Foibles and Follies of Being Human
Being human means being flawed; that is, being filled with follies and foibles. Notice that all this is about being. Of course Martin Heidegger’s Dasein comes to mind. To follow Heidegger is a long, and often fruitful road; however, here I would like to speak to the problems of just living in the world and ethics.
What I mean by humans are flawed is that we are imperfect, or more perhaps more along the lines of being limited in our knowledge and self-reflection. Knowledge is limited because of biological restrains on memory and perspective. With the advent of technologies (writing and data storage), memory may be of lesser concern. Perspective is what I think as a deep concern. Biological beings may not have the wider perspective to understand everything including ourselves. There is no truly objective view. Science, philosophy, and other disciplines do try to get us closer. Science in general seem very good at this but still the limit is how to step out side of being a biological being in order to find some objective understanding.
What does this mean for ethics? If we are all flawed and perhaps unable to find an objective view of ethics, how then do we live. Some find ethics in revealed truths or in authority. Although these may not always be bad choices, I think a quick look at history will show incidents where they have fallen short (perhaps I understated this a little). Ethics from nature present other concerns. I often turn towards philosophy for my own ethical understanding but there is the problem of which philosophical system to choose.
However, let me return to the idea of being flawed. Many ethical system have standards that most of us do fall short of. Yet, to be human is to understand that being flawed is not an excuse, only a reality that we struggle with. Also, I think that when we take a single path towards ethics, the shortcomings of the path become more apparent. Any single system, no matter how robust can, and often do, leave out or is unable to touch on all the complexities of being human. Am I then suggesting that we act inconsistent. Well, the short answer for now, is yes. Human are filled with follies and foibles but perhaps we should find strength in our flaws. In being able to inconsistent but for the right reasons. Perhaps Kant is right that we should never lie but then again I think there are times we should…to save a life for example.
Over the next year, I will try in my own inconsistent and flawed way take up this theme. Have a great New Year.