Six Aspects of the Human Person Important to Ethics



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Six Aspects of the Human Person


Important to Ethics


  • A philosophical view of what it means to be human is important in ethics

  • Six aspects of our lives that make us moral agents.




    1. The importance of Others:

      • The story of Cain and Abel “Am I my brother’s Keeper?”

      • The human is relational.

      • All of your actions are either for the other or against them.

      • Needs to be a balance between self love and love of the Other

      • Our understanding of what is good in life affects what we will do when faced with the needs of others.




    1. The Importance of Having a Direction in Life:

      • “If you stand for everything then you are committed to nothing”

      • Being committed to particular values; a moral orientation.

      • Where do you stand on the great issues of life?

      • There is a Humanist (philosophy = attitude that emphasizes the dignity and worth of an individual – basic premise of humanism is that people are rational beings who possess within themselves the capacity for truth and goodness) and Secular understanding of the self

      • Your identity arises from your moral direction in life – Taylor

      • Our fundamental “stance” illustrates who we are




    1. The importance of Communication and Language:

      • “The Word became flesh and lived among us”

      • The self only exists within a web of conversations.

      • Your identity also involves reference to the defined community you live within (Catholics)

      • Allows us to answer the question of “Who am I?”

      • Language shares common experiences and commitments
      • The meaning of Person – to be one of a kind to autonomous, an individual who bear rights and responsibilities. It has also come to mean the outpouring of love toward the other – because you are made in the image of God, you are made for and by love.


      • The other is implanted in you as part of you

      • Essentially, the person means the self as relational




    1. The importance of Character and One’s Body:

      • The word character refers to the way your actions, over time, tend to become fixed in your body. The same can be said of your choices in life.

      • Moral and ethical actions increase our character.

      • Moral fiber – the more you exercise it, the stronger your character.

      • By constantly repeating your actions, you create habits which over time, the action becomes fixed; it takes root in you – others will recognize this as one of your character traits (you may be seen as stubborn, kind, vain, helpful, etc….)

      • The decisions you make on a day to day basis are often the product of what you believe and value and the habits you formed over the year – in a sense one knows what he/she has to do long before he/she has to decide

      • The moral principles you learn also helps to make up your character = your character determines what you see, how you interpret what you see, and how you respond to what you see.

      • With all of this at stake, how important is it that you pay attention to the formation of your moral character?




    1. The importance of Conscience:

      • “For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?” Matthew 16:26

      • Conscience is the place where we hold our own selves in our hands

      • As per the Church – conscience is a voice that calls us “to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil” - a law inscribed in human hearts by God”
      • When you were younger you were told what to do however as you mature it is your responsibility to do what is right.


      • This distinction between being self-directed and being other-directed makes the difference between a mature and an immature conscience




      • The difference between Conscience and the Superego

      • A simplified way of thinking about the difference between superego and moral conscience is to distinguish between the “should” or “have to” and the wants as the source of commands directing our behaviour.




Superego

Moral conscience

  • Shoulds/have tos – belong to someone else

  • Wants – belongs to you

  • Source of love and approval – therefore follow the command fear of losing love or acceptance and approval

  • Acts in responding to call to commit ourselves to value




  • Personal perception and appropriation of values we discover in the stories of person we want to become







  • Three related senses of the word “conscience”

  1. Conscience as a capacity to recognize right and wrong
  2. Conscience as a process of moral reasoning


  3. Conscience as a judgment




  1. The importance of Conscience:

  • Your conscience develops as you mature. Your sense of right and wrong, which is formed within your family, becomes increasingly refined with time.

  • Your conscience develops as you take account of and follow the norms, values, virtues and commandments found in our Christian tradition as guidelines for your conscience.

  • Your conscience helps you deal with your moral failures and sins (through your faults you become aware of your weakness and fragility as a human being and of your need to participate in the Eucharist and prayer life of the Church)

  • Your conscience develops as you grow in the virtue of humility, realizing that we are not the final arbiters of what is right and wrong. Our humility leads us to seek direction of the Church.

