What is La Condition Humaine? One thing is certain, that man is destined to ask “what is human life and is it possible to give it a dignity and a meaning?” Man seems to be confronted with alternatives and these questions arise when he must make decisions . On what terms must he make his choices? Can man make rational decisions and can he act upon them or does he respond blindly to blind stimuli and then call these responses rational? Is the nature of man good or bad?
I think that the nature of man is neither good nor bad but determined by the situation in which it is formed and expressed. The same forces that shape us and determine our nature at the same time seem to give us the material for understanding. Therefore it is a paradox that while limiting and defining us, they liberate us. However there seem to be some forces that shackle a man rather than enabling him to grow. These shackle him physiologically, psychologically, physically, morally. There seem to be some circumstances in which men are able to achieve self-understanding and world understanding and to order their lives in terms of their understanding. But there are other circumstances in which he becomes bent and blind and disordered. Man has certain basic needs which must be attended to before he can act as a rational human being. The stage must be set on which he is to act and it seems to be the role of society to attend to this.
It seems sensible to give all men opportunities for development, to enable them to choose for themselves what is good. To make a society good for only a few seems self-defeating. It is settling for something very minor when perhaps a great deal can be gained. To sacrifice many men for one poet, for instance, is destroying for an end that may be futile. For is it a reasonable goal to create a poet without creating a society where he may be appreciated and evaluated?
Whatever values one chooses are ultimately dependent for their realization upon the social order. Moreover the values one chooses are also dependent upon the social order. Therefore it seems to me that the political struggle is the most significant since it creates to a large extent the environment of man and the nature of man. To be concerned with this and to act for other human beings seems to give the greatest dignity to human life. For then you can help give human beings the only freedom there is…to discover for themselves what is good and to act upon it.
The date of this essay is unknown, but it was probably written as a college undergraduate in the early 1940’s