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Lecture 11

Philosophical conception of man

The aim of the theme is: to represent one of the fundamental problems of philosophy – the problem of man’s being; to show the development of philosophical concepts of man, unique position of man in the world, the sense of human being.

The key words of the theme are: anthropogenesis, individual, individuality, personality, sense of life, freedom.

11.1. Development of Concept of Man in the History of Philosophy

A wise man of antiquity once said that nothing was more interesting to man than man himself.

Philosophy has always striven to grasp the integral nature of man, fully aware that a mere sum of knowledge embodied in the concrete sciences of man will not provide the image we are looking for. Phil­osophy therefore tried to work out its own means of cognizing the essence of man in order to define his place and role in the world, his attitude to the world, and his capacity for "making" himself, i.e. for forging his own destiny.

The problem of man in philosophy begins with the problem of his formation, that is, from the understanding of the anthropogenesis essence which is a single process of man and society’s development. It was considered by religion, philosophy, a number of specific sciences, including anthropology, history, archeology and others. Прослушать

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A great many conceptions of man have been offered in the his­tory of philosophy. Thus, the idea of creating human by higher forces was common in all religious and mythological tales of man’s appearance on the Earth. The most complete form of religious teaching about man's creation by God is presented in the Bible, in Genesis: "And God created man from dust of the ground. And the breath of life breathed into his nostrils - and man became a living soul. "Genesis reveals man’s essence and his origin as a single whole, because the essence of man because man’s essence is explained by his origin. God created man a" living soul ", like all living beings, but man not only the soul, he is the image and likeness of God and therefore man is not only the body and soul, but the spirit. This doctrine is the basis of the theistic anthropological conception in philosophy.

The philosophers of Antiquity primarily regarded man as part of the cosmos, as a kind of microcosm subordinated to fate as the highest principle. Man and the world were considered as a unity: microcosm in macrocosm. While Socrates set man forth into the centre of philosophy Aristotle regarded man as a social and political being. Sociality, rationality and language are the main characteristics that distinguish man of all the living creatures. Ancient philosophers focused human on cognition of himself, the world, and society.

In the Christian worldview, man began to be perceived as an indissoluble and contradictory unity of two hypostases, the spirit and the body, qualitatively opposed to each other as the noble and the base. Thus St. Augustine presented the soul as independent of the body, and it was the soul that he identi­fied with man, while Thomas Aquinas regarded man as a unity of body and soul, a being intermediate between animals and angels. In the Christian view, the human flesh is the abode of base passions and desires, the work of the devil. Hence man's constant attempts to free himself from the devil's grasp and to see the divine light of the truth. This determines the nature of man's attitude to the world: there is an obvious desire not so much to understand one's own es­sence as to gain access to an essence of a higher order, to God, and thus to gain salvation on Judgment Day. The idea of the finality of being is alien to this mentality: faith in the immortality of the soul makes existence on this earth, often very hard existence, seem less painful.

The philosophy of the Renaissance and the early Modern Ages, being mostly idealis­tic, followed Christianity in stressing man's spiritual essence. Man is not just a creation of God, but a special being that received from God the gift of reason and creativity. Man is exclusive in the world in free choosing his destiny and his way of life. Man is able to rise to heavenly heights or fall to animal state. Man chooses and is earthly and worldly responsible for the choice. Renaissance humanists inherent faith in the limitless possibilities of man, his self-realization in the fullness of his abilities in the earthly life.

Modern Ages philosophers focused on mental and cognitive abilities. Only relying on the mind, man can conquer, change the world and create a reasonable and fair society. Philosophers assert the natural human inclination to goodness, happiness and harmony. We still enjoy the best works of this period with their precious and subtle observations on the human spirit, on the meaning and form of the operations of human reason, and on the secret springs of the human psyche and activity going on in the depth of personality. Freed from the ideological dictates of Christianity, natural science was able to create unsurpassed models of naturalist studies in man. But a still greater merit of the Modern Ages was the uncondi­tional recognition of the autonomy of the human mind in the cogni­tion of its own essence.

In the German classical philosophy the problem of human was in the center of philosophical research. In particular, Kant considered the question "What is man?" the central question of philosophy, and man himself as "the most important subject in the world." He kept the position of anthropological dualism, but his dualism was not dualism of body and soul, as in Descartes, but the dualism of natural and moral. Man, according to Kant, on the one hand was subjected to natural necessity and on the other – to moral freedom and absolute moral values. A distinctive feature of man is self-consciousness which distinguishes him from other living beings. G. Hegel in his anthropological conception focused on the expression of human as the subject of spiritual activities and the bearer of meaningful spirit and mind. The personality, said the philosopher, only begins with understanding himself as "infinite, total and free" being.

The idealist philosophy of the XIX and early XX centuries exag­gerated the spiritual element in man, some scholars reducing his es­sence to the rational element and others, to the irrational. Although the understanding of man's true essence was already taking shape in various theories and was more or less adequately formulated by some philosophers (e.g., by Hegel, who viewed the individual in the context of the socio-historical whole as a product of intense interac­tion in which the human essence is reified, and the whole of the ob­jective world around man is nothing but a result of that reification), there was still no consistent and coherent theory of man. On the whole, this process reminded one of a volcano ready to erupt but still tarrying, awaiting the last and decisive bursts of inner energy. Starting with Marxism, man became the focus of philosophical knowledge out of which radiated the lines which connected man, through society, with the entire infinite universe. The foundation of a dialectical-materialist conception of man was laid. The construc­tion of an integral philosophy of man harmonious in all its aspects is a process of human self-cognition which in principle cannot be com­pleted, the manifestations of human essence being extremely varied, comprising reason, will, character, emotions, labor, communica­tion, and so on.

