This page is dedicated to my praiseworthy sister...Truong thi Sen, Mademoiselle la Directrice of the Taxation service
of the nation of Vietnam...
can we change human nature?...
For the western thought, we have three main answersfor the question...of consistency or imutability of human
The first one is traditional vision that... men are generally the same from generation
to generation. According to this notion, the characteristics, mental and physical do not change and will not vary when men
are men but not an another creature. The unchanged properties of human nature of man is the reason of human behavior...the
same mental faculties, the same emotional reaction. But we know the individual may modify his inherited equipment in
the course of life.John Dewey, discussed in Human Nature and Conduct, that social evils can be eliminated
by giving a new pattern to basic human impulses, and by turning human activity into new directions. I agreed this point with
Dewey. I am not believe that age-old social evils such as war springfrom something inherent in human nature. I agree
also with those who say that all the progress mancan make comes from improving his institutions, not from the perfecting nature.
Not man, but the societyis perceptible within certain limits. These limits are created by the unalterable limitations of man's
nature. For example, when we say that man is by nature social means that man needs to live in the society. Alexander Hamilton
said that man is not an angel, therefore, the human society needs to have a government. More than that , man is not fit
to anarchy by nature. That problem is always so if man lives on earth. He can no more dispense with government than
he can subsist without food, or fly without mechanical means to carry him.
The chance of Human life...
The greats philosophers in the past disagree
about what chance is, or is there such a thing. But one thing they agree about: we can not be sure of our luck, nor can
can control it. The chance is uncertain and unpredictable.
The contrast in the past is ... what happensby chance with what happens naturally,
necessarily, regularly, more or less; or that is the result of the consciousness of the humain purpose. By nature, death
is a nesessary, and natural for Man. If the sun shines on the pool of water,it normally evaporates!...These things do not
happens by chance; they happen because of the very natures of the things involved. For example, when I'm going to the store
a matter of chance if I go there for a deliberate purpose. But if I happen to meet a friend there by the sheer coincidence
that our paths cross at a given time and place, that meeting, according to Aristotle, is something which happened
With the ancien notion, the chance in human affairs is " the fortune", which has
the same root with fortuitous. They consider good fortune such things as wealth, honor, power. To have
or not to have is largely a matter of chance, not of deliberate choice as in the case of such goods as knowledge and virtue.
However, Aristotle thinks the goods of fortune are important for human happiness.The Stoics,on the
other hand consider it noble to be indifferent toward things beyond our control. Many thinkers deny thatthere really is any
such thing as chance. What we call chance, they say, is merely an expression of our ignorance of the cause of the
events When we don not know why a thing happens, we ascribe it to chance. Spinoza maintains that nothing happens
by chance, that all things are determined to be as they are. Most Christian theologians, with the notion of a divine providence
that affects even the fall of a sparrow, agree with Augustine that...nothing happens at random in the world....Everything,
even what appears to be a matter of chance, has been willed by God...
William James, who shudders at the idea of Spinoza's completely determined universe, holds that
there are certain ultimate choices in human life, that we cannot decide on rational grounds alone. Where such choices are
about matters that concern us vitally, he feels that we must decide one way or the other and take the risk of being wrong.
The alternative, of course, is to wait until all the returns are in, when a rationally certain judgement would be possible.
But, says James, on such questions all the evidence never does come in; indeed, it does not come in at all unless
you take a chance.
Economists, those practioners of the dismal science, are rather sober
sided about such and take a gloomy view of betting. John Maynard Keynes in his Treatise on Probability concludes
that it is rational and ethical to avoid great risks and to be guided by calculated probalility. He advises us not to gamble,
at cards or the Stock Exchange, unless we can afford the lose a lot of money.
Adam Smith dans The wealth of Nation, is even more pessimistic
about taking chances. He points out, in regard to lotteries, that the percentage is always in favor of the house.
The world neither ever saw , nor ever will see, a perfectly fair lottery; or one in which the whole gain compensated the whole
loss; because the undertaker could make nothing by it... There is not a more certain proposition in mathematics than that
the more tickets you adventure upon, the more likely you are to be a loser. Adventure upon all the tickets in the lottery,
and you lose for certain. Adam Smith doesn't say...You can win...One ticket, or a piece of it, on the winning
horse in the Irish Sweepstakes may bring in a considerable sum. But the more you try to make your luck certain, the more you
are to suffer net loss. I wonder how much all the tickets in the Irish Sweppstakes would cost....
The Position of Women in Society...
originated in a patriarchal type of society, based on the principle of male dominance in the family and the community.
The discussion of the role of women in ancient writings usually reflects this patriachal setting, but there are notable exceptions.
