As a continuation of our journey with Roman Ingarden’s Little Book about Human, we can move from nature itself to human nature.
Defining it is not a simple task, as human beings are often unpredictable. Furthermore, they sometimes overcome the frame of other’s expectations. It connects to a great variety of human characters and motivations. Human beings are capable of heroic acts, but also the terrible ones.
Why is the variety of behavior so characteristic for human beings? We can explain it with the unique structure of the human brain. Considering neuroscience, we can say that anomalies cause this diversity of human behaviors in brain structures. For example, according to the latest research, grey matter defects are characteristic of killers.
However, the brain structure also guarantees great human achievements thanks to its neuroplasticity. It can shape human activity by learning new skills or habits. So, it makes people mentally flexible and capable to regenerate almost after each failure.
In everyday life, human behavior depends more on mental tendencies than on external circumstances. Luckily, it makes them predictable and gives a sense of safety in their social life. For the same reason, we can trust them or not.
Social Essence of Human Nature
Humans are capable of sublime and exceptional deeds. Although egoism is domineering in most individual, social, and national acts, there are some outstanding people selfless in helping others, even putting their own lives in danger (Ingarden, 1987). In the theory of positive disintegration, Ingarden’s pupil from secondary school, Kazimierz Dąbrowski links this attitude to the social essence.
To recall this concept, the social essence is the second one beside the individual essence in personality. The social essence handles relations with others, but not with people in social and public life, people from the milieu. It stimulates people to ethic and constructive behaviours, to protect others and help them in their development.
Shame and Guilt
According to Ingarden, a human could be humbled by one’s own acts and faults. By analogy, in Dabrowski’s theory, experiences lead to a feeling of shame and a feeling of guilt. They are dynamisms of development. Dąbrowski adds that dynamism is a strong feeling, which stimulates more positive and ethical action (Dąbrowski, 1967).
Shame and guilt can lead to crisis situations, such as suicide for honour. Ingarden also emphasizes the meaning of honour and its humiliation in human nature (Ingarden, 1987).
So, human beings can deny their own existence by staying true to themselves. It is a heroic attitude. On the other hand, people have a natural tendency to sublimate one’s own image in their own eyes to feel better and more valuable.
Values in Human Nature
In Ingarden’s interpretation, humans are responsible for their style of lives. Values are necessary for their inner dignity to decide about their activity. They also enrich human reality in the deeper sense. They are not only useful but also absolute. In Ingarden’s view, we can talk here about moral and aesthetic values. The first category concentrates on good and the second on beauty.
Values depend on the individual character of a person. Another aspect is the tendencies of an epoch. Ingarden emphasizes that without the intuitive and direct realization of the values, there is no joy and happiness in human life (Ingarden, 1987).
Human Nature and Creativity
In Ingarden’s view, moral and aesthetic values are unavailable in the natural environment. They are specific to human culture. Humans have to arrange the conditions of their existence in the process of creation.
Coming back to Dąbrowski, values have an important role in human development. Furthermore, creativity is a way of confrontation with them as a base of human culture. So, creativity without values is poor and limited.
Furthermore, culture is a new reality that exists only thanks to human genius and creativity. One shapes new reality thanks to nature. For example, a sculptor has to use a piece of wood, or stone, which are natural materials. A sculptor is not a producer of these materials, only their user. Similarly, a musician has to have an instrument or use their own voice, which is created by a musician’s body as a material object.
Created by human objects, ideas, and values are creations that overcome the frames of the natural world. They give new meanings and atmosphere of the well-known natural reality. It means that the act of creation stimulates feelings, imagination and thoughts. It means that creativity refers to the unconsciousness or subconsciousness in human mental life.
Human culture also gives special meaning to some objects of nature, which were unimportant in the past. For example, seed or plant as ingredients in a new dish.
According to Ingarden, faced with creativity, humans forget about one’s animal nature and surrounding reality. They notice the natural world as strange and even hostile. For this reason, they need to isolate from nature in their well-organized and comfortable houses and vehicles.
In addition, humans forget so much about the natural world that they destroy it by their own activity, such as industrial pollution. In this way, they gradually become enemies of the natural world which they perceive as strange and hostile.
Creativity is not only a fruit of one individual’s activity but it also depends on the consciousness and experiences of the previous generations. Unfortunately, they have gone far and far away from the natural world. (Ingarden, 1987).
Although creativity plays a crucial role in human development, it is not an autonomous being like alive creatures. The meaning of art is ambiguous and many interpretations are possible. Some of them are more suitable to the artist’s vision than others. Every interpretation is valuable because each can show a different aspect of spiritual reality. It even comes to an impenetrable level of human nature.
On the other hand, thanks to science we know more and more about animal behaviors that break a stereotype of cruel nature, such as elephants’ or whales’ social behaviors. In this way, we are closer to nature than before.
According to Ingarden, when the spiritual power of humans weakens or disappears, they become victims of Nature, which is full of destructive elements. In the natural – external world, humans feel lost and abandoned in a strange and horrible environment. In this situation, they fall into despair and lose a sense of their life (Ingarden, 1987).
For this reason, humans without values, creativity, and spirituality become victims of their animal nature and lose their humanity and dreams of immortality forever. It is a drama about civilized humans. Luckily, in our time humans are more and more aware that nature is simply a part of them.
K. Dabrowski (1967). Personality Shaping Through Positive Disintegration, London: J.&A. Churchill Ltd.,
R. Ingarden (1987). Mała Książeczka o człowieku [ The Little Book About Human], Kraków: Wyd. Literackie.,
K. Taylor (2009). Cruelty. Human Evil and The Human Brain, Oxford: Oxford University Press.