How accepting our flaws can help us to become better people. What can a better understanding of human nature teach us about enlightenment?
There is a wonderful website – RSA – The Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts, Manufacturing and Commerce, which at first blush seems like a weird combination of things to be encouraging. They recently changed their motto to Encouraging a 21st Century Enlightenment.
To support this change, they created a wonderfully philosophic video about the need to reassert the ethical dimension of Humanism. In other words, we need to not just ask about how to progress, but whether any given advance is moral or not. How do we determine what is right and what is wrong?
To do this we need to have a better understanding of who we are as humans, who we need to be, and more importantly, who we should aspire to be. To even begin that exploration, we need to have a better understanding of human nature. It is only when we understand and accept our instincts that we are able to transcend them instead of being controlled by them.
Most enlightened individuals realize that while individualism is on the whole a good thing, when taken to an extreme, it is bad not just for the individual, but to the society in which they live, meaning the rest of us. What we should be striving for is a more enlightened self-aware socially embedded model of autonomy. We aren’t individuals going it alone. We are individuals who are mutually dependent on each other and so we ought to act in such a way that benefits not only ourselves, but the communities in which we live, because that benefits us as well.
The difficulty is that this requires us to balance our needs as individuals with the needs of our communities and the needs of the global society in which we now live. We humans are notoriously bad at finding a good balance. For me, Humanism is a reminder that I have a moral obligation to find that balance. Being a good person means not being selfish, but not subjugating myself to others either.
So, what do you think of this video? Anything you would like to add or comment on?