I’m working on a social science discussion question and need an explanation to help me learn.
Too often, when we read the words on a page we do not fully integrate that new information into our existing knowledge structure, and so we fail to gain a new understanding of the world around us. Research in cognitive science and learning tells us that “deep learning” requires that the learner reflect on new knowledge and create personal meaning from it.
To help us reflect more deeply on readings in this unit, we will use a reading reflection. Reading reflections are designed to help the reader engage with the material in a deeper way, and to construct new meaning from it. The reflections also have the advantage of providing the instructor with detailed information about your learning in the course. This not only helps guide the daily preparation of class activities but also helps connect us as a community of learners.
Reading Reflections Project
Instructions: Your response to each question needs to be at least 2 paragraphs and six sentences each, AND must clearly indicate careful reading and thoughtful reflection. You must respond to all three of the questions.
- What is the main point of this reading?
- What information did you find surprising? Why?
- What did you find confusing? Why?
E-Lecture: View of the Human Problem
E-Lecture: View of the Human Problem
Modern Views of Our Human Plight
Humans are driven to seek pleasure, status, and knowledge and yet are frequently disappointed and anxious because humans are self-transcendent and insatiable in our desires, thus never fully satisfied with temporal aspirations that prove ultimately unsatisfying. Humans are spiritual as well as biological creatures, thus we are a problem unto ourselves.
Many modern secular theorists have tried to explain the human problem. Karl Marx suggested that humans are unhappy because they are alienated from the product of their work through the industrial, capitalist society. Sigmund Freud thought that human unhappiness was from neuroses and the conflict between society and an individual’s need to express their sexual desires.
Providing answers to the human problem or human unhappiness is a function of religion. Religions differ on how they define the human problem and how they seek to remedy it but overall, they each connect human happiness with the divine or a sacred order.
Classical Greek philosophers thought that human unhappiness stemmed from ignorance. Virtue and happiness were a produce of intellect, according to Plato. Plato’s solution to human unhappiness is called rationalism because he assumed that if one could employ reason and intellect, happiness and virtue would follow.
Stoicism was founded by Zeno in about 306 BCE in Athens. Within Greco-Roman society, fate played a major role and people believed that they were subject to powers outside of their control. Stoicism offered a response to the sense of fatedness.
Stoicism preached that the world is not meaningless chaos but that it is an ordered whole, governed by Divine Reason, Law or God. This law was called Phusis, or Nature. Phusis is what shapes living things into perfect form and is the spark of Divine Logos or Reason. The world was thought as a divine organism, each thing germinating Divine Reason.
Happiness cannot be found in the pursuit of pleasure because pleasure often entails passion over reason. Happiness comes from following the laws of Nature, including pain, poverty and sickness, as well as pleasure, wealth and health. True freedom is to accept the natural law, Reason or Fate. A person must accept the good and bad of life because all things are part of Divine Reason.
True goodness is the ability to recognize what is within our power and what is outside of it and to live according to Nature. Externals (things that are beyond our control) must be regarded with indifference, or apatheia, since they cannot be controlled.
Every created thing is created for a function. Nature shapes everything to achieve its end. Each role must be played well in order to fulfill Nature.
In sum, Stoicism sees the human problem as rooted in ignorance and the healing of human unhappiness is to be found in knowledge, self-education and a change of mental viewpoint that allows a person to accept good and bad as part of Nature.
The Christian view of human nature is rooted in the biblical story of man and woman, especially in Genesis. Humans are finite creatures and are not naturally divine or immortal. God created humans and thus, humans are dependent upon God. Life is a gift from God.
There is nothing essentially evil about human finitude and ancient Hebrews did not consider the body as distinct from or inferior to the soul or spirit. There is no sharp dualism between body/soul within Hebrew thought and thus to be human is declared good.
Man and woman are like God but they are not God. From the early years of Christianity until the time of the Protestant Reformation, theologians saw the imago Dei as present in the human exercise of reason.
Roman Catholic theology has two conceptions of the human “likeness” to God. First, special supernatural endowments that were associated with sanctifying grace were lost as a result of the Fall. Second, the natural gift of reason, which is intrinsic to our being human, is not lost in the Fall. Our nature is wounded as a result of the Fall and thus humans are susceptible to sin and evil. But it is not so deep a wound as to destroy human free will.
Protestant theology, i.e. Luther and Calvin, reject Roman Catholic distinctions between the two forms of the divine likeness and claim that the Fall did involve the loss of something essential to human existence. The divine image that was lost in the Fall is the freedom of the human will. Thus, in non-Roman Catholicism, the imago Dei has been identified with unique human characteristics other than reason, such as human creativity, humanity’s unique moral responsibility or self-transcendence.
Reinhold Nieburh, a modern Protestant theologian, claimed that humans are unique in their ability to stand clear of their actions and to judge them. Human self-transcendence involves freedom, which is key to genuine selfhood. Self-transcendence can make humans saints and devils because humans can attempt to defy limits with ambition and pretensions. This is the definition of sin.
