PHI 197: Human Nature
Kim Frost: [email protected]
Travis Timmerman: [email protected]
Office Hours: Mon 11:40-12:30 and Fri 11:30-12:30 @ Tolley Library (upstairs)
What is philosophy about?
- Study of ideas?
- Discussion of how life should be lived?
- Philio/sophy: Love of wisdom
- Reflective investigation of questions that can’t be answered by the means of other disciplines
Substantive claims about human nature
- Humans are _x_
x: imperfect, not-methodical, reasoning creatures, pleasure, emotional (linguistically expressed),
Derived claims (based on some substantial claims)
- Give that humans are _x_, _y_ follows
x: rational, fearful, aggressive, of roughly equal power
y: we should live in a society ruled by a big bully
How should one live?
- Follow your own moral code
- Follow your dreams/desire
- Follow THE moral code
- Promote peace
Why? If you follow your own moral code, you’ll be happy and you won’t be a sheep. So follow your own
Is doing right by others an essential aspect of a good life (for creatures like us?) or what’s so good about
being righteous? Why be moral?
Plato wrote plays influenced by Socrates, who hardly wrote anything down.
- As a social practice
- “In one’s soul” being righteous- trait of character (more of less righteous)
- As an attribute of actions Humans are _x_
x: only practice justice under that of punishment; only care about appearances; competition
“State of nature,” the original state of humans without pressures of laws and society
- Socrates says people are just because they want to be just (you should feel bad for doing something
- Glaucon says people are just because of the rewards (you shouldn’t feel bad for doing something bad)
- How do humans act?
- How should humans ought to be?
How much of the outward appearance of justice can be preserved on the common view? How common is
the common view?
- The story of the most just and most unjust man, the most unjust man is wealthy and the most just
man is poor and doesn’t know what’s so good about being just
ex: Most just man is: happy; personal fulfillment; feelings
- Socrates sees that having just in your soul is most personal
- Hedonism: Pleasure is the only good in life
(@ discussion) 9/7
- Socrates never wrote anything down because he thought that he didn’t have anything positive to add
to the world
- The Republic: shows socrates as more positive through a series of questions and answers
- Social Darwinism: people who took the idea of evolution and applied moral claims (that we should take
all the resources and the weak will fall)
- Callicles says that the weak have convinced the strong to have equal terms, “justice”
- Callicles says that the better are more powerful, stronger, etc. He also says the group will overtake the
individual. Before he said the weak convinced the strong about the laws, thus, contradicting himself yet
again. He revises “the best” to be the more intelligent.
- Callicles seems to be making things up on a whim when Socrates contradicts him, however he still
shows confidence in what he says
- Callicles says if food is split the more intelligent should have more food and that’s how it ought to be
- Callicles changes his definition to brave and intelligence about the city
How should one live? Aim at the best kind of life (for a human). What’s the best kind of life (for a
human)? One that maximizes the food things in a (human) life and minimizes the bad.
Callicles: Pleasure... is what’s really good in life?
Freedom... (on restraint)
Being a “real man” The only thing?
The most important?
Some helpful tools for clarification (using Callicles view for examples)
- Necessary condition (A is required for B)
ex: Pleasure is necessary foundation for living the best kind of life
- Sufficient condition (A guarantees B)
ex: Loads of pleasure is a sufficient condition for living the best life
counter ex: life of the catamite
counter ex: Doesn’t guarantee because doesn’t imply pleasure, life of the miserable person
What’s so good about being just?
- (Ideal) city
What good is justice? (makes possible other virtues)
P1: A and B have properties x, y, z
P2: A is M
C: So B is M
Experience and feel (pleasure)
Are embodied (health)
Think (reason): appearance, reality
Live together (social city)
Evaluate each other (shame, horror, respect)
What place has the best kind of life for a human?
Health + reason = mental health
Socrates: mental health necessary for best kind of life
- Socrates thinks reason, spirit, and appetite is needed in one’s idea soul and also needed for a good
What’s the role of mental health? Is it a necessary condition? 9/17
Aristotle (348 BC - 322 BC)
Scientist, philosopher, and much more (doesn’t usually walk of individuals)
⅓ stuff found, rest lost. Only have lecture notes.
