DEFINITION OF THE CONCEPTS OF MAN
1.1 Origin of Man-
‘Man or ‘homo sapiens’, as he somewhat arrogantly
calls himself, is the most interesting and also the most irritating of animal
species on the planet earth’.The
origin and structure of man have been the age-long subjects of study,
controversies and theorizations in form of fundamental questions, assertions
and denials that pertain mostly to issues about life, its origin and nature.
Numerous scientists, biologists, paleontologists and philosophers have
remarkably worked, researched and discovered some useful information that will
help us understand the origin and structure of life.
researches and discoveries about origin of life in general and man in particular
have been classified into two major circles of understanding, vitalistic and mechanistic views.
Some philosophers like Descartes and Gassendi followed this idea mechanistic view and sought to propagate
it to posterity.
teleological while the former explains life as originating by chance, with no
plans and hereunder we have two levels of determination, ‘the evolutionists and the traditionalists that considers life as a
cause-effect’. The traditional view takes care of the mythical and legendary
account of the origin of life, as contained in the Holy Writ, hence: The Lord
formed man of the slime of earth and breathed into his face the breath of life.
This approach commanded a greater affection of many scientists and
philosophers. Basically in defense of the theory of traditional account of
origin of man, Jean Servier eloquently condemned the possibility of scientific
evolution, thereby reducing scientific claim of factual basement to a mere
mythical claim. Consequently, the criticism led to a mid-way consideration
which incorporates the origin of life by direct creation through God’s
intervention and the opposite by pure chance or spontaneous generation. This
mid-way is known as programmed evolution.
Programmed evolution as a
theory has become acceptable to many philosophers as well as the scientists,
unlike the scientific evolution held formerly
which created much polarity between them. Thus, for the philosophers, it
entrains ‘that the soul* arises through the action of an intelligent being to
give origin to life’.
In addition, Teilhard de
Chardin describes him as ‘the arrow-head
of evolution’. These evolutionary discoveries are far away from
philosophical truth. Nevertheless, Aristotle’s scheme seems to vary under this
Since in Aristotle’s schemes, there is no such evolution as in the modern
sense, scientific temporal evolution,
though he may have developed an ideal
Finally, we must note
therefore, that the problem concerning the origin of man is yet unsolved, since
evolutionary theory cannot satisfy philosophical curiosity, even the claim of
an evolution of a reflective consciousness by Teilhard.
1.2 The Background
No doubt at all that there
were so many views about what constitute the essence of man, but all did agree
in the first place that such essence exists, that is to say that there is
something by virtue of which man is man and so are all other beings in nature
before Aristotle, and at its climax after him, having succeeded in arousing
interest. The traces of this devotion in philosophy are identifiable in the
ancient and classical, Middle Ages and enlightenment philosophers culminating
in Kant and then those of the contemporary era. The pre-Socratics to begin
with, were mainly cosmologists who reduced all that is to material existence
and origin. Pythagoras introduced form
and not only that, he brought forward the idea of form limiting the matter
which is boundless. For him, balance or equilibrium is achieved through the
imposition of form over matter.
According to Enoch Stumpf,
Anaxagoras in addition brought forward, the phenomenon of ‘nous’ (the mind as that responsible for the actualization of matter
by form, thus he maintains that the
nature of reality is best understood as consisting mind and matter.
Accordingly, Aristotle later expressed a double evaluation of his views.
materialists came to fore, exalting the material existence of all
Socrates in contrast emerged as a spiritualist in defense of the soul
asserted man as this soul, separating apart the two worlds of reality
ideas, hence the emergence of his dualism as the case may be. However,
psychological dualism was inherited by the immediate successor,
sought to reconcile them. Thus, the problem of balance and relation
matter and form (body and soul) is seen scattered all over his
For instance, the whole of his ethical, political, metaphysical
treatises as well as his scientific writings incidentally bear some
this problem of his major concern. Biologically, Aristotle proceeded
analysis of nature. According to him the term, ‘phusis’, means essence or
form in general.
Nature means for him ‘a formed or active principle of movement and rest in
The Physics BK II of Aristotle was strictly dedicated to the explanation,
justification and above all the articulation of the notion of nature as ‘an
intrinsic principle of movement’. Considerably, to act intelligently is to act
in accordance with rational nature, while to act instinctively is to act in
congruence with the animal nature.
In the first book of De Anima, Aristotle speaks of the soul
as the entelechy or act of the body
that possesses life in potency. In the
same manner and within history of psychology appropriate to the dichotomized
notions of philosophers on the soul, he observes thus:
… the most far-reaching difference is that between the philosopher
who regard the elements as corporeal and those who regard them as incorporeal.
In a bid to reconcile them
Aristotle portrayed soul as the actuality of the body which cannot be
distinguished from it, though some parts are separable for him, since they are
precisely not the realizations of the body.
The Definition of Man
Having seen previously the
stand, which Aristotle takes on man, as a different nature among other nature,
can we now at this point try some sense of definition? Generally, the question
should be what is man, (Was ist der mensch), but in Aristotelian concept of
man, it goes thus: who is man, (was ist der mensch). However, this question is
not only onerous to man but also most rancorous to him, since he evades
approaching it. Inadvertently, ‘man is a being so vast, so could, so multiform,
that every definition demonstrates itself as too limited. Man’s aspects are too
Also, Martin Heidegger has
the opinion that man cannot be defined until death. Therefore, it is only in
death that one can define man from his own perspectives. On the contrary, we
can only accept their propositions on the ground of the utopic nature of man, as the humanity in Aristotle. Thus, the idea
of Bloch’s ‘utopic being’ (utopischer
Raum) stands supreme. But this is not the case even Mondin’s claim that man is a kind of prodigy that combines within
himself apparent antitheses: a fallen unrealizable, divinity, unsuccessful
absolute value etc…17 Hence,
he mutually concluded the part of his own jolt by a two word definition of man
as an impossible possibility.
