TABLE OF CONTENT
ii. The Division of Work…………………………..xii
iii. The Statement of the
iv. The Scope of Study……………………….…xiv
v. Purpose of
vi. The Methodology……………………….…...xv
DEFINITION OF THE
CONCEPTS OF MAN
1.1 Origin of Man-
An Evolutionary/Scientific perspective………1
1.2 The Background
1.3 The Definition of Man………………………………6
vis-à-vis Some Philosophers.......................................8
DESCRIPTION OF MAN
Notion of Man…………….……………12
-A Substantial Union……………….……13
Body -As an Integral Part………...16
Soul-As A Spirit………………….19
2.5 Matter and Form in
being of Biological/Psycho-Ethical Determinism…….25
A Being of Desire………………….27
Rationality and Irrationality in Man…………28
Man-An Ontological Mean…………..…..31
3.5 Mortality and Immortality in
CONFLICT IN MAN
Urge for Auto-transcendence.……….35
4.2 The Problem of Non-finality in Human
Crisis of Personal
4.4 The Implication And Precariousness of
4.5 The Human Intellect and Destiny
That man experiences crisis in life
is an unalterable fact of life. This crisis is an existential conflict arising
from the existential struggle that has significance in his consideration of
himself and experience of himself, comprehension of his existence and his expectation
of himself, the real and the ideal.
Aristotle, among other thinkers
projected such an ideal world of man, which is considerably separate and at the
same time unrealistic to natural existence. This existential conflict arises
from the nature of place accorded to man in nature. Contrary to the fact
that a greater part of man is animal,
scholars like Aristotle in their placement of man have led man to bring into
the world, only a capacity for a humanity, which he does not naturally posses
but to form through diligence and
Born of Stagira, little town situated
at the North-east side of Chalcedon in 384, B.C. Aristotle was the son of
Nichomachus, who was a physician of the court of Macedon. Though his father
died earlier in his life, Aristotle at seventeen became a disciple of Plato’s
accademy in Athens in 367/66 B.C where, for over twenty years, he experienced
Plato until the latter’s death in 348/47 B.C. He had much influence from Plato
and danced to his tunes until his mature period when he later became a critic
of Plato’s view. Later, he formed his own thought patterns. Leaving Athens
with Xenocrates, his colleague at the
academy, he visited Hermias the king of Atarneus on his invitation, who later
died of a great torture.
In 343/42, he was invited to Pella by
Philip of Macedon, to tutor his son, Alexander the Great for about three years.
This was brought to an abrupt end, by the demand of an active part from
Alexander the Great in Macedon. Alexander having rebuilt the city in honor of
Aristotle, he[Aristotle]changed his residence to his native residence in
Stagira. Aristotle, however, moved back to Athens and spent twelve years
teaching and writing at the Lyceum. But this was terminated after Alexander’s
death and he left Athens impulsively at a death threat for his mother’s
birth-place, Chalcis, where he died in exile in November 322 B.C, at the age of
Most of his earliest works were lost,
but some fragments still remain. His work covers a wide range of knowledge from
physics to psychology, from metaphysics to ethics, from politics to the arts,
from logic to rhetoric. His years away from Athens were predominantly taken up
with biological research and writing. Judged on the basis of the content,
Aristotle’s most important psychological writings belong as the case may be to
his second residence in Athens as well as to his mature period. His principal
work in psychology, De Anima,
reflects in different ways his pervasive interest in biological taxonomy and
his most sophisticated physical and metaphysical theories.
Because of his age-long tradition of
exposition which has commanded a greater following so far in our world up to
date in its interpretation, his work, De
Anima, has central theses which are sometimes disputed.
Consequently, this essay proceeds on
two levels of proof, which are divided further into five chapters for a better
appreciation. On the one level, we among other essays so far, especially to the
contemporary times, would review the world of nature and man’s place in it as a
telling point of contact between Aristotle’s investigations into the soul and
other philosophers’ and psychologists’ of various epochs. While on the other
level we are to consider the methodology of biological and metaphysical aspects
which Aristotle presents to us, to answer the question on whether we are determined by some ethical choice, or
predetermined by some biological- natural facts.
Division of work
Chapter one, apart from the general
introduction, scope, purpose and method of the study, considers nature as that
possessed in common through evolution, reviewing Aristotle’s root of his
metaphysical psychology and other scholars’ views of the problem. Man’s meaning
and his description by Aristotle is viewed in chapter two.