Sigmund Freud


  • Creator of psychoanalytic theory

  • Began his scientific career as a neurologist – treating people with nervous disorders by using conventional methods and as each failed he moved on to hypnosis and then abandoned this as well.

  • He discovered the method of free association in which a patient is instructed to say everything that comes to mind regardless of how trivial it is or embarrassing.

    • Through this method Freud was able to detect consistent themes that were manifestations of unconscious wishes and fears.

  • Compared the human mind to an iceberg (part of the iceberg that is above the water = the conscious and the part that is submerged in water = the unconscious – a storehouse of impulses, passions, and inaccessible memories that affect our thoughts and behaviours.
  • Everything that we are aware of is found in our conscious everything that we are unaware of is found in our unconscious.


  • Preconscious (subconscious) is the part of us that we can access if prompted, but is not in our active conscious (can be recalled if needed for example a phone number or a childhood memory)

  • The water is seen as the nonconscious – everything that we are unaware of or not have experienced.

  • Freud may not have been the first to discover the conscious and unconscious…but he was the first to give them primary importance in the everyday functioning of normal personality.

  • Psychological determinism – is the doctrine that all thoughts, emotions, and actions have a cause and that most of them are caused by unsatisfied drives and unconscious wishes.

  • Freud argued that dreams, humour, forgetting and slips of the tongue (“Freudian slips”) all serve to relieve psychological tension by gratifying forbidden impulses or unfulfilled wishes.



Personality Structure


  • Freud believed that personality is composed of three major systems; the id, ego and superego


Id

  • The id is the most primitive part of personality, from which the ego and the superego later develop.

  • It is present in newborn infants and it consists of the basic biological impulses (or drives) = the need to eat, to drink, to eliminate wastes, to avoid pain and to gain sexual (sensual) pleasure.

  • Believed that aggression is also a basic biological drive

  • Believed that sexual and aggression = the most important instinctual determinants of personality throughout life

  • Id seeks immediate gratification of these impulses

  • Id operates on the pleasure principle it endeavors to obtain pleasure and to avoid pain, regardless of the external circumstances.


The Ego


  • Children soon learn that impulses cannot be gratified immediately…hunger – you need to wait until someone provides food; going to the bathroom – when the bathroom is free; certain impulses like hitting someone may lead to punishment from a parent

  • A new part of the personality the ego develops as the young child learns to consider the demands of reality

  • The ego obeys the reality principle – the gratification of impulses must be delayed until the appropriate environmental conditions are found.

  • It is essentially the executive of the personality: it decides what actions are appropriate and which id impulses will be satisfied and in what manner

  • The ego mediates among the demands of the id, the realities of the world, and the demands of the superego.


The Superego

  • The third part of the personality, the superego is the internalized representation of the values and morals of society as it is taught to the child by the parents and others.

  • Essentially it is the individual’s conscience

  • The superego determines whether an action is right or wrong

  • Therefore, the id seeks pleasures, the ego tests reality and the superego strives for perfection.

  • Superego develops in response to parental rewards and punishments – and as a result of these parental standards that develop within the superego the child’s behaviour is under their own control as they no longer need someone to tell them what is right or wrong…rather their superego tells them.

  • Violating the superego – produces anxiety = originally the anxiety over the loss of parental love.
  • Freud claims this anxiety = largely unconscious but may be felt as guilt


  • If parental standards = too strict – individual may be guilt-ridden and inhibit all aggressive or sexual impulses or if the parental standards don’t exist – few behavioural constraints and may engage in self-indulgent or criminal behaviour which = a weak superego

**the three components are often in opposition – ego postpones gratification of the id, the superego battles with the id and the ego because the behaviour falls short of the moral code



  • In a well integrated personality – the ego remains in firm but flexible control – the reality principle governing.






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