Even in ancient times some thinkers came to conclusions about the status of women that clashed with the prevailing order.
The most famous break with the ancient patriarchal view of woman's status is Plato's
proposal in the Republic that " woman should be man's equal in the political society..." He insists
that there is nothing that man can do in public affairs that a woman cannot do equally well. He admits certain respects in
which a woman, simply by being a woman, is inferior in political activity to a man. But he thinks that the differences
between individual - men or women - are more important than the difference
between the sexes. In his view an intelligent and competent woman is supperior to a man who lacks these qualities,
and it is a waste of human capacities not to use her in the administration of the state.
More than two thousand years after Plato, the English philosopher John Stuart
Mill again takes up the cudgels for women. His pamphlet The Subjection of Women cogently states
the case for complete social, economic, and political equality between men and women. In his book Representative
Government, in which he deals with the question of votes for women, he holds that it is a natural right which belongs
to women as well as men to have voice in their own government.
Nevertheless, over the centuries and until the presnet day, the Nays have
prevailed in this controversy. Plato and Mill voice the opinion of a very small minority.Aristotle,
Platon's great student, is a typical exponent of the negative view. For him, man embodies
the human ideal, and woman is a kind of inferior version of the human being.Aristotle would be horrified by the activities
of woman in modern society. For him, as for St. Paul, silence is a woman 's glory, and she should be submissive to
her husband in all things.
Quite apart from questions of social and political equality, there arose in the days of chivalry
an idealized notion of woman as a creature possessing ethereal and transcendent qualities. This romantic notion of woman probably
has something to do with the figure of Beatrice in Dante's works, in which woman reaches perhaps the highest
point of idealization in Western literature.
In the Divine Comedy, Beatrice, who was probably the object of Dante' s
unfulfilled love in real life, becomes the symbol for supernatural wisdom,superior even to philosophy. The romantic notion
of woman, of course, is strongly emphasized in Cervantes ' Don Quixote, in which she is regarded as a tender
flower, to be prized and protected and shielded from contact with the world.
In modern writing, negative reactions to feminine equality generally stress the loss of some
essential charm, mystery, and sweetness through woman' s entry into activities and functions formerly reserved for men. However,
few writers call for a return to the state of things that existed just before the days when John Stuart Mill
wrote his plea for equality and woman suffrage.
" No one" he wrote, " now holds that women should be in personal servitude; that
they should have no thought, wish, or occupation, but to be the domestic drudges of husbands, fathers, or brothers ". ..."
No one..." he said, woud want to go back to the day when women could not..."hold property, and have pecuniary
and business interests in the same manner as men ".Since Mill' s time, no one - or hardly anyone - advocates
returning to those good old days...
The Meaning of the Freedom...
Before I try to say what gives the idea of freedom its deep meaning in human life, let me try to convey some impression
of the scope of the idea. Il the history of Western thought, freedom has a number of distinct meaning. I shall try to state
for you as briefly as possible.
1 - A man is said to be free when external
circumstances permit him to act as he wishes for his own good. In this sense of term, a prisoner in chains or behind bars
has very little freedom, for he is prevented from doing most of the things he would like to do. In this sense also, a man
whois compelled to do what he doesn't want to do, either by physical coercion or by intimidation is not free. In a free
society such as ours most people have a great of freedom in this sense of the term.
2 - A man is said to be free when he has acquired enough virtue
or wisdom to be able willingly to do as he ought, to comply with the moral law, or to live in accordance with an ideal befitting
human nature. In this meaning of freedom, prison bars or chains cannot remove the liberty a good man possesses in himself.
It is acquired by personal effort, and it resides in a man' s state of mind or character. It is, therefore, quite independent
of all external circumstances.
It is in this sense that philosophers, such as Epectetu
and Spinoza speak of the vicious man as unfree - a slave to his
own oassions. It is also in this sense that St. Paul says..." Know the truth and it shall make you
3 - All men are said to be free because they are endowed by nature
with the power of free choice. - the power to decide for themselves what they shall do or become. This is what is tradionally
called the freedom of the will - a freedom inherent in human nature and so possessed by all men to the same degree.
Most of the philosphers who attribute such feedom to man deny that it is possessed by other animals.
In addition to these three main conceptions of freedom, they are two others
which are much more special.
One is the conception of the political liberty possessed by the citizen of a republic
who, throught the exercise of his suffrage, has a voice in making the laws under which he lives. Political liberty ,
thus understood, exists only under the institutions of free government, particularly the franchise.
The other special conception is the one developed by Marx, Engels, and
Lenin. It is the communist ideal of collective freedom, which the human race will enjoy only in the distance
future, under certain utopian conditions that preclude the restrains of human law or government.