Virtue (excellence, is Greek “arete”)
Good as a virtue (something that makes something good- objective)
Good as something an individual welcomes (subjective)
Eu-daimon (good spirit)
Rational animals (us)
We can reason for things we do, we believe, we feel
ex: Learning, enjoyment
Handout 5: P3
Not quite true... the function of humans is... to lead.. to innovate.. to reason
Virtue of a rational activity
ex: Obama is a Muslim (something we can all disagree on) Those who say this have bad reason
and cannot prove
(@ discussion) 9/21
- He says some end is also “good,” which is not necessarily the same
- Premises can be true but conclusions don’t always have to be.
- Is there only one goal that every human aims at?
- He says that all humans activities aim at the chief good (happiness)
- Virtues are excellences
- Rational activity: to do something with reason
- P1: counter ex: The good of a murder lies in performing murdering well
Murdering can be bad for the murder in the end
- P2: Substitute X with something bad
- P3: Says that humans only have one thing they are good at
- Talks about ancient Greek’s values as examples of virtues of characters and their domains because that
is what he’s familiar too. These are just examples, he didn’t limit himself to those thoughts though.
- End: goal in his sense
- Are things really good within itself?
ex: Knowledge might be only to get better jobs
counter example: Knowledge can be good by itself but it also gives other things 9/24
Is hedonism true?
Are some kinds of pleasure objectively better than others?
ex: Sleeping? Dinner with friends and family?
Is knowledge intrinsically good?
ex: I know how the movie goes
Sometimes more pleasure, other times less pleasure
Nozick’s thought experience machine:
If you would choose to it’s a good reason for saying you’re a hedonist
Reasons to not use experience machine:
Experiences of failure and improvement
Actual vs artificial experiences
Someone who has experienced both (or all) kinds of __ is the best judge of ___. Anyone who has
experienced all ___, will put ___ above ___.
The Dalai Lama
Cycles of craving (suffering)
Dependent on externals
See Gorgias, the “leaky pots” section
Aristotle- not all pleasures depend on craving
Do we practice “universal compassion”? Should we?
Compassion: empathy; wish to help
We open ourselves to suffering when we think we can control something but we really can’t.
Where does achievement play a role? How about excellence?
Ex: Your friend is in financial need... if they practice universal compassion, what would one do? - Lend money?
- Give the reading of Dalai Lama to tell you friend that money isn’t everything, only one that lets us
- Somewhere in the middle? Help a bit but then point them in the right direction?
(@ discussion) 9/27
- Assume that philosophy is the better pleasure than watching TV.
- “It’s better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.” This means that it’s better to be aware and
not as pleased than a pig who is pleased by rolling in the mud, who does whatever and doesn’t know
“real pleasure,” ex: reading.
- Experience machine: Can go into the machine and choose what experiences you want
Most people want to just maximize pleasure so he thinks that most would choose the
He is trying to say there is something more than just intrinsic value if you choose not to. It’s
better to actually accomplish something.
- Thinks that the best thing is human compassion
counter ex: Psychopaths
Should we show them compassion?
YES, because it doesn’t make sense to ridicule them because they don’t show
compassion then in return do the same thing
NO, they are incapable of giving compassion
Can they be happy? Because he is not empathetic, he cannot be as truly happy.
Can they be more happy because they don’t feel empathy and are taught to do
what they please?
- Assumes that humans are naturally good, but what if we are naturally bad?
- There was a study that he pointed out that says that there is a correlation between the amount of
times you say “I” and how long you live. Although the study doesn’t say, he assumes that one causes
another, making it seem like he is saying that you should be compassionate because it makes you live
Going through how to write topic 2:
- Only do what’s required
Part 1: 2 pgs
Explain why someone who holds the so-called “common view” of justice would think that a person
who was still just, even when they knew there were no repercussions for acting unjustly, would be “wretched and stupid”.
What is the common view?
The common view is...
Tip: How much to explain? Start small main point, fill in more as needed.
What is the imagined situation?
He imagines... the invisibility ring.
Describe what a just person is.
What’s the judgement of the common view on this situation?
Why does the common view make this judgement?
Answering all these will make the paper have a clear structure.
