Contemporary Civilizations : An Essential Part Of An Individual 's Highest Level Of Achievement

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Contemporary Civilizations is a course intended to provoke conversation and thought on an individual’s role in a community. We see this premise outlined in Columbia University 's description of the course, which states, “the central purpose of Contemporary Civilization is to introduce students to a range of issues concerning the kinds of communities ... that human beings construct for themselves” (Contemporary Civilizations Home Page). While analyzing the types of communities different texts discuss, we have come across the conversation relating an individual’s inner nature and his (or her) external circumstances. Up to the point of Teresa de Cartagena’s texts, writers argue that an individual’s highest level of achievement is primarily…show more content…
We see this in Hayy Ibn Yaqzān’s pursuit of God through “constantly learning and improving his mind” (Tufayl, Hayy Ibn Yaqzān 117). Ibn Tufayl hinges Hayy’s development throughout the story on the character’s sense of reason and deduction. Teresa follows a similar train of thought and argues that for rational creatures such as humans, “reason guides us toward all that is good and fitting of our temporal good and our spiritual well being… and temperance… constrain us to curb the disordered appetites of our human weakness” (Grove of the Infirm 33). Here, Teresa states that humans, who are rational creatures, are innately reasonable and can use this reason to attain religious fulfillment. However, while previous writers hinge our achievements on our inner natures, Teresa argues that this is not the case. Aristotle argues in Politics that we are able to form more complex communities than animals and differ in purpose than them as well because of our ability to use language to communicate “what is good or bad, just or unjust, and the rest [because] we say, no animal has speech except a human being” (Politics, I.2, 1253a10-15). Therefore, Aristotle reasons, without this social inclination and innate ability to learn language, we would be like animals and unable to achieve higher levels of existence. According to this line of logic, our achievements are influenced by our inner natures. However, Teresa uses her own life as a counterargument to this
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