“The Human Condition,” by Thomas Whitaker/Prison Arts Coalition
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION is a five-part, four-book series, including:
PART 1: Preface and General Introduction
PART 2: Cognition, Content, and the A Priori: A Study in the Philosophy of Mind and Knowledge
PART 3: Deep Freedom and Real Persons: A Study in Metaphysics
PART 4: Kantian Ethics and Human Existence: A Study in Moral Philosophy
PART 5: Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism: A Theological-Political Treatise
Its author is ROBERT HANNA:
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 1
PREFACE AND GENERAL INTRODUCTION
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Section 1.6 What is a Rational Human Animal?
Section 1.7 An Important Worry and a Preliminary Reply
Section 1.8 The Biggest Windmills
In the fullness of time, the complete, downloadable text of each part of THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION will also be made available on APP.
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 1
PREFACE AND GENERAL INTRODUCTION
Section 1.6 What is a Rational Human Animal?
Rational human animals are what we really are and who we really are.
More precisely, according to my account, rational human animals are individual living organisms in the human species, and also unique real persons who are innately and irreducibly capable of consciousness, intentionality, and caring, including affect, desire, and emotion, sense perception and imagination, memory and thought, logical and mathematical cognition and inference, empirical knowledge, a priori knowledge, reasons-sensitivity of all kinds, and above all, free agency and moral responsibility.
Rational human animals are real human persons.
Rational human animals, real human persons, consciously care intensely about themselves, about one another, and also about other things that affect themselves and one another.
They effectively desire things, and they thereby intentionally move their bodies, sometimes spontaneously, sometimes habitually, and sometimes self-reflectively and deliberatively.
They consciously perceive things through their senses, they make judgments and have beliefs about things, and they know some things.
They formulate and recognize reasons.
On the basis of these reasons, they establish normative principles for themselves, which they then attempt to follow consistently and with appropriate generalizability.
They try to justify themselves, both theoretically and practically.
They can also deceive themselves, and they are very good at making mere rationalizations.
They can be insincere and lie.
But even more importantly, and correspondingly, they can also be sincere and tell the truth.
Rational human animals, real human persons, have complete, finite, unique lives, in the sense that every such life has a definite beginning with the emergence of conscious experience, a definite middle in which human personhood is fully actualized and sustained, and then a definite ending in the destruction of their essentially embodied real human personal lives at death.
They can intensely enjoy themselves.
They can be enthralled or enthused.
They can be amused or bemused.
They can be embarrassed, frustrated, bored stiff, or deeply depressed.
Hence they can also suffer intensely.
They worry a great deal about dying.
Sometimes, in despair, they deliberately take their own lives.
And sometimes they are very wicked.
They can torture others, and they can treat each other like mere garbage or offal.
They can ignore each other, unfairly criticize each other, envy each other, betray each other, hate each other, and kill each other.
They can also respect each other, trust each other, like each other, lust after each other, copulate with each other, love each other with all their hearts, jointly produce other rational human animals from inside their own bodies, live with each other as friends, partners, or families, and also look after each other compassionately until death finally parts them.
Rational human animals, real human persons, are aware of reasons, and they try to be moved by the highest reasons, which in turn express the Highest or Supreme Good.
They also want to be happy in all the senses of that equally deeply ambiguous and deeply morally important term.
This includes, at least,
(i) human happiness as the egoistic “lower” or else “higher” pleasures (in John Stuart Mill’s terminology) and/or the reduction of pain or suffering,
(ii) human happiness as the egoistic or else public-minded satisfaction of desires and preferences,
(iii) human happiness as privately virtuous self-perfection,
(iv) human happiness as publicly virtuous flourishing,
(v) human happiness as wholehearted self-fulfillment, i.e., psychic coherence, active self-realization, and volitional self-sufficiency, i.e., authenticity,
and perhaps other distinct forms of human happiness as well.
Rational human animals, real human persons, can freely choose and act, and they can take causal and moral responsibility for their choices and acts.
They can also take causal and moral responsibility for things over which they had no control.
In this way, they have both Kantian autonomy in the robustly or strongly potential, dispositional sense of possessing an innate capacity for rational self-legislation, and also authenticity in the robustly or strongly potential, dispositional sense of possessing an online innate capacity for purity of heart, single-mindedness, or wholeheartedness.
Together these innate capacities make really possible the fact of a free, self-legislating wholehearted adherence to one’s moral principles, including some absolutely general moral principles, together with sometimes taking causal and moral responsibility for brute contingent facts, at least partially and to some salient degree or extent, which I call principled authenticity.