Chapter three tries to answer the
question about the extent of forces in man and his “free nature”. Next, chapter
four follows from the preceding one, as the core of the project, revealing the
cause and nature of the crisis of man. As a follow up then, in chapter five, we
shall evaluate critically the whole scheme of Aristotle’s metaphysical
anthropology and as well assert our standpoint by a way of conclusion, which
brings the work to an end.
ii. Statement of the problem
Since the evolution of thought in
history, man’s nature has been the question so central to philosophy. Although
the pre-Socratics did not concern themselves with questions bordering on the
constitution of man, yet anyone who is influenced by the Socratic tradition in
the examination of life recognizes the basic fact that we live in a world on
which we depend for existence and sustenance. The influence our universe yield
over us stirs us into asking questions about our nature and our place in the
universe and proffering our solutions to it.
In attempt to answer the question
about man, scholars, scientists and even philosophers have provided their
opinions, assertions and denials that succeed each other according to their
understandings. Hence they created the problem of man.
Invariably, this problem of man lies
solely in the conflict or contradiction between his comprehension of his
existence and expectation that is between the real and their ideal, the ‘is’ and ‘ought’. As a matter of fact, the problem of man is found glaringly
expressed in man’s anguish and suffering in reality. Therefore, we are to
consider Aristotelian key view on man and his ontological status as a link between two worlds. There upon, we
shall determine whether our nature and destiny
are to be determined by some
ethical choice or some biological fact.
iii. Scope of the study
This task may not be quite exhaustive
or very much detailed. However, it articulates the synopsis of modern
psychology through some philosophic anthropological method of proof which is
rightly cloaked in Aristotelian corpus. Moreover, it does not lay any claim to
exhaustive study of Aristotle’s systems. Rather, all that the work tries to do
is to expose Aristotelian ontological study of man in ethical ideal as not
unconnected to all human suffering and anguish.
Purpose of the study
Actually, purpose, they say, is the
master of motivation and mother of commitment. Hence, this project has a great
purpose in its motivation and commitment to bring out a neutral outline of
Aristotle’s views on man, but in the mainstay it probes our anthropomorphic
vision of man, seeking to justify in essence, the scientific view of man in its
phenomenological grounding. It shall also, examine our transcendental ideals in
much juxtaposition with the scientific reality in order to elicit the true
human nature and destiny, at least for the sake of human good ,integration and
The attack on the Aristotelian
ethical ideal will be seen through the light of inconstancies in Aristotle’s
projection of reason, together with the precariousness of the modern human
living, kindled by scientific vision. However, as a rediscovery venture, the
work tries to point out the need for the human-with-heart without exalting or
v. The methodology
In order to realize the ultimate aim
of the research paper, the method applied will be more of expository and
analytically blended with criticisms. It will be mildly didactic and there will
be less use of technical terms. In the main, it will be open to arguments,
assertions and denials (for or against) which are to be provoked by it. In all,
it incorporates the phenomenological and transcendental methods of the study of
the subject as a work of philosophical anthropology in so far as these can help
us reach our objectives more reasonably.
DEFINITION OF THE CONCEPTS OF MAN
1.1 Origin of Man- An
‘Man or ‘homo sapiens’, as he somewhat arrogantly calls himself, is the most
interesting and also the most irritating of animal species on the planet
origin and structure of man have been the age-long subjects of study,
controversies and theorizations in form of fundamental questions, assertions
and denials that pertain mostly to issues about life, its origin and nature.
Numerous scientists, biologists, paleontologists and philosophers have
remarkably worked, researched and discovered some useful information that will
help us understand the origin and structure of life.
Characteristically, these researches
and discoveries about origin of life in general and man in particular have been
classified into two major circles of understanding, vitalistic and mechanistic
Some philosophers like Descartes and Gassendi followed this idea mechanistic view and sought to propagate
it to posterity.
Invariably, this teleological while
the former explains life as originating by chance, with no plans and hereunder
we have two levels of determination, ‘the evolutionists
and the traditionalists that considers
life as a cause-effect’. The traditional view takes care of the mythical and
legendary account of the origin of life, as contained in the Holy Writ, hence:
The Lord formed man of the slime of earth and breathed into his face the breath
This approach commanded a greater affection of many scientists and
philosophers. Basically in defense of the theory of traditional account of
origin of man, Jean Servier eloquently condemned the possibility of scientific
evolution, thereby reducing scientific claim of factual basement to a mere
mythical claim. Consequently, the criticism led to a mid-way consideration
which incorporates the origin of life by direct creation through God’s
intervention and the opposite by pure chance or spontaneous generation. This
mid-way is known as programmed evolution.
