Human Nature

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chris333
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Post by chris333 » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I've heard and read that you can't change human nature. Joe Campbell speaks about it and references Schopenhauer. If I remember correctly it's the paper "The Foundations of Morality" where Schopenhauer speaks about the one real truth of our lives. The realization that you and he are one and the differences are due to the temperal aspects of time and space. Maybe someone could define human nature for me. Is there one human nature that we all share?
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Post by Siddha » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thou are that?
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Post by chris333 » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks Cliff. I agree with the Upanishads realization. But does that come out of our nature? Isn't that definition more of a realization. What is our nature?
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Post by Susie » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

to be
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Post by Ruiz » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi Chris333, Cliff, and Susie!

I can't tell you exactly what our nature is but I can give you the key and a few examples. Trying to discover what our nature is depends on how much you want to think about it. Many people disagree on the details.

The Key:

Ask yourself: "What is it that all humans have in common that makes them distinct from say the animals or plants?"

Let's say you found an ape-like creature and didn't know if it was a human or ape. What is it you would look for to determine if it was a human?

Notice that you can recognize a dog or cat easily by it's behaviour.

It seems humans are the only animals that worship or have notions of spirits and demons.

Humans seem to spend alot of time talking. They have the potential for language. They also have the capacity for knowledge which they share with each other.

They are capable of abstractions. They can talk about numbers but not say a particular number of say sheep or cats, just numbers.

You could add or subtract a series of numbers before you'd asked so what does the total represent.

etc.......

Philosophers sit in armchairs and try to add to the list. You don't have to go to the library just sit and think a little.

Come to think about it I've never seen a chimp write a post! I found another one, writing or using symbols to communicate knowlege.

Our human nature is another way of saying what are our capacities or potentials as human beings. We have capacities or potentials that you don't find in other animals. A baby will eventually be able to think, know, talk, and write. He/she has an inherent potential to do these things.

In reference to Joseph Campbell, you share a common potential with all humans but you may have aspects of that potential that really excite you; you may like to write or sing or philosophize. That is following your bliss!

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Post by chris333 » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Humans are also the only animals with the capacity to anticipate their own death. My dog is always happy, he doesn't know he is going to die someday. Also, I think the one thing that all humans share and experience is suffering. I raised the question regarding human nature because I hear it tossed around as if people could define, find or explain it in an instance. I'm not sure human nature can be defined as one thing.
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Post by Ruiz » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi Chris333!

Your good!

By Jove, I think you've got it!

Your right, humans have the capacity for reflective thought.

They do seem to be very aware of their suffering. ( I never thought about this before. Wow! Thanks Chris!)

I don't think there is a complete list of all our capacities. That's why we should follow our bliss. Maybe one of us will discover another potential we all share.

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Post by Poncho » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hello Dear Friends,

Interesting discussion. I'm not sure that I would agree though that we're the only ones who are aware that we will die.

There's been a debate over here about living wills and voluntary euthanasia. When you're old and frail you should be able to say that you should be killed so that you're not a financial burden on your family or on the state. One of the leading advocates is Baroness Warnock. From today's Daily Mail:
To illustrate her support for euthanasia, Baroness Warnock cited the example of elephants.

‘When they die,’ she claimed, ‘they creep off and get out of the way. It used to be much easier to crawl off into one’s corner and die than it is now, because people are always dragging you off to be rescued.’

Unfortunately for her, this premise is false. One of the world’s leading experts on elephant behaviour is Cambridge University zoologist Phyllis Lee. She says: ‘Elephants have enormous respect and deference to the old.They certainly do not abandon them. If an elephant is injured or dying, all the members of its family — the female kin and males up to age 15 will gather round. Mothers will help a dying baby for as long as they can. It is a distressing sight, but I have seen females carrying stillborn young around for days. I have witnessed mothers pulling calves from deep holes.They will stay with a sick calf for so long that they will start to starve, rather than abandon it.’

Although it is easy to confuse instinct with emotion and ascribe human qualities to animal behaviours, in this case, experts agree that we are witnessing a very ‘humane’ appreciation of the harsh reality of death.

Dr Lee adds: ‘Elephants know the places where family members have died.’

There is certainly no truth in the idea that elderly or sick members of a herd are seen as a burden or a hindrance.

Dr Lee says: ‘With an old female elephant, members of her family will respect her, follow her, and they will wait for her when she gets too slow. Generally, she will remain as the focal point for the family, not elbowed out of the way. They are valued for their knowledge.’

Only rarely will some elephants wander into solitude to spend their final days alone, leading to tales of ‘elephant graveyards’. As Dr Lee explains, this is very much the exception to the rule.
What about dolphins and whales?

Having disagreed, I'm not sure that I can say what makes us uniquely human. I used to think that it was the ability to show compassion, the level of the heart and of the 4th chakra. Yet those elephants seem to have something of that ability too - indeed more than some humans.


