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Human Condition examples

Feudalism and Modernity

Both the Feudalism of the Middle Ages, and contemporary Modernity, can probably be seen as being Human Condition examples which have occured in differing historical circumstances.

Such luminaries as Socrates, Shakespeare and Ralph Waldo Emerson see Human Psychology as being "Tripartite" - in Shakespeare's case he suggests "Honesty" is relative to "Manhood" and to "Good fellowship".
Similarly FIVE of the major World Religions, (i.e. Christianity, Islam, Vedanta-Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism), see "Spirituality" as being relative to "Desire" and to "Wrath".

On our pages an attempt is made to make a case that such "Tripartite" Human Psychology has rather directly influenced the formation of Human Societies and that we can to some degree trace - outline - and attempt to understand resultant Human Condition examples - at various stages in Human Historical Development.

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One of the earlier statements suggesting that Human Nature is "Tripartite" is attributable to the Pythagoras, (famous as a philosopher as well as being a noted mathematician), who lived in the Ancient Greek world long before such foundational figures as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle made their own highly significant contributions to Western Philosophy.

In 518 B.C. Pythagoras travelled west and during his journey reputedly had a significant interview with the prominent ruler Leon of Philus whilst both were attending some public Games.
From Cicero (106-43 BC)
"According to Heraclides of Ponticus, the pupil of Plato and a learned man of first rank, Pythagoras, so the story goes, came to Phlius and with a wealth of learning discussed certain subjects with Leon the ruler of the Phliasians. And Leon after wondering at his talent and eloquence asked him to name the art [arte] in which he put so much reliance..
But Pythagoras said that for his part he had no acquaintance with any art, but was a philosopher [philosophum]. Leon was astonished at the novelty of the term and asked who philosophers were and in what they differed from the rest of the world. Pythagoras, the story continues, replied that the life of man seemed to him to resemble the festival which was celebrated with most magnificent games before a concourse collected from the whole of Greece; for at this festival some men whose bodies had been trained sought to win the glorious distinction of a crown, others were attracted by the prospect of making gain by buying or selling, whilst there was on the other hand a certain class, and that quite the best type of free-born men, who looked neither for applause nor gain, but came for the sake of the spectacle and closely watched what was done and how it was done. So also we, as though we had come from some city to a kind of crowded festival, leaving in like fashion another life and nature of being, entered upon this life, and some were slaves of ambition, some of money; there were a special few who, counting all else as nothing, closely scanned the nature of things; these men gave themselves the name of lovers of wisdom (for that is the meaning of the word philosopher); and just as at the games the men of truest breeding looked on without any self- seeking, so in life the contemplation and discovery of nature far surpassed all other pursuits."
Cicero, Tusculan Disputations. V, III, 8-9 (Loeb Classical Library, trans. J.E. King, Harvard University Press, 1945, pp. 431 & 433)
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If we move on more than one thousand years in time, and to southerly regions of today's England, we have similarly suggestive information about King Alfred the Great.

"… 'O Philosophy, thou knowest that I never greatly delighted in covetousness and the possession of earthly power, nor longed for this authority, but I desired instruments and materials to carry out the work I was set to do, which was that I should virtuously and fittingly administer the authority committed unto me. Now no man, as thou knowest, can get full play for his natural gifts, nor conduct and administer government, unless he hath fit tools, and the raw material to work upon. By material I mean that which is necessary to the exercise of natural powers; thus a king's raw material and instruments of rule are a well-peopled land, and he must have men of prayer, men of war, and men of work. As thou knowest, without these tools no king may display his special talent. Further, for his materials he must have means of support for the three classes above spoken of, which are his instruments; and these means are land to dwell in, gifts, weapons, meat, ale, clothing, and what else soever the three classes need. Without these means he cannot keep his tools in order, and without these tools he cannot perform any of the tasks entrusted to him. I have desired material for the exercise of government that my talents and my power might not be forgotten and hidden away, for every good gift and every power soon groweth old and is no more heard of, if Wisdom be not in them. Without Wisdom no faculty can be fully brought out, for whatsoever is done unwisely can never be accounted as skill. To be brief, I may say that it has ever been my desire to live honourably while I was alive, and after my death to leave to them that should come after me my memory in good works.' …
Alfred the Great's Boethius: Sedgefield's Modern English Translation, XVII

Human Condition examples: Feudalism

A so-called "Feudal System" appeared in western Europe where (usually) dynastic states featured Emperors and Kings as heads of state.
Such dynastic rulers usually being supported, (in an era of intense faith), by churchmen, by noblemen of diverse rank who often maintained armed men in their personal service, and by the labors of people who lived in more humble circumstances and worked in diverse roles to provide the necessities of life for all members of society, (and also luxuries for those who could afford them).

It became widely accepted across much of Western Europe that a person's life was very largely defined by their living their lives as praying men, as peasants, or as warriors.
Such categorisation tended to persist for almost one thousand years with the categories broadening towards becoming moreso praying men / churchmen / religious - peasants / artisans / farmers / merchants / higher professionals - warriors / soldiers / military men.

