You are here

On the Nature of Humanity


A thought that can stand without its context:

As Immanuel Kant famously remarked, “from the crooked timber of humanity no truly straight thing can be made.” But, in the words of philosopher, Denis Dutton, “It is not…that no beautiful carving or piece of furniture can be produced from twisted wood; it is rather that whatever is finally created will only endure if it takes into account the grain, texture, natural joints, knotholes, strengths and weaknesses of the original material.”

And another, offered as a comment on the first:

Utopian ideologies fail because they seek three impossible goals—

  1. perfection
  2. universal agreement
  3. stasis

None of these are naturally occurring human attributes, so any attempt to bring them about must be, by definition, unnatural and external to human existence.

If only men were so easy to decipher as the grain in a chunk of wood. We’re flawed, but unable to determine exactly what our flaws are. And as we navel-gaze, some flaws are removed or repaired by the operations of nature, while others appear from both internal and external causes.

The most robust philosophy cannot depend on any man knowing all about mankind.