The Recovery of Human Nature | James Kalb | CWR
A basic reason people today don’t accept nature as a guide is that they see it as essentially mindless
Like other living things, human beings have a distinct nature as beings of a particular kind. We have conditions we try to bring about, conditions that help us thrive, and characteristic ways of acting, responding to events, and dealing with others. All these points are obvious.
Nonetheless, if you mention human nature in public discussion today you’ll face resistance. People will say you’re engaging in stereotypical thinking that stands in the way of Hope and Change. They’ll want you to prove every detail of every assertion, no proof will be good enough, and your arguments won’t stick. The next time the issue comes up you’ll have to go through everything all over again.
That’s a problem for Catholics and others who are concerned with the realities of human life, including the reality of how we should live. People seem to think we can make those realities what we want, so views that treat them as stable and enduring make no sense. If you say that there are two sexes that naturally connect to each other, and we need to get the connection right so people can lead happy and productive lives, they’ll say you’re a narrow-minded bigot. The accusations will become all the louder if you add that man is a rational animal, and it is important how he understands his situation, so if he is married it is important for him to recognize the natural function of the institution and his role in it.
One result of this rejection of natural patterns of life is a radically libertarian understanding that makes connections between the sexes unstable and nonfunctional, and marriage a luxury good for the successful rather than a basic structural aid that can make anyone’s life better. A further result is a great many miserable people. We won’t be able to do much about those and other results of the current refusal to accept basic human realities until people once again recognize human nature as a guide for how to live.
But how will that happen? To answer the question we need to understand why the idea of human nature has been rejected and how an understanding of it that’s stable and detailed enough to be usable becomes established.
A basic reason people today don’t accept nature as a guide is that they see it as essentially mindless.