Part 2: 1 sentence
Is the common view right about this? (Yes, no, it’s complicated)
CV: That’s wretched and stupid.
You: Why do you say that CV?
CV: He could’ve murdered, stolen, etc without repercussions and he didn’t.
You: Why would he murder, steal, etc?
CV: Are you kidding? That is the best thing in life. (The best thing in life is to do injustice without
Part 3: 3 pgs
Why or why not?
Are your reasons for agreeing the same as CV?
Yes: Reasonable objections
No: What are your reasons?
Are your reasons the same as someone we’ve read? (Doesn’t always apply)
Yes: What are the reasons? What are some reasonable objections?
No: What are your reasons for thinking that the CV is wrong?
If you go to college *then+ you’re more likely to get a better job.
Split this into two claims
1) If you go to college then X
2) If X then you’re more likely to get a better paying job.
X, for example, can be “you have qualities that employers look for.”
Human nature & Political freedom (Political association/authority)
What is a “state of nature”? - He doesn’t think that the whole world has obtained it all
Ex: Syria, war-torn parts of Africa, really bad ghettoes
Government has broken down, state of civil war
How do we get out of the state of nature?
- If we can, we flee
Are you terrified of...?
- Violation of rights (freedom of speech)
Which person would more likely pressure those into keeping their contracts?
More for regulations on banks
More for basic policy
More political authority
More power in the hands of the government to control us
More terrifying, moving control to status, less control and fear
More in your face...
- In order to flourish we need censorship
- Fear is the primary motivator for humans
- Don’t blame people for having certain kinds of wants/desires
- Human nature: we will protect our friends and family over strangers
(@ homework notes) 10/8
Hobbes: Leviathan Exceprts
Chapter 13: Of the Naturall Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery
- The state of nature is an example of fiction Hobbes created to respond to “what human nature might
have been like in a hypothetical existence prior to any civilization). Some close examples to reality can
be made, but none specifically.
- The state of nature is reality
- Natural condition: mistrust of others, criminal behavior, domination of the weak... aka war against
- State of nature has no security and is a life full of horror
- Two natural passions enable people to escape the state of nature: fear and reason
Fear makes man want to escape
Reason provides the natural laws that constitute the foundation for peace Chapter 14: Of the first and second Naturall Lawes, and of Contracts
- “Law of Nature” is a general rule discovered through reason
- This law affirms human self-preservation and condemns destructive acts to human life
- Law of nature is natural and and inherently known
- The naturl main, in order to preserve life, must seek peace
- "That every man, ought to endeavour Peace, as farre as he can hope of obtaining it; and when he
cannot obtain it, that he may seek, and use, all helps and advantages of Warre. The first branch of which
Rule, containe the first, and Fundamental Law of Nature; which is, to seek Peace, and follow it. The
Second, the summe of the Right of Nature of Nature; which is, By all means we can, to defend our
- Natural law says that we seek peace because to seek peace is t fulfill our natural right and to defend
- 2: we must mutually divest ourselves of certain rights (such as the right to take another person's life) in
order to escape the state of natural war
- Contract: mutual transferring of rights
Chapter 15: Of other Lawes of Nature
- 3: states that it is not enough simply to make contracts, but we need to keep the contracts we make
- Humans desire power, which causes the want to break the contract despite the logic of the third law
and the natural mandate to preserve our own lives
- Other natural laws must come into play in order to preserve the functionality of the third law
- 4: show gratitude toward those who maintain the contract so that no one will regret having complied
with the contract.
- 5: we must be accommodating to others for the purpose of protecting the contract and not quarrel
over minor issues lest the contract collapse.
- 6: We must pardon those who have committed offenses in the past
- 7: Punishment should be used only to correct the offender and to protect the contract, not for
gratuitous retribution (e.g. "an eye for an eye")
- 8: People must avoid making signs of hatred or contempt toward others
- 9: Pride should be avoided
- 10: One should retain only those rights that one would recognize in others
- 11: Equality and impartiality in judgment should be maintained at all times
- 12: Resources that cannot be divided must be shared
- 13: Resources that cannot be divided nor shared in common should be assigned by lottery
- 14: Lots are of two sorts: natural (either through primogeniture or through first seizure of the
resource) or arbitrary (random determination of possession)
- 16: Individuals who work to preserve the peace should be left in peace
- 17: Disputes must be settled by an arbitrator
- 18: No one with self-interest may be an arbitrator - 19: Witnesses and facts must be brought to bear in arbitration, lest decisions be made by force,
contrary to the law of nature (moral philosophy)
- General law of nature: “Do not that to another, which thou wouldst not have done to tey selfe.”
