Forests have been leveled to supply the trees used in the legions of books written on the nature of men yet the core distinctions between the schools of thought can be distilled into two camps: The Physical and Spiritual. Whereas Hobbes might have espoused a depressing, physical understand of man as a “simply more complicated machine operating according to a more complicated set of rules [of nature],” Hegel advocates a spiritually rousing view that a man can and will fight to be free (1). More specifically, he teaches that man’s soul yearns for recognition by others and by demanding it through battle they demonstrate freedom from natural self preservation (2). Echoing Hegel, it is the opinion of this author that man is dynamic and spiritual, transcending physical nature in order to fight for freedom; For as long as man fights for recognition, there is free will.
A cursory glance at history and even the current news would understandably cause anyone to doubt the existence of true free will. If man was truly free, would he not, by extension of his will bring into existence a cleaner, happier world, populated only by liberal democracies? Hegel and his modern apostle Fukuyama have at their disposal the most effective of fallbacks: as long as there still exists mankind, the fight for recognition (true free will) continues to exist. Fukuyama more recently proposed the idea that even through the means of destructive and suppressive regimes, the battle for recognition (and thus by extension freedom) carries on. He explained,
“ In in the Chinese case I really do think it's a it's a struggle for recognition. You know, they don't care about these stupid coral reefs and so forth in the South China and East China Seas. I mean I think what they want is they want to be recognized as the number one power in that part of the world which was their historic role in dynastic China and after having gone through a hundred years of humiliation and whatnot, they're back” (3)
Saving the coral reefs, altruism in public policy, and cooperation between nations would be in the natural self-interest of mankind. Yet this species continues to assert its freedom over natural self-preservation through entities (as counterintuitively destructive yet essentially liberating) such as the Chinese government.
From this perspective, not only is the conflict between nature and recognition fought at an individual but also at a macrocosmic level. This is because governments despite their stagnate and slowly decaying natures, are run by dynamic men. Thus, while the utilization of such devastating tools like nations may be disheartening, therein resides the very cure to such an organizational ailment. Fukuyama cites Spain, South Korea, and Taiwan as examples that China will naturally follow (1). While individual freedom was sacrificed for the freedom of collective Chinese prosperity amongst its international peers, that very prosperity will open up the opportunity for Chinese citizens to question their government. When questions cannot be answered, the hope for liberty will motivate individuals to challenge their leaders. This challenge will come in the form of conflict, as citizens pit themselves against individuals of power. Then when they abandon all thought of self-preservation in the pursuit of individual freedom, they will find recognition as men. Proving that even from the least promising circumstances, true free will can assert itself above the dominating nature of mortal safekeeping. For one is a free as one is willing.
- Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man. (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1992.143-152)
- Munk, David. "The Social Contract." Lecture, Society and the Individual, Old Main 121, Logan, September 19, 2017. https://usu.instructure.com/courses/469802/files/folder/Lecture%20Slides?preview=66682450
- Fukuyama, Francis. "Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History?” 25 Years Later." Speech, Hayek Auditorium, Washington DC. October 5, 2014. Accessed September 19, 2017. https://www.cato.org/events/francis-fukuyamas-end-history-25-years-later.