According to Christianity, sin is the human tendency to put our own egotistical interests at the center of things. Medieval theologians saw sin as a turning towards self-absorption. They called sin concupiscense, or lust. Forms of egotistical sin are disobedience, hardening of the heart, concupiscence, sensuality and are all basically derived from pride.
In Christianity, sin is primarily associated with the spirit, not the body. It is associated with human freedom or the perverted exercise of human desire. St. Augustine spoke of it as original sin because it is so common and inevitable (but not necessary). Augustine follows Paul in insisting that human sin is original (or universal) but also insists on human responsibility.
St. Augustine claimed that sin condemns humans to ignorance and prideful lust and that sin is a condition of being. Since the Fall, humans are capable only of sin and are justly condemned to damnation, according to St. Augustine. Only God’s grace, freely given to humans, can redeem the self from sin.
Many modern Christian theologians reject Augustine’s claim that humans inherit biologically the propensity to sin and Adam’s guilt. However, they do believe that humans are born into a social situation where sin is common due to pride and egotism.
Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, or enlightened one, lived in north India and was the son of a ruler of the kingdom of the Sakyas. He taught how to live in order to find happiness and believed that knowledge of the right path required that one know the true nature of human life and the process of nature itself.
Karma is key to the teachings of Buddhism. The word means “volitional action.” Every living beings exists by virtue of an individual energy that is particular to that being. Karma is the way each being manifests itself in its own way and good karma produces good effects and bad karma produces bad effects. Thus, each being, according to the Buddha, is the architect of his/her own destiny.
The law of karma is the law of cause and effect. Buddhism teaches that each being is in process, or becoming. The cause of this process is karma.
What the West calls the “self” is an abstraction of compoundedness of energies and activities. There is no “I” or “self” in Buddhism, instead the enduring soul or ego is an aggregate of phenomenal processes. This teaching is the Buddhist doctrine of an-atta, or the non-self.
The not-self leads to the discussion of the human problem. According to Buddhism, the belief in a self brings suffering, which is the root of all unhappiness.
Within Buddhism there are Four Noble Truths:
The First Noble Truth is the reality of dukkkha, which is pain that includes the deeper sense that imperfection and impermanence are part of life. Dukkka includes the persistent conflict between our desires and hopes and our actual attainments. Meditation is needed to realize the great amount of suffering that we consider pleasant. Wealth is attained often at the expense of poverty stricken laborers. Pleasure is tied to unconscious anxiety because we are concerned about losing it (youthfulness, wealth, etc.). Dukkka is not to be pessimistic but to be realistic, according to Buddhism. Before dukkka can be overcome, its cause must be understood, which is the Second Noble Truth
The Second Noble Truth is tanha, which is thirst, craving, or unsatisfied longing that gives rise to the ego or “self.” Thus, tanha is egoist craving for pleasure, wealth , or power and also an attachment to ideas, theories, views, opinions, and beliefs. Individuality arises when tanha occurs.
The Third Noble Truth is that there is liberation from suffering through giving up these cravings. When there is no craving, there is no suffering. Nirvana, or enlightenment, can be known by the “extinction of thirst.”
The Fourth Noble Truth is that the truth of the Way leads to the end of suffering through the Eightfold Path that leads to enlightenment and Nirvana.
Confucianism is concerned with this-worldly practical views of the human problem and this concern has led some scholars to deny that it is a proper sense of religion, but more of a code of manners. However, Confucisnism’s fundamental doctrine of li– social rite or ceremony- is perceived by Confucians as a sacred Rite or Way. Li helps humans acquire virtue and power that allows for heaven to be brought down to earth.
Review the founding and social context that Confucianism came out of on page 239.
The Confusian cure for the human problem lies in education. Every aspect of life must nurture traditional values and a certain pattern of social behavior. In order to learn the proper social patterns, education is vital. Confucianism is optimistic about human nature and teaches that every person has an ability to learn virtue through education.
Ritual is the foundation of the education process because “man is what he does.” We are shaped by our actions and habits and social unrest and war are the result of a decline in social ritual. Thus, restoring social ritual will bring harmony, according to Confucianism.
Rectification of names, or linguistic clarity regarding the use of words and titles, is necessary in order to advance social virtues. This is the first order of government. True government begins at home and the regulation of the home depends on the cultivation of personal life. National life is accomplished only by humanizing of home life.
Besides the rectification of names, another way of advancing social order is through the Five Great Relationships: ruler and subject, father and son, husband and wife, elder brother and younger brother, and elder and younger friends. At the heart of these relationships are the rules that govern the family, which is the foundation of Confucian society.
The key to a child’s respect for his/her parents is filial piety. Deference and respectful obedience of children towards their elders is necessary and very demanding. Thus, filial piety, which takes place initially in the home, sets the standards for how subjects relate to their rulers, with absolute obedience.