"Human Nature" Does Not Exist

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by RedStar, Jul 30, 2012.

  1. RedStar The Comrade! Registered Senior Member

    Specifically, human nature does not exist objectively and independently of the human material condition. In this opening post, my assertion is that human nature is not an objective condition, and therefore is not a valid argument against socialism or communism.

    The belief that human nature is an objective and independent property of human existence is religious in nature. That is, it suggests that values exist independently of the human material condition. This is the epitome of idealism, the philosophical position that ideas exist independently of human thought, and perhaps even that ideas come before human reality. To suggest that human nature is a concrete, fixed, and eternal property of the human condition is to suggest that emotions and feelings such as greed are independent properties of the universe: that all human beings are necessarily subjected to the same repertoire of feelings irrespective of the material conditions that they find themselves in.

    In other words, and to put it as clearly as I can, to suggest that human nature is a valid argument against communism is to suggest that human nature is not impacted by material conditions. To suggest that human nature is not impacted by material conditions is to suggest that human nature is a property independent of the material world, or in other words, that ideas are independent of the material world. If this is suggested, it is necessary to provide evidence for the existence of objective values. This cannot be done; it comes down to faith.

    Human nature, as it is, must be a product of material conditions. We are, in the modern day, aware of evolutionary theory, and evolutionary psychology. As such, we are aware that our "nature" is simply a product of evolution; that is, a product of selection based upon material conditions. The existence of greed is, therefore, a product of an environment of scarcity and competition; in other words, there is a material reason for the existence of greed. Again, to suggest that greed is not dependent on material conditions is to suggest that human values are independent of the material world, which is a religious belief.

    Material conditions select and influence human values. When we live in a society where the mode of production is based on private property ownership, competition, and capital accumulation, human values are necessarily affected. Such a society encourages greed because greed is good for individual survival under such conditions. But because human values are impacted by material conditions, it must be true that a society built upon common ownership and co-operation will select and influence different values. No longer will greed be necessary or even productive. The development of the "new man", as Ernesto "Che" Guevara put it, will depend upon the material conditions of the new society. This is a gradual change that can only be fully developed when society is completely changed on a global level,i.e, when the material conditions (in societies, the mode of production) are different.
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  3. Xotica Everyday I’m Shufflin Registered Senior Member

    A few interesting reads on the subject of human/universal nature.

    “Economic man” in cross-cultural perspective: Behavioral experiments in 15 small-scale societies
    Henrich et al / 2004 /2005

    Human Universals
    Donald Brown / McGraw-Hill / 1991 / 160pp

    The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature
    Steven Pinker / Penguin / 2003 / 528pp
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  5. SciWriter Valued Senior Member

    Humans survived because of their violence, selfishness, and greed, not in spite of it, although there had to be cooperation, too, but that was primarily for the hunt or for war.
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  7. RedStar The Comrade! Registered Senior Member

    Yes, I agree with you. My entire assertion was that these qualities are the products of material conditions, and therefore that material conditions impact human nature.
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Humans lived with scarcity for hundreds of thousands of years. The Agricultural Revolution 12KYA suddenly put an end to it. Suddenly the tribe in the next valley were not competitors for scarce resources, so there was no longer a need to fear and hate them. Moreover, since economy of scale and division of labor increase productivity, there was good reason to invite them over to increase the size of the farming village.

    Eventually those villages grew into cities and people were required to live in harmony and cooperation with total strangers.

    Yet there is still a caveman inside each of us, our "human nature" if you will. When times get tough he tells us to think of ourselves, our family, our closest companions first, and let everybody else starve (or just kill them to eliminate the competition). Even when times are not tough, sometimes he gets restless, breaks out, and does something "anti-social" that would have been perfectly normal behavior in the Paleolithic Era.

    We've only gone through a few hundred generations of breeding since the technologies of farming and animal husbandry were invented. That's not nearly long enough for major changes in our psychology to evolve and propagate through survival of the fittest. We still are cavemen inside. We mollify them with TV, air conditioning, pizza and a domesticated wolf lying at their feet who thinks they're God. But every now and then they take control. Occasionally an entire tribe is hijacked by their inner cavemen at the same time, and we have a war.

    This contrasts strikingly with our dogs, who in those same twelve thousand years have undergone twelve thousand generations of breeding. Their "wolf nature" has been bred out of them, replaced by "dog nature." They're more gregarious than wolves, they enjoy the company of other species, they prefer scavenging to hunting, their alpha instinct is muted so a human who drags half a dead cow home every two weeks is welcomed as the pack leader, and in order to appeal to us they retain the traits of puppyhood forever: barking, wagging their tails, chasing sticks and just generally playing--behaviors that wolves lose when they become adults.

    So if you compare us with our "best friends," it's obvious that their nature has changed a lot, whereas ours has changed very little. If we could be like our dogs, the world would be a better place, if perhaps a dirtier one.
  9. RedStar The Comrade! Registered Senior Member

    I pretty much agree with everything you said there, Fraggle Rocker.
  10. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    That analysis goes too far by half in its characterization of the causes and mechanisms of warfare. War is not simply some mass psychological abberation - there are real conflicts of interest that real intellects cannot figure out how to cope with otherwise. The rise of agriculture did not, completely and permanently, do away with the question of scarsity and competition. War is not simply some tragic evolutionary artifact that we will grow out of given sufficient generations to internalize the effects of agriculture.

    That stuff hasn't been "bred out" or "replaced," but simply repressed. And such expressions must be continuously repressed at all times, or they will re-assert themselves with striking rapidity. If you let packs of domesticated dogs go feral, the re-express all that wolf stuff in short order. Within a generation or two, it is pretty much gone.

    Not helpful advice, since "being like dogs" by definition requires subservience to some more powerful species that ruthlessly represses all urges to violence and anti-social behavior, by means of near-total control of mating and reproduction and a brutal willingness to kill any problematic subjects outright.
  11. RedStar The Comrade! Registered Senior Member

    I agree, but it is a product of material conditions. That's the point I'm making.

    Material conditions.
  12. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Given that the world, nature and all of the wonders within it, consist of nothing other than "material conditions," I'm going to have to ask if this thread shouldn't be in one of the religion of philosophy subfora instead. The question of the relationship between "human nature" and "material conditions," write large, does not seem to be one of "Ethics, Morality & Justice" particularly.
  13. RedStar The Comrade! Registered Senior Member

    Agreed, but I didn't know where to put it.
  14. The Esotericist Getting the message to Garcia Valued Senior Member

    Actually, I have read that war is one of the primary reasons why humans have evolved to be such a cooperative and altruistic species. From what I understand, early groups of hominids that had social norms and strong social cohesion would have been more easily organized and whipped into a reactive frenzy to protect their own members and resources than neighboring groups.

    It seems there really is something to both a competitive and a cooperative nature in human behavior.

    For this, I would remind people how heroic firefighters, policemen, and warriors have been traditionally been viewed by women in all societies. Do they go on to later become leaders and have more children then other men in their cultural groups? Would it not be fair then to posit that altruistic and cooperative behavior is selected for and thus a natural behavior?
  15. kx000 Valued Senior Member

    Grey with me.
  16. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    try and show anything soft science as objective and independent and you will be left scratching your head.

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