Tag Archives: Human Nature

Oh look, once again science confirms Anarchism

Who would have thunk it eh? Once again, actual empirical research points out that humans are primarily co-operative rather than competitive and the hard primitivism assumptions of Hobbes (and favourite excuse of Clergy and Statists for their authority)  get even less realistic.

Ah, if only we had a society that was organized with such knowledge in mind rather than the harmful assumption that humans need to be protected from each other. If only…

Quote of the Day: Oh Human Nature

Quoth Emma Goldman

Poor human nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in thy name! Every fool, from king to policeman, from the flatheaded parson to the visionless dabbler in science, presumes to speak authoritatively of human nature. The greater the mental charlatan, the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and weaknesses of human nature.

Just goes to show how the same nonsense was eagerly used throughout the ages. “Human Nature” is the easy excuse for all oppression, from the State to Savery and from Patriarchy to Capitalism.

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Once more, reality shows that "Human nature" is not what the liberals claim it is

New Orleans is Flooded
Image by Spiritwood Images via Flickr

“Human Nature” has become the eternal cliche, the final argument that all those “civilized” and “liberal” will utter when a system that is not based on domination of human over human is proposed. An argument that has been refuted and debunked too many times to count and yet is commonly trotted out as the ultimate trump card in support of the State when everything else has been demolished.

And yet, once more reality begs to differ. When the chips are down and humans have nothing else to rely on other than their “nature”, we see time and again that it is mutual aid that overwhelmingly comes to the fore, not greed or any vice.

I just read this article from the Guardian which shines some light on the disaster of Katrina and what the reaction was from the poor, the rich and those in power. Needless to say, those who are most blamed about their “Human Nature” were the ones that empirically refuted this nonsense, while the ones who are supposed to be more “civilized” or enlightened enough to maintain order by limiting the excesses of “human nature” where the true monsters.

Here’s some choice quotes from the article. All emphasis mine.

Louisiana’s governor at the time, Kathleen Blanco, announced as she dispatched National Guard troops: “I have one message for these hoodlums: these troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so if necessary, and I expect they will.” She and the city’s mayor had called off the rescue efforts to focus on protecting private property – with lethal force if necessary.

Just in case you still believe that the state is for the benefit of the common people

One group of suburban white men who believed the rumours or just anticipated that in the absence of authority we all become monsters became monsters themselves, even as they fantasised they were preserving order. These men in Algiers Point across the river from the city of New Orleans gathered an arsenal and launched their own little murder spree, killing several black men and injuring and threatening others.

Just in case you think that believing in the nonsense about “human nature” is harmless.

Most people behave beautifully in disasters (and most Americans, incidentally, believe Obama was born in this country). The majority in Katrina took care of each other, went to great lengths to rescue each other – including the “cajun navy” of white guys with boats who entered the flooded city the day after the levees broke – and were generally humane and resourceful. A minority that included the most powerful believed they were preventing barbarism while they embodied it.

“Human Nature” my arse!

This is why every time I see this fucking argument made by any of those civilized people which prefer to support the true monsters, those “scientifically-minded” who ignore all empirical evidence, those bleeding-hearts who won’t let people help themselves, I get annoyed.

And then I get angry when in the face of all evidence, human nature will be brought up as an argument, when all that is really being shown is how ignorant and biased they are. And do you know why I get angry? Because it’s this argument that actually causes such horrible situation. When people are convinced that humans are basically evil when left uncontrolled, then one’s reaction when in such a situation will be to expect others to act like monsters and therefore they start acting like this themselves, making their false beliefs self-fulfilling and things worse than they already are.

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A Libertarian tries to argue against Egalitarianism…and fails miserably.

This image of a young :en:Murray Rothbard, ori...
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I was recently pointed by some Libertarians to the article of one of their intellectuals who tries to argue that Egalitarianism is a Revolt Against Nature. Subscribers will have probably noticed that I am a big supporter of egalitarianism so obviously I went there expecting some new arguments, some challenge. But my expectations dropped almost immediately.

The article starts with some promotion from the book and then moves to the main subject a few hundred words down (!). The first thing that is mentioned is how egalitarianism has been the common ideal of the left. How it has always been promoted as the ideal we should be striving for and how the right never bothered to argue against the ideal.

Soon (that is, a few hundred words later again), we move to the actual critique of egalitarianism itself. Good, I think, finally something tangible.

