What is human behavior these days

Basic political values

The abundance of publications that deal with the question of human beings in the broadest sense gives the impression that it is part of being human to have some idea of ​​what essentially defines human beings. Obviously, such images of humans help us to determine "what we accept as our fundamental properties". [1] Since terms not only serve to denote things, but also to distinguish them from one another, images of people not only describe positively what defines people. Rather, they also explicitly include all those properties that distinguish humans from non-humans - animals, plants and machines. [2] These are just ideas about people. Because "the word human is not human. We have to learn: There is nothing that corresponds to the word as a unit of an object." [3] Thus, images of humans are always to be viewed as constructions that "are not simply found or exist independently of humans , but (...) must be redesigned over and over again according to needs, objectives and ideological orientation. [4] Despite their claim to universal validity, images of man always emerge from a specific historical context and are therefore historically contingent. The process of their change not only refers to the change in human self-image, but also reflects changes in society as a whole.

The function of images of man is not limited to the determination of whatever kind of human nature. Far more important is their idealizing character, especially since every idea of ​​the human being is in a certain way also a description of what counts as human ideality. [5] Every image of man is therefore associated with the normative expectation that it corresponds to that theoretically designed image. Through this normative aspect, images of man acquire political relevance, as it were. Because in order to assert a certain idea of ​​the ideal person and thus make it binding for all members of society, certain political instruments (such as educational measures) and consequently also the occupation of relevant positions of power are inevitably required. Conflicts between competing images of man, each of which would like to shape society according to its own assumptions about human nature, are therefore inevitable. These struggles "for the legitimate implementation of the principles of vision and division of the social world" [6], which are characteristic of the political field, illustrate the close interweaving of images of man and political structures. Whether one always speaks of politics at the same time when one speaks of images of human beings will not be discussed further here. [7] What is certain, however, is that the question of whether a specific image of man is actually suitable for adequately describing real human behavior plays a rather subordinate role, at least in political contexts. Images of human beings are politically significant primarily because they are used again and again to legitimize existing relationships of power, to marginalize parts of society, to stigmatize strangers or enemies as deficient people or even to deny them their humanity as such. [8]

The limited man of antiquity. Both for the fine arts in antiquity, as well as for philosophy, which developed from the Ionian natural philosophers with their problem of the cosmos to the problem of man as zoon politikon developed, humans, incarnation and human existence were an inexhaustible topic. Two much-quoted demands of early Greek thought serve as leitmotifs in this context: the phrase "Become who you are!" Attributed to the poet Pindar (5th century BC). as well as the exhortation of the god Apollo "Know thyself". [9] While the first sentence is obviously an invitation to man to become human, that is, to lead a life that corresponds to his true self, the second is an invitation to recognize that very self. The oracle of Apollo is at the same time an instruction to man to become aware of the limits of his knowledge: "Know yourself" therefore also means "know your measure". [10]

The ancient Greek spirit always thought of man in opposition to God and, in its conception of man, sharply demarcated his imperfection from the perfection of God. So it is not one's own being or even an individual character from which human drives and abilities arise, but divine forces that bring them about. In other words: the ancient world thinks of man as someone who is fundamentally determined from outside. Only the intervention of the gods in the event causes an action. Examples of this early Greek conception of human actions are the Homeric stories: "Wherever a person achieves more or says more than his previous behavior suggests, Homer attributes this (...) to the intervention of a god." [11] Thus, it turns out In fact, it emerged that "much of what the Greeks gained in essentials for European thought (has emerged) in forms that (...) are usually more familiar to us from the sphere of religion than from intellectual history" ]

The autonomous person of the modern age. While humans in antiquity were determined by others (heteronomous), in modern thinking, autonomy is the determining factor in human action. [13] In the sense of Immanuel Kant, autonomy primarily means moral autonomy as the only principle of all moral laws: "The principle of autonomy is therefore: to choose no other than in such a way that the maxims of his choice are included in the same will as a general law." [14] Heteronomy, on the other hand, is when the will "seeks the law in the constitution of any of its objects that is supposed to determine it (...). The will then does not give itself, but the object through its relationship to the will gives it the law . "[15] All maxims that cannot coexist with one's own general legislation of the will are heteronomous and therefore immoral. Everyone behaves heteronomously who makes valid moral concepts - even if they should be capable of consent - unchecked as the principle of his actions. If a moral law is of divine origin, as for example in Homer, it "only becomes autonomy when it is made an idea (...)". [16] Autonomy therefore does not allow any commitment that is beyond one's own understanding. Exactly in this sense it means "self-regulation" and "self-determination". [17]

