Philosophy Monday (12)

These are three more “philosophical questions about human nature and the human condition”.

48. Can human nature be changed? Should it be changed?

One would say, considering human history, that there are certain elements that have defined us as humans. While there exist physiological functions that make us stand out from other species, we also notice recurring depravities, such as greed, war, hate and the like. These have come together to form a perception of our general dispositions. But, we also know that humankind is capable of kindness. So, human nature is not necessarily set in stone. Though, the universal concession still tilts towards our negative inclinations.

We find, on individual levels, the role of genetics in determining a person’s trait. However, the influences of society and our various institutions can alter a person’s genetical dispositions, even when the DNA remains intact. Likewise, a person can go on to influence their society against established norms. This is expressed by Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk, in his book titled Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World. He recognizes the reality of epigenetics, and encourages everyone to tap into the possibility of changing themselves, and also help change the world at large.

49. How replaceable are you?

For most functions, it is easy to conclude that everyone is replaceable. Even when we consider the unique features and attributes that set us apart one from the other, we realize that we’re still very much replaceable.

In our careers, the goal is principally to prove that our services are invaluable. Since we provide these services, we try to make ourselves practically indispensable. But, this does not necessarily make us irreplaceable, does it? After all, our expertise could be inculcated into another. Someone else could replace us.

Though their impact on the job may differ from ours. Perhaps, this disparity in effectiveness is why we sometimes make the claim that some people may not be replaceable. For example, one might look at the footprints of Albert Einstein, and deem him irreplaceable. But, that only proves that there’s no room or need to replace him. His work, whilst it may be furthered, needs no replacement, neither did his person need any replacement. Likewise, you may end up being replaced by someone else at your workplace, but your impacts and personality will make someone declare you irreplaceable. Margaret Mead said, “always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else”.

50. Why don’t we as a species take more advantage of the fact that we have almost infinite knowledge available to us?

The first major hurdle, I believe, is the need to separate knowledge from false knowledge. This is because we are faced with a plethora misinformation. Hence, we face the challenge of disentangling this complicated state of affair.

Furthermore, knowledge is profitable only when applied correctly. Where wisdom is lacking, no profit can ensue from knowledge. True knowledge does come with a sense of responsibility. Nevertheless, knowledge can either be a call to permit something, or prevent it. So, where there’s no wisdom and proper understanding, knowledge falters.

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