Let us proceed, then, to a critique of the egalitarian ideal itself — should equality be granted its current status as an unquestioned ethical ideal? In the first place, we must challenge the very idea of a radical separation between something that is “true in theory” but “not valid in practice.” If a theory is correct, then it does work in practice; if it does not work in practice, then it is a bad theory. The common separation between theory and practice is an artificial and fallacious one. But this is true in ethics as well as anything else. If an ethical ideal is inherently “impractical,” that is, if it cannot work in practice, then it is a poor ideal and should be discarded forthwith. To put it more precisely, if an ethical goal violates the nature of man and/or the universe and, therefore, cannot work in practice, then it is a bad ideal and should be dismissed as a goal. If the goal itself violates the nature of man, then it is also a poor idea to work in the direction of that goal.

(Emphasis mine)
Err right, ok. I can already see where this is going. He’s going to try to argue that Egalitarianism goes against the fundamental nature of man. This is a common challenge from Capitalists, arguing that anything other than this system cannot work because this is the only thing that can work with Human Nature. I have already written on this topic so at this point I’m curious to see how he will backup such a claim. Will he fall once again on the classic example of the USSR as the only possible result?

Suppose, for example, that it has come to be adopted as a universal ethical goal that all men be able to fly by flapping their arms. Let us assume that “proflappers” have been generally conceded the beauty and goodness of their goal, but have been criticized as “impractical.” But the result is unending social misery as society tries continually to move in the direction of arm flying, and the preachers of arm flapping make everyone’s lives miserable for being either lax or sinful enough not to live up to the common ideal. The proper critique here is to challenge the “ideal” goal itself; to point out that the goal itself is impossible in view of the physical nature of man and the universe; and, therefore, to free mankind from its enslavement to an inherently impossible and, hence, evil goal.

Can I has realistic example? I  mean WTF!? “men be able to fly by flapping their arms.”?? This is an example which’s practicality can be proven in no time from simple controlled experiments. Proving the feasibility of egalitarianism is not as simple. In small isolated environments (ie. communes), the feasibility of egalitarianism has been proven time and again, the problem is proving the practicality of achieving egalitarianism in the whole world, something that is not really easy to test.

This example also assumes that not only the lack of feasibility of egalitarianism has been proven (for obviously people cannot fly by flapping) but that people are still arguing for the benefits of this impossible theory. Well, I can only think of one kind of people who continue arguing for the benefits of their beliefs in the face of conflicting evidence. Theists. But I digress.

What, in fact, is “equality”? The term has been much invoked but little analyzed. A and B are “equal” if they are identical to each other with respect to a given attribute. Thus, if Smith and Jones are both exactly six feet in height, then they may be said to be “equal” in height. If two sticks are identical in length, then their lengths are “equal,” etc. There is one and only one way, then, in which any two people can really be “equal” in the fullest sense: they must be identical in all of their attributes. This means, of course, that equality of all men — the egalitarian ideal — can only be achieved if all men are precisely uniform, precisely identical with respect to all of their attributes. The egalitarian world would necessarily be a world of horror fiction — a world of faceless and identical creatures, devoid of all individuality, variety, or special creativity.

UBER FACEPALM!

Equality is what?! Sweet titty-fucking Jeebus, we have already gone into total disconnection from reality. If you can’t get even this right, I’m scared to see how the rest of the article will continue. Here let me give you a hint of what most people mean by “Egalitarianism”:

Egalitarianism (derived from the French word égal, meaning equal) is a political doctrine that holds that all people should be treated as equals and have the same political, economic, social, and civil rights. Generally it applies to being held equal under the law and society at large. In actual practice, one may be considered an egalitarian in most areas listed above, even if not subscribing to equality in every possible area of individual difference. – Wikipedia

To attempt to equate egalitarianism with uniformity goes beyond a simple equivocation. It becomes intellectually dishonest. Egalitarianism under no possible world means that people should be identical and I have never heard one person who expects such a thing. The most simple explanation would be that under Egalitarianism people are equal in social status. It does not require people to be equal in intelligence, strength or anything else but rather that such difference does not equate to difference in status.

Needless to say that already by expectations of a good argument were loosing water fast. The author went on to equate egalitarianism to a horror novels and nightmare scenarios in order, obviously, to appeal to emotion rather than reason. Simply pathetic and not even worth a refutation as it is based on the previous horribly wrong definition.

