic, and Sartre's ethic specifically is the belief in the freedom of individual. Such belief in freedom is often endorsed to a radical degree.
Sartre maintains that all choices one makes derive from within and not from without. Thus, he insinuates that quite simply people should take responsibility for their actions and therefore count only on themselves to ensure that they receive the results that they wish to receive. This cannot be an acceptable maxim under all circumstances, as aforementioned, some circumstances inevitably preclude us from engaging in certain behaviors. The case in point for this matter is a person who lacks both of his legs and for this reason is precluded from engaging in many physical activities. Analogously, a person who has been born with severe cognitive defects may be precluded from engaging in intellectual activities. These cases are without a doubt rare and do not apply to all persons, or as they stand could not be considered to be remarks about human nature in general. An important question to follow is, do all people have dispositions that preclude them from making choices with regard to how they will live their lives. Or quite simply, are they wired in a way that necessitates that they behave in a certain fashion.
At this point we are prepared to define human nature. Human nature is a set of unalterable dispositions that inhere within our psyche. If Sartre is correct that there is no human nature, or that all of our psychological tendencies are a result of our choices, there would be no reason to write this paper, as human nature would be an impossible concept. I argue that this is false, that indeed there is human nature. In the previous essay that I have posted, or on the essence of apriori, we have established that some things are indeed apriori or do not require interaction with the external world or experience of any kind in order to exist. We have established that certain instincts of ours are innate, that is a result of evolution. Also certain cognitive tendencies of ours are innate, this is also likely due to our inheritance of certain features from our ancestors. Hence, we have inherited the instinct to scream when a seemingly threatening entity approaches us and some of us have inherited an ability to quickly learn how to reason analytically or how to excel at a certain sport. For this reason, it not uncommon to discover that some of us are gifted thinkers or gifted athletes. There can be almost no doubt that such phenomena are a result of entities that inhere within human nature, or quite simply dispositions that we could do almost nothing to alter through our choices. Thus, the thesis that there is no human nature maintains that there is not one psychological tendency that we have that is not a result of our own choices. If there is at least one tendency that is not a result of our own choices, than there is human nature and Sartre’s thesis is false. We have shown that there are such tendencies and therefore there is human nature.
The most important question to ask is, what is the strongest of such tendencies. The most obvious answer to the question is that it is the Will to feel good. Inevitably, we like things that evoke positive emotion within us and dislike things that evoke negative emotion within us. Unconsciously, we seek out things that evoke a positive sentiment within us. Because this tendency underlies all of our activities, it is our first tendency and because it is the one that we reinforce the most by engaging in it, it is inevitably the strongest tendency.
Hence, as our axiom we can establish that feeling good is the foundation of human nature, and such a foundation entails what other tendencies we have independent of experiences and to what degree. As a general principle, it could be established that the more a certain emotion is affirmed, the stronger such an emotion will be. If at one point it become so strong that we by default endorse such an emotion, it becomes a tendency. If we pass such a tendency down to our descendants, such a tendency becomes integrated into human nature. Or such a tendency will inhere within the mind of an individual without any interaction with the world. At this point we can establish that the reason why we have certain tendencies both in terms as a result of human nature and as a result of our experiences is because we have bestowed positive emotion upon activities that have solidified into tendencies.
At this point, it is necessary for us to outline human nature and properties of the extension of human nature. The former we regard as tendencies to activities that all humans have independent of experience, and tendencies to activities that most humans have. The former is a matter of human nature in very clear terms and the latter can only be loosely regarded as human nature, or quite simply the latter is merely the extension of human nature.
A. Pure Human Nature.
Axiom : Tendency to seek out a positive sentiment.
Entailment of the Axiom : Tendency to emote in a certain way as a result of an unconscious disposition to regard such ways of emoting as either in themselves desirable or conduce to our own welfare. For example, we may experience pleasure at the sight of strawberry because of our unconscious disposition to believe that strawberry is good.
Entailment 2: We have developed a strongly positive sentiment towards activities associated with cultivation of certain skills, for this reason we are in natural affinity with activities that are necessary in order for us to excel at activities that we appear to be gifted at. For example, a gifted athlete is in natural affinity with many physical activities, the practice of which will enable him to excel at the athletic activity we believe he is gifted at. Moreover, it appears clear as Noam Chomsky would point in Language and the Problem of Human Knowledge, that children tend to have a distinct talent towards learning language. He even asserted quite plausibly that grammar, or the technique of structuring a language in a certain, rather general fashion (this fashion of structuring a language is not specific to any language and children could apply this skill in learning all languages) is innate. This, without a doubt could only be explained in terms of us having a positive sentiment towards activities that are necessary to conduct in order for us to learn such skills. Interestingly enough, our aptitude for learning a language declines as we age. For this reason feral children, or those who have not been taught a language before the age of six are unable to learn the language. This shows that our apriori dispositions towards learning a language quickly have lessened over time. We have earlier established that a certain activity of ours becomes a tendency only if we associate positive emotion with such an activity and later give affirmation to such an emotion. At certain point it shall calcify. Our disposition to learn a language is ingrained within us at birth, as it has been passed down to us genetically by our ancestors. Feral children and those who have not been taught a language have failed to affirm this disposition, and it therefore has vanished. This is a result of such dispositions have been overshadowed by other tendencies. Moreover, it is clear that children who have cultivated the skills conducive to actualization of their potential tend to excel at their activities more than children who do not. For example, it is well known that many eminent writers and philosophers have been instructed in intellectual activities at a young age. Bertrand Russell was instructed by his brother in Mathematics since the age of 7 and by his grandmother who was clearly intelligent and made an effort to edify her grandson. George Boole, an eminent mathematician has translated a work of literary art from one language to another when he was younger than 15. Soren Kierkegaard was instructed by his father in literature and theology since the age of 6. All of these men excelled at endeavors they were talented in and were instructed in at a young age. Clearly the examples we have observed above merely show that some individuals were instructed at an early age in activities they have excelled in as adults, but this alone does not show that the fact that they were instructed at a young age at activities they excelled in has clearly contributed to their success in such activities. Moreover, an overwhelming majority of outstanding athletes begun participating in the sport that they excel in at a very young age. However, the only plausible explanation we observe for the phenomenon of children being able to learn a language early in life and not at all at a later point, if they were not given an opportunity to learn the language early in life, shows that some our dispositions tend to weaken significantly if they are not reinforced at an early age. The quality of language does not appear to be mystical, or magical, learning a language is merely a talent that all human beings possess. In its intrinsic essence, it is not different from any of the other talents we have, such as walking for example. It is almost certainly that if a baby, for any reason was unable to walk until the age of 8, It would be unable to walk at all.
