Friday, September 4, 2009

Why is it hard to form a correct concept of "human nature"?


The general problem here is the relation between an abstraction to concretes. In case of oranges, there is no problem. All oranges need water, all of them are orange when ripe, etc'. But humans beings have free will - that is their basic nature, so some are "orange" and some are "green" and even within a single human being there is a mixture of good and evil. This makes the abstraction by essentials much more difficult than abstracting the concept "orange".

Are human beings good by nature or evil? If one observes 500 oranges, the conclusion of what an orange is, is easy. Not so with human beings. One can observe 500 or 500 million and still find some good some bad and a lot mixed.

Inability to separate human beings - the concept from any individual human being (good or bad) is a potential reason for "tolerance" in honest people - it is a result of a benevolent spirit with appreciation of human life failing to make the distinction between the proper approach to human beings as a concept (the potential of a human being, and all the good that they can be, if they decide to be that) and an actual one, which may be good or bad.

So even when they meet a bad person they apply the "human being" label to him which grants him the status (or belief) in his good nature, leading to a benevolent pacifistic approach, disarming the honest person from fighting against whatever bad thing the person may do.

This can also work the other way around - by thinking that all people are bad. One meets many people who evade, only look at what is comfortable for them to see (which is not rare to find) and even lie, and one concludes that this is human nature. The result is that when someone confesses to them about a good motive they immediately suspect self-deception or corruption.

Both points of view come from a wrong generalization about the human nature by failing to see human beings' ability to choose as central to human nature.


When one attempts to look at human beings as in the same category of oranges, it is inevitable to make a generalization one way or another - usually, the generalization is that all men are mixed, and so all can be good, but are deemed to be bad by their nature.

1 comment:

  1. I was curious if you believe genuine free will exists at neuronal level. I have reached a conclusion that no possible mechanism allows for our acting/reacting independent of pre-existing states in the individual neurons. You could read more about it here, and of course, I would like your comment.

    http://ketanpanchal.blogspot.com/2009/03/free-will.html

    And Ayn Rand herself had said that a character with a 'tendency' is like playing with a loaded dice! Of course, I agree with her contention. :) But at her time maybe understanding of action potentials must have not existed.

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