Actually, A.J. Heschel observed this in his book, ‘Who is Man’, when he writes that man portrays:
a conscious desire in man to be animal ‘natural in the experience of
carnality or even to identify himself as animal in destiny or essence.
definitions of man since Aristotle bear the vestigial traces of this truth of
‘animality’ in man calling for recognition. The real predicament in man springs
up and as well becomes intensified by the attention of man to understand the
human ideal of reason as man’s ‘human’ nature, instead of accomplishing the
real natural level of animality in his experience of the world so far, not neglecting
the passions in man. The most ridiculous drama going on in man’s
unconsciousness is his abhorrence of his authentic existence in evasion towards
the definition of his nature which he projects in the explanation of other
beings other than himself. Thus he denigrates them in an anthropomorphic greed,
to be of lower strata to himself.
Whenever man is seen
analyzing other beings, it is just a projection of greed. Unless this
consideration is taken, man continues to remain an animal, a project and a
mystery. Man has no perfect knowledge of himself.
vis-à-vis Some Philosophers
Some schools of thought
view man as a mere spiritual singularity, while others view man as somewhat a
material body. And thirdly, those at the mid-way have no acceptable explanation.
Aristotle belongs to this last group, as he attempted the reconciliation of the
two through his metaphysical theory of ‘hylemorphism’.
Thus for him, man is a substantial union of body (matter) and soul (form). But
he couldn’t balance the equation in the relation between passion and reason.
Hence, reason predominates, as it controls man in all his actions.18
Thanks to the scholastics who inherited this Aristotelianism, especially
Thomas Aquinas who presents man as a man by the actuality of spirituality,
existing form that informs an organic body and makes it a human body.19Thomas Aquinas unearthed and developed
this “mutual affinity” between body and soul as that co-opting for the natural
repugnance to death. Man, for Aristotle, then is not only a rational
subsistence but also: an ‘unam’ per se, composed of essence, and ‘to be’ of
body and soul, of substance and accident.20
the modern era, Rene Descartes believed strongly that he can be more
himself as a “thinking thing” than as a body. This understanding of man
automata or mechanism creates sharp dichotomy in his ‘cogito ergo sum’,
mind which can outlive the bodily extension. Leibnitz followed this
The contemporary thinkers
conversely hold against this metaphysical parallelism of the exaggerated
dualism. Hence Marxists proffered their ‘dialectical materialism’ as in
defense of the body. Hence, the body contrary to Aristotle’s view becomes the ‘elan vitale’, instead of the spirit,
which now is turned into a product of the creative body and its instrument.
Thus, man was rated a brute animal. The existentialists, among whom Sartre is a
chief exponent confirmed this materialistic outlook on man and upturned man’s
centre of gravity to his body. For him, it is the body that gives man his individual species to be what it is.21 He is Aristotle’s most drastic
opponent. He defined man as ontologically pure spiritual being. Sartre remarks
thus: The concept of man is spirit and no one ought to allow himself to be deceived
by the fact that he can also walk on two legs.22
It is categorically clear
that the consciousness he projects is not the same kind with Aristotle’s. Human
body is only ‘an encumbrance and ballast for man’s spirit’. Man for him is
anguished by the body limits. Also, in the contemporary era thinkers who are
exaggerated realists, like L. Klages, maintain that man is made up two
substances, spiritual and corporeal but the elements are always at war with
each other portraying the spirit as the enemy of biological and psychosomatic
life. Thus he asserts more seriously that:
spirit benumbs life which is essentially becoming and moving, thus
two powers are in mutual conflict here which were originally similar and this
conflict is not merely factual but inevitable. And yet both of them are
supposed to build up the person, the personal ego, which is the carrier of the
spirit and life.23
In line still, Freud is one of the greatest
theoretician on man, who with some psychological bent envisaged the conflicting
existence in man, thereby defining man as a component of two instincts: death
and life instincts. With all these views above, we can easily see with Soren
Kierkegaard that the human being which Aristotle structures becomes one which
would be formed fully from disagreement, clash or dissension. The question now
could be: between the body and the soul, which is so antithetically opposed to
the other and which excludes the other to be united, in order to form the
personal self. Moreover, the contemporary opinion of the present day thinkers
against exaggerated dualism is that both are phenomenal forms of an unknown
 B. Russel; Has Man A future? ( Britain: Penguin Books,
 B. Mondin; Philosophical Anthropology, (Rome: Urban
University Press, 1985) p. 26
 The New Jerusalem Bible, Pocket Edition,Gen. 2:7
* The soul for philosophers,
especially Aristotle is a principle of
life ,an animator of the inanimate, a
cause of life. Thus, it corresponds with Mondin’s assertion
 Op Cit. p. 141.
 F. Copleston; A History of Western Philosophy, vol. 1 (New
York: Continuum Books, 1962), p. 330.
 T. de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, (New York: Harper Row
Publ. 1959). P. 177.
 E.S Stumpf, Philosophy; History and Problems, (USA: Mc
Graw-Hill Inc.,1994), P.11
 S.I Udoidem, Concept of Nature in Aristotle’s Physics,BK 11,
Accademia, Owerri, vol.1 no.1, June,2003, p.11
 F. Copleston, History of Western Philosophy, vol. 1, p. 327.
18 S.E Stumpf, Op. cit, p.101
19 G.F Krychede, Reflection on Man, (New York: Georgeton Univ.
20 H. Renard, Philosophy of Man, (Milwaukee: Bruce Press
21 W. Warburton, Philosophy: The
Classics, 2nd ed.(London:Routledge,2001),p.222
22 J. Endres, Op. Cit.,p.144