Human Nature and our Innate Desire to Learn


What can we say definitively about human nature or the characteristics that humans share? French philosopher Sartre believed that humans are fundamentally free, while German philosopher Marx believed that humans are fundamentally economic. The philosophies that these thinkers have produced, existentialism and communism, have had a profound impact on how we understand ourselves, our realities and societies. In a way, what we believe to be fundamental to being human would then colour our lenses of reality. That is why the French philosopher Foucault refrained from making postulations about the nature of man - as had he viewed it as dangerous. 

On the other hand, many problems arise if we do not properly understand our own being. Technology is meant to help us and improve our lives, yet it seems like the more technology we have, the busier we have become. We begin to fear the prospects of AI, and dread the possibility of losing our jobs. Technology, which was intended to help us, is now enslaving us. This is an example of how easily we get caught up in the increasing pace of life, and how little we understand ourselves in relation to the world.

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At the same time, this process should not be a strictly theoretical one. As seen from the other thinkers, how we view ourselves can have very practical consequences. This thinking should not be done just by philosophers and academics, but everyone. If we think that to be human is to be jealous, to be evil, or to be corrupt, then we are more likely to subject ourselves to this nature and truly become just that. 

An interesting point is our relation to truth. It is easy to say things like “no one likes to hear the truth” or “humans are lazy”, but the only simple and whole truth is that the truth is rarely simple and never whole. Truth is a form of uncovering. It is a lens of focus, and by focusing on one truth you necessarily obscure others. We obviously value truth as a species, building on science and maths, orientating our daily lives towards what we believe to be true.

The desire to learn is part of being human. Statements about human nature are reflexive and hermeneutic, which means that the answers affect the process of questioning and the questioners themselves. Humans have a fundamental desire to learn but which has been stifled and warped by social emphasis, laws and policies, and formal education. As humans, we should believe in our innate desire to learn. These beliefs about what it means to be human and the quest to understand our place in relation to our environment will shape our reality itself. Hopefully, if we choose to believe that we desire to learn, then we will become just that.

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