Fear of Death & Human Nature

Natural Law and Human Rights: Toward a Recovery of Practical Reason (Catholic Ideas for a Secular World) by Pierre Manent

Pierre Manent

From the introduction written by Daniel J. Mahoney:

For the acting human being and the acting Christian, death cannot be the central concern of human existence. All people fear death, and we should not exaggerate the courage of most in this regard. But the acting person, though “naturally afraid of death,” Manent explains, does not do everything and anything to avoid it. He is concerned above all with doing the right thing, with seeking the right action and respecting the rules and priorities inherent in a serious human life. We are sometimes commanded, not by arbitrary authority but by the authority of what is right and good, to put ourselves at some mortal risk. Self preservation can never be the great desideratum for a human being guided by reflective choice and a conscience that honors truth and virtue. The great task of human beings is living well, and not preserving this-worldly existence indefinitely. On this Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, and Saint Paul would surely agree.

Building on Aristotle, Manent shows how no human being can act without deferring to the three great human motives: the pleasant, the useful, and the honorable ( or the just and noble). These are the “objective components of human nature.”

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