Human Condition

With the readers’ indulgence I’ll briefly describe the three conceptions of man common in philosophical circles: man the artisan, man the lawmaker, and man the participant.

Man the artisan addresses the desire in each and every one of us has to build something that goes beyond our mortal existence. It can be a cathedral or the latest cure for cancer. We seek purposive movement of the mind seeking to realize something larger than our daily personal toiletries. We desire overarching goals.

Man the lawmaker builds communities to work together for efforts larger than the individual. We build rules of conduct that allow all of us to better gauge the actions of our coworkers. We define the rights and responsibilities of membership+ in our communities – with the product of our combined efforts fully expected to exceed the loss of freedom we forfeit by joining. By what system of laws should I govern myself – how do I administer the legal domain of which I am the ruler or in which I participate in rule?

Man the participant freely assents to pursue the goals and to adhere to the rules of the community. We respond to the external environment imposed upon us making us responsible for our own actions. We are held responsible for what we have done and what we have failed to do. Are we being abused; are we being ignored? In the end it’s our ability to ‘step up to the plate’ regardless of external forces that is the measure of our authenticity. We are further responsible for changing the rules and even the goals should our voyage of discovery render past conceptions obsolete.

Productivity in Early R&D is all about the people. We rely almost exclusively on the creativity, passion, dedication of our staff almost to the exclusion of the surrounding technologies and processes. We want to tap into the inner drive of the individuals so they embrace the effort as though the disease their drug will cure were personally relevant. We want an almost religious faith in the goals and objectives of the R&D effort.

For this sort of religious fervor to be embraced there must be a free assent. Individuals cannot be coerced into having faith. Without free assent, men and women lapse into deadening routine and little by little become incapable of participating with authentic enthusiasm. If you set up a detailed list of rules and regulations for me to follow, I simply follow the rules, adhering to the letter but not the spirit of the rules. I publicly parade my adherence while I secretly undermine respect for the rules though my creative rationalizations and indulgencies.

Materials extracted and freely reworded from Niebuhr, The Responsible Self.


Further Reading