- Laws of nature are simply conclusions drawn from natural reason, not the mandates of government
Chapter 16: Of Persons, Authors, and things Personated
- There are two types of persons, natural and artificial. A "natural person" is one whose words are his or
her own. An "artificial person" is one whose words are those of someone else
- All the natural men in the state of nature are natural persons
- The contract symbolizes social unity
1. Pick a premise (P6-P9)
2. Find a quote in the text (if you can) that supports Hobbes argument
3. Strongest objection that you can
- P8: Someone who breaks a contract without repercussions must live amongst fools.
- “He, therefore, that breaketh his covenant and consequently declare that he thinks he may with
reason do so, cannot be received into any society that unite themselves for peace and defence but by
the error of them that receive him“
- It’s more trouble than it’s worth, it may benefit you or not hurt anyone; self interests
- P9: Living amongst fools is not conducive to one’s one security.
- Human nature: where there is no authority
- No one wants to be in the state of nature so they choose a leader
- Sovereign/leader might not be nice (and only peruses self-interest), but you should follow him because
anything is better than the state of nature
- If we try to overthrow the sovereign then we will face prisoner dilemma scenario
- if you don’t threaten humans then they will try to overthrow the sovereign because they are greedy
- Glacon thinks that the individual is a fool to not break the law when allowed. Hobbes thinks that the
society is the fool.
- If you make a promise you have an obligation to follow through
- Just because two people act in their own self-interest doesn’t mean the law is just (one might’ve been
forced into it)
1) How can we be “truly free” (& “truely human”)?
“Man is born free and everywhere is in chains”
- Ex: Government justice system No child left behind act
- If you want to be able to have a say in government you have to live in a reasonably small “city”
because then you can make sense into others
- In a sense, born into slavery
- Three different kinds: “careful distinction between...”
(end of book 1, chapter 8, page 27)
Civil: No property ownership
Moral: Only gained through living in civil liberty
- Says that one shouldn’t been enslaved and forced but when contracts are made then he says that
these do not apply
It’s okay to put someone in line (if they agree)
- Thought Grotius lived in a really good place, until he further analyzed
- Social contract: Exchange civil liberties to community
2) What makes for legitimate political authority?
- Disagrees that we need a “big bully” to rule
Rousseau’s Critique of Grotius/Hobbes
(Thought that Grotius and Hobbes basically had the same view)
Humans in the state of nature...
- No developed capacity to reason (we are all equal in prudence) (whereas Hobbes say we are born with
Back when we were more “monkeys” they had a more simple life because we didn’t have a need to
reason.. we just needed food and water
Doesn’t enter into constant close relations, more scattered
- Natural sympathy (that Hobbes ignores)
Contracts entered into under classes are:
- Legit, you are bound. You can’t agree then just find a way to rebel later
Rousseau JJ (1712-1778):
- No. Not legit
- How can force be the best way?
- You should agree then later find a way to rebel when it’s in a better situation
- Can be by taken in by conquest or by choosing a sovereign
(@ homework notes) 10/16 Social Contract by Rousseau
Book 1, Chapters 1-5
- Rejects the idea that legitimate political authority is found in nature (except father and child)
- Legitimate political authority cannot be founded on force
- People obey rulers not because they should, but because they have no choice
- If they are able to overthrow their ruler, it is their right because they are exercising their
- People simply do whatever is within their power
- Legitimate political authority rests on a convent (a “social contract”) between members of society
- It’s impossible to surrender one’s freedom in a fair exchange
- Our actions can only be moral if those actions were done freely
- In giving up our freedom we give up our morality and our humanity
- Wars have nothing to do with individuals
- Wars are constructed between states for sake of property
- People in absolute monarchy are slaves
Book 1, Chapter 6-9
- In the state of nature, people need to combine forces in order to survive
- Social con