From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The human condition (also called common humanity) encompasses the experiences of being human in a social, cultural, and personal context. It can be described as the irreducible part of humanity that is inherent and not connected to gender, race, class, etc. — a search for purpose, sense of curiosity, the inevitability of isolation, fear of death, etc. The "human condition" is especially studied through the set of disciplines and sub-fields that make up the humanities. The study of history, philosophy, literature, and the arts all help understand the nature of the human condition and the broader cultural and social arrangements that make up human lives.
Although the term itself may have gained popular currency with André Malraux’s novel (1933) and René Magritte’s paintings 1933 & 1935, both titled La Condition Humaine, and with Hannah Arendt’s book (1958) and Masaki Kobayashi’s film trilogy (1959-1961) which examined these and related concepts, the quest to understand the human condition dates back to the first attempts by humans to understand themselves and their place in the universe.
The human condition is the subject of such fields of study as philosophy, theology, sociology, psychology, anthropology, demographics, evolutionary biology, cultural studies, and sociobiology. The philosophical school of existentialism deals with the ongoing search for ultimate meaning in the human condition.
In most developed countries, improvements in medicine, education, and public health have brought about quantitative, not necessarily qualitative, marked changes in the human condition over the last few hundred years, with increases in life expectancy and population (see demographic transition). One of the largest changes has been the availability of contraception, which has changed the sexual lives (and attitudes toward sexuality) of countless humans. Even then, these changes only alter the details of the human condition. In some of the most primitive parts of the world, the human condition has changed little over the centuries.
There are several theories as to what we as humans all have in common. A popular example is that humans search for purpose. We are curious and thrive on new information.
Today, many people use this term to refer to the fact that because all humans are flawed and share flaws we suffer from "The Human Condition" and because of "The Human Condition" no one person or one group can be fully trusted with absolute power.
Possibilities of change
Certain movements, most prominently transhumanism, aim to radically change the human condition. Some thinkers, like Enrico Fermi and others, deny that human nature has really changed in any fundamentally meaningful way over time and that, despite all of the social and scientific advances that have occurred, humans remain essentially unchanged and have been merely transplanted into progressively more complex environments. Transhumanist theorists agree; however, they argue that this is precisely the problem. In transhumanist thought, the human species clearly has come as far as it can usefully go in terms of biological evolution, and if they, as intelligent life forms, intend to keep progressing at what they consider to be a reasonable pace, humans must dramatically alter the parameters of life, via emerging technologies. Opponents of transhumanism such as extreme neo-luddites, and moderate bioconservatives assert that human nature, as we currently know it, is sufficient for all intents and purposes, and therefore does not necessitate any upgrades.
- André Malraux
- Continuity thesis
- Cradle of Humanity
- Erik H. Erikson
- Hannah Arendt
- Human nature
- Human self-reflection
- Man's search for meaning
- Masaki Kobayashi
- Maslow's hierarchy of needs
- Personal life
- René Magritte
- Rite of passage
- Seven ages of man
- Seven deadly sins
- The Denial of Death
- Theory of everything (philosophy)