The horror we all instinctively feel at these stories is the intuitive recognition that men are not uniform, that the species, mankind, is uniquely characterized by a high degree of variety, diversity, differentiation — in short, inequality. An egalitarian society can only hope to achieve its goals by totalitarian methods of coercion; and, even here, we all believe and hope the human spirit of individual man will rise up and thwart any such attempts to achieve an ant-heap world. In short, the portrayal of an egalitarian society is horror fiction because, when the implications of such a world are fully spelled out, we recognize that such a world and such attempts are profoundly antihuman; being antihuman in the deepest sense, the egalitarian goal is, therefore, evil and any attempts in the direction of such a goal must be considered evil as well.

This is the brilliant Libertarian intellectualism that most people point to? If that is it, it’s depressing. It’s like me equating the liberty that Libertarianism requires with fucking eating human babies. I then point out that baby-eating is obviously something taken out of a horror movie and any sensible person can see that. We recognise then that liberty is evil and any attempts to such a goal must be considered evil as well.
What drivel.

The great fact of individual difference and variability (that is, inequality) is evident from the long record of human experience; hence, the general recognition of the antihuman nature of a world of coerced uniformity. Socially and economically, this variability manifests itself in the universal division of labor, and in the “Iron Law of Oligarchy” — the insight that, in every organization or activity, a few (generally the most able and/or the most interested) will end up as leaders, with the mass of the membership filling the ranks of the followers. In both cases, the same phenomenon is at work — outstanding success or leadership in any given activity is attained by what Jefferson called a “natural aristocracy” — those who are best attuned to that activity.

Uh no. Inequality is not evident from “the long record of human experience”, unless you equate human experience to that which happened only after civilization, that is the last 10k years. Barbaric and Savage tribes show indeed equality within their ranks. They have leaders but those leaders are easily removed and do not have dictatorial powers. The people in such tribes did not follow their leaders all the time, but simply the leaders expressed the desires of the tribe (or else they were removed).

The kind of leadership the author is talking about is indeed the norm once humans moved to civilization but not because this is some kind of human nature and the best rise to the top. This is simply classic libertarian assumptions. Indeed the human history is full of horrible leaders, idiot kings and pathetic rulers. I mean, just look a G.W. Bush ferchristsake. This natural aristocracy is a fantasy to tell to the lower classes in order to convince them not to argue with their position.

The age-old record of inequality seems to indicate that this variability and diversity is rooted in the biological nature of man. But it is precisely such a conclusion about biology and human nature that is the most galling of all possible irritants to our egalitarians. Even egalitarians would be hard put to deny the historical record, but their answer is that “culture” has been to blame; and since they obviously hold that culture is a pure act of the will, then the goal of changing the culture and inculcating society with equality seems to be attainable. In this area, the egalitarians slough off any pretense to scientific caution; they are scarcely content with acknowledging biology and culture as mutually interacting influences. Biology must be read out of court quickly and totally.

Notice how our author jumps from a weak correlation to an actual conclusion? This is the kind of intellectual laziness that passes for arguments from this camp I’m afraid. “Seems to indicate” indeed. I’m certain that this Economist who obviously has not taken a deeper look into human history other than a cursory glance at the general history of civilization can find a lot of things that “seem to be indicated”.

But such “seeming indications” do not equal anything tangible other than a possible connection. To jump from there and claim that this is a deep set biological imperative of human nature and that egalitarians are trying to ignore the real biological enemy within our own goddamn mind (or something), is nothing more than a assertion without evidence with an attempt to sprinkle it with scientific talk. Much like neoclassical economics really.

More unrealistic examples follow which base themselves on conclusions such as the two above which I won’t waste your time analyzing. It basically takes an example that would be obvious for everyone and claims that the egalitarians would be incapable of seeing it.

Women are another recently discovered “oppressed class,” and the fact that political delegates have habitually been far more than 50 percent male is now held to be an evident sign of their oppression. Delegates to political conventions come from the ranks of party activists, and since women have not been nearly as politically active as men, their numbers have understandably been low. But, faced with this argument, the widening forces of “women’s liberation” in America again revert to the talismanic argument about “brainwashing” by our “culture.” For the women’s liberationists can hardly deny the fact that every culture and civilization in history, from the simplest to the most complex, has been dominated by males. (In desperation, the liberationists have lately been countering with fantasies about the mighty Amazonian empire.) Their reply, once again, is that from time immemorial a male-dominated culture has brainwashed oppressed females to confine themselves to nurture, home, and the domestic hearth. The task of the liberationists is to effect a revolution in the female condition by sheer will, by the “raising of consciousness.” If most women continue to cleave to domestic concerns, this only reveals the “false consciousness” that must be extirpated.

Hooooly shite!

