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The human condition encompasses the unique features of being human, particularly the ultimate concerns of human existence. It can be described as the unalterable part of humanity that is inherent and innate to human beings and not dependent on factors such as gender, race, culture, or class. It includes concerns such as the meaning of life, the search for gratification, the sense of curiosity, the inevitability of isolation, and the awareness of the inescapability of death. In essence, the human condition is the self-aware, and reflective nature of homo sapiens that allows for analysis of existential themes.
The human condition is principally studied through the set of disciplines and sub-fields that make up the humanities. The study of history, philosophy, literature, and the arts all help us to understand the nature of the human condition and the broader cultural and social arrangements that make up human lives. The human condition is the subject of such fields of study as philosophy, theology, sociology, psychology, anthropology, demographics, evolutionary biology, cultural studies, and sociobiology. The philosophical school of existentialism deals with core issues related to the human condition including the ongoing search for ultimate meaning.
The existentialist psychotherapist Irvin D. Yalom has identified what he refers to as the four "givens" or ultimate concerns of human existence - concerns with meaning, loneliness, freedom and mortality. Yalom argues with Sartre that man is "condemned to freedom", and must face his ultimate aloneness, the lack of any unquestionable ground of meaning, and ultimate mortality.
A key theme in discussion of the human condition is that humans search for purpose, are curious and thrive on new information. High-level thought processes, such as self-awareness, rationality, and sapience, are considered to be defining features of what constitutes a person. It has been defined as humans' capacity for good and evil.
The human condition can be viewed as related to the manner in which the individual interprets and manipulates the world around him in order to serve man's needs (examples: kinship, pursuit of happiness, honour, etc.).
In most developed countries, improvements in technology, medicine, education, and public health have brought about quantitative, not necessarily qualitative, marked changes in the human condition over the last few hundred years, with increases in life expectancy and population (see demographic transition). One of the largest changes has been the availability of contraception, which has changed the lives of countless humans. Even then, these changes only alter the details of the human condition.
The term has been used in André Malraux’s novel (1933) and René Magritte’s paintings 1933 & 1935, both titled La Condition Humaine, Hannah Arendt’s book (1958) and Masaki Kobayashi’s film series (1959-1961).
Australian biologist Jeremy Griffith has written a number of books on the subject of the human condition including Free: The End of the Human Condition (1988); Beyond the Human Condition (1991); A Species In Denial (2003); and Freedom (2011); and defines the human condition as "the agonising, underlying, core, real question in all of human life, of are humans good or are we possibly the terrible mistake that all the evidence seems to unequivocally indicate we might be?", arguing that science has now provided an answer to the human condition that defends and liberates humans.