Drawing on the Work of Descartes, Hume and Kant, Write a Short Review on Rationality as the Key Characteristic of Human Nature

Topics: Immanuel Kant, Philosophy, John Locke Pages: 3 (831 words) Published: February 28, 2013
Drawing on the work of Descartes, Hume and Kant, write a short review on rationality as the key characteristic of human nature: “To act from reason is to achieve a truly human existence”.

Rational thought is the primary characteristic of the human being. It is the ability which places us on a pedestal above the plants and animals. Ever since the times of Plato and Aristotle, it has been agreed by philosophers that the conscious power to act outside of the laws of nature is the defining criteria for a human being.

We have the innate ability to act outside of the factors of appetite and passion which Plato explored; the decision to consciously disregard our desire, and fulfil our moral duty. If we display the ability to not simply postpone the desire through prudence and fear of external factors, but to act completely uninfluenced by them, then we show truly human characteristics. We must create our own moral law, a state of rules and regulations which are pure enough to exist in the world of the forms. It is from this foundation that we may begin to base our duty and moral ideals through rationality, exempt from the physical world.

This search for true knowledge is a theme which Immanuel Kant explored in meticulous detail: “Kant’s conception of morality is firmly rooted in reason, and it is a departure from other accounts which claim that morality must be based on sentiment or even the consequences of action. For Kant, doing the right thing is not a matter of one’s character or disposition or circumstances – all of which are or might be beyond ones control.” (Stangroom, J and Garvey, J 2008) We must constantly strive to make the right decision not in terms of personal gain, but in terms of morality. “Act only on that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become universal law.” (Kant pg. 87) Kant’s theory was influenced by a culmination of previous philosophies, including those of Rene Descartes and David Hume. Incidentally, Descartes’...

Bibliography: * Descartes, Rene. Discourse on Method, Consciousness, and Dualism of Body and Soul. (Reader: pg.85-87)
* Stangroom, J and Garvey, J. 2008. The Great Philosophers. London: Arcturus.
* Stevenson , L and Habernan D. 1998. Ten Theories of Human Nature 3rd Edition.
* Sahakian, W. S. and Sahakian, M. B. Ideas of the Great Philosophers. Barnes and Noble Books 1996.
* Edward Craig (ed). The Shorter Routledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Routledge 2005
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