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Beschreibung des Verlags

Why cherish humanity--Seneca's colamus humanitatem? Why care about other people? Why should we go beyond the boundaries of our own personal lives and value the lives of other men and women? Is it, perhaps, because we are all members of the same species, Homo sapiens sapiens? Or, maybe, it is because when I see another person in pain, I know rationally that what they experience is much the same as when I suffer myself pain? But these answers are not by themselves convincing: for, why should the fact that other people are like me either in body or in their capacity for experiences such as pain, cause me to care or cherish them? We do this--and feel we ought to--but it is not a logical necessity. After all, the cells of my body under the microscope might be much like those of earthworms or some other lowly creature but that does not mean I should necessarily value the life of earthworms. Yet Seneca's observation about 2000 years ago touches a deep insight as to human nature and what it is to be a human. An unidentified aspect about being a human exists that causes us to cherish other people. As John Donne once noted in his Devotions that "no man is an island, entire to itself," and "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind." Here poets catch a truth--but what kind of truth is it--for it is not one of logic. Can science illuminate this aspect of our unknown humanity? Here, however, is not a problem that most psychologists and philosophers seek to fathom. Rather scholarly and scientific attempts to understand the nature of humanity mostly start from the premise that other people's experience does not fundamentally matter. Yes, people may say words about valuing others for courteous appearances but that underneath each of our minds really in fact lives as isolated as if were an island. As the social psychologist James Fiske has observed: "From Freud to sociobiologists, from Skinner to social cognitionists, from Goffman to game theorists, the assumption in Western psychology has been that humans are by nature asocial individualists ... social relationships are instrumental means to nonsocial ends, or constraints on the satisfaction of individual desires" (1992, p. 689). And again, as another psychologist, C. Daniel Batson has observed, "Perhaps the reason that psychologists have spent little time on the question of our social nature is because they already know the answer... our behavior may be highly social; our thoughts also may be highly social; but in our hearts, we live alone... We are social egoists" (1990, p. 336).

Gesundheit, Körper und Geist
1. Januar
Universidad del Rosario

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