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Philosophy of Human Conduct Term Paper

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Updated: Mar 7th, 2019

Philosophy is a developing science, full of difficult questions concerning the nature of a human being. One of such problems is the philosophy of human conduct. Exactly this aspect of human conduct inspired this paper. Understanding of this problem seems to be impossible without psychological explanation of human behavior. Also, the philosophy of human conduct deals with ethics and moral principles.

The aim of the paper is to reveal the nature of human conduct from the philosophical point of view. Thus, to achieve the aim, this paper is interested in both psychological and philosophical aspects of human behavior. Proceeding to the next part of the paper, one thing should be explained. In terms of this problem, the word “behavior” means psychological aspect, and the word “conduct” means philosophical aspect; in the general context, they are synonyms.

Human behavior is always in the scope of psychology. Human beings are biological creatures with their own individual psyche, nervous system, temper and behavior. According to Descartes, the human organism is a complex machine; its elements are interdependent and tightly connected (Gleitman 15).

That is why, the organization of a human being is associated with a mechanism; its details fulfill their own function, and failure of one of the details leads to general failure if corresponding measures are not assumed. Nowadays, psychologists “agree with Descartes that much of behavior can be understood as reactions to outside events: The environment poses a question and the organism answers it” (Gleitman 17).

The chain of stimuli leads to action sequence: reception, transmission-integration, and reaction. The nature of human behavior is based on nerve cell and nerve impulse. As all people are different, they have different nervous system that create different behavior. According to general psychology, motives direct people’s behavior (Gleitman 55). Owing to the nervous system, there are positive and negative psychological experiences.

Such emotional states as fear (motivated or unmotivated), rage, anxiety, distress, apathy, hostility, etc. are realized by means of negative impulses. Positive impulses, in contrast, are reflected in enthusiasm, interest, joy, satisfaction, love and others. Proceeding from the information stated above, there appear some logic questions. What conditions person’s behavior? Why do people have so complex nature of the conduct?

Complexity of human conduct can be explained by such things like character and temperament. They dictate peculiarities in human behavior and condition person’s behavior. That is why, the nature of human conduct is a difficult aspect of a human being. Moreover, it is not fully investigated by psychology.

Temperament is the natural basis for character. Owing to different temperament, people’s character is colored differently. Temperament is the basis of each personality. Temperament is individual feature of a human being that defines dynamic of flowing of his psychical processes and behavior.

However, temperament does not characterize the person’s beliefs, views and interests, and does not indicate his value. Nevertheless, human conduct depends on the types of temperament. According to them, a person may have classical features that are peculiar to four types: choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, and melancholic.

In terms of peculiarities of human conduct, there are differences between personality and individual. Personality is a person who is different from others in his worldview, world perception. Individual is a person who possesses his own thoughts, own abilities, common sense; he is able to act in his own way regardless from other people. However, in philosophical terms, these differences are not so important. Nevertheless, one of the researchers states that

“Society desperately needs people who have the courage to be different, to commence new practices, and set the example of more enlightened conduct, and better taste and sense inhuman life. Too often individuals are lost in the crowd” (James 353).

Many people would agree with the author’s statement. The history of all human civilization would be impossible without some prominent leaders. Often, only purposeful, assertive and fearless individuals achieve success.

As temperament influences the development of features of character, the nature of different people is complex. For example, in relation to other individuals and people, one person can show good-fellowship, advertence, kind-heartedness, respect; another person can show asociality, ungratefulness, rudeness, and disdain. In terms of work, there are also different examples.

A hard-working and responsible person who is lack of money, treats his job well, because it gives him satisfaction. A lazy and spoiled son of a rich father demonstrates other results in his job. A person with healthy psyche is self-critic, and possesses adequate self-esteem. In contrast, for example, many famous people show negative features: impudence, arrogance, egoism. However, features of character do not depend on social status, race, or sex. In this context, the role of education and self-making grows.

It seems to be difficult to define what exactly guides the human conduct. There are many answers. Psychologists may think that it depends on temperament and character, or peculiarities of the nervous system and psyche.

For example, Metchnikoff (2003) believes that “the social instinct has been acquired by mankind too recently, and it is still to feeble to be a trustworthy guide in all conduct” (Metchnikoff 110). Yes, the social instinct is a power natural instinct in the basis of human nature, but as a human being is a thinking conscious creature with rich inner world, there appear moral principles and ethics.