Your question about the significance of the idea of freedom
can best be answered by reference to the three main conceptions of it. These three kinds of freedom are closely
connected with what we mean by the dignity of man. For men to be enslaved or in chains violates their essential
dignity. Their dignity is also impaired when they are governed by their passions instead of by their reason.
Furthermore, unlike animals, which live instinctively and which have a certain foxed pattern of life within the same species,
each man has, through free will, the power to make his own individual like - to create his own character.
These three kinds of freedom are also connected with morality and with moral responsibility.
The second kind indentifies the free man with the morality good man. And each of the two is thought to be the
basis of moral responsibility. We do not think it is just to punish men for actions they are compelled to perform or
for actions which do not flow from deliberate and free choice on their part.
It should be obvious why men everywhere and at all times have placed
a high value on freedom. The free man - in any sense of the term - is master himself and not subject to the will
culture and civilization...
In its basic meaning, the term " culture" signifies the improvement
or perfection of nature. Agriculture improves the soil, and physical culture develops body. Human culture, then, is
the development of all the aspects of human nature - moral, intellectual, and social.
Culture in the widest sense is the sum total of spiritual, material, and
social improvements of the human community. For some thinkers, culture is primarily a state of mind,
secured through education in the liberal arts, and embodied in philosophy, pure science, and the fine arts. For others,
it is a pattern of social institutions, tradional beliefs and cus toms, and material techniques and objects. In present
- day terms, these are respectively the " humanistic " and " anthropological " views of human culture.
Both of these views are intermingled in ancient writings. The old Greek myth of
Prometheus portrays him as the bearer of culture to mankind. This includes the mechanical as well as the liberal arts,
and social institutions, too. Herodotus, the great Greek historian, compares a variety of cultures, and in doing
so describes the customs, techniques, social institutions, and religious of different societes. In his analysis of the political
community, Aristote stress the importance of economic and social development as providing the material basis
for the pursuit of spiritual culture.
Aristotle' s idea that culture, in the refined sense, somes at a late stage
in social development resembles the modern notion that civilization is a late and complex stage of culture. Our term " civilization
" comes from the same Latin word as " civil " and " city ", and it is associated with a
developed state of social and political organization. We talk of " primitive culture ", but we usually use
the term " civilization " only for an advanced stage of culture.
Not all the thinkers, agree that civilization is an advanced stage of culture. Some of them
regard the earlier stages of culture as more vital and creative, resting on natural intuition, tradition, and
organic community rather than on artificial organization, rational principles, and abstract relations. They
regard civilization as the fall and decline of the culture , occuring juste before its extinction.
The modern view of civilization as the degeneration rather than the culmination of human existence
goes back to theromantic trhinkers of the XVIIIth and XIX th centuries. Jean Jacques Rousseau contrasts the
healthiness of a life close to nature with the corruption of civilized society Far from seeing culture as the perfection
of nature, many modern thinkers see culture and nature in constant conflict in the life of man.
Sigmund Freud gives us oneof the most influential expositions of this view. His work Civilization
and Its Discontents is based on the assumption that man' s biological and emotional impulses are thwarted
by the restrictions imposed on him by civilized society. Culture is achieved at the price of the suffering and unhappiness
caused by the frustration.
However, unlike Rousseau, and others romantic thinkers, Freud does not
advocate a rejection of culture and civilization for a " return of nature ". He looks to psychoanalysis for
the insights that will enable man to cope with his frustration, and to the arts and sciences to help him to orient himself
in the world. All this provided, he says prophetically, that man' sinherent impulse to aggression and self - destruction
does not get the upper hand, so that he uses his technical mastery to destroy himself and his culture.
the equality of the sexes...
The writers of the past differ greatly
in their attitude toward the status of woman. Some of them consider woman naturally inferior to man, who embodies
the perfection of the human species. Others regard woman as in every way the equal of man, save for the petite difference.
And a few even consider the female superior in some respects.
Undoutdly, those who hold that the
proper place of woman is in the home have dominated the discussion. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, put woman
in a subordinate position, and most of the great philophers are little kinder to her. Even in Eden, woman is a mere
helpmate of man, and she is expressly placed under man' s domination at the time of the expulsion from the Garden. St.
Paul enjoins women to be submissive to their husbands, and imposes silence and passively on them in matters of
church government and doctrine.
Plato' s advocacy
of social and political equality for women is the most famous break in the solid front of the ancients against feminine equality.
In the Republic, Socrates says:
is no special faculty of administration in a state which a woman has because she is a woman, or which a man has by virtue
of his sex, but the gifts of nature are alike diffused in both; all the pursuits of men are the pursuits of women also ( with
allowances made for difference in physical strength ).
