The Nature of Humanity

It’s interesting how different classes take the same questions in entirely different directions.  In today’s comp classes we discussed book one of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, and along with the text I wrapped up the session with a fairly straightforward question, namely what human nature is.

For Boethius, human nature has to do with the telos of human life, namely to apprehend and to contemplate eternal realities.  He follows nicely from the closing bits of Plato’s Republic (which is why I assign these two books back to back), and as we proceed through the book, Philosophy will both show Boethius what that life looks like and answer some of the Roman’s philosophical questions.

When my English classes took on that question, each group went in a very different direction.  One group wanted immediately to talk about desire-fulfillment, a basically modern conception of human nature which puts even “altruism” (the word only makes sense in a utilitarian framework, really) into the category of “pleasing the conscience,” a rarefied pleasure no doubt but still a pleasure.  The other immediately got into classical Augustinian/Calvinist discussions, debating whether there is a human nature prior to sin and whether redemption was an act of destroying or restoring human nature (they are mostly Protestants at UGA, and even when I tried to steer the discussion away from such things and towards more broadly philosophical questions, they returned).  At any rate, both discussions were good ones, and I imagine we’re going to have some fun over the next couple weeks as we tackle books two through five of Boethius.



Filed under Boethius, teaching

2 responses to “The Nature of Humanity

  1. I want to take your comp class.

  2. I do have a good time teaching this Plato and Boethius section. My hope is that wherever I land for my grownup job will let me do some of this fun stuff with comp classes instead of the anthologies. Perhaps I’d be a better anthology teacher now that I’ve been doing what I do for seven years instead of two, but I do know that I really dig teaching Plato and Boethius to rooms full of freshmen.

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