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The Human Condition - Psychology

Psychology - History - Philosophy - Literature

The Human Condition has been defined elsewhere as being "all of the characteristics and key events that compose the essentials of human existence including birth, growth, emotion, aspiration, conflict and mortality".

This page, however, considers more closely probable linkages between The Human Condition and Human Psychology across historic time.
That is to say an attempt is made to make a case that Human Psychology has rather directly influenced the formation of Human Societies and that we can to some degree trace - outline - and attempt to understand the Human Condition - as influenced by Human Psychology, 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 luminaries as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle made their own significant contributions to western thought.

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.
King Leon was most impressed by Pythagoras' range of knowledge and asked which of the arts he was most proficient in. Pythagoras replied that, rather than being proficient in any art, he regarded himself as being a philosopher.
King Leon had never heard this term before and asked for an explanation.

This is one version of the recorded reply:
"Life, Prince Leon, may well be compared with these public Games for in the vast crowd assembled here some are attracted by the acquisition of gain, others are led on by the hopes and ambitions of fame and glory. But among them are a few who have come to observe and to understand all that passes here. It is the same with life. Some are influenced by the love of wealth while others are blindly led on by the mad fever for power and domination, but the finest type of man gives himself up to discovering the meaning and purpose of life itself. He seeks to uncover the secrets of nature. This is the man I call a philosopher for although no man is completely wise in all respects, he can love wisdom as the key to nature's secrets."

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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.

In the later part of the ninth century A.D., King Alfred, authorised, and may have personally contributed to, a translation of Boethius’ work “The Consolations of Philosophy.”
Several such examples of committment to scholarship have led to Alfred's Kingdom of Wessex being perceived as having shared to some extent in a so-called Carolingian Renaissance which emanated from the court of a notably powerful Frankish king named Charles the Great - who is also known to history as the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne.

Whilst little is known about several of the regional kings who reigned in diverse parts of England in these times King Alfred had a biographer in the form of a churchman named Asser.

King Alfred's views on kingship were probably influenced by his ruling over Christianized Anglo-Saxon peoples whose free existence was seriously threatened by ‘heathen’ Viking peoples who had fairly recently established a formidable presence in more northerly territories of England and had proved only too capable of launching sizeable raiding parties up the river Thames and establishing settlement there.
All four of his older brothers, (who had been kings in their turn), had lost their lives in times of struggle against the Vikings and in his later thirties Alfred himself had felt obliged to seek refuge from Viking raiders in some inaccessible marshlands in the south-west of England.
“… you know that desire for and possession of earthly power never pleased me overmuch, and that I did not unduly desire this earthly rule, but that nevertheless I wished for tools and resources for the task that I was commanded to accomplish, which was that I should virtuously and worthily guide and direct the authority which was entrusted to me. You know of course that no-one can make known any skill, nor direct and guide any enterprise, without tools and resources; a man cannot work on any enterprise without resources. In the case of the king, the resources and tools with which to rule are that he have his land fully manned: he must have praying men, fighting men and working men. You know also that without these tools no king may make his ability known.” …
Alfred the Great: Asser’s Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources

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.


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Why should we not see in this Feudal arrangement of societies a close association between The Human Condition and Psychology?

Why should we not see Feudalism as being an understandable presentation of The Human Condition - associable with Human Psychology - 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.

Such Feudal patterns of society became more sophisticated but broadly speaking 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.


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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

Such celebrated "Men of Literature" as Emerson and Shakespeare have accepted that Human Nature is 'Tripartite' and Emerson, (who is perhaps less widely appreciated than he actually deserves to be as an important contributor to History and Philosophy), accepted that there was an investigable association between Human Nature and History.

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