We went from simple deluded and half-thought of conclusions to outright denial of feminine oppresion. The arguments toward that? That women are not repressented politically because they were simply not politically active. The author does not of course realize that he is begging the question of “why were women not politically active?”. Could it have been oppression? Naaaah.

He then goes to claim that every culture has been dominated by males. Well, once again he shows that he has not heard of any society beyond ones in civilization. Indeed most barbaric and savage societies, before farming was invented not only had no female oppression but women were very much in power as they were the only link that children had to their parents and thus their family bond.

But if you thought the author could not put his foot further in his mouth, this gets better:

Of course, one neglected reply is that if, indeed, men have succeeded in dominating every culture, then this in itself is a demonstration of male “superiority”; for if all genders are equal, how is it that male domination emerged in every case? But apart from this question, biology itself is being angrily denied and cast aside. The cry is that there are no, can be no, must be no biological differences between the sexes; all historical or current differences must be due to cultural brainwashing.

And there you have it ladies & gentlemen. Male domination of society is not because of oppression and male domination of the means of production. It is because men are better, biologically! Suck on that girls, You can’t argue with science! Booyah!

Really, I think I should just stop refuting this article at this point as the author does a percectly good job of shooting his own foot. Any minute now he’s going to claim that white domination of society is not because they were oppressing humans of other skin colour, or because they controlled the guns and the power, but because they were biologically superior…

But this should not surprise everyone. This is really classic Libertarian chewing gum. “If someone is in that position it’s because he deserves to be in that position” must be something like the basic tenet of Libertarianism and from which stem not only the absurdities you’ve seen above but also excuse by which the total disregard of human suffering can be achieved. Third world nation suffering? It’s their own fault. People impoverished? It’s their own fault. Women oppressed? It’s their own fault.

This Intellectual bankruptcy of Libertarianism is blatantly obvious for everyone except themselves. Much of this can of course be traced back to Ayn Randian bullshit, which has been instilled in the ideologies of the last century and finally produced the Objectivism-lite in the form of Libertarianism. Both have the same rotten core but Libertarianism tries to be a bit less asshole-ish about it.

After that, the author goes on to quote mine some socialists, including Marx, Engels and Trotsky but I won’t waste time dwelling on these so I’ll jump straight to the last paragraph of this joke of an essay.

We began by considering the common view that the egalitarians, despite a modicum of impracticality, have ethics and moral idealism on their side. We end with the conclusion that egalitarians, however intelligent as individuals, deny the very basis of human intelligence and of human reason: the identification of the ontological structure of reality, of the laws of human nature, and the universe. In so doing, the egalitarians are acting as terribly spoiled children, denying the structure of reality on behalf of the rapid materialization of their own absurd fantasies. Not only spoiled but also highly dangerous; for the power of ideas is such that the egalitarians have a fair chance of destroying the very universe that they wish to deny and transcend, and to bring that universe crashing around all of our ears. Since their methodology and their goals deny the very structure of humanity and of the universe, the egalitarians are profoundly antihuman; and, therefore, their ideology and their activities may be set down as profoundly evil as well. Egalitarians do not have ethics on their side unless one can maintain that the destruction of civilization, and even of the human race itself, may be crowned with the laurel wreath of a high and laudable morality.

You read that people? Egalitarianism will destroy the fucking universe!!1!exclamationmark. You can’t make this shit up. Seriously. No seriously.

Let me tell you what I understood from this essay. We began by considering the common view that the egalitarians, despite a modicum of impracticality, have ethics and moral idealism on their side. We end with the conclusion that the author does not know even what egalitarianism is, he likes to assert a lot of stuff based on his lack of historical knowledge and wishful understanding of biology and as a bonus he’s also a sovinist pig.

But at least we have also got a nice dose of Libertarian thinking. Of the mental process which flawlessly merges correlation to causation on a regular basis when such a merge would support their preconceptions. At the introduction of the article we read the following:

Among some economists, this syndrome has been carried so far that they scorn any attention to politico-economic problems as a demeaning and unclean impurity, even when such attention is given by economists who have made their mark in the world of specialized technique. And even among those economists who do deal with political problems, any consideration devoted to such larger extra-economic matters as property rights, the nature of government, or the importance of justice is scorned as hopelessly “metaphysical” and beyond the pale.

If this essay is what economists manage to write when they dip their foot into “politico-economic problems”, then I honestly suggest they simply abstain from doing that, so that they can avoid embarassing themselves to this degree.

QED

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This Human Nature

A group of youth interacting

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to look into an argument that is starting to annoy the tits out of me.