Conclusion of Entailment 2: Some of our dispositions are innate and in order for them to be actualized to the fullest of potential, immediate reinforcement is necessary.
Entailment 3: The tendency to desire one’s own well being is an entity of pure human nature. In other words this is a quality that all humans inevitably will have. This quality has entailed other qualities such as breathing, eating, drinking or walking or speaking a language are to be regarded as aspects of pure human nature. It is conceivable that at first such tendencies did not exist and the only original tendency of pure human nature is simply the desire for one’s own well being, as survival without such a tendency is not possible. In fact, the tendency to desire one’s own well being is to be plausibly equated with a tendency to have the will to live. Inevitably, certain other activities were necessary for us to engage in to the end of ensuring our own survival. First of all such tendencies were towards eating, breathing or walking. Secondly, the tendencies towards speaking a language and other activities that were necessary in order for humans to survive. Inevitably we are granted a lot of practice with regard to engaging in skills that we need to engage in to the end of actualizing the potential of such tendencies. Because they are the tendencies we engage in first, they are the foundation of all of our tendencies. Thus, the aforementioned tendencies are aspects of pure human nature, and they entail what in this paper I shall the extensions of human nature. For the sake of clarity, it should be pointed out that activities such as breathing, walking or speaking a language are extensions of human nature and are not aspects of pure human nature. The true aspects of pure human nature are those which are completely innate. Such entities are merely tendencies towards such activities and not the skills associated with performing such activities.
B. Further inquiry into the extensions of human nature
We have established that all humans have a tendency towards walking, breathing, or learning a language. However, not all humans shall walk, breathe or learn a language. All humans who fail to do the first of the three shall die. For this reason, it is inevitable that the extension of human nature of breathing is actualized. Almost all humans who fail to walk shall also die, for this reason, almost certainly this extension of human nature will be actualized. Most humans who fail to speak language will be unable to function in a society properly and as a result of this will incur great difficulties in life. For this reason most humans will also learn a language. Hence, with regard to extensions of human nature, it should be noted that the likelihood of an actualization of extension stands in direct proportion with how much one is to be rewarded for actualization of the extension. This is inevitably an entailment of the axiom of human nature, or the strongest tendency of all, the tendency to desire one’s own well being.
The strongest tendency of human nature inevitably entails psychological egoism. Because our primary drive is that of affirmation of our own being, or the desire for positive of sentiment, all of our other tendencies are subordinate to this one. Hence, they are accepted only if they are consistent with the objective of the primary tendency, or in other words, only if they conduce to what the person perceives to be evoking positive emotion within him. For this reason people value things and other people only to the degree that they are useful to them. To paraphrase Machiavelli, people are fickle by nature and will stand by you If you are winning, but once you cease to be winning, they shall abandon you. Accordingly, people engage in acts of altruism or magnanimity only if they derive a positive sentiment from such activities, or quite simply if it benefits them.
II. Anathema of Man
If the Will to live or the desire for affirmation is the strongest drive of a man or what he desires the most, then the opposite of this is what he desires the least and is what as a matter of pure human nature (or an entirely apriori tendency) he wishes to avoid. Fear of annihilation is the greatest fear of man and for this reason he shall value nothing more than his own life and will go as far as necessary in order to preserve his own well being. For this reason the myth of God has been common among all civilizations. Quite simply God tames the greatest fear of men, or that of annihilation. The idea of God allows man to believe that he shall not die, and when his physical body is close to the time when it shall exist no more, man is able to find a way to avoid succumbing to the lububrious influence of his greatest fear. Moreover, it is useful for the contemporaries of the person dying to ensure that he believes in God or has any reason to believe that he shall survive the death of his own body. Because man by nature values his own life above all else, all other things he values only to the extent that they support his primary value or that of life. If he knows that this value can no longer be supported, he simply has no reason at all to behave in a way that is useful to his contemporaries. It is certainly possible that the one on his death bed may wish the best for his close ones and bequeath e a wealth of material utility or emotional support, as this may make the last few moments of his life more enjoyable, or affirm his life for the final time. However, his kind behavior towards others could be maximized if he believed that he can accomplish much more than the last few moments of positivity of sentiment. If treating his close ones well is his incentive to maintain a positive sentiment for merely a few moments, he certainly would be willing to do a lot more to ensure that he maintains such a feeling for longer periods of time, especially so if such a feeling could last for a very long period of time, if not eternity.