Does human nature really exist? Is there such thing as life purpose? And how is happiness achieved? These are some of the question that has been puzzling philosophers since the beginning of time.
In this essay I am going to explain how the Greek philosopher Aristotle and the more contemporary French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre related to these questions.
Let’s begin with discussing human nature. The concept itself is believed to have originated with Greek philosophers such as Socrates and Plato who first introduced the idea of ‘forms’ (by form they referred to the essences of all objects, the very thing that defines them, humans included, and without which the object in question would and could not be what it is) and linked that concept to human nature (nature being a form of the human). This pre-existing nature, based on predetermined qualities and characteristic which have always existed as forms or concepts independently of humans, were considered of higher, divine nature and responsible for leading and guiding humans to form their character and become the person they become. Aristotle believed that this nature was something that all men possessed already at the time of their birth and that would help them in life to follow their true path and purpose. Aristotle believed in fact in a grander scheme of things, in a universal plan of which humans are part of. “Man is nothing else that what he makes of himself. Such is the first principle of existentialism. … For we mean that man first exist, that is, that men first of all is the being who hurls himself towards a future and who is conscious of imagining himself as being in that future. Man is the start plan which is aware of itself, rather than a patch of moss, a piece of garbage, or a cauliflower; nothing exist prior to this plan; there is nothing in heaven; man will be what he will have planned to be. “ (Sartre) “You are nothing else than your life. That does not imply that the artist will be judged soley on the basis of his work of art; a thousand other things will contribute towards summing him up. What we mean is that a man is nothing more than a series of undertakings, that he is the sum, the organization, the ensemble of the relationships which make up these undertakings. “ (Sartre)
Sartre, on the other end, who famously said ‘Existence precede essence’ did not believe in human nature. He in fact sustained that all humans exists before being defined by any concept and that essence that Aristotle calls human nature, is no more than the result of what a men makes of himself during his life.
For Sartre man is conscious and aware of himself and therefore responsible for his future which he can imagine and shape. Man in this sense is the ultimate law maker.
And since according to Sartre there is no human nature or divinity to define what morality is, it is down to the individual to work that out. So ultimately morality in men’s responsibility.
Aristotle, believed that humans are rational animals and that reason was what would ultimately give them the opportunity to lead a happy life. It is through those possibilities and qualities in fact that human are meant to develop to their full potentiality and achieve the highest of their reasoning potential and therefore happiness.
Aristotele believed in fact that the humans as the whole universe have a purpose and everything is part of a bigger plan or scheme which was originated and set in motion by an original being (of divine nature).
He supports in fact the argument that everything has a cause. So in that sense if I am for example sitting here writing an essay it is because it was assigned to me as part of my philosophy course which was designed by the professor who had to do so as part of his job and so on . What he makes very clear is that this chain as long as it can be, cannot be infinite and at some stage will end up back at the origin, the beginning where the entity he refers to as...
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