My position on the meaning of being a human
For this assignment I have decided to take forward my position on the meaning of human from my previous assignment i.e. the Analysis Paper Two. In that assignment I had expressed my views on being a human in the light of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, a great ancient Chinese philosopher. Tao Te Ching is a great book on human wisdom and it guides us to reach an eternal strength that make it possible to lead an enlightened life. The first chapter of the book lays the foundation for humans to observe the observable universe to unfold the hidden mysteries of the universe. The first quote states “The Tao that can be named is not the real Tao”. This means that the Tao or the Way that we want to find to obtain an eternal satisfaction is not visible in the natural world. To see the way to success one has to strive and struggle. This calls for a change of perspective as a human being. One has to be above the ordinary thoughts and selfish behavior where there is no end to the desires on an individual. To understand the reality of being a human and what it means for oneself and others, it is necessary to think above the observable world. We should strive to see the manifested meanings of the observable world. I personally believe that for my personal life it is necessary to understand the purpose of life. Normally we as humans think in terms of money, jobs, careers and other material possessions. I do not negate the need for these things but, in my opinion, it is necessary to think above the material and observable world. I mean we have to think what would be life after all the material need are fulfilled more than they should be? That is the paradigm shift that I think I need in my thinking and looking towards life.
In the second chapter of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu has pointed out the simplistic thinking that humans use. He says that human should get out the view that there are only two extreme aspects of things. For example we think in black and white only and do not realize that there are not just Yes, No answers but the reality lies in between somewhere. If we rely on the Yes or No, Black and White, Ugly and Beautiful states, this is not the way of Tao. To be a human, we have to search for answers, wisdom and self-actualization. If I have to relate this principle to my personal life, I would say that most of my life my looking at the realities of life have been simplistic. For example I think that people are either bad or good. After going through different exercises during the course, I have come to realize that circumstances of people may force them to do things that are bad, but it would not mean that the people are bad. They might be at a bad place at a bad time.
Lao Tzu also defines principles for doing the common good. He believes that when a leader or any other person performs a duty of serving others, he/she should just forget about it and not advertise it to get applause. The world would realize it by itself and it will be remembered forever. This is exactly the problem that humans have faced over the history. There are only a few who do common good with no hidden agendas. Most of the people are manipulative and have other interests hidden behind the good things they do. But I would say that only those are respected and remembered who do not have hidden agendas. The others might be successful in getting their hands on short term benefits but they fail miserably in the long run.
Answers to Counter Arguments
I would like to counter argument the positions of Plato and Aristotle on the definition of being a human and what it means in the life of an individual. First let’s talk about Plato. In Plato’s philosophy the common man does not possess the quality or the moral authority to define his/her purpose. In the “Republic” Plato has mentioned the need for an authoritarian Philosopher-King who is wise and has the authority to define the morality of the common men. I strongly disagree with this authoritarian notion. I believe that every person has the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong. Surrendering your will to an authority means an end to innovation and searching for your reality of the world and your actual place in it as a human.
The way forward suggested by Aristotle is less authoritarian but it still talks about the extended role of the philosophers to propagate their views in the general public about what it means to be a good human. This propagation, in Aristotle’s views is to influence the opinion of the general people. It provides “option” instead of Plato’s authoritarian strict guidelines. I would like to counter argue here that the duty of the philosophers should be limited to only express their views and to provide the so called options to people to find a purpose to life. These philosopher can be influenced by authoritarian regimes to influence divert the common opinions in accordance to their wishes.
I believe that the principles of the Tao Te Ching have carved out a volunteer way for us to find the meaning of humanity for ourselves. Even if one is a leader, Tao does not suggest a manipulative and controlling behavior. According to Tao, leader is an ordinary person and you, I or anyone else can be a leader. The only difference is who is ready to walk the difficult way of putting personal prejudices, wishes and schemes aside and be truthful to finding a meaning of being a human.