While ancient thinking still thought from the outside in, it can now be said, conversely, that modern thinking thinks from the inside out, without, however, entering "into a transcendence, into a metaphysical beyond". [18] On the contrary: there is a gradual break with the entire religious-theological and philosophical tradition. The traditional basic prerequisite of the concept of man, the idea of ​​transcending the natural as a determination of the essence of man, is being suppressed more and more. The image of man is now an anthropocentric one, and there is a demand to think of man as a being that is radically self-reliant and can only be understood from within: "But where man has the basis of his humanity outside of himself in one, at least according to his idea, not human beings, where he is human for non-human, for religious reasons, then he is still not a truly human, human being. I am only human when I do what is human out of myself, when I recognize and practice humanity as the necessary determination of my nature, as the necessary consequence of my own being. "[19]

In contrast to Christianity, for which Christ is "the very image of man" and which sees the realization of the essential nature of man only possible through Jesus Christ, the new, purely mundane man is now chosen as the only "complete man". [20] The essence of man is no longer determined by whatever divine is to be defined in more detail, but is described from now on with the concept of the nature of man understood as ahistorical. [21]

Human self-determination is therefore by no means to be understood as a mere defense against heteronomy. Rather, what shines through here is an idea of ​​man that understands his nature as dynamic. Accordingly, being human is not simply a state into which a person is born, but rather "a task that he has to fulfill through the conscious development of his ability". [22] It is characterized by constant activity and creativity. So while Aristotle still regarded a peaceful and contemplative life as the most human of all - because most closely related to the deity - for modern thinkers the development of human powers and abilities is only possible through constant activity, never through mere contemplation or receptivity. Because only through "this productive process does man realize his own being, he returns to his own being". [23]

This changes the position of man in the cosmos to a decisive degree. He is no longer the tool of some gods, but more and more the creator of his own life. The modern upheaval begins with man seeing the universe, nature and the world and finally himself with different eyes. He discovered the general law of the universe as well as its otherness and special position as a rational being in this universe. Gunpowder, the art of printing, mechanical clocks, magnetic needles, telescopes and microscopes - all these and other scientific achievements that began in the 16th century now make nature appear as a substrate that humans can use instruments and technology to obtain and process. In short: man takes the place of God. He no longer sees himself at the mercy of a God-given order, but can actively shape it through the acquisition of knowledge about the natural laws with the help of the sciences and make himself subservient. The belief in scientific and technical progress is gradually gaining ground.

However, the ability to shape the world is not limited to the natural human environment. The social order also loses the character of its immutability. For the first time in human history, the conscious control of social processes appears possible. What is more, man himself becomes the subject of his story, which from then on is regarded as the result of specifically human achievements. As a result, political rule no longer defines itself timelessly as natural or divine given, but is ultimately a product of the knowing and acting human being. It is based on a contract between the self-determined subject, who thereby expresses his claim to political participation, and the state actors, who from now on have to justify their actions to the citizens. [24] So while in the premodern the social order was based on the inequality of classes, in the 18th century the "extrasocietal determination of the individuality of man" [25] became the leitmotif of the image of man. Human characteristics are no longer primarily determined by belonging to a class or a family, but rather through the removal of human beings from the social order - precisely through their ahistorically understood, pre-socially determined nature. Freedom and equality are the basic categories.

However, the successes of the sciences also mean that a scientifically based view of the human being is becoming increasingly established. Above all, through the natural scientist Charles Darwin, an image of man emerges that understands man as a living being that has evolved. It is therefore subject to the same processes of variation and selection as the animals. With Darwin, humans are radically reintegrated into nature. Although his special position is not questioned here either, it is "no longer based on categorical, but on gradual differences to his closest non-human relatives". [26] Parallels to the naturalistic image of man in contemporary neurobiology and neurophilosophy, which dismiss human free will as an illusion, are clearly recognizable. It should also be clear, however, that such a view contradicts the Enlightenment's view of man, since Kant's concept of autonomy is also and above all directed against external determination through natural causality.

The secular conception of history, which no longer seeks to understand historical processes as the result of divine control or, more generally, as the action of extraterrestrial forces, has a decisive consequence: it produces a historical science that begins with the intention of establishing an order in its subject area bring it and systematize it according to the model of the exact sciences. The assumption that historical development is nothing more than an inevitable process that proceeds according to quasi-natural laws is therefore quite obvious here. There are not a few theories of social change that understand changes in society as a whole as evolutionary processes that take place independently of man and in this way at least partially exclude the concept of man who makes history. [27] Michel Foucault in particular contrasted the current basic postulate of a sovereign creator-subject with an approach that designs the subject as the product of social power relations and not as the originator of a social order. Man is only "an invention". [28]