ABSTRACT. In his famous lines: “No man is an island...” from the Devotions on Emergent Occasions, John Donne offers a poetic reflection on the intimate connection of all human beings. The contrasting imagery of the island and the sea, the continent from which no clod of earth can be washed away without diminishing the whole, brings into sharp relief the indisputable truth: I am involved in humankind. The more human beings attempt to discriminate between themselves and others, the more they substantiate the common foundation which joins them inseparably to one another. Nature reveals itself as the common ground on which we stand, and reveals any attempt to separate ourselves from the common lot of humankind as a form of self-deception. This paper explores the ways in which the diverse meanings of the term nature – external or physical nature, bodily nature, objectivity in its various forms, including the objectivity of “other” spontaneous subjects perceived as being like me, human nature as a model or goal of human striving – serve to confirm this simple truth. Furthermore, it considers how nature and virtue are related in the realization of our humanity. By nature, human beings appear to strive for a single goal: happiness, yet the achievement of that goal depends, according to philosophers, on the attainment of virtue, or human excellence. The attainment of virtue, in turn, requires conscious and intentional application of our natural abilities to the formation of our character and behavior – with the aim of our becoming as human as possible. From this, an inescapable paradox emerges: the paradox of freedom and necessity, forming the basis for the further opposition of nature and nurture in the formation and education of human beings in their role as individuals and members of a larger community. Spinoza’s concept of conatus, the striving to persevere in being, which is the common characteristic of all things, but takes a particular form in human beings, provides the basis for further exploration of this conundrum. The opposition of freedom and necessity in human actions and history is illustrated with examples from Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Kant’s Idea of History in Cosmopolitan Intent. The freedom possible to human beings through perfection of their powers of understanding turns out to be an image of the absolute freedom of the first principle, the substantia infinita, natura naturans or God, the only thing which exists and acts by virtue of its nature and concept alone. The apparently irreconcilable conflict of freedom and necessity, nature and virtue, naturalism and intellectualism, dissolves in light of the understanding which may be gained by reflection on these relationships. Recognition of the common nature which unites all human beings fuels a natural desire to attain for others the good we desire for ourselves, and above all the greatest good: knowledge and understanding of the highest principle and the manner in which all things follow from its creative power. pp. 94–130

Keywords: nature, virtue, necessity, freedom, desire, understanding

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Institute of Philosophy, Zagreb

Home | About Us | Events | Our Team | Contributors | Peer Reviewers | Editing Services | Books | Contact | Online Access

© 2009 Addleton Academic Publishers. All Rights Reserved.

Joomla templates by Joomlashine