Human condition

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The human condition encompasses the unique features of being human, particularly the ultimate concerns of human existence. It can be described as the unalterable part of humanity that is inherent and innate to human beings and not dependent on factors such as gender, race, culture, or class. It includes concerns such as the meaning of life, the search for gratification, the sense of curiosity, the inevitability of isolation, the awareness of the inescapability of death and the capacity of humans to be good as well as evil and whether or not this makes us worthwhile beings. In essence, the human condition is the self-aware, and reflective nature of Homo sapiens that allows for analysis of existential themes.

The human condition is principally studied through the set of disciplines and sub-fields that make up the humanities. The study of history, philosophy, literature, and the arts all help humans to understand the nature of the human condition and the broader cultural and social arrangements that make up human lives.[citation needed] The human condition is the subject of such fields of study as philosophy, theology, sociology, economics, psychology, anthropology, demographics, evolutionary biology, cultural studies, and sociobiology. The philosophical school of existentialism deals with core issues related to the human condition including the ongoing search for ultimate meaning.

Key themes[edit]

The existentialist psychotherapist Irvin D. Yalom has identified what he refers to as the four "givens" or ultimate concerns of human existence: meaning, loneliness, freedom, and mortality.[1] Yalom argues with Sartre that man is "condemned to freedom" and must face his ultimate aloneness, the lack of any unquestionable ground of meaning, and ultimate mortality.

A key theme in discussion of the human condition is that humans search for purpose, are curious, and thrive on new information. High-level thought processes, such as self-awareness, rationality, and sapience,[2][3][4] are considered to be defining features of what constitutes a person.[5][6] It has been defined as humans' capacity for good and evil.[7]

The human condition can be viewed as related to the manner in which the individual interprets and manipulates the world around him in order to serve the individual's intangible needs (examples: kinship, pursuit of happiness, honour, etc.).[8]

In most developed countries, improvements in technology, medicine, education, and public health have brought about marked quantitative changes in the human condition over the last few hundred years, including increases in life expectancy and population (see demographic transition). However, these changes are not necessarily qualitative, altering only the details of the human condition.

Use of the term[edit]

The term has been used in André Malraux’s novel (1933) and René Magritte’s paintings 1933 and 1935, both titled La Condition Humaine, Hannah Arendt’s book (1958) and Masaki Kobayashi’s film series (1959-1961).[9]

Australian biologist Jeremy Griffith has written a number of books on the subject of the human condition, including Free: The End of the Human Condition (1988); Beyond the Human Condition (1991); A Species In Denial (2003); and Freedom (2011);[10] and defines the human condition as "the agonising, underlying, core, real question in all of human life, of are humans good or are we possibly the terrible mistake that all the evidence seems to unequivocally indicate we might be?", arguing that science has now provided an answer to the human condition that defends and liberates humans.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Yalom's Ultimate Concerns". Retrieved 2014-03-17. 
  2. ^ Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues By Alasdair MacIntyre pp. 60, "But this [language] is insufficient for human rationality, What is needed in addition is the ability to construct sentences that contain as constituents either the sentences use to express the judgement about which the agent is reflecting, or references to those sentences."
  3. ^ John McDowell, Mind and World, 1994. p. 115, Harvard University Press (quoted in Dependent Rational Animals, by Alasdair MacIntyre): "In mere animals, sentience is in the service of a mode of life that is structured exclusively by immediate biological imperatives" [..] "merely animal life is shaped by goals whose control of the animal's behaviour at a given moment is an immediate outcome of biological forces"
  4. ^ The Really Hard Problem:Meaning in a Material World, Owen Flanagan, MIT Press
  5. ^ Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues By Alasdair MacIntyre pp. 60, "Those who have wanted to draw a single sharp line between human and non-human animals have commonly laid emphasis upon the presence or absence of language as such, the ability to use and to respond to strings of syntactically ordered and semantically significant expressions whose utterance constitutes speech acts. But this is insufficient for human rationality. What is needed in addition.."
  6. ^ Nature Vs. Nurture: The Miracle of Language, by Malia Knezek. "What about the fact that other animals do not have similar language capabilities? [..] This obviously involves some innate difference between humans and other animals.. [..] ..other animals do not use any other form of language (i.e. sign language) even though they have the physiological capabilities." citing, Andy Clark. Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and World Together Again. The MIT Press, 1997. 208-209.
  7. ^ Griffith J. 2011. The Human Condition. In The Book of Real Answers to Everything!. ISBN 9781741290073.
  8. ^ Shafer-Landau, Russ, ed. (2010). The ethical life : fundamental readings in ethics and moral problems. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 35–58. ISBN 9780195377699. 
  9. ^ Ningen no joken I, the first instalment the Human Condition trilogy by Masaki Kobayashi (pusdiken)
    Ningen no joken II, the second instalment in the Human Condition trilogy by Masaki Kobayashi
    Ningen no joken III, the third instalment in the Human Condition trilogy by Masaki Kobayashi
  10. ^ "World Transformation Movement". World Transformation Movement. Retrieved 20 March 2012. 
  11. ^ "The Human Condition". World Transformation Movement. Retrieved 20 March 2012.