The world is not quite as complicated and your own personal life is so much better, once you understand how humans tick, why we do the things we do. And this is exactly what philosophy should do. The other sciences and mainly natural sciences explain how the world functions. Now philosophy should dip into this knowledge and make it useful for our own personal lives.
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So I will try to help you see how we can understand our own behaviour and the behaviour of others, why certain things make me sad while others make me very happy, why I do the things I do and why I do not do other things, why I hate that guy and why I love that woman and why you do things you do, when sometimes I think maybe you should do something else. I will talk about three aspects of human life that help us understand everything we do; and I will tell you how we can use this to lead a better life.
So this is philosophy dealing with the realities of life and trying to help understand human behaviour. So there are three aspects that will, once we know them and once we apply them, three aspects that will help us understand human behaviour. Those aspects are: Essence, Group and Misunderstandings.
The Essence of Life is the Core of Everything
So let’s get straight to it, let’s talk about the Essence. There is an Essence of human life and we can get to this Essence by again and again asking “why”, like a little child sometimes does.
Like “why why why? Why am I hungry”?
Oh well, because I need to eat.
“Why do I need to eat?”
I need to eat to keep my basic body functions working.
“Why do I need those basic body functions?”
Oh you need them to survive.
“Why do I need to survive?”
Aha, this is basically where the question ends, because this is the Essence of human life. The Essence of human life, and you can apply this “why” question to do everything you do, you always end up saying well, we do certain things in order to survive, we have certain things in order to survive. This is the definition of life. This is the essence of human life. You could say that’s the meaning of life and not only of human life.
A biologist will tell you that this is how life actually works. We develop the things we got as adaptations to the world, so we can survive in this world. You just have to ask “why” often enough and you always end up saying “well, it’s about surviving”. But it’s not only about surviving, this Essence. It’s not only about surviving as an Individual. It is always surviving as an individual and as a species. It is not merely about me surviving and then dying and that’s that. It’s always about humans having developed to survive as a species
By the way: Surviving as a species, that’s what all other life forms do. If it’s a virus, if it’s a flower, if it’s a tiger – it’s not about the individual. It’s about taking your genes to the next generation.
We As Social Animals Are Less Individual And More Group
And this leads us to the second aspect of human behaviour: that’s the group. We humans, in order to bring our genes into the next generation, we need to have sex, we need a group of two, a man and a woman strictly biologically speaking, to have a child. And not only this. We would not have survived the very hostile planet we’re on as individuals. There are so many animals stronger than us, with better eyesight, better ears and a lot of other capabilities that we just don’t have. But we as humans, we got one thing: we’re group players. We have developed a prefrontal cortex, which is tremendously good in dealing with groups and organizing groups, with making groups work. We’re much better at this than our closest relatives the other primates, which are bonobos, chimpanzees, orangutans,and gorillas.
So if we want to understand human behaviour, we have to see that we are not so much individuals, but that our actions are tied to the group we’re in or the groups, plural, we are in. „The group I am in“, we can ask: “Am I happy in this group? Do they understand me? Am I accepted the way I am in my group? Or do I think I’m better than the rest in my group? Or do they look down on me? How does my group deal with another group? Is there a rivalry or cooperation?
So what we do is, we have to understand that human action is based not on the individual but on the group. We can see this by the essence, because we need to survive and we have to understand that we developed the way we are, strongly tied to the group we’re in. And this explains a lot of human behaviour.
Misunderstandings Are the Cause of Many of Our Actions
A third aspect that will help us understand why we do certain things and don’t do other things, that’s misunderstandings.
So we have seen that we developed into being who we are in order to survive. Now in order to survive, it is not necessary to actually see the world for what it is. First of all we’re not even capable of doing it, because our eyes are just not capable of this. And our cognition, our brains are not designed to flawlessly see the world how it is. It’s not the job of the brain. The brain’s job is to help us survive and we survive with a lot of misunderstandings. We have a lot of biases, like things we believe are true which are not true, which we are tricked to believe are true by our brains. We have a lot of emotions in us that cloud our perception. And of course our organs are not built to fully understand the world.
So we have to understand that a lot of human behaviour is just the result of a misunderstanding.
Use Your Understanding Of Human Nature to Live a Better Live
So what do we do with this? We have seen that there are three aspects, which I believe are crucial to understanding humans: it’s the Essence, the group and the misunderstandings.
Let me try to explain how we can use those aspects to lead a better life. So the Essence explains that all we do and all we are is a result of an adaptation to the world in order to survive. Now if we go to the zoo and we look at our closest relatives, the chimpanzees for example, we look at the chimpanzees in a cage and we’re like “oh, that’s not how they should live. They’re not designed to live in a cage” and that’s pretty obvious. So let’s do this with ourselves. Let’s look at what we need, what we are and whether we actually live in a world that suits us. I’m aware a lot of things we cannot change, because – like the rent’s got to be paid and all those things. But many other things can be changed if we look at what we are at the Essence and everything else being a natural result of that Essence. We can re-evaluate our lives and not only this: The Essence, knowing that everything is a consequence of our will to survive, it tells us that everything is natural. It doesn’t tell us everything is good. It doesn’t tell us everything is bad either. It’s not a moral judgment. It’s not an excuse for the things happening. But it’s an explanation. If we understand the Essence of life, if we see that the things that happen are human, it takes away a lot of the pressure and it puts us in a situation where we can calmly act and react.
The group: We’ve seen that group behaviour is very very important, like belonging to a group. So what we got to do is: look at our own groups. Am I happy in the group? Do they accept me the way I am? Do I feel at home in the group or not? And again: We are in many groups and sometimes we cannot change all of those, but it’s a good idea, I believe, to at least check the groups we’re in and check if we are on eye level with members of our group. Because this is what we want as humans. We want to be equal. We want to be understood, cherished and supported. We want to understand the others, we want to support the others. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. Does this happen? We are group animals. Let’s keep this in mind and re-evaluate our concrete lives.
And misunderstandings: Well, it helps to know that we do have a lot of misunderstandings. Yes, it can help you prevent Misunderstandings, but more importantly it calms you down. Me knowing that I’m plagued by misunderstandings and me knowing that this is natural – it relaxes me. It tells me “man, you got to relax, you’re not perfect, you’re going to make mistakes. It’s okay. Own the mistakes. Try to learn from it, but mistakes are going to happen.” And it also influences the way I see others act. We are all just humans, we all make Mistakes. You get this in pop songs, I know. But it’s very very much the science of things: We make mistakes. Don’t go to war over mistake, try to sort things out together. Noone is perfect, mistakes are natural, Misunderstandings – they happen.
So all in all I hope you have seen that those three aspects of human life, firmly based on natural sciences, can help us understand human behaviour, can help us understand our own behaviour, can help us understand why other people do what other people do. I hope this makes things a little clearer and life a little better