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Karl Marx: View on Human Nature

1. Introduction
2. Human nature as historical and changeable phenomenon
3. Human nature based on social relations
4. Human creativity and productivity as a part of human nature
5. Conclusion
6. Bibliography

Karl Marx was one of the prominent philosophers of the 19th century who produced a profound impact on the development of philosophical though of the further generations and practically changed the traditional view on the world, human nature and the complexity and nature of human relations. His impact may be observed in different spheres of life from politics to literature, while his ideas became the basis for probably the largest experiment of the creation of a communist state that was realized in the 20th century but failed.
Nevertheless, his views are still relevant and provoke heat discussions since the ideas generated more than a century ago are still popular and supported by many people. In such a situation, it is extremely important to analyze Karl Marx’s views on human nature as the basis of his philosophy since they obviously differ from the views on human nature preceding Marx and even nowadays they are still relevant and noteworthy. In fact, his views on human nature logically continue his general line in his philosophical views and actually incorporate his views on the development of human society, changes that occur within it and reasons for such changes.
Human nature as historical and changeable phenomenon
On analyzing Karl Marx’s views on human nature, it is necessary to discuss them in the context of the general philosophical views and ideas developed by Karl Marx. In this respect, it should be pointed out that Karl Marx viewed the development of human beings as well as human nature at large as a historical process that is susceptible to changes in the course of development of human beings and human society. In fact, he states that “all history is but a continuous transformation of human nature” . It means that Karl Marx viewed human nature as a complex phenomenon that changes and evolves in the process of its development.
Basically, Karl Marx stands on the ground that there is little that is really essential to human nature. In this respect, he differs dramatically from the philosophers of the past who supported essentialists’ views, such as Plato, or Descartes. Instead, Karl Marx rejects views on human nature as some fixed, universally necessary and transcendent phenomenon underlying its changeable nature. In fact, it fully corresponds to his philosophical views which were based on principles of historical materialism.
No wonder, Karl Marx states that “it is absolutely impossible to transcend the laws of nature. What can change in historically different circumstances is only form in which these laws expose themselves” . In such a way the philosopher underlines that human nature is historical.
However, it would be a mistake to think that Karl Marx viewed human nature as totally controlled by history. In stark contrast he argues that “history does nothing; it does not possess immense riches, it does not fight battles. It is men, real, living who do all this… It is not history which uses men as a means of achieving – as if it were an individual person – its own ends. History is nothing but the activity of men in pursuit of their ends” . In such a way, Karl Marx stands on a solid anthropocentric position underlying the role of humans in the process of historical development of human society. It should be said that such a position is quite logical, taking into consideration his ideas concerning the process of development of human society as a process of the constantly changing formations marking the shift from one social formation, based on certain way of production, to another.
At the same time, it is even possible to speak about certain irony of Karl Marx in relation to those who underline that it is history that shapes human beings and human nature and warns against pointblank copying of historical processes that took place in the past since, according to him, “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce” .
Nevertheless, Karl Marx is conscious of the fact that the surrounding reality produces a profound impact on human nature and, to a certain extent, shape human conscience. Moreover, he underlines that human beings are relatively weak and their actions are often predetermined by their past experience and historical heritage but, in this respect, it is necessary to understand that even this historical heritage is formed by human beings but not some abstract force. In this respect, it is worthy of noting that Karl Marx states that “men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past” .
It is extremely important to underline that Karl Marx viewed human nature and its development in historical context and, what is more important, he emphasized the fact that human nature in principle is susceptible to changes which reflect the changes of the surrounding reality which occur in the process of historical development under the impact of different circumstances.
At the same time, human beings constantly progress and each historical stage of the development marks certain profound changes in human relations. In such a situation, human nature turns to be a constantly changeable and progressing phenomenon dependent on the historical experience acquired by people in the course of their development.
Human nature based on social relations
Obviously, Karl Marx viewed human nature as a very complicated process, in which social relations between individuals play probably the crucial role. It should be said that Karl Marx considered social relations an essential part of human life and they were actually the natural characteristic of human beings. In fact, he traditionally considered social relations as the basis of the human development, and, thus, it is possible to estimate that social relations were the constituent element of human nature.
Moreover, he underlines that human beings cannot exist in isolation from the society that means that it would be against human nature if an individual developed in isolation from the rest of the society. Karl Marx stands on the ground that the development of an individual is unimaginable out of society and it is only in the social interactions with other people individuals develop and progress.
At the same time, on analyzing his views on human nature and the complexity of social relations as an essential part of the former, it is necessary to point out that social relations and human socialization is not a kind of existence of individuals within one and the same society but it implies the close interaction and interrelation between individuals. To put it more precisely, Karl Marx argues that “society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of interrelation, the relations within which these individuals stand” .
It should be said that in the process of such interrelations between individuals within the society the socialization of an individual occurs and, what is more, the changing social relations between people can lead to the change of human nature. In other words, human social relations are not static neither human nature does. Instead they constantly evolve and changes affecting the position of individuals within the society and their attitudes. Moreover, in the process of social relations individuals’ views, opinions, and beliefs are shaped. This is why it is possible to estimate that it is in the process of social relations human conscience or individual perception of the surrounding world may change. As a result, it would be quite logical to speak about the changing nature not only of human relations but also of their impact on human nature at large.
In this respect, it is important to say that Karl Marx in attempts to understand human nature and its dependence on human relations developed the view on human society as an extremely complex system where relations between individuals are structured and predetermined by the position individuals occupy in the society. In fact, he argued that there exist different classes which may be divided into the ruling or dominating classes or class and the oppressed or dominated classes.
Judging from such views on the structure of human society, it is possible to estimate that Karl Marx underlined that human nature actually does not differ dramatically from the nature of any other living beings. To put it more precisely, it is possible to trace certain correlations in views of Karl Marx and Charles Darwin in respect to the nature of human relations and human nature at large. In fact, the philosopher realized that injustice and the necessity to take a possibly higher position in the society are inseparably integrated in human nature but, to a significant extent, these trends result form the social relations which stimulate individuals to constantly struggle for the improvement of their social position. Naturally, this lead to the class struggle as an essential part of social life and, thus, it is a part of human nature, which, i.e. this part, though also may be changed. In this respect, it is worthy to say that this is actually the view of Karl Marx on the current situation in society based on capitalist relationships dominating in the life of people and actually defining the essence of human nature at the moment. As a result, the philosopher underlines that the actual formation is based on injustice and the oppression of the working class by the ruling classes, notably, he states that “here, where the worker’s life is regulated from childhood on by bureaucracy, and he himself believes in the authorities, in the bodies appointed over him, he must be taught before all else to walk by himself” . In such a way, the philosopher argues that the existing social relations shaping human nature should be changed and, unlike other philosopher, he appeals that “the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various way; the point, however, is to change it” . However, in actuality, he rather appeals to change not only the world but the human nature itself which, at the moment, is shaped under the influence of unjust social relations.