Socrates admits that in some respects women are inferor to men, but he
is more interested in the individual differences which distinguish one woman from another than he is in the differences between
Aristotle, who represents the typical ancient view, rejects Plato' s doctrine.
He considers the male naturally superior to the female; for him, the female is a kind of multilated male, suffering
from a natural deficiency.
Among modern writers, John Stuart Mill agrees with Plato on the
right of woman to political equality. Rousseau, however, thinks thather proper sphere of influence is in the
home, where she may impel recalcitrant males throught sweet persuasiveness to follow the paths of duty and virtue. Milton, of
course, holds to the Biblical doctrine of male superiority and dominance.
Many modern writers emphasize the particular qualities in which a woman excels. Darvin,
for example extols her special capacities for tenderness, devotion, and generosity, as compared with the competitive
and self - centered nature of the male. He also thinks she may have keener intuition and perception. William James
thinks she comes to maturity at an earlier age than men. At twenty, he says, a womanis completely formed mentally, and
well advanced over her comparatively formless male contemporary.
Perhhaps the most gallant, and to feminists the most infuriating, example of the gentleman of
the old school approach is that of Cervantes' Don Quixote. The gentle knight pictures woman as an imperfect
creature whose path to virtue, which is her glory, is to be made as easy as possible:
She must be treated as relics are: adored, not touched.
She must be protected and prized as one protects and prizes a fair
garden full of roses and flowers, the owner of which allows no one to trespass or pluck a bossom; enough for others that from
afar and through the iron grating they may enjoy its fragrance and its beauty.
Such chivalry on the part of men toward women does not go with equality between
the sexes, as women have learned, sometimes with regret. It is not quite possible for them to have the best of both worlds.
the nature of a profession...
In common usage the word " professional " is
applied to anyone who shows tested competence in performing a given task. In this sense the word is merely a synonym
for " skilled ". Butin the original and deeper meaning of the term, a aprofessional man is one who does skilled
work to achieve a useful social goal.
The famous Emglish economist R.H.Tawney gives a very comprehensive
definition of a profession when he says.." It is a body of men who carry on their work in accordance with rules designed
to enforce certain standards both for the better protection of its members and for the better service of the public...".
It has been recognized that certain activities necessary for the
preservation of society require an organized or concerted effort on the part of men with special knowledge or skill. To meet
the need, the traditional professions developped. The oldest of these is, perhaps, the military profession. Other prfessions
which have a long history are the traditionally recognized orfessions of theology, law, medicine, and teaching.
In each of these professions, some fundamental good is served by the work of its members.
The controlling objective of the military profession is the defense of the state. The legal profession serves the government
of society. The medical profession aims at the preservation of health; the teaching profession, at the discrimination of knowledge.
There are of course, other professions of more recent origin, but the same pronciple applies. Each is defined by the socially
valuable goal it serves.
Professional activities are distinguished from other forms of work
not only by the goals they serve but also by the way in which professional men are related in their work. In commerce,
industry, or business, one man often works for another. But in an army engaged in war, for example, the private does
nor work for the captain, or the captain for the general. Instead, all work together for victory. Similarly, in a hospital,
the nurse and the labpratory technician do not work for the surgeon. All work together for the health of the patient.
Members of a profession usually subscribe to a code of ethics which regulates how their work is to
be done in society. This code of conduct sets the standard by which its members are judged. It is, for example, more than
commonsense courtesy required a physician not to discuss the treatment of his patientwith others. It is a principle of medical
practice. It was first set forth in the famous Oath of Hippocrates:
Whatever in connection with my professional practice, or not in connection with
it. I see and bear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that
all should be kept secret. While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated, may it be granted to me, in all times! Butshould
I trespass and violate ths Oath, may the reverse be my lot!
Thougth professional men, like othe men, usually have to earn their living, the value of their
work is not measured by the money they earn. The compensation that comes to them is incidental to the performance of
their professional services. That is why compensation is usually referred to as a " free " or an " honorarium
" rather than as " wages " or a " salary ". That is also why doctors
and lawyers often takes cases free of charge.
Tawney is quite emphatic on this point. For him, the essence is a profession.
... is that, though men enter into it for the sake of their livelihood, the measure of their sucess
is the service which they perform, not the gains which they amass. hey may, as in the case of sucessful doctor, grow rich;
but the meaning of their profession, both for themselves and for the public, is not that, they make money but theat they make
health,or safety, or knowledge, or good law. They depend on it for their income, but they do not consider that any conduct
which increases their income is on that account good.
In other words, the essential characteristic of a proferssion is the dedication of its
members to the service they perform.