Principled authenticity is morally better than human happiness alone, although of course human happiness is extremely good too, and also an intrinsic proper part of a completely good rational human animal’s life.
That rational human animals, real human persons, really do have lives in which there is both a Highest or Supreme Good (principled authenticity) and also a Complete Good (happiness guided by principled authenticity), and furthermore an at least partial achievement or realization, to some salient degree or extent, of these highest goods in their lives, even if they never can fully attain these highest goods, is the same as to say that their lives have meaning.
Only creatures whose lives really do have meaning would be capable of intense suffering because they can, falsely and tragically, come to believe and feel in their hearts that their lives are meaningless.
In this way, as rational human animals, real human persons, capable of principled authenticity, we are the animals with meaningful lives.
We are always and inherently governed by reasons, and we are always and inherently looking for reasons.
We crave grounding and validation, both contextual and ultimate.
This is not to say, however, that we ever actually manage to live up adequately to our own nature or to our own principles.
We can feel, choose, and act as if we were nothing but complex machines or tricked-up puppets, and not living animals, not free, and not real persons, and therefore as if our lives were utterly without meaning.
That is where the inauthenticity part comes in.
Moreover, we can screw things up, and very frequently we do screw things up, both colossally and trivially.
That is where the evil and suffering part comes in.
We can do horrendous, terrible things to one another, and/or to ourselves.
Also, it can happen that either we are not what we want ourselves to be, or other people are not what we want them to be, or the world is not the way we want it to be.
Any of these facts, or all of these facts together, can make us feel sick unto death.
So we are, also, the animals capable of evil and suffering.
That is the tragic side of us.
Nevertheless, as the necessary flip side of our innate capacities for inauthenticity, evil, and suffering, we are also essentially the animals innately capable of principled authenticity and happiness.
What I have just sketched is a working characterization of rational human animals, of real human persons, of ourselves.
Let us suppose for the purposes of argument that it is actually true. It does not follow from this working characterization of our nature, however, that it is in any way easy to explain how this can be true, or as Kant would put it, to explain “the conditions of its real possibility.”
Indeed, here are nine deep and difficult philosophical problems directly related to the nature of our nature:
(1) What accounts for the existence and specific character of conscious, intentional, caring, rational human animal minds in a natural, physical world? (the problem of the mind-body relation).
(2) What accounts for the causal relevance and causal efficacy of conscious, intentional, caring, rational human animal minds in a natural, physical world? (the problem of mental causation).
(3) What accounts for the identity of rational human animals, real human persons, over time? (the problem of personal identity).
(4) What accounts for the difference between the things that rational human animals, real human persons, consciously, intentionally, and caringly do, and the things that just happen to us? (the problem of action).
(5) How can rational human animals, real human persons, really and truly choose or do things with negative freedom, positive freedom, and responsibility in a natural, physical world? (the problem of free will).
(6) What accounts for the sufficient justification of true beliefs? (the problem of knowledge).
(7) What accounts for the sufficient justification of motivating reasons and moral principles? (the problem of practical agency and morality).
(8) Is it possible to prove that an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good being — i.e., God — exists, and if so or if not, then what? (the theological problem).
(9) Can the de facto coercive authority of the State over those who belong to it, to compel them to heed and obey the commands of its government, be rationally and morally justified or legitimated, and if so or if not, then what? (the problem of political authority).
Obviously these nine problems differ from one another in many important respects.
But rational human animals, real human persons, are at one and the same time conscious, intentional, caring living organisms, and also complete, finite, unique individuals over time, whose intentional actions have both causal relevance and causal efficacy.
They are capable of negative freedom, positive freedom, and moral responsibility in a deterministic or non-deterministic natural, physical world.
They are also cognizers and practical agents capable of knowledge or sufficiently justified true belief.
They are also capable of right action and of adopting sufficiently justified motivating reasons and moral principles.
They also think about the ultimate origins and ends of all creatures and things, and naturally wonder and worry about the provability of the existence or non-existence of God.
And they all live alongside each other inside States or other state-like institutions that possess the coercive power to compel their compliance to the commands of governments, so they naturally wonder and worry whether the de facto coercive authority of these institutions over them has any rational and moral justification or legitimacy.
Therefore there is at least one respect in which all nine philosophical problems, when specifically focused on rational human animals, real human persons, are ultimately the same deep and difficult problem:
What accounts for the existence and specific character of rational human animals, real human persons, and their complete, finite, and unique individual lives, lived alongside all the other rational and non-rational minded animals, all of us ineluctably embedded in this thoroughly nonideal world, both natural and social? (the problem of the rational human condition)
So The Rational Human Condition is nothing more and nothing less than my attempt to solve the problem of the rational human condition.