What It Means to Be Human

The human being is the most complex and fascinating phenomenon ever created. All people of knowledge from philosophers, to scientists, sociologists etc. have attempted to come up with propositions capable of summarizing the human being. Some have provided propositions that destroy the very dignity of the human person. Others have come up with more or less acceptable view. I call their view acceptable because they have sustained the test of time and debates in the philosophical arena.
Here, I want to consider Aristotle’s view of the human person, which deals with basics of what a human being is, but lacks what makes us great; and I want to express one of the elements that make us stand apart from all other beings.
In the De Anima, Aristotle argues that the human person is a composite of body and soul. For him, the body cannot be separated from the soul in the same way form cannot be separated from matter. The soul, as he conceives it, is the substantial form of the body; by this, he means that it needs the body for its subsistence, but it is not a body. It is what makes a human being a human being in the same way the ability to cut is what makes an axe an axe, sight is what makes an eye an eye, so the soul is makes a human being what he/she is.
It is noteworthy to mention that the telos of Aristotle in studying the soul is not because he believes that it has some value beyond this life; he is studying it because he believes that it is something fascinating as any philosophical concept. Knowing what something is tells us what it can do. As a result, he defines it as the first actuality of a natural body that potentially has life.
Due to this understanding, he maintains that anything that has life has also a soul. So plants have nutritive soul- meaning the can take in food and so grow; animals have perceptive/sensitive soul, which means that they can do what plants do, and they can also sense and reproduce. Human beings, according to his view, have a rational/intellective soul which is unique to them. Humans have the capacity to do what both plants and animals do, but more importantly, he/she has the capacity to reason. Due to that capacity, human can strive toward a higher telos (end).
How does the body communicate with each other as we observe it? Unlike most thinkers, Aristotle differs between the mind and the soul. The mind is part of the body and so is a physical thing while the soul is an immaterial, non spatial thing that acts in a physical thing (the mind). So the soul interacts with the body by means of the mind. The soul acts on the mind which acts on the body, but it is unaffected by it and has nothing in common with the body. So when the body is deteriorated, the soul remains intact. The soul never gets tired doing what it does. If the mind can be weary thinking, if the body gets tired daily, the soul can never be tired exercising its activity.
A concept that Aristotle was probably never interested in, but which interests me greatly, is that the human person originates from love, by means of love, to become love, and ultimately return to love. As such, he is the only being capable of selflessly giving himself as a gift of love. Actually, love is the only requirement that a person asks of others. We are just to a person if we love him/her. This is true for God as well as human. Love, for a person, excludes the idea that he/she is being treated as object of pleasure. Here, I think Kant would strongly agree with me since he maintains that a person must always be treated as an end in his Categorical Imperative.
Thus, the way we manifest our humanity, the way we echo our identity is when we let love blossom selflessly. It’s in selfless love that we become fully human. As a consequence of this behavior and understanding, before we do anything, we must always question whether or not that elevates the human person to love more deeply and so allows him/her to flourish as a person of dignity. Moreover, the capacity to offer ourselves as a gift of love when we fully know what that involves is a testimony that we are unique and was intentionally given that capacity. It is a witness that we were created as an intrinsic end for a particular purpose. As a result, we must live in a way that bears witness to that. We are truly human when we avoid engaging in what compromises the purpose for which we were made.
So to be human means to be constantly giving ourselves as a selfless gift. In fact, every move we make in life, our cravings, restless effort to succeed, search for friendship, bonding, conviviality, and striving to know the truth and the good are done for the sake of love. Entrust your self to selfless love so we can attain the depth of human existence. Know this. That love you are seeking, the love you have a right to enjoy and should selflessly die for has a name and a face— Jesus of Nazareth who died on the cross to give meaning to your life and purpose to your endeavors.

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The Twins That Do Not See Eye to Eye

Truths found by mean of faith cannot be contradicted by truths found through philosophy for they aim at the same thing— truth. Since truth cannot be contradicted by truth, it is logical to say that philosophy and theology are non contradictory (St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles). Averroes, an Arabic philosopher, say there is nothing inherently contradictory between philosophy and theology; it is the means used to reach the truth that conduct the pursuer in confusion. “Theologians deal with revealed truth with regards to God as the Creator and His relation with His creation. Lovers of wisdom, on the other hand, seek truth and permanence in a constantly changing world (The Decisive Treatise, 18).” So for Averroes the means employed by these seekers may throw them off track, but if both philosophy and theology are done rightly, they cannot find contradictory conclusion pursing the same thing.

One interesting observation made by Pascal, who came long after these masters were gone, signaled that “There are three kinds of people in the world; those who have sought God and found Him and now serve Him, those who are seeking Him but have not yet found Him, and those who neither seek Him nor find Him. The first are reasonable and happy, the second reasonable and unhappy, and the third unreasonable and unhappy”. The truth remains that today’s society has to deal with these people. This issue spurs me to ask: what went wrong? Why is the more one plunged into philosophy the further away he or she tends to browse from the truth? Why were only the ancients able to find truth through philosophy?  Let me be more direct; why does philosophy not lead to truth anymore?

Anyone who has studied philosophy knows that philosophy remains what it is regardless of culture. It asks the same fundamental questions that have always been pervaded humanity for eternity: Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life etc? In fact, these questions are not merely peculiar to philosophy; we find them in the Bible, in Islam, in ancient philosophy, in religion like Confucius and Lao-Tze, and in the preaching of Tirthankara and Buddha; they appear in the poetry of Homer and in the tragedies of Euripides and Sophocles, as they do in the philosophical writings of Plato and Aristotle. Blessed Pope John Paul II noticed that these are questions which have their common source in the quest for meaning which has always compelled the human heart. The answer given to these questions decides the direction which people seek to give to their lives. So why do most people fail to take the right road then?

JPII seems to strike at the heart of the issue. “Reason,” He says,” in its one-sided concern to investigate human subjectivity, seems to have forgotten that men and women are always called to direct their steps towards a truth that transcends them”.

JPII—It has happened therefore that reason, rather than voicing the human orientation towards truth, has wilted under the weight of so much knowledge and little by little has lost the capacity to lift its gaze to the heights, not daring to rise to the truth of being. Abandoning the investigation of being, modern philosophical research has concentrated instead upon human knowing. Rather than make use of the human capacity to know the truth, modern philosophy has preferred to accentuate the ways in which this capacity is limited and conditioned. This has given rise to different forms of agnosticism and relativism which have led philosophical research to lose its way in the shifting sands of widespread skepticism. While philosophical thinking has succeeded in coming closer to the reality of human life and its forms of expression, it has also tended to pursue issues—existential, hermeneutical or linguistic—that ignore the radical question of the truth about personal existence, about being and about God.

Philosophy has clearly then lost its aim. It bitterly fails to pursue the beautiful original path traced by the ancients. Of course it can no longer cohabit with theology in this environment. They become like a divorce husband and wife that can neither stay away from each other nor get along. Philosophers ask questions known by only theologians. Rather they prefer to reject all insights that come from theology. The reason why today’s philosophers find not the truth is because they don’t accept the theologians’ answers. Though they do acknowledge the limit of their science, they reject theological answers because they use a tool that had never been employed before then, namely the tool of revelation. Why else would philosophers not want to work with theologians? Sheer arrogance. Do you now see why philosophy does not conduct to truth anymore? The day philosophers finally understand that it is sine qua non to work with theologians, no longer will there be unhappy and unreasonable people out there.