Programmed evolution as a theory has
become acceptable to many philosophers as well as the scientists, unlike the
scientific evolution held formerly
which created much polarity between them. Thus, for the philosophers, it
entrains ‘that the soul* arises through the action of an intelligent being to
give origin to life’.
In addition, Teilhard de Chardin
describes him as ‘the arrow-head of
evolution’. These evolutionary discoveries are far away from philosophical
truth. Nevertheless, Aristotle’s scheme seems to vary under this evolutionary
perspective. Since in
Aristotle’s schemes, there is no such evolution as in the modern sense, scientific temporal evolution, though he
may have developed an ideal evolution.
Finally, we must note therefore, that
the problem concerning the origin of man is yet unsolved, since evolutionary
theory cannot satisfy philosophical curiosity, even the claim of an evolution
of a reflective consciousness by Teilhard.
1.2 The Background of Study
No doubt at all that there were so many
views about what constitute the essence of man, but all did agree in the first
place that such essence exists, that is to say that there is something by
virtue of which man is man and so are all other beings in nature before
Aristotle, and at its climax after him, having succeeded in arousing interest.
The traces of this devotion in philosophy are identifiable in the ancient and
classical, Middle Ages and enlightenment philosophers culminating in Kant and
then those of the contemporary era. The pre-Socratics to begin with, were
mainly cosmologists who reduced all that is to material existence and origin.
Pythagoras introduced form and not
only that, he brought forward the idea of form limiting the matter which is
boundless. For him, balance or equilibrium is achieved through the imposition
of form over matter.
According to Enoch Stumpf, Anaxagoras
in addition brought forward, the phenomenon of ‘nous’ (the mind as that responsible for the actualization of matter
by form, thus he maintains that the
nature of reality is best understood as consisting mind and matter.
Accordingly, Aristotle later expressed a double evaluation of his views.
Furthermore, the materialists came to
fore, exalting the material existence of all things. Socrates in contrast
emerged as a spiritualist in defense of the soul and Plato asserted man as this
soul, separating apart the two worlds of reality and ideas, hence the emergence
of his dualism as the case may be. However, this psychological dualism was
inherited by the immediate successor, Aristotle, who sought to reconcile them.
Thus, the problem of balance and relation between matter and form (body and
soul) is seen scattered all over his fragments. For
instance, the whole of his ethical, political, metaphysical treatises as well
as his scientific writings incidentally bear some elements of this problem of
his major concern. Biologically, Aristotle proceeded with the analysis of
nature. According to him the term, ‘phusis’,
means essence or form in general.
Nature means for him ‘a formed or active principle of movement and rest in
The Physics BK II of Aristotle was strictly dedicated to the explanation,
justification and above all the articulation of the notion of nature as ‘an
intrinsic principle of movement’. Considerably, to act intelligently is to act
in accordance with rational nature, while to act instinctively is to act in
congruence with the animal nature.
In the first book of De Anima, Aristotle speaks of the soul
as the entelechy or act of the body
that possesses life in potency. In the
same manner and within history of psychology appropriate to the dichotomized
notions of philosophers on the soul, he observes thus:
… the most
far-reaching difference is that between the philosopher who regard the elements
as corporeal and those who regard them as incorporeal.
In a bid to reconcile them Aristotle
portrayed soul as the actuality of the body which cannot be distinguished from
it, though some parts are separable for him, since they are precisely not the
realizations of the body.
The Definition of Man
Having seen previously the stand,
which Aristotle takes on man, as a different nature among other nature, can we
now at this point try some sense of definition? Generally, the question should
be what is man, (Was ist der mensch), but in Aristotelian concept of man, it
goes thus: who is man, (was ist der mensch). However, this question is not only
onerous to man but also most rancorous to him, since he evades approaching it.
Inadvertently, ‘man is a being so vast, so could, so multiform, that every definition
demonstrates itself as too limited. Man’s aspects are too numerous’.
Also, Martin Heidegger has the
opinion that man cannot be defined until death. Therefore, it is only in death
that one can define man from his own perspectives. On the contrary, we can only
accept their propositions on the ground of the utopic nature of man, as the humanity in Aristotle. Thus, the idea
of Bloch’s ‘utopic being’ (utopischer
Raum) stands supreme. But this is not the case even Mondin’s claim that man is a kind of prodigy that combines within
himself apparent antitheses: a fallen unrealizable, divinity, unsuccessful
absolute value etc… Hence,
he mutually concluded the part of his own jolt by a two word definition of man
as an impossible possibility.
