Our culture entertains a schizophrenic attitude towards human nature. On the one hand, egoism is held to be our most powerful motive, playing a crucial cultural role by explaining the appeal of capitalism and providing a foundation for individualism. By contrast much of the continental intellectual tradition speaks of wholeness and alienation, seeing human nature not as self-interested but as herd-like. Guldmann argues that this schism reflects two diverging conceptions of human agency, and that the attempt to locate human nature somewhere along a continuum between egoism and altruism presupposes a misleading picture of what it is to be a human being. The second, ’continental’ tradition is more illuminating because it recognizes that human beings are necessarily committed to some conception of the ultimately significant.
'"Continental" tradition in philosophy after Kant is so often felt to compare favorably with its "analytical" counterpart. There is much to be said for the orientation he associates with the Continental tradition, and elaborates in ways that helpfully bring out many of its important contributions to our self-understanding.' Richard Schacht, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA ’…Guldmann does an impressive job pulling together a considerable range of historical and contemporary reflection into a well-crafted, synthetically-rich and engaging tour of human nature.’ Review of Metaphysics
Contents: Introduction; The presumption of egoism; The ambiguity of egoism; Egoism's unofficial opposition; Egoism and heroism; A phenomenology of heroism; Heroism and human encounter; Heroism and individuality; Bibliography; Index.