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Image of Humanity – What is One Man?

PREAMBLE: Man is a social being. Individual development is always dependent on social development. Man is empathetic and able to love. This is the basis of human community.

The image of what a human being actually is has been narrowed down by science. Schumacher argued[1] that man is considered to be a machine more than a living being. The dominant scientific paradigm, what Schumacher calls materialistic scientism, has deaf ears and blind eyes towards non-materialistic qualities of life thereby stripping it of most of its meaning – meaning that seems to be experienced by individuals as crucial.

A consequence is that the social aspects like relationships to peers, ancestors and offspring are neglected; we need both a latitudinal and longitudinal extension of human image.

Maslov’s hierarchy of needs is an example of what happens when human beings are considered to be singular machine-like creatures. The hierarchy, often depicted as a pyramid of needs, implies that the top needs are most important; self-actualisation would be the highest goal of a human being. But is this universally true? For one single individual it might be, but humanity doesn’t function as a collection of individuals. Maslov’s needs in reality are only being met in patterns of collective behaviour and collective growth. As research on well being shows,[2] being connected to others might be at least as important as self-actualisation. As a model for building a society, Maslov is too much focused on the individual. A model of society should have groups of people as building blocks.

So what is a human being? To what extent is his or her context part of the individual? What does latitudinal and longitudinal extension of the human image look like?

Latitudinal (peers) and longitudinal (ancestors and offspring) extension of human image

A consequence of increasing specialization in science is that categories and descriptions of singularities are abundant but relationships between objects go largely unseen. Our theoretic lenses of science do not put relationships in focus, while relationships are defining what and who we are to a large extent.

Research into subjective well being shows that happy people have in common that they spend a lot of time with others and cherishing relationships.[3] Research into innovation and trade shows that prosperity and wealth only come from trust based exchange with other people.[4].

Not only we literally do not exist without others; we need others to be happy, to prosper and to thrive.

  1. [1]See Schumacher 1977
  2. [2]Lyubomirsky 2007: 23
  3. [3]Lyubomirksy 2007: 23
  4. [4]Ridley 2011