The construction of human kinds
Many of the things that come to define the human being, the changes by which we view ourselves, have emerged as a result of political, institutional, and technological events, and not by means of moral reasoning. We need to determine why the metaphysical concept of man was lost along the way. Our concepts of beauty, success, or even intimacy, are a result of mass representation in terms of how reality is constructed. The author Ron Mallon thinks, for instance, that if the idea of sex or race suddenly vanished from the earth, then man will have to reinvent them.
The construction of human kinds reveals those types of reality in which people want to believe. Some concepts about man and society came about by means of history, social conditioning, or technological influence. For instance, a home without a TV set will most likely value personal conversations. It is not hard to explain how limited human perspectives can be. For these are formed, most of the time, blindly by bias or prejudice. For this reason, no matter what you explain to people, it will be difficult for them to understand because the realities they accept as such have been hardwired in the brain, genetically.
While culture or even modernity might curtail human behavior, and cause people to act almost automatically on the basis of representation, the aftereffect is what Mallon calls the reduction of “moral hazard,” wherein people make the judgment that an act is acceptable — hence, effacing any sense of moral attribution to a particular wrong. People believe what they want to believe. This is how mass society wrongly construes what human freedom is. For some, being free means doing whatever you want.
But we often make wrong judgments. For example, you can look around you and see how hard things have been for many. You are 30 and broke, and a nail hits you in the head while reading that others have put up their own companies before they were 30. So, society makes the judgment that you are a failure. Yet, according to Bertrand Russell, one of the most important philosophers of our time, we live in a vast universe and we should just be happy for the achievements of other people. It is terribly wrong to underestimate your contribution to the world.
It is the social media that propagate the wrong measure of success. Consumerism dictates a standard of meaning. Those who make judgments against the majority are the root cause of a moral gap. For to say that others are far better than what an ordinary man has provided his family is nothing short of elitism. There is no such thing as big or small when it comes to love. It is wrong to promote oneself by putting others down. If people need to do that, then they are nothing but insecure.
Most likely, the young are mere victims of the sins of their fathers and sometimes, they are just too caught up in the depravity of the world around them. You can’t blame the young for their mistakes. You don’t measure success on the basis of intelligence, not even self-achievement. You can only measure it in terms of how you have helped those around you realize theirs. While we may be a product of social construction, there are lasting human values that make some things more or less permanent.
There are those among us who act like children even if they are already old. There are those who still wish to be loved when their life and love are lost. There are those who still desire true friendship when they should have always known who has truly loved them. Human life is a mystery, but the right thing to do will always be fairly obvious. You must accept life for what it is, but you must have the courage to say that the human condition does not exactly determine or define the meaning of life with finality, but, rather, it is the refusal to succumb to what ails this world that does.
* * *
Christopher Ryan Maboloc, PhD, is assistant professor of philosophy at Ateneo de Davao University and the author of “Applied Ethics: Moral Possibilities for the Contemporary World.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.