Monday, November 10, 2008

Human Nature and Morality V

Just to recap: It isn't helpful to think of human nature as a mysterious essence in a black box, something that might be totally surprising to discover, alien to your sensibilities, or repulsive to your inclinations and preferences. Your nature is not a role given to you that may be totally repulsive to your personality. Such a concept would be a fate or mandate that might be totally alien to your nature. Now, if you believe that God commands you aright, that's well and good, but if his command is totally incompatible with your most settled preferences, then it runs against your nature. Nature is intimate, not alien, to your desires.

On the other hand, human nature is not simply whatever you feel like doing, whatever "comes naturally" or impulsively. One can be accustomed to acting according to feelings and find that one's life is very misaligned with one's nature. The discovery involves confronting preferences which one has been thwarting by acting on feeling. In other words, desires can be incoherent (practically, though not logically.) By acting on the most salient or palpable desires of the moment, one risks thwarting the larger and more settled set of desires which make up one's nature.

Morality certainly involves good and right ways of living. If these are somehow linked to human nature, then this is because morality is linked to our preferences. To some degree we naturally prefer what is good and right. However, we also have desires which conflict with these and we do act on those desires. Nor is it the case that human nature is simply morally good. It may be natural for us to be good at times and to be bad at times. This a matter which will take some sorting out in this series of posts. But for the moment we can see that if morality is linked to human nature, then it is linked to our desires because our desires and human nature are inseparable.