David Hume (whose name so greatly fits this writing) defines moral philosophy as “the study of human nature” at the beginning of his revised Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. This is not a review of some of the ideas presented in that, in my opinion, remarkable work, but instead a consideration in my own manner of human understanding, the human condition (of being), and what can be considered my contemplations on human nature, and by extension moral philosophy.
What does it mean to be human? This is not asking for an explanation of the totality of existence, but an explanation for our own. The rest of reality is accepted because if anything exists, something must exist, and anything can be something. But what about ourselves? Is our existence an accident, or is there a purpose to it? Individually and collectively, how do I understand myself?
Because of my philosophic background and my range of belief-refuting experiences, I’ve begun to hold some paradoxical principles to be metaphysical principles. One such principle is that the fact that nothing can exist apart from the rest of existence necessarily implies that there is no objectively speakable truth to existence. To put it still incorrectly but poetically, the truth is existence. This way, the now is always a simple fact of existence as it is understood to be, typically. The past is a recollection of a memory, or a previous now, and the future is the imagination of a coming now. Life implies death, but death implies new life. Still things do not have ends, but changes, and there are durations where there are lengths, and vice versa.
To be human, is simply to be in human form with human abilities and all that entails. There are some things that we can do from our bodies, and some things that we can’t, but what we are is not the same as our forms. For instance, if what we are is our body, then we are really the collection of many trillions of things called cells working together in order to maintain a running system where as many cells as possible benefit from their neighboring cells functions. Even on a social level rather than a biological one, humanity’s prosperity is threatened when systematized groups are in discordant relationships rather than harmonic ones.
This pattern can be applied to any level of “relationships” within humanity as well, personal and civil. It’s by way of relational understanding, thinking about the connectedness and inseparability of things within reality, that allows a person to develop spiritually, which means in their own connectedness. To be human is to be a human-thing in the long history of human-things, nothing more or less. Though, what we are is not human, only perceived in “human” form, so our track of history includes that which is the result of our evolution, or change.
To be in human form is to be the kind of animal we are, with the kinds of minds that we have. Minds that are very advanced in the abilities of their conscious attention and mental processing, but who are also burdened by these abilities in that because of the extremity of their individual existences and their ability to be so keenly aware of it, they suffer from their own self-perception.
We experience stress, depressions, and anxieties directly because of our perception of our existence in relation to our beliefs about how our existence should be. I wouldn’t say that there is no way our lives should objectively be, but there’s certainly no way of saying how our lives should be. At least, not any way that fully explains the nature of our existence. But it can definitely be said that human existence is not one without conflict or strife.
Suffering seems inherent to our condition, and it is the reason for what we would call “evil”. Suffering is emotional disparity as a result of alienation from reality, though I would argue it is not unreasonable or unfavorable to so frequently be subjected to. If anything, it is fortunate. The function of existence is existence, but existence is not a thing that I refer to like reality. As I said, truth is existence, so existence is also truth. Change happens, and it happens continually and cyclically. If we derive abstract things from the entirety of existence, we can also apply change to the things which we derive. By assuming an identical relationship over time throughout the changes in nature, which is the function of our dualistic mind, then you have a thing which does not just change, but adapts and can evolve or devolve so long as it remains an entity.
And just as physical entities can come together to have connected, collective existences, the joining of our dimensions of existence, physical and mental, allow for our consciousness to experience reality independently of our bodies. By being human for a while, as consciousness, we get to evolve and explore a wide range of experiences and knowledge that otherwise would not be available because humans would not exist.
All of this says a lot about the capabilities of humans and the variability of the human experience, but what would be our nature? I think it is quite frankly our existential qualities. The extreme diversity and polarity for different states of being and different judgements of those states, but the sole similarity that “good” is better than “bad”, whatever we decide those two words mean. And because of our condition and our nature, we can never seem to agree, which causes us more suffering, but also keeps the cycles turning and our evolution progressing. If we become socially stagnant, we become spiritually dead.
In my opinion, this is the worst fear of humanity, morally speaking. If we lose natural touch with the connectedness and personal relation to existence, then our suffering is only for vain victories that serve no other purpose than accomplishment. What we should hope for, however, is that our victories and defeats serve some sort of relationship that allows for the satisfaction of desires for experience. To play the game of life and be a human being is to invest all you can into the idea that having a good and bad time here is worth it. So, you could say that our purpose is to be harmonious with ourselves and our ecological environments not to the elimination of suffering and conflict, but for the sake of keeping the game going.