The root causes of unnecessary human suffering have been interpreted in two broad ways. Some who have pondered these matters relate human suffering to human nature; others seek an explanation in an oppressive social system and its hegemonic ideology. In terms of the former, the belief is that human beings possess “selfish genes” from which emerge different moral dilemmas; for the latter, human beings are by nature “good,” and it is the state of societal conditions that determines whether this disposition remains or is reconfigured. Acts of dehumanization—injustice, oppression, exploitation, and alienation—can be overcome or mediated through social change.
It seems that one explanation of the origins of human suffering exaggerates human self-interest and ignores the influence of social factors while the other acts in the reverse. In reality, however, both social system and human nature problems coexist. The latter problems are better conceived as human consciousness problems, which are far more complex. Social change aided by social and cultural criticism might more readily meet social system and ideological crises; however, it is not easy to satisfy insatiable human desire represented in varying forms of egoism, ambition, lust, and greed. To attend to human consciousness problems requires something different. It necessitates transcendence through the cultivation of conscience. This suggests that the cultivation of conscience is imperative, though it is often ignored in current sociocultural discourses dominated by empiricism, social ← 1 | 2 → constructionism, postmodernism, and, in particular, neo-liberalism. The enigma, nevertheless, is that human basic...
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