A human being is a complex-organized and social creature. His behavior depends on both biological factors (physiological needs, instincts) and non-biological ones – the culture of society (traditions, cultural values), state laws, personal moral values (ethics) and religious beliefs. Besides psychological explanation, there is a philosophical view on human conduct, as well. Of course, philosophy explains human conduct in non-biological aspects.

Owing to different historical, social and cultural contexts, there were different explanations of philosophy of human conduct in various periods. In the ancient period, this problem was researched by Plato and Aristotle. Later, this question was raised by religious people of Middle Ages, “when ecclesiastical authority reigned supreme and the human reason” (Copleston 2).

Since Descartes gave to a human being freedom, this idea was caught by modern philosophy. It is essential to notice that “in the ancient period and he modern period philosophy may be considered a free man, whereas in the medieval period it was a slave” (Copleston 2). According to medieval point of view, only God guided a human conduct through his entire destiny.

Nowadays, a human conduct has a biological and philosophical explanation. It is necessary to say that some researchers divide human conduct into bad and good. In the book about human nature and conduct, one may read:

“Neutrality is non-existent. Conduct is always shared; this is the difference between it and a psychological process. If it is not an ethical “ought” that conduct should be social. It is social, whether bad or good” (Dewey 17).

Nevertheless, a human being is an ambiguous creature; sometimes, it is impossible to say for sure if the act has a good or bad coloring. Life is a many-sided phenomenon, full of challenges and secret. However, whether a person is religious or not, he should obey the laws of society. Each man possesses his own moral principles and ethics. Why are they so essential for a human being? Do people need them only within society to which they belong?

Ethical code is highly necessary for a human being who wants to understand what is good and what is bad. Misunderstanding of ethical norms may lead to social conflicts, interpersonal problems and even deaths. The sphere and problem of ethics was interesting for many researches. For example, one of them writes in his book:

“If one consults the wisdom of the ages it will be found nearly unanimous in the opinion that, of all inquiries the most important are those which concern the right and wrong forms of human conduct” (Trumbull 1).

According to this statement, “right” and “wrong” things are in the scope of ethics. It examines human conduct in relation to the ideal standard. What are the ideal ethical norms? The basic problems of ethics as science are the problems of the criteria of good and evil, sense of life, justice, moral duties.

Proceeding from this, there are the following ethical norms: values of life, consciousness, activity, suffer, power, free will, foresight, purpose, etc. However, ethical norms are nothing without virtues: justice, wisdom, courage, self-control, beneficence, honesty and sincerity, faith and devotion, kindness and compassion, credit, worth relationships with others. One of the most valuable ethical virtues is the ability to love, and to make someone else happy.

If a person follows all the ethical norms, he will achieve the ideal standard. Nevertheless, people are not ideal in their nature. Everyone has his own peculiarities, advantages and disadvantages. One thing is evident: a human being should go after the light (Waller 119).

The essence of personal ethics is in the individual himself: a human being should be humane. Unfortunately, throughout the whole history of human civilization, there happened unethical deeds: wars, murders, violence, victimization, betrayals and others. Nowadays, the ethical problems are one of the burning and topical ones.

Rethinking of ethical norms in one’s own way, the influence of mass media, and pop culture lead to misunderstanding the true ethics. To avoid this, society has elaborated reliable institutions to cultivate and practice ethical norms: educational institutions, social institutions (family, favorable environment), literature, etc.

Very often, different cultures, religions and other context dictate the ethical norms. For most countries, universal human values are ingrained in state laws: prohibition to murder, steal and commit other crimes, liberal principles of freedom of speech and human rights.

In Christianity, for example, there follow Ten Commandments. However, in all societies, people used to follow the Golden Rule: a person should treat the other person in the same way he would want to be treated. In the context of general ethical norms of all people, there is another problem: moral principles. What is morality? What is the essence of it? Why does human society need it so much?

