Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that humans tend to have naturally, independently of the influence of culture. The questions of what these characteristics are, what causes them, and how fixed human nature is, are amongst the oldest and most important questions in western philosophy. They have particularly important implications in ethics, politics, and theology. This is partly because human nature can be regarded as both a source of norms of conduct or ways of life, as well as presenting obstacles or constraints on living a good life.
The complex implications of such questions are also dealt with in art and literature, while the multiple branches of the aptly named Humanities (e.g. history, law, religion) together form an important domain of inquiry into human nature, and the question of what it is to be human. The branches of contemporary science associated with the study of human nature include anthropology, sociology, sociobiology, and psychology (particularly in evolutionary or developmental subfields). The nature versus nurture debate is a broadly inclusive and well-known instance of a discussion about human nature in the natural sciences.
A Short History of Progress is a nonfiction book and lecture series by Canadian author Ronald Wright about societal collapse. The lectures were delivered as a series of five speeches, each taking place in different cities across Canada as part of the 2004 ‘Massey Lectures’ (an annual series of lectures on a political, cultural or philosophical topic given in Canada by a noted scholar) which were broadcast on the CBC Radio program, ‘Ideas.’
Wright, an author of fiction and nonfiction works, uses the fallen civilizations of Easter Island, Sumeria, Rome, and Maya, as well as examples from the Stone Age, to see what conditions led to the downfall of those societies. He examines the meaning of progress and its implications for civilizations—past and present—arguing that the twentieth century was a time of runaway growth in human population, consumption, and technology that has now placed an unsustainable burden on all natural systems.read more »
A superhuman is a person with extraordinary and unusual capabilities enabling feats beyond anything a layperson could conceivably achieve, even through extensive training. Superhuman can mean an improved human, for example, by genetic modification, cybernetic implants, nanotechnology, or natural evolution. Occasionally, it could mean an otherwise ‘normal’ human with purported super-abilities, such as psychic/psionic powers, levitation or flight, herculean strength, or unique proficiency at some task.
Superhuman can also mean something that is not human, but considered to be ‘superior’ to humans in some ways. This might include a robot that easily passed the Turing test (an indicator of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior) that possessed greater than human strength, which is already common in robots today. A very intelligent or strong alien could be considered superhuman. In its most basic sense it means anything beyond (typical) human capabilities, e.g. a tiger may be described as having ‘superhuman strength.’read more »
Historic recurrence is the repetition of similar events in history. The concept has been used to analyze the overall history of the world (e.g., the rise and fall of empires), repetitive patterns in the history of a given polity, and generally to any two specific events which bear a striking similarity. Professor of religious history Garry W. Trompf, in his book ‘The Idea of Historical Recurrence in Western Thought,’ traces historically recurring patterns of political thought and behavior in the west since antiquity. Historic recurrences can sometimes induce a sense of ‘convergence,’ ‘resonance,’ or déjà vu.
In the extreme, the concept assumes the form of the doctrine of Eternal Return (the belief that universe has been recurring, and will continue to recur, in a self-similar form an infinite number of times across infinite time or space), found in Indian philosophy and in ancient Egypt and was subsequently taken up by the Pythagoreans and Stoics (with the decline of antiquity and the spread of Christianity, the concept fell into disuse in the Western world, with the exception of existentialist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who connected the thought to many of his other concepts, including ‘amor fati,’ love of one’s fate).read more »
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is an interpersonal communicative process developed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg beginning in the 1960s. NVC often functions as a conflict resolution process. It focuses on three aspects of communication: self-empathy (a deep and compassionate awareness of one’s own inner experience), empathy (listening to another with deep compassion), and honest self-expression (expressing oneself authentically in a way that is likely to inspire compassion in others).
NVC is based on the idea that all human beings have the capacity for compassion and only resort to violence or behavior that harms others when they don’t recognize more effective strategies for meeting needs. Habits of thinking and speaking that lead to the use of violence (psychological and physical) are learned through culture. NVC theory supposes all human behavior stems from attempts to meet universal human needs and that these needs are never in conflict. Rather, conflict arises when strategies for meeting needs clash. NVC proposes that if people can identify their needs, the needs of others, and the feelings that surround these needs, harmony can be achieved.
