What it is to be a Substance? and What it is to Exist? We need to establish knowledge about the man on a firm basis and the information it provides must be tested for its accuracy and consistency with an external reality. We have to make the fundamental distinction between the living and the non-living matter. The scientific advances of the 19th and 20th centuries reinforced the materialistic position concerning the basic similarity of organic living and inorganic physical matter. The man is viewed as a product of natural evolution and is thought to be subject to the same laws of Physics and Chemistry or mechanistic principles.
We need a methodology to study philosophy and to understand philosophical statements. Logical Positivism, also known as Scientific Empiricism aims to clarify concepts in both everyday and scientific language. It describes analysis of language as the function of philosophy. This analysis of language and of concepts is important to understand questions of belief and ideology which affect what we think we ought to do individually and socially. I would use this method of ‘Applied Philosophy’ to analyze the philosophical doctrine of ‘Existentialism’ and to study the views and philosophy of Jean Paul Sartre and his efforts to interpret the human nature and the human existence.
What is man? The motivation for asking this question comes from a statement expressed in Sanskrit language, “Sarvesham Swastir Bhavatu”, which seeks the well-being of all humans, of all races, of all religions, of all cultures, and of all nations. Our efforts to support the well-being of man would be affected by our understanding the ‘real’ or ‘true’ nature of man. All human traditions, including religious, cultural, literary, philosophical, and scientific traditions make assumptions about human nature. The basic assumption about human nature is that of finding it displayed in thoughts, feelings, moods, and the actions and the behaviors that proceed from such mental states of the human individual. Human nature could be discovered by understanding the biological basis for human existence. Human nature is a reflection of that potency that keeps the human object existing. To describe human nature from mental life or mental states of an individual causes Subject-Object Dualism. I try to know human nature by knowing the characteristics of the substance that exists. The substance when it performs its functions, the characteristics of its behavior could be observed in biotic interactions, the interactions of the cells, the tissues, and the organ systems that constitute the human organism. I try to discover human nature of a subject who objectively exists because of the functions of the cells, the tissues, and organ systems that provide the basis for that existence.
EXISTENTIALISM-THE PHILOSOPHY OF HUMAN EXISTENCE:
The philosophical focus of Existentialism is concerned with the uniqueness of the individual human being, the meaning or purpose of human life as a subjective experience, and with the freedom of human individual. Sartre believed in the ability of every person to choose for himself his attitudes, purposes, values, and a way of life. Sartre’s thesis is that humans are essentially free, free to choose (though not free not to choose) and free to negate the given features of the world. In his novel, “Being and Nothingness” (1943), Sartre expresses an opinion that the only ‘authentic’ and genuine way of life is that freely chosen by each individual for himself. Sartre’s driving belief in Radical Freedom involves the ability to choose not only a course of action but also what one would become. According to Sartre, man is truly free, the world, whether material or social can place no constraints on him, not even to the extent of determining what would or would not be good reasons for following a given course of action. Sartre thought that there are no transcendent or objective values set for human beings and that there is no ultimate meaning or purpose inherent in human life. Sartre insists that the only foundation for values is human freedom and that there can be no external or objective justification for the values anyone chooses to adopt.
HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS AND HUMAN EXISTENCE:
Sartre makes a radical distinction between consciousness (L’etre-pour- soi, being-for-itself) and non-conscious objects (L’etre-en-soi, being-in-itself). Though it is correct that human beings have emotional feelings, thoughts, and moods, the nature of consciousness is the same in all living entities. The presence or absence of feelings is of no consideration to make the fundamental distinction between inanimate and animate beings. He focused on the opposition between objective things and human consciousness. This basic dualism is shown by the fact that consciousness necessarily has an object; it is always consciousness of something which is not itself. Consciousness makes the distinction between itself and its object. Sartre makes a conceptual connection between consciousness and nothingness. Human consciousness is a non-thing as its reality consists in standing back from things and taking a point of view on them. Because consciousness is a non-thing (Sartre’s “neant” literally means “nothingness”), it does not have any of the causal involvements that things have with other things. This means that consciousness and thus humans themselves are essentially free. In Sartre’s view, to pretend that we are not free is that of self-deception or bad faith (mauvaise foi). According to Sartre, the freedom of human consciousness is experienced by humans as a burden and it causes anguish. Sartre’s most basic point is that to be conscious is to be ‘free’. Sartre’s concept of human freedom is a simple mental entity and it involves the freedom of imagination. However, man has a very limited freedom to convert his imagination into an external actuality. The man lacks total freedom and has no true freedom as he does not directly rule or govern even a single cell in his body which comprises of trillions of individual living cells which have functional autonomy and are independent entities while being part of a group.
HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS AND HUMAN FREEDOM:
I may have to disagree with the view shared by Sartre and various others about the nature of human consciousness. The problem involves the description of consciousness as a mental function. Consciousness is a neurobiological function, and more importantly it is the basic living function. The living cell is aware or conscious of the fact of its own existence, it is conscious of itself and its internal condition, and it is conscious of its external environment and objects found in its external environment. Hence, consciousness must be described as a biological characteristic of living cells and living organisms. Consciousness describes the nature of the substance that is living, the matter that lives and is known as living matter. The living matter is conscious of its internal condition, a condition that demands the supply of energy from an external source to keep its existence. The biological properties of motion, and nutrition come into play because of this biological characteristic called consciousness. Hence it is a vital, or animating principle of all living cells and living organisms. The living cell because of its consciousness knows its nature of energy dependent existence and uses its power of motion and nutrition to attract substances found in its external environment to perform all other living functions to support its growth and maintenance. The fact of energy dependent existence and the consciousness of that conditioned existence displays the lack of human freedom in matters that pertain to human existence. A complex human living system exists because of harmonious interactions, partnership, relationship, and association between the cells, the tissues, the organs, and the organ systems that constitute the human individual. These biotic interactions display behavioral characteristics such as mutual assistance, mutual cooperation, mutual tolerance, mutual subservience, mutual functional subordination to provide benefits to each other to support the survival and reproductive success of each other. There is sympathy, compassion, and understanding for the needs of each other, the participants of a biotic or biological community or association of living cells that comprise the human person. I observe the human organism and I can accurately describe that Spiritualism is the chief attribute of human existence and human nature. The man has no freedom and the man has no choice other than that of existing as a Spiritual Being. It is ironic that the man has no cortical or mental awareness of the spiritual nature of his own body and the substance that lives because of its nature. By seeking awareness of the underlying spiritual nature, the man will be able to live in harmony and peace within himself and with others in his environment. I agree with the view of Sartre and suggest that man’s existence precedes his essence. Sartre has failed to contemplate upon the biological basis of human existence and hence could not describe the reality of human essence and human nature. The Subjective Reality of physical existence precedes and defines the nature of human being. Who you are (your Essence) is defined by what you do (your Existence). To know the man’s essence, to describe the human nature, we need a man who is existing. If there is no living, physical being called man, it would serve us no purpose to know its nature or essence. In Spiritualism, the man’s essence and existence come together to establish the purpose of man in Life.
THE ART OF RECEIVING AND THE ART OF GIVING:
Sir Winston Churchill said, “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” To add clarity to this quote, I would like to say that human existence depends upon receiving energy from an external source. Human nature involves sharing that energy with others. The human person comprises of about 100 trillion individual, living cells and at the same time there are about 10 times 100 trillion microorganisms that inhabit the human gastrointestinal tract. There is a mutually beneficial relationship between man the host and the microbes that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract. These microbes receive a fair share of energy and material that man consumes as food and drink. This relationship persists during the entire course of man’s life. If receiving is inescapable, giving is inevitable consequence of human living and human life. Spiritualism is the potency that gives the man the ability to Receive and to Give to others.