One way or another, many other educations aimed at the same end; but what they were pursuing was first the formation of a particular type of man: the citizen-warrior (as opposed to the slave and the foreigner) in ancient Sparta; the orator, the eloquent man was Isocrates’ ideal; the learned and pious humanist was that of the sixteenth century and the honest man was the ideal of the seventeenth century . French century, etc. Comenius wants to go beyond these particular specifications to form man as God designed him when he proposed to form Adam. What did God have in mind? By answering this question according to the elements that he finds in the Bible, our philosopher thinks of discovering the characteristics which constitute man in himself, independently of the particular specifications with which belonging to a determined culture clothes him; in other words, he thinks he is attaining the characteristics that constitute man in his very nature. The educator will have the task of molding this human nature in each of the individuals.
But isn’t this vision a chimera? Nowadays, in fact, not everyone believes that we can still speak of human nature; have we not written: “It is an idea henceforth acquired that man has no nature, but that he has or rather that he is a history”? 1 Elsewhere we can read this: “There is no human nature. We cannot determine any “natural” human conduct, any behavior that we would be sure to find in all men, any specifically human characteristic (innocence, spontaneity, perversity, indiscipline, etc.) 2 These statements reflect a certain mentality which was formed under the influence of various currents.
That of Marxism first. Also “Marxist orthodoxy sees in the environment the principle of any explanation of man” 4 ; and, in communist countries, it was thought possible to form a “new man” and make the educator an “engineer of souls”! For behaviorism, man is constituted by the responses he gives to the stimuli that affect him. “In some of his books,” BF Skinner “assures us that we can create any kind of social conduct in any individual at will by simply putting in place the right kind of. Contemporary ethnology, by taking an interest in the multiplicity and diversity of human mores and behaviors, has helped to blur the idea that there were, at a deeper level, constants and invariants that were found among the most diverse peoples. One by one, aspects of behavior which we used to regard as invariably part of human nature, turned out to be simply results of the environment . “
fixed in its development like the animal and that it is up to it to realize little by little the requirements of its essence, to thus become truly human or on the contrary to remain below its requirements, we are stating something indisputable, but basically quite banal. If, on the other hand, it is claimed that man, at the outset, has no determined structure, then one utters pure nonsense. Man, in fact, is, among other things, endowed with reason and freedom; it’s part of his ‘nature’”.
5We can therefore speak of a human nature without fear of speaking of a chimera. However, recourse to this human nature can sometimes present some danger. One can unduly assert – and one did not fail to do so – that such and such behaviors were justified simply because they were natural. Thus it would be in the nature of some (individuals or nations) to undertake, to succeed and to dominate, as it would be in the nature of certain others (individuals or nations, too) to be submissive and to serve. Invoking human nature would, in other cases, amount to justifying the status quo and differences in social status.