The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.
The theory was developed by Lebanese American statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain the disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology. It further examined the non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities), and the psychological biases that make people individually and collectively blind to uncertainty and unaware of the massive role of the rare event in historical affairs.
Bill Watterson (b. 1958) is an American artist and the author of the comic strip ‘Calvin and Hobbes,’ which was syndicated from 1985 to 1995. Watterson stopped drawing the strip at the end of 1995 with a short statement to newspaper editors and his readers that he felt he had achieved all he could in the medium.
Watterson is known for his views on licensing (he refused to merchandise his creations on the grounds that displaying their images on commercially sold mugs, stickers and T-shirts would devalue the characters and their personalities) and his move back into private life after ‘Calvin and Hobbes.’
‘Horrible Histories‘ is a series of UK educational books first released in in 1993 with ‘The Terrible Tudors’ and ‘The Awful Egyptians.’ They are designed to engage children in history by presenting the unusual, gory, or unpleasant aspects in a tongue-in-cheek manner in contrast to the formality of lessons taught in school. The books are published by Scholastic and written primarily by Terry Deary (with illustrations by Martin Brown and others).
After a run of 60 books, Deary announced that the series would officially come to an end in 2013 for lack of stories, and said they would focus on the larger media franchise such as magazines, TV, and stage shows. Terry Deary studied at drama college and worked as an actor-teacher at the TIE company in Wales. He then became a theatre director and began to write plays for children. Many of his TIE plays were eventually rewritten and adapted for the ‘Horrible Histories’ books.
In historiography (the study of historical methods) and the philosophy of history, progress (from Latin ‘progressus,’ ‘an advance’) is the idea that the world can become increasingly better in terms of science, technology, modernization, liberty, democracy, quality of life, etc.
Although progress is often associated with the Western notion of change in a straight, linear fashion, alternative conceptions exist, such as the cyclic theory of eternal return (the belief that the universe has been recurring, and will continue to recur, in a self-similar form an infinite number of times across infinite time or space), or the ‘spiral-shaped’ dialectic progress of Hegel, Marx, et al.
Relativism [rel-uh-tuh-viz-uhm] is the concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration. The term is often used to refer to the context of moral principle, where in a relativistic mode of thought, principles and ethics are regarded as applicable in only limited context.
There are many forms of relativism which vary in their degree of controversy. The term often refers to ‘truth relativism,’ which is the doctrine that there are no absolute truths, i.e., that truth is always relative to some particular frame of reference, such as a language or a culture (cultural relativism). Another widespread and contentious form is moral relativism (which argues that morality is context-bound, not objective).
Rear Window is a 1954 American suspense film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, written by John Michael Hayes and based on Cornell Woolrich’s 1942 short story ‘It Had to Be Murder.’ Originally released by Paramount Pictures, the film stars Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. The film is considered by many filmgoers, critics and scholars to be one of Hitchcock’s best.
After breaking his leg photographing a racetrack accident, professional photographer L.B. ‘Jeff’ Jefferies (James Stewart) is confined in his Greenwich Village apartment, using a wheelchair while he recuperates. His rear window looks out onto a small courtyard and several other apartments. During a summer heat wave, he passes the time by watching his neighbors, who keep their windows open to stay cool.
‘The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument’ (1831) is an acidulous (biting) treatise written by the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer in sarcastic deadpan. He examines a total of thirty-eight methods of showing up one’s opponent in a debate. Schopenhauer introduces his essay with the idea that philosophers have concentrated in ample measure on the rules of logic, but have not (especially since the time of Immanuel Kant) engaged with the darker art of the dialectic, of controversy.
Whereas the purpose of logic is classically said to be a method of arriving at the truth, dialectic, says Schopenhauer, ‘…on the other hand, would treat of the intercourse between two rational beings who, because they are rational, ought to think in common, but who, as soon as they cease to agree like two clocks keeping exactly the same time, create a disputation, or intellectual contest.’