The philosophy of the XXth century focused on man as a unique individuality. Even the basic question of philosophy was proclaimed the problem of man’s sense of life. Having opened the deep human irrationality and trying to approach a particular living person, philosophers focused on man’s inner world and his spirituality.

Every thinker, every philosophical school give their own interpretation of the problem of man, opening more and more aspects of it. And man continues to maintain his riddle, remaining mysterious Sphinx for philosophers, scientists, and for himself.

Natural science anthropology focused primary attention on the very process of human evolution and its main stages. Anthropologists agree that the time of the formation of man is a long period of 3-3.5 million years and it was the third great leap in the history of the universe after the universe itself came into being and the transformation of lifeless into alive. The impetus for the anthropogenesis was the change in climate, which forced the ancestors of man to erect posture and freeing upper extremities for gathering and hunting. Using some accidental objects for hunting and defending themselves, they later improved them, worked over and produced. Together with joint actions on hunting that all promoted the change of the body proportions, the development of brain structures and functions, lengthening of legs, increased mobility and flexibility of cysts and fingers due to making implements of labor. Body movements, senses are coordinated by more and more developed brain. The ability of reasoning, language development caused consequently the development of face muscles and larynx. Man held a mastery of fire.

Among the scientific conceptions of human origin the most common and influential is the evolutionary theory of J.-B. Lamarck and Charles Darwin. Evolution and the formation of new species took place under the influence of variability, heredity and natural selection in the organic world. The highest level of the evolutionary process was the development of the human being. Evolutionary conception is not only the basic knowledge of anthropology, but also a precondition for rational philosophical doctrine of man, because it combines and separates the natural world and the world of human culture and history.

Philosophers focused on the meaning and driving forces of the anthropogenesis, considering it as a single process of the formation of both man and society. They approach to solving this problem from the idealism, or materialism positions. From the materialist position the problem was studied and developed deeply by F. Engels in his work "The Role of Labor in the Process of Transformation of Monkey into Man."Прослушать

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The determining condition in the formation of man is labor. In labor, man constantly changes the conditions of his existence, transforming them in accordance with his constantly developing needs, and creates a world of material and non-material culture which is formed by man to the same extent to which man himself is formed by culture, Labor is impossible as a singular manifestation and is from the very outset a collective, social phenomenon. The de­velopment of labor activity totally changed the essence of man's ancestors. Labor entailed the formation of new, social qualities, such as language, thought, communication, convictions, value orientations, worldview, and so on. On the psychological plane, it had as its consequence transformation of instincts in two respects: on the one hand, they were suppressed or inhibited, that is, controlled by reason, and on the other, they were transformed into intuition —a qualitative state of purely human cognitive activity.

The main sign of human presence in the world was production of tools. Man is above all a creator of implements - Homo Faber. He came from adapting to nature to adaptation of nature to himself.

All this signified the emergence of a new biological species, Homo sapiens, who from the very beginning appeared in two inter­connected hypostases — as reasonable man and as social man. Stressing the universal quality of the social element in man, Marx wrote: "...The essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations." This view of man had been evolved already in classical German philosophy. Thus Johann Got­tlieb Fichte believed that the concept of man was not related to the individual, as an individual human being could not be conceived, but only to the species; Ludwig Feuerbach, who developed the ma­terialist theory of philosophical anthropology which served as the starting point for Marx's discourse on man and his essence, also wrote that an isolated human being was nonexistent. The concept of man necessarily assumed another human being or, to be more pre­cise, other human beings, and only in this respect was man a human being in the full sense of the word.

Everything that man possesses, everything that distinguishes him from animals is the result of his life in society. This is true not only of experience acquired by the individual during his lifetime: A child appears in this world in full possession of the anatomic and physio­logical wealth accumulated by mankind over the previous millennia. Characteristically, a child who has not absorbed social culture proves to be the least adapted to live in this world out of all living creatures. One cannot become a human being outside society. We know cases of small children falling among animals through some disaster. Remarkably, they failed to master either the erect posture or articulate speech; the sounds they pronounced were imitations of the sounds made by their animal foster parents. Their thought pro­cesses were so primitive that they hardly deserved the name of thought processes. The essence of man is concrete-historical, that is to say, its content, while remaining basically social, varies depending on the content of a given epoch, socioeconomic formation, socio-cultural and everyday context However, at the first stage of an inquiry into personality, the individual elements are inevitably seen as secondary: the main issue is elucidation of the universal properties in terms of which the concept of human personality can be ex­plained as such. The starting point of such an interpretation is the view of man as the subject and product of labor activity, on the basis of which social relations are formed and develop.

Without claiming to be formulating a rigorous definition, we can sum up the essential features of man: man is a reasonable being, the subject of labor, of social relations and communication. The em­phasis on man's social nature in Marxism does not imply the sim­plistic view that only the social environment forms man's essence. The social is here interpreted as an alternative to the subjectivist-idealist approach to man, an approach exaggerating the importance of his individual psychological features. This view of sociality is, on the one hand, an alternative to individualist interpretations, and on the other hand, it does not reject the biological component in the human personality, which is also universal.

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