A work by Georges Duby entitled “The Three Orders: Feudal Society Imagined” begins with an introduction which is entitled "The Field of Inquiry."
These are the opening sentences :
"Some are devoted particularly to the service of God; others to the preservation of the state by arms; still others to the task of feeding it and maintaining it by peaceful labours. These are our three orders or estates general of France, the Clergy, the Nobility, and the Third Estate."
   This statement is among those which open the Traité des Ordres et Simples Dignitez published in 1610 by the Parisian Charles Loyseau, a work immediately recognized as highly useful and continually reissued throughout the seventeenth century. These words serve to define the social order, i.e., the political order, i.e., order itself. Here we are confronted with three "estates," three fixed and stable categories, three levels of hierarchy.
Georges Duby, The Three Orders: Feudal Society Imagined, University of Chicago Press.

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Given the stature of the authorities that can be shown to endorse Human Psychological "Tripartism" - FIVE major religions and several highly-regarded "giants" of literature and philosophy - we can surely be forgiven for very strongly suspecting that there is potentially a close association between The Human Condition and Psychology?

Feudalism - from such perspective - can be depicted as being a "humanly understandable of as being understandably human" presentation of one of the most enduring of Human Condition examples - in relatively unsophisticated times?

Monarchs were heads of state theoretically charged with ensuring justice and protection to their subjects. Churchmen were considered to facilitate the spiritual welfare of the entire population. Noblemen were considered to be capable of supporting the dynastic ruler and churchmen in their beneficial duties.
The broader population meanwhile could find relative economic and physical security in being employed by rulers, churchmen and noblemen and enjoying their protection from lawlessness and banditry.

Human Condition examples: Modernity

Feudal patterns of society persisted for about one thousand years until being increasingly compromised, in the later eighteenth century, by such things as a Corsican revolt against Genoa, an American Independence won from Great Britain, and a rather more comprehensively significant French Revolution.

It can be suggested that in all likelyhood Feudalism would at some point in time lose its practical viability.

That is to say that as societies became more sophisticated a stage would be reached where broader populations would protest the relatively humble circumstances in which they lived relative to monarchs, churchmen and noblemen.

Such protests could lead to demands for wider political representation.

Population growth was occuring, as was urbanisation - accompanied by industrial revolution.

Where monarchs had ruled unquestioned over extensive territories peopled by linguistically diverse populations increasing sophistication - in the form of such things as wider literacy - had the potential to fragment Empires and Kingdoms into linguistically-based administrative regions if not into virtual or actual "nation states".

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"Mankind are so much the same, in all times and places, that history informs us of nothing new or strange in this particular. Its chief use is only to discover the constant and universal principles of human nature."
David Hume

Ralph Waldo Emerson

RALPH WALDO EMERSON (1803-1882) was, in his time, the leading voice of intellectual culture in the United States. He remains widely influential to this day through his essays, lectures, poems, and philosophical writings.

In the later eighteen-twenties Ralph Waldo Emerson read, and was very significantly influenced by a History of Philosophy authored by Victor Cousin.

A key section of Cousin's work reads as follows:
"What is the business of history? What is the stuff of which it is made? Who is the personage of history? Man : evidently man and human nature. There are many different elements in history. What are they? Evidently again, the elements of human nature. History is therefore the development of humanity, and of humanity only; for nothing else but humanity develops itself, for nothing else than humanity is free. …
… Moreover, when we have all the elements, I mean all the essential elements, their mutual relations do, as it were, discover themselves. We draw from the nature of these different elements, if not all their possible relations, at least their general and fundamental relations."
Introduction to the History of Philosophy (1829)

Even before he had first read Cousin, (in 1829), Emerson had expressed views in his private Journals which suggest that he accepted that Human Nature, and Human Beings, tend to display three identifiable aspects and orientations:
Imagine hope to be removed from the human breast & see how Society will sink, how the strong bands of order & improvement will be relaxed & what a deathlike stillness would take the place of the restless energies that now move the world. The scholar will extinguish his midnight lamp, the merchant will furl his white sails & bid them seek the deep no more. The anxious patriot who stood out for his country to the last & devised in the last beleagured citadel, profound schemes for its deliverance and aggrandizement, will sheathe his sword and blot his fame. Remove hope, & the world becomes a blank and rottenness. (Journal entry made between October and December, 1823)

In all districts of all lands, in all the classes of communities thousands of minds are intently occupied, the merchant in his compting house, the mechanist over his plans, the statesman at his map, his treaty, & his tariff, the scholar in the skilful history & eloquence of antiquity, each stung to the quick with the desire of exalting himself to a hasty & yet unfound height above the level of his peers. Each is absorbed in the prospect of good accruing to himself but each is no less contributing to the utmost of his ability to fix & adorn human civilization. (Journal entry of December, 1824)

Our neighbours are occupied with employments of infinite diversity. Some are intent on commercial speculations; some engage warmly in political contention; some are found all day long at their books … (This dates from January - February, 1828)

The quotes from Emerson are reminiscent of a line from another "leading voice of intellectual culture" - William Shakespeare.
There's neither honesty, manhood, nor good fellowship in thee.
William Shakespeare: Henry IV (Pt 1), Act I, Scene II

"The first glance at History convinces us that the actions of men proceed from their needs, their passions, their characters and talents; and impresses us with the belief that such needs, passions and interests are the sole spring of actions."
Georg Hegel, 1770-1831, German philosopher, The Philosophy of History (1837)

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Several truly notable authorities
endorse Tripartite Soul Theory

Key Socratic Dialogues from
Book 4 and Book 9 of Plato's Republic

Plato's Ideal State       Plato's Chariot allegory      

Philosophy - Eastern and Western & 'Tripartite' Human Nature

FIVE major World Religions & 'Tripartite' Human Nature