The existence of a human nature is the estrangement that Ortega discusses. He begins by stating that man’s ability to shape himself into various forms is based on the choices he makes from a variety of actions that are presented to him on a daily basis (Ortega 155). He goes on to say that each choice has a different effect on a person after he completes it, giving an example of the readers that may choose to read his article in its entirety and have their mindset altered, and those who decide to read something else who, as a consequence, will have their mind changed in another way (Ortega 155). He credits the impossibility to predict the actions that a person will make as well as the ensuing consequences as the key reason why the ways of man have proven impossible to decipher, even with the impossibility that all people are conceived as consistent and invariable creatures at the beginning. The presence of multiple choices, makes the possibilities of what they will become infinite. In addition to making the choices that will shape them, Ortega asserts that a person must also decide what he wants to be, a resolution that he terms difficult because of the implications that have been provided either by the society or by divine doctrine (Ortega 155). One must choose their path by first seeking it out outside their own confines or as determined by circumstances. From this choice man then has to fashion a life as well as an imaginary goal that he must aspire towards, regardless of how impossible the task may seem. The moves that one makes to achieve these goals are then set in history, which defines one’s life. For this reason, Ortega concludes that a person is the sum of the experiences that he has had in the past.
The core issue that has been uncovered by Ortega is the concept that what a person considers as his nature is in fact his history (Ortega 157). Due to the endless possibilities from which a person can select their next move, and the unforeseeable effects that the said exploit will have on their lives, Ortega asserts that it is therefore impossible to accurately describe the nature of an individual. After one realizes this estrangement, it becomes a critical task to decide how to move forward with life, given how significantly a selection as simple as whether or not to read a book can alter the trajectory of life. As such, any choice that one arrives at is only arrived at after proper forethought has occurred. It becomes integral to first consider the outcomes that will succeed a deed. With the awareness of this estrangement one begins to ponder on the individual that one hopes to become in the long run. Life becomes more than just a casual collection of coincidences, as one begins to consider not only what society expects of them, but their purpose for existence as willed by the divine being responsible for their existence (Ortega 155). Once a vision is realized, every feat that is made has to adhere to the path that is chosen.
The estrangement in this scenario occurred when Ortega considered the variety of choices that are laid at his feet every day and how diverse and unpredictable the results of making a choice would be in the long run. He noticed that the decisions that one makes takes sets one on a certain path and that the existence of multiple paths makes the directions that a person can take infinite. Due to the overwhelming choices available, he posits that before selecting a path, a person must look outside themselves; to their circumstances Ortega finally came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as the innate human nature and that a person has to construct the trajectory of their lives as they go along. According to him the sole way to identify the measure of a person is to look at the actions that he has taken in the past, and how the outcomes affected his life. Though Ortega does not make it apparent, he alludes that the estrangement can only be fixed if those that realize it take caution when making decisions, as they have a lasting effect. He also considers it important to pick a path and to stick it and he discourages relying on circumstances and coincidences as he believes that people are the greatest designer of their fate.
Kierkegaard’s estrangement is based on the alienation of an individual who knows the truth from a crowd that supports lies. He examines the impact of a crowd on the truth, first by surmising that in some instances, the crowd holds the facts, especially because for the veracity of a statement to hold any weight, it must be supported by an overwhelming number of people (Kierkegaard 94). However, he also asserts that the crowd has the ability to drown a truth if somehow, a lie were to emerge only to receive as much support as the verified claim would. In such a situation, even if everyone present is aware of the fact, the untruth would prevail, therefore making the crowd the source of a lie. Kierkegaard then provides examples of crowds that spawn untruths, first examining a congregation in the church were although everyone present has faith, only one individual will be blessed by God (Kierkegaard 95). Regardless of how much the Christians pray in unison, only one among them will receive blessings. Kierkegaard also dubs the crowd a force of falsehood because it frees individuals from any sense of responsibility, thereby allowing them to do as the wish without the fear of recrimination. For this reason Kierkegaard believes that anyone who wishes to lead a crowd has no consideration for the worth of a man as all they require to sway the opinion of a crowd is the talent of convincing others, a lie that is based on truth and the knowledge of the passion of a people. He credits crucifixion of Jesus to the ability of the crowd to be untrue (Kierkegaard 96). He expresses his sadness at the fact that the untruths of the crowd are presently becoming stronger due to the existence of the press, where one anonymous author publishes a statement that influences millions to think in a certain manner. He concludes by stating that the lone individual is the true source of truth, which makes it more difficult for verified facts to become known because of the inherent weakness and impotence that one man feels when going against a crowd.
An individual that eventually realizes that crowds are forces of deceit and dishonesty will more often than not keep the truth to themselves. Unfortunately, one will only realize that they are the lone holder of truths in a crowd of people that propagate lies when they are involved in a scenario where a falsehood is claimed with the support of the people. In fact, according to how Kierkegaard describes it, people rarely come to such conclusions as they are sometimes convinced that what they know might be a lie due to the lack of support by others. When a conveyor of truth realizes what they know, they often choose to hold on to it instead of running the risk of pitting oneself against the masses.
The source of estrangement that Kierkegaard experienced resulted from an analysis of crowd behavior in multiple settings that include the church, politics and the press. In doing so, he realized that the saying that crowds are the source of truth is not necessarily accurate. His first inclination is to look to Christianity, a place which is traditionally touted as the source of truth. However, after sifting through the perceived needs of the congregation, he realizes that while Christians may pray in unison, the fact that only one among them will be blessed by God essentially pits them against each other (Kierkegaard 95). Therefore introducing insincerity and competition in a crowd. He then looks into political activities, where an individual with the ability to convince others does so to by sprouting a falsehood to gain support. In such a situation, as long as the individual seeking power knows how to appeal to the passion of the people, he can make them believe everything. He also investigates the crucifixion of Jesus, asserting that His dislike for crowds ultimately condemned Him as the few people with which he had interacted were overpowered by the exuberance of the masses. According to Kierkegaard, the only way to remedy the verification of lies in a crowd setting is to remain firmly rooted to the truth. One must discard all notions of weakness or impotence, for as long as one knows the truth, power is on his side.
Where Am I?
The estrangement described by Daniel Dennett is the root cause of the self; a question that has been a subject of fierce debate among philosophers since the notion of consciousness was put forth. To investigate whether the self is tethered to the mind or the soul, he creates a scenario where he is a scientist, required to retrieve a dangerous nuclear weapon that has been buried under a pile of rubble. For safety reasons, Dennett has to leave his brain in a secure facility and in its stead, a radio transmitter that will transfer synapses to his body is implanted in his head. After he recovers, he visits his brain, and is taught how the technology that he is using works. He is intrigued by his ability to stare at his brain but at the same time he wonders if his whether it his brain or his body that holds his identity (Dennett 59). Dennett gets his answer when his transmitter fails and his body is destroyed. At the moment, he relocated to the vat of liquid in which his brain floated and he was eventually awarded a new body as his identity remained intact.
Dennett became estranged when the separation form his body did nothing to change his perception, attitude or the level of knowledge that he had. He came to the realization that his body was simply a vessel in which his being resided. As such, Dennett concludes that one should take care of the true self, away from the physical body. The true self is located in the brain and even when one is lost geographically, one always has a home in a body where the self resides.
Dennett, Daniel C. “Where Am I?” Science Fiction and Philosophy, 2016, pp. 55-68.
Kierkegaard. “That individual.” The First Existentialist, Routledge, 1995, pp. 95-100.
Ortega. Man Has No Nature. New American Library, 1965.