  1. Understanding of human morality is the key to the philosophy of human conduct. Without morality, a human being would hardly different from other mammals. Oakeshott (1991), for example, believes that “a morality is the ars atrium of conduct; the practice of all practices…” (Oakeshott 60). That is why, it is so essential. Speaking about moral acts, the words of one of the researcher can be cited:

“Morality begins with the first act of dominion of the will which occurs in any action. The will is the royal and imperial power in men…In moral action the reason and the will are wedded. A moral act is the offspring of their union, for either good or evil” (Humphrey 4).

In other words, moral acts are directed to either good or bad. In this context, morality deals with its rule of rightness. Human beings should be responsible for their acts and conduct. It is necessary to remember that following all ethical and moral principles, people deed good acts.

Humphrey (2009) concludes that “all morality is in the deliberate will. All sin is rooted in, and spring from, the will” (Humphrey 52). Sins are wrong acts that may cause social tragedies and problems. Proceeding from this, all people should have “moral obligations” (Hume & Sayre-McCord 131). Exactly “laws of justice” “gives rise to the moral obligation of duty” (Hume & Sayre-McCord 147). Consequently, morality is the regulator of human conduct in society. What if a person is an outcast of society, and lives outside the society?

Robinson Crusoe serves a suitable example of such man. The plot of the novel about him, and evolution of the character proves the necessity to follow all ethical and moral principles, regardless from circumstances and conditions. A human being should always remain a human being. Whether it is a city or a desolate island, a man’s life should be full of good acts; he should distinguish good from evil, and struggle with his bad side of human nature by means of self-making.

Thus, morality embraces moral views and feelings, life orients and principles, purposes and motives of acts and relationships. Owing to them, a human being is able to differentiate good from evil, honesty from dishonesty, justice from injustice, normality from abnormality, mercy from cruelty. Also, morality is intended to decrease the social conflicts.

Developing ethical and moral principles, one should not forget to improve oneself: intellectually and spiritually. The right organization of the human inner world is integrating part of moral evolution. Each man should be guided by conscience that allows to practice good virtues and deeds through the entire life.

Children used to inherit the moral portrait of their parents; teenagers are always guided by the social environment; adults should experience self-making. Keeping all this in mind, people must have right notion about ethic and moral principles and duties. Lacunas in this aspect may cause unhappiness, dramatic events, and social chaos.

All information stated above allows to make certain conclusions. A human being is a complicated creature who possesses biological and non-biological peculiarities. Psychological aspect of human conduct deals with nervous system, instincts and reactions that explain the physiological nature of human behavior.

In contrast to psychology, philosophy has always tried to explain a human conduct through the light of ethics and moral principles. Realizing the spiritual values, ethical norms and moral duties, a man reveals the nature of philosophy of human conduct.

Unfortunately, a man has a negative side of his nature hat reflects in sins, vices and evil acts. In this context, for a man, the experience of self-making seems to be useful. This experience will help him to avoid possible mistakes concerning the relationships and conduct in society. Parents are first people who display the moral and ethic picture to a child. In the process of physiological and psychological development, he faces the social environment: friends, teachers, colleagues, etc.

The main task at hand for society, is to serve as a suitable example, and ideal moral model for a man. Of course, people are far from ideal, but each man should practice self-making, becoming a better person. Healthy morality lives only in healthy psyche. Philosophy of human conduct is one of the keys to understanding the nature of human conduct.

Work Cited

Copleston, Frederick C. A History of Philosophy. Vol. 1. New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003. Print.

Dewey, John. Human Nature and Conduct. Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2009. Print.

Gleitman, Henry. Biological Basis of Behavior. Motivation. In W.W. Norton and Company Inc., Psychology (Gleitman, 1981). New York, NY: University of Pennsylvania, 1981. 15-95.

James, Christian L. Philosophy: An Introduction to the Art of Wondering. 10th ed. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning, 2008. Print.

Hume, David, and Geoffrey Sayre-McCord. Moral Philosophy. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 2006. Print.

Humphrey, William. Conscience and Law, or, Principles of Human Conduct. Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2009. Print.

Metchnikoff, Elie. Nature of Man or Studies in Optimistic Philosophy. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2003. Print.

Oakeshott, Michael. On Human Conduct. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print.

Trumbull, Ladd G. Philosophy of Conduct: a Treatise of the Facts, Principles, and Ideals of Ethics. Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2009. Print.

Waller, Bruce N. Consider ethics: Theory, readings, and contemporary issues. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Pearson/Longman, 2008. Print.

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