The goal assigned to education by Comenius is to “train man”. One way or another, many other educations were aimed at the same end; but what they pursued was first of all the training of a particular type of man: the citizen-warrior (opposed to the slave and to the foreigner) in ancient Sparta; the orator, the eloquent man, was the ideal of Isocrates; the humanist scholar and pious was that of the XVI th century and the honest man was the ideal of the XVII th French century, etc. Comenius wants to go beyond these particular specifications to form man as God designed him when he set out to fashion Adam. What did God have in view? By answering this question according to the elements he finds in the Bible, our philosopher thinks he is discovering the characteristics which constitute man in himself, independently of the particular specifications with which he belongs to a determined culture; in other words, he thinks he attains the characteristics which constitute man in his very nature. The educator will have the task of shaping this human nature in each of the individuals.
2But isn’t this vision a pipe dream? Nowadays, in fact, not all believe that we can still speak of human nature; have we not written: “It is an idea henceforth acquired that man has no nature, but that he has or rather that he is a history”? 1 Elsewhere we can read this: “There is no human nature. We cannot determine any “natural” human behavior, any behavior that we would be sure to find in all men, any specifically human characteristic (innocence, spontaneity, perversity, indiscipline, etc.) 2 These affirmations reflect a certain mentality which was formed under the influence of various currents.
3First of all, that of Marxism. For Marx the nature of man exists, but it is not immutable: “By acting on nature, outside of him, man simultaneously modifies his own nature” 3 . Also “Marxist orthodoxy sees in the environment the principle of any explanation of man” 4 ; and, in the communist countries, it was believed to be able to form a “new man” and to make of the educator an “engineer of souls”! For Behaviorism, man is constituted by the responses he gives to stimuli that affect him. “In some of his books,” BF Skinner “assures us that we can create any kind of social conduct in any individual at will by simply putting in place the right kind of behavior.. For a certain existentialism, man is only what he makes himself. “Sartre did wonders of virtuosity to establish that man has no nature” 6 . Contemporary ethnology, by taking an interest in the multiplicity and diversity of human mores and behaviors, has contributed to blurring the idea that there were, at a deeper level, constants and invariants that were to be found. among the most diverse peoples. The culturalist current seems to transpose the notion of human nature from the level of the structures that constitute man, to the level of habits and behaviors imposed on individuals by society: respect for taboos observed in the clan, respect for property, insolent behavior of young people to adults, etc.Mr. Mead even writes: “One by one, aspects of behavior which we used to regard as invariably part of human nature turned out to be simply the results of the environment
4What should we think of all these assertions that deny the existence of human nature? Some are not very serious; a scientist, P.-P. Grassé, says that we “can only read them by shrugging our shoulders” 9. Generally speaking, R. Vancourt seems to have posed the problem well when he wrote: “If we mean by that (by asserting that man does not have nature) that the human being is not frozen in its development like an animal and that it is up to it to gradually fulfill the requirements of its essence, to thus become truly human or, on the contrary, to remain below its requirements, we state something indisputable, but basically quite banal. If, on the contrary, we claim that man, at the outset, has no determined structure, then we are uttering pure nonsense. Man, in fact, is, among other things, endowed with reason and freedom; it is part of its “nature” ”
We will therefore be able to speak of human nature without fear of speaking of a chimera. However, resorting to this human nature can sometimes present some danger. We can unduly assert – and we did not fail to do so – that such and such behaviors were justified by the sole fact that they were natural. So it would be in the nature of some (individuals or nations) to undertake, to succeed and to dominate, as it would be in the nature of some others (individuals or nations, too) to be submissive and to serve. To invoke human nature would, in other cases, be tantamount to justifying the status quo and differences in social status. Worse, social privileges being obtained