Title: "What is a Human?" Uses two of Kafka's works to describe what it means to be human.

Essay by jjbladesterCollege, UndergraduateA+, February 2003

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The essence of human nature is but a mystery even to the most renowned philosophers. It may be advantageous to look at human nature through the eyes of such great thinkers as Hobbes, Lock, and Aristotle. These men have postulated three separate, yet valid approaches to the question that has riddled mankind since the beginning of the human race. Many arguments have developed from the question, "What exactly makes us human?" To this day, we do not have a universally accepted answer, yet we have many concepts which, when combined, give us a concrete understanding of who we are and how we view ourselves.

Humans are naturally inclined towards aggression and selfishness. We are all (subconsciously or not) egoists seeking power and wealth. This natural competitive drive lends itself to conflict, which, in turn, brings about the formation of enemies. Kafka's Penal Colony addresses human aggression and power-hunger in the form of a twisted judicial system.

The officer in command of the monstrous torture mechanism sees it as his greatest achievement and certainly a valid addition to the colony's judicial system.

"The harrow forks up his entire body and dumps him into the pit, where he flops down on the cotton and the bloody water. Now the judicial procedure is over, we- I and the soldier- bury him quickly" (Penal, 205).

Clearly, the value of human life has diminished in the penal colony so much that nobody even notices the intricate machine at work anymore. Now this may seem like a stretch from our everyday lives or even the bounds of our country's laws (torture is not allowed in the U.S.), but we must not overlook the fact that it happens (under different stipulations, of course) all around us.

Thankfully, however, we are not motivated exclusively by this aggression.