Theories on man’s development from a state of nature into politics and the present have all been an attempt to understand the purpose of life. After all, a look at what man was like before politics should give some sense of what his initial aims were. However, the ends of mankind have never been agreed upon, with ideas ranging from simple survival to complex interrelations of populations on a global scale. Perhaps the best way to define the ends of the individual would be that those ends must be found by the individual, thus making them different for every person. However, for a political individual, there is a larger interplay of forces. In a political society, it is possible for others to abridge your own personal pursuit of your own good. This leads to a fundamental question: do the ends of the individual naturally oppose those of a society? This is most likely not the case, as the purpose of a government, a civil society, a politic body, is to allow everyone to pursue their own sense of purpose.
The overall development of thought in this direction, towards human purpose, matured by the time Benjamin Constant spoke on the subject. In addressing the current thought that the purpose of government was to allow “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (Jefferson, 240), Constant asks, “Is it so evident that happiness, of whatever kind, is the only aim of mankind?” (Constant, 327). Life is our initial purpose as a human, and liberty is the purpose of a government, but the final ends of mankind are more difficult to define, with the final words in this sequence changing often. Do we have the right to property, happiness, and a side order of fries? Anything could be stated in that final position; Constant argued that it was ...
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...first, obvious destiny of humanity follows quite simply from the state of Nature: survival. However, Rousseau’s complaints about modern society must be taken in to account; it is not enough in today’s world to survive. Strife and war are the products of society, just as the absence of the same is the purpose of government. Thus, our continued survival as a species must be meaningful – must have purpose. It begins with the individual, who should indeed aim to be happy. However, this should not be wholly selfish, but should instead be a pursuit of happiness with a thought of society in mind. In any way that our own self-actualization can improve others, society as a whole is improved. The better we can make things, the nobler and worthier the species is of survival. In the end, then, humanity’s aim should be to live lives that make our survival worth Nature’s efforts.
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