One of the most frequent arguments against Communism that I seem to face almost every day now, is the one that says that human nature is such that a system based on cooperation and altruism could never be achieved.

The claim is that this human nature is necessarily greedy, competitive, aggressive and whatnot. With such a nature then it’s only understandable that we’d have wars, poverty and capitalism as these are the only things that our nature is compatible with. It’s then no wonder that Communism has failed every time it was attempted. It went against human nature! Nevermind other factors, it was doomed to failure from the start.

These interpretations basically take the view that human nature is generally “flawed” and is such that only under Capitalism can it be somehow tamed. It is with such reasoning that white becomes black and vices become virtues in order to defend the current system. Against the human nature argument one cannot win for nobody can escape his nature.

Or can they?

The point of calling something a human nature is that a human cannot escape or avoid it. I cannot avoid eating for it is my nature to need energy. Perhaps at some indefinite point in the future we might arrange that we won’t need food anymore but we’ll certainly still need energy, thus our nature remains. The same goes with anything else that we cannot escape.

And this is where evolutionary psychology comes in and tell us that we have genetical predispositions to various behaviours. Fight or Flight, children’s language learning capability etc. One of these predispositions is then posited to be Competition and thus that the human society must be organised in a way that Competition is put to good use. Ergo Capitalism.

Putting aside the quite large controversy around Evolutionary Phychology itself, I have the following arguments:

Reason

If one thing is said to certainly be part of our nature, then that is our ability to reason and use logical arguments. Indeed we are the only known animal that uses it so one can easily even call it our defining nature. It is the only reason why humans are capable of introspection and thus of managing their own predispositions.

It is with reason that not only can we control our psychological predispositions, but even our biological ones. It is because of it that I can suppress my urge to eat because I am overweight. It is because of reason that men can suppress urges to rape women when they otherwise could and are driven to it by their biology. And it is because of it, that I can suppress whatever urge I have to compete or simply turn it into a noble or friendly competition.

Thus, the strongest and undeniable part of human nature, indeed the one that can be said to be defining humans, is the one that allows us to control all other parts of our nature, whatever they may be. This means that even if, theoretically, competition, greed or whatever else is in our nature but it is against our benefits, we have the innate capability to suppress it.

Cooperation VS Competition

Humans are a social animal, that much is certain. As such we have a definite predisposition towards cooperation with other humans. But is it stronger than any predisposition we may have towards competition? I believe that is the case.

Someone reading about the origins of the family and the state can easily see how before civilization, the humans were barely competitive with each other at all. Within a gentile community, the predominant behaviour was of mutual cooperation and the further back one goes into the stages of barbarism and then savagery, the more powerful this cooperation becomes. This is simply because the less tools and ability humans had to survive independently, the more they had to cooperate with each other to survive.

The only cause of competition that could have happened, was when meeting another band of humans and there was a lack of resources to go around. Then, as a results of humans being separated into haves and have-nots, competition emerged. Other than that, there was no other competition to be had. Their societies were ones of group marriages and thus there was not even male competition for women.

This cooperative method of living persisted for millions of years with the strongest forms of cooperation lasting longer (as the lesser forms of evolutionary progress lasted longer) until eventually, roughly 9000 years ago, humans enterred civilization. It is with civilization that the monogamy, private property and the state emerged. This was the reason why humans were separated, for the first time in history, into classes. And it is because of the friction between those classes that competition became the fact of life.

The larger the society grew, the bigger the class separation, the larger the gap with other humans in one’s society, The impression of individual independence grew even though it is patently false. Nevertheless, the human within a huge society finds it impossible to perceive it and ends up assuming that he actually has no codependence on other humans. Thus in this vast society, competition feels like the only choice, add to that the constant reinforcement of this idea by popular media and memes and it’s no wonder that this feels like “human nature”.

But what do you think is evolutionary stronger. Cooperation which lasted millions of years or competition which in the grand scheme of things is as long as a blink of an eye? Not only logic but simple empirical evidence points to the former. Cooperation survives even in the most hostile environment of Capitalism – the system which honestly expects people to act rationally and individualistic and ends up having to work with emotional cooperative humans.

And to top it all off, we still have reason, as explained above, which can further suppress competition in favor of cooperation when warranted.

If there is any truth to evolutionary psychology, it is as Marx noted, in that humans have the nature of cooperation and individualism. Our nature do not prevent Communism at all, it yearns for it, for it is both in all of our best interests and also closer to our psychology.

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