Philosphical Series-The Urgency Of The Anthropological Question (1)


The fact that “man” who is a political and social animal for Aristotle and is at the same time a religious animal for Mark Twain and a selfish animal for Thomas Hobbes, proves Battista Mondin right that the question “who is man” is the supreme question for man, the nucleus and the pivotal point of all interrogatives.

This is because every other thing in existence be it heaven or earth, acquires relevance only in reference to man. This points to the urgency of the anthropological question. Individual scientific disciplines cannot exhaustively answer this question for the study man only in his specific aspects, but man interests us in his totality, not in his aspects. Hence, although man is made up of parts that these anthropological disciplines study, he is not restricted to these aspects only.

Hence the need for anthropology that goes beyond particularities to wholesomeness or complete study of man even to his immaterial aspects. What we call metaphysics today was first called, “the first philosophy” by Aristotle in his metaphysics, book Gamma. And for Aristotle, there is a science that studies being as being”  therefore, to know what has relevance for man; there is the need for prior knowledge of man.

This brings up the anthropological question –who is man, how can we know man, as that would give room for understanding who the man is. How do we come to the knowledge of man? In his philosophical anthropology, Battista Mondin believes that the study of man in his totality can be carried out effectively by philosophical anthropology. It does this with two objectives.

  1. a) To obtain an adequate and exhaustive explanation for those singular phenomenal characteristics of the phenomenon of the human being
  2. b) To discover the truth and the sense of the whole of man’s being, covering the physical and the spiritual as well.

For the (Mondin) he believes that man is composed of material and spiritual substance, as such, should be studied with the phenomenological and the transcendental method. So this whole discourse is geared to prove that, to give an exhaustible knowledge of the being of man he must be studied from the phenomenology of his human modes of self –actualization (observable activities) to his metaphysical component, thus it is a study of man from phenomena (matter) to the soul (spiritual). This particular assertion is replete throughout this essay.



2.1 Anthropology

Derived from two Greek words “Anthropos”-man, and logos -discourse or study. The term anthropology simply means the study of man. It is the study and the knowledge of man. This is because neither of the two words is sufficient. Therefore, it is the knowledge and study of man, for it is through study that we know, thus anthropology is the study and knowledge of man.

2.2 The anthropological question

The anthropological question is – who is a man? This is the question that anthropology asks and equally seeks to give an exhaustive answer to.

2.3 Urgency of the anthropological question.

The urgency of the anthropological question – who the man is, is very urgent. Why is it urgent? It is urgent because man is the nucleus and the pivotal points of all interrogatives; every other thing in existence in the heavens or on earth acquires relevance only in reference to man.  Therefore, the anthropological question is urgent because the adequate study and knowledge of man are prior and as such determines and evaluates the value of every other thing we study about the manor in relation to man and the benefits it has for man. Therefore, man is the terminus a quo and the terminus ad quem of all interrogatives.

2.4 Approaches towards answering the anthropological question

  1. a) Imaginative anthropology: the effort of man in his quest to know who the man is, in his origin, nature, and scope. It is an attempt to know a man through imaginative stories. This is not based on factual evidence and mostly associated with the primitive man.

Religious anthropology: it is accounting for the being of man in the light of religious scriptures. This is not empirical however it ties to trace the origin of man through the scriptures.

Empirical anthropology: It is the knowledge of man acquired through empirical or scientific method.

Philosophical anthropology: it is the rational study of man. By rational study, it implies that the tool used in studying man is reason.

2.4.1 The shortcomings of the different anthropologies

Their shortcoming is that they are focused only on specific aspects of man, thereby offering only a superficial or partial knowledge of man. For instance, religious anthropology studies man in light of the scriptures. Thus it is merely anthropological and not anthropology. (Ordinary anthropology and philosophical anthropology are not anthropological but anthropologies, for they defer only in their methods)

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