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Post by JR » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Ruiz said:

Ask yourself: "What is it that all humans have in common that makes them distinct from say the animals or plants?"
According to common scientific belief the distinguishing features of a human are the ability to walk up right (legs and feet forward), an opposable thumb, and the ability to recognize our own reflection. Anything other than that has either been found to exist in other animals, or research has not yet been able to prove that it doesn't.
Notice that you can recognize a dog or cat easily by it's behaviour.
Many large cats behave precisely as canines do.
It seems humans are the only animals that worship or have notions of spirits and demons.
Don't know about worship, but have you ever seen an otherwise sane house pet stare menacingly into a corner of the room, apparently at nothing?
Humans seem to spend alot of time talking. They have the potential for language. They also have the capacity for knowledge which they share with each other.
Groundhogs have a vocabulary of over 1000 words, ten of which are in reference to humans, one of which is specifically for "human with a gun". Many other animals have exhibited the capacity for language and as for the sharing of knowledge, the Capuchin monkey (better know as "helper" monkeys) regularly displays the use of teamwork to complete a common goal where a more skilled individual will direct or teach another.
They are capable of abstractions.
Again Capuchin monkeys have displayed the capacity for abstract thought by "buying" specific types of food and items with specific types tokens and then combining tokens to gain combined items like sealed honey pots and sticks and stones with which they access the honey.
They can talk about numbers but not say a particular number of say sheep or cats, just numbers.
Koko the ape pained pictures of fear and hunger and her concept of the ability to communicate. That seems pretty abstract to me.

What we have that is special is a heightened level of each of these skills and a combination thereof, meaning that the capacity alone for a skill does not define our nature. What, for example would be said then of children with severe mental disabilities? Would the fact that they cannot conceptualise numbers, or language, or weren't capable of worship, or the foresight to understand their own mortality change their categorization to something other than human?

Plato wrote about an innate set of distinctly human qualities that Socrates had discoursed upon called Virtues; Temperance, Courage, Wisdom, and Justice. To which have been added by the Christian movement Charity, Hope, and Faith, and by Paul Woodruff Reverence. What ever the list is, the basics are there somewhere, and it is the totality that we could call human nature. It's not simply the ability to think in a specific way, but the impetus therein. We can try and be temperate, but what is it that makes us so in the first place? We can try to be brave, but what is it that makes us so without our will? We can try to be wise, but what is wisdom without the capacity for wisdom? and so on.

But is that really all there is to being human? A capacity of thought and ability? As Ruiz said, we can sit and think about it till we die of old age and though the list may grow we will be no closer to finding a better indication to what it is to be human that the very act of being human itself. Humanity is therefore a transcendent quality, though it isn't special in this respect as I expect being a cat is likewise beyond description. The aspect is there to be revelled in, but cannot be entirely defined.

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Post by Susie » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

if not to be

then
to expand or evolve our consciousness?
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Post by Poncho » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hello Dear Friends,

Would starting with a negative help us? For instance, are we the only species that can lie? If so, why? What does it take to lie?
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Post by chris333 » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

"A lie can travel halfway around the world while truth is putting on it's shoes".

Mark Twain

"Truth is beatiful, without doubt, but so are lies".

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Post by aecleo » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Ivor,

In response to the question about lying... IMO, truth does not exist. It is ALWAYS colored through cultural glasses. Is there an absolute truth if you remove the cultural glasses? I don't know. It seems darn near impossible for us to see, if there is. (Honestly, that's what I love about mythology - it transcends the culture.) But, for what it's worth, I would not use lying as a starting point for human nature, but for cultural nature.

Is there a difference between animal nature and human nature? I am inclined to think that there may not be - only that we humans do not understand the signs of the "human" qualities of other animals. I lived alone with a cat a few years back. She didn't socialize with other animals. But, she did everything I did and I could understand her cries - if she was hungry or bored or angry. Also, an interesting tidbit - my Spanish friend told me that her guinea pig is her brother and her cat is her son!?

Maybe the term "human nature" is synonymous with "animal nature"!?
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Post by JR » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Re Lying:

http://www.abc.net.au/cgi-bin/common/pr ... efault.htm


http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/hauser/hauser_p1.html


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Post by CarmelaBear » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

We share over 95% of our DNA with the great apes. There may be something in that uniquely human portion that gave us the sense of urgency that seems to have motivated the species to move about in an upright posture and develop extensive speech and that risk-taking creative impulse that sees problems and fashions ingenius solutions, summoning innovative responses and combining things in new ways, over and over again, multiplying and extending quickly and with great enthusiasm.

Humans never really looked to God so much as they identified with God, having to push that boundary between human and divine out and out, further and further, to make our essentially infinite potential shrink to the size of our bodies and to allow for the mystery that is the beginning and end of our frail lives.

Campbell said: "The center is where sight is."

Even the blind have vision. It is the ability to feel our thoughts, with a body-mind that is always competing for food, for shelter, for affection and attention and for experience filled with unexpected stimulation, capable of being tamed and bending to our will.

On earth, we are the species of the imagination that directs us compulsively and obsessively into transforming everything and everyone around us. We meddle in everything. We respect very little.

We have made this planet the industrial eating machine that it is, and we are now capable of destroying the whole thing, leaving the planet to start afresh, a new day and new species.

The animals haven't got the bomb, and they don't need to eat a wafer to feel close to the experience of power and glory and awe. I'm not sure human nature is different in terms of ability so much as in the mental impulse to move beyond the most essential experience of being toward the kind of experience that tests the body and challenges the soul.
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