nature of man; essence of man; man, nature of

My concept of human nature is different from the way the term „human nature“ is used conventionally. Just as man transforms the world around him, so he transforms himself in the process of history. He is his own creation, as it were. But just as he can only transform and modify the natural materials around him according to their nature, so he can only transform and modify himself according to his own nature. (…) ― Man as he appears in any given culture is always a manifestation of human nature, a manifestation, however, which in its specific outcome is determined by the social arrangements under which he lives. Just as the infant is born with all human potentialities which are to develop under favorable social and cultural conditions, so the human race, in the process of history, develops into what it potentially is. ― (1955a: The Sane Society, New York (Rinehart and Winston, Inc.) 1955, pp. 13f.)

I propose that man’s nature cannot be defined in terms of a specific quality, such as love, hate, reason, good or evil, but only in terms of fundamental contradictions that characterize human existence and have their root in the biological dichotomy between missing instincts and self-awareness. Man’s existential conflict produces certain psychic needs common to all men. He is forced to overcome the horror of separateness, of powerlessness, and of lostness, and find new forms of relating himself to the world to enable him to feel at home. I have called these psychic needs existential because they are rooted in the very conditions of human existence. They are shared by all men, and their fulfillment is as necessary for man’s remaining sane as the fulfillment of organic drives is necessary for his remaining alive. ― (1973a: The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, New York (Holt, Rinehart and Winston) 1973, p. 226.)