Random Thoughts Indexed

Human Nature
Part One - Part Two - Part Three

If I am to enquire into human nature, it seems to me that the best place to start is with the potentially clearest example to which I have access - myself.

If I can come to understand and discount my personality, my talents and lackings, and my personal psychological trappings, it will be possible to discern beneath them all the basic traits which might be the nature of the human.

While this could seem an insane task (for who can see themselves underneath who they really are?), it is is still less daunting than attempting to undress the minds of those around me to peer at their naked commonalities. Who am I to say what in the behaviours I observe is the product of someone else's neuroses, affectations, or preferences? How difficult will it be to dig past the "ideas of the age" and the commonplace prejudices and mythologies that weigh upon our times? I could very easily observe my fellow travellers and deem that it is human nature to behave as all do in my region of the world, in this part of this century. All I would be doing is chronicling my times and the common ideas inherent in them.

I cannot even turn to nearby examples to test my ideas of what might construe a basic human nature as gleaned from my own introspection. For these data are too small, too local, too "of the now." I must, to better criticise them, look far beyond my environment, to people far away and long ago, in stories related by those who are also outside my social space.

And how do I compensate for the language in which I write, and mostly, think? Each human tongue has limitations on how it can express ideas, restrictions on the mind which grows in its culture alone. To truly accomplish what I speak of, I must surely avail myself of fluency in several, unrelated languages! The only way I can think of surmounting this difficulty (since I barely speak English, let alone Sanskrit or Greek!) is to try to reach a realm of thinking which is preverbal, in which the ideas are not originally construed as grammatical structures confined by the development and needs of just one natural language. Then those ideas must be flexibly translated into words, in order to be expressed.

This is best done by explaining things several ways, so as not to get caught up in the one meaning (and possible connotations) of a single description. Multiple metaphors, allegories, and modes of analysis are required, as likewise the nonverbal arts are necessary. The compendium of all these modes can in toto perhaps be used to convey meanings that are sub-conscious, preverbal and culturally unblemished.

Human Nature
Part One - Part Two - Part Three

8/18/01

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© Huw Powell
humanthoughts.org

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