When you think about the human being, the features that make up a human being quickly come to mind. However, a human being is so much more than the physical. Once you go beyond the physical aspect, you discover so many more things that constitute a human being. The society within which a person lives in highly defines an individual’s beliefs, practices and traits. The society is very vital in the natural life of a human being. As the common adage goes, no man is an island. We all need each other in society in order to live a fulfilling life and more enriching. Reason being, as human beings, we are very limited and are not able to fulfill all our needs. This paper will seek to steer through the perspective of the interaction between an individual and the society. It will try to seek my role in the society and the society’s role in my life as a part of it.
So what is this human being? More importantly who am I really? The question of existentialism has been discussed among philosophers and scholars alike over the years. Existentialism attempts to demystify the existence of the human being, an attempt that was endeavored by early scholars such as Plato and Sartre among many others. How human beings exist and how they find themselves in this world is very puzzling. One interesting point that comes out is the question of existence over essence. Essence is considered as the characteristics that make a human being or a thing. For instance, a human being is upright, with developed features such as limbs, is able to speak and to be heard and so on. However, there are people who do not meet all of these characteristics such as hunchbacks, dumb or deaf people, but they are still human beings. Whatever makes people who do not match the essence but are still human beings is the existence. This means that the existence precedes the essence as Sartre said.
So what are the characteristics or the essence of a human being? Looking at myself, apart from features there are other parameters that make up a human being. These include the personal traits and the personalities of an individual. There are different personalities of people in the society that we live in. most of these personalities dictate how we relate with others around us in the society. For instance, I am a good tempered lady. This means I do not have a high temper and therefore do not react out of anger. This trait makes me relate well with people in the society because I can control my temper and therefore I do not encounter friction with people. This means that the society is able to accommodate me well. In the same society, we are bound to get close to other people such as our family. We also make friends outside our family and get close to some more than others. These people become such an integral part of our lives in such a big way, that we are unable to live without them. As a result, a person feels alienated more when they feel others as opposed to if the person was alone. For instance, it I am married, I would be very dependent on my husband emotionally and psychologically. It he goes I would feel very alienated as opposed to if I was single and alone. The feeling of dependency makes alienation stronger.
Being a lady with no definite big plans for the future apart from the desire to live a simple and happy life, my role in the society will determine immensely. This is because leading a good simple and happy life depends on how well I fulfill my role in the society. For this to be done, it is essential to first find out, what role it is that I need to play in the society. However on the other hand the society also plays an important role in my life. First, it instills values and a moral sense as defined by the society. These standards may differ from one society to another. For instance a person born in America and another born in China has totally different beliefs, values and practices. The society is responsible for molding a person’s character and personality. It also influences the mode of thinking of an individual through the expectations it has of its members and the experiences encountered within the society. The distinction between my role in the society and that of the society to me cannot really be set. This is because the society is made up of individuals and individuals therefore are part of a society. Without individuals a society would be non-existent. The two need each other for the sake of harmonious living. We are the societ and the society is us. There should be a mutual contribution of individuals as themselves and as part of a society to achieve maximum benefits.
This notion is challenged by ethical nihilism that holds that there are no objective morals and no moral truths. This concept claims that there are no standards from which morals can be derived. This concept cannot be held to be true entirely; it simply disregards the presence of moral standards and moral truths. For instance, an ethical nihilist is of the opinion that rape is not wrong and it is also not right. However it differs from relativism that gives room for moral truths in an objective sense. Even though there may be some truth to the lack of moral absolutes, it is not true that there are no moral standards. Each and every society sets a moral standard for all who subscribe to that society. These standards may differ from one society to another. For instance, the practices and morals of one society may seem totally normal and acceptable to the members of that society but seem barbaric to the members of another society. It would only take a person to be a part of the society to understand the moral values and the beliefs of the society. An outsider comes with a biased opinion from his own society that he or she tries to impose on the other.
Our existence, therefore, is encompassed in a bigger scope of our life that goes beyond a single individual. It goes beyond our own selfish wants and needs in the world to what the person next to you needs. The puzzling nature of our existence should not limit us to what we should do in the society around us. To live well and live happily needs us to extend compassion to those you live with and provide assistance to those who need it around you in the society. The popular mantra of treating other people as you would want to be treated would really work and make the society a better place to live in.
People we live with and interact with every day influence us in very many ways as human beings. We are so subject to change and influence from others, and this influence could be negative or positive. Being that we live in a community and not on our own means that we cannot behave or act randomly. This is because the society already sets standards for us. It is these standards that we tend to behave in accordance to. It sets social norms and social rules that we who belong to that society should comply with. Consequently, it is realistic to say that we make our own world. Sartre was right in this assertion. We do make the kind of world that we are living in because as part of a society, we are part of the body that makes the standards, the rules and the norms. Therefore, whatever world we make for ourselves, is deserving of us. We should not complain of the world we have because we are responsible for making as it is; instead, we should reverse the standards and whatever else that needs to be reversed to fit into the ideal world that we want.