Human creativity and productivity as a part of human nature
In this respect, it should be said that human creativity and productivity could be used to change the world as Karl Marx appeals. In general, it should be said that creativity is viewed by the philosopher as an essential part of human nature. Moreover, it is human creativity that actually distinguishes humans from all the other living beings. Thus, it is the really unique characteristic of humans and human nature.
In this respect, it is worthy of mention that Karl Marx states that “the animal is one with its life activity. It does not distinguish activity from itself. But man makes his life activity itself an object of his will and consciousness. He has a conscious life activity. It is not a determination with which he is completely identified” .
In such a way, it is obvious that Karl Marx sincerely believes that human creativity is a very powerful tool that can change not only social relations but human nature itself. In fact, according to Karl Marx, creativity is the tool with which human beings actually shape their nature because it is due to human creativity humans constantly progress and develop and this is due to creativity one formation is gradually changed by another, more progressive one.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Karl Marx paid a lot of attention to the problem of human nature and its essence in his works. Basically, he stood on the ground that human nature is historical and changeable. Moreover, the changes and evolution of human nature occur under the influence of various factors among which the most significant are human social interrelations and human creativity. At the same time, on analyzing the contemporary situation, Karl Marx points out that the existing social relations, and, thus, human nature should and will be changed and, in this respect, human creativity and the constant social struggle should be the basic tools that will lead human society and human nature to dramatic changes and further progress.

1. Gougeon, Len and Joel Myerson, Marxism: Writings. London: New Haven, 1995.
2. Marx. Carl. “Alienated Labor”, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, New York: Allyn and Spencer, 1999.
3. Marx, Karl. Collected Works, Vol. 3, New York: Random House, 2000.
4. Marx. Carl. Collected Works. Vol. 7, New York: Random House, 2002.
5. Marx, Karl. Collected Works, Vol. 13, New York: Random House, 2001.
6. Marx, Karl. Collected Works. Vol. 38, New York: Random House, 2002.
7. Marx, Karl. The Holly Family. New York: New Publishers, 1998.


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