Actually, A.J. Heschel observed this in his book, ‘Who is Man’, when he writes that man portrays:
conscious desire in man to be animal ‘natural in the experience of carnality or
even to identify himself as animal in destiny or essence.
Considerably, the definitions of man
since Aristotle bear the vestigial traces of this truth of ‘animality’ in man
calling for recognition. The real predicament in man springs up and as well
becomes intensified by the attention of man to understand the human ideal of
reason as man’s ‘human’ nature, instead of accomplishing the real natural level
of animality in his experience of the world so far, not neglecting the passions
in man. The most ridiculous drama going on in man’s unconsciousness is his
abhorrence of his authentic existence in evasion towards the definition of his
nature which he projects in the explanation of other beings other than himself.
Thus he denigrates them in an anthropomorphic greed, to be of lower strata to
Whenever man is seen analyzing other
beings, it is just a projection of greed. Unless this consideration is taken,
man continues to remain an animal, a project and a mystery. Man has no perfect
knowledge of himself.
1.4 Aristotle vis-à-vis
Some schools of thought view man as a
mere spiritual singularity, while others view man as somewhat a material body.
And thirdly, those at the mid-way have no acceptable explanation. Aristotle
belongs to this last group, as he attempted the reconciliation of the two through
his metaphysical theory of ‘hylemorphism’.
Thus for him, man is a substantial union of body (matter) and soul (form). But
he couldn’t balance the equation in the relation between passion and reason.
Hence, reason predominates, as it controls man in all his actions.
Thanks to the scholastics who inherited this Aristotelianism, especially
Thomas Aquinas who presents man as a man by the actuality of spirituality,
existing form that informs an organic body and makes it a human body.Thomas Aquinas unearthed and developed
this “mutual affinity” between body and soul as that co-opting for the natural
repugnance to death. Man, for Aristotle, then is not only a rational
subsistence but also: an ‘unam’ per se, composed of essence, and ‘to be’ of
body and soul, of substance and accident.
In the modern
era, Rene Descartes believed strongly that he can be more certain of himself as
a “thinking thing” than as a body. This understanding of man as an automata or
mechanism creates sharp dichotomy in his ‘cogito ergo sum’, between mind which
can outlive the bodily extension. Leibnitz followed this pattern of
The contemporary thinkers conversely
hold against this metaphysical parallelism of the exaggerated dualism. Hence
Marxists proffered their ‘dialectical materialism’ as in defense of the
body. Hence, the body contrary to Aristotle’s view becomes the ‘elan vitale’, instead of the spirit,
which now is turned into a product of the creative body and its instrument.
Thus, man was rated a brute animal. The existentialists, among whom Sartre is a
chief exponent confirmed this materialistic outlook on man and upturned man’s
centre of gravity to his body. For him, it is the body that gives man his individual species to be what it is. He is Aristotle’s most drastic
opponent. He defined man as ontologically pure spiritual being. Sartre remarks
thus: The concept of man is spirit and no one ought to allow himself to be
deceived by the fact that he can also walk on two legs.
It is categorically clear that the
consciousness he projects is not the same kind with Aristotle’s. Human body is
only ‘an encumbrance and ballast for man’s spirit’. Man for him is anguished by
the body limits. Also, in the contemporary era thinkers who are exaggerated
realists, like L. Klages, maintain that man is made up two substances,
spiritual and corporeal but the elements are always at war with each other
portraying the spirit as the enemy of biological and psychosomatic life. Thus
he asserts more seriously that:
benumbs life which is essentially becoming and moving, thus two powers are in
mutual conflict here which were originally similar and this conflict is not
merely factual but inevitable. And yet both of them are supposed to build up
the person, the personal ego, which is the carrier of the spirit and life.23
In line still, Freud is one of the
greatest theoretician on man, who with some psychological bent envisaged the
conflicting existence in man, thereby defining man as a component of two
instincts: death and life instincts. With all these views above, we can easily
see with Soren Kierkegaard that the human being which Aristotle structures
becomes one which would be formed fully from disagreement, clash or dissension.
The question now could be: between the body and the soul, which is so
antithetically opposed to the other and which excludes the other to be united,
in order to form the personal self. Moreover, the contemporary opinion of the
present day thinkers against exaggerated dualism is that both are phenomenal
forms of an unknown.