• 8livesleft
    58
    Perhaps I come from a different world to you because I have most certainly seen the darker side of 'normal'. And I really don't whether your view is the more common experience and whether or not mine is the deviant one?Jack Cummins

    I'm from the Philippines. One of the poorest countries in the world and where those types of behavior definitely occur but are still not the norm considering the population of 100 million.

    For example, estimates of drug users are in the 4-5 million range.

    There's also a healthy sex trade and a lot of alcoholics.

    However, those are things that some of the poor are getting into because of their environment but it's hardly sustainable because of the costs involved. It's not something regular people