Personal struggles with one’s own tendencies, desires, lusts, and self-interest have placed people in conflict with other people and their own communities farther back than any of us can read. We read about the struggles of others in history – what about ourselves? Yes, us! What about our experiences of being ourselves? When we look back in history, we find people who are not so different from us – struggling with their human nature – and trying to live ethical lives in whatever way they can do so. They aspire to live ethical lives and find themselves failing again and again.
St. Augustine in the 5th Century held that although we feel free to make choices in life, our true nature as human beings includes a persistent disregard for what is good. On this view, we are sinners whose only hope for redemption lies in the gracious love of a merciful deity. Whatever I do on my own, Augustine would argue, is bound to be wrong; whatever I do right, must be performed by God through me.
St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th Century brought Aristotle’s theories back into vogue, soon after St. Augustine’s death (if 800 years is soon, that is.) He allowed humanity to have a bit of secularity along with faith, and his ethics allows for a Natural Law, which can be found in the heart of man. Be sure to listen to the audio simulation in this week’s lesson before posting in this discussion.
Consider the sophistication and technology of the 21st century. Examine how the medieval account of human nature aligns with your own experience of human action. That is, do you observe (in yourself and others) an inclination toward evil instead of toward good? Explain and analyze your observations. Bring in examples of scenarios that bolster your view or that tend to bring your view (or others) into question.
Text: Ruggiero, V. R. (2012). Thinking critically about ethical issues (8th ed.). New York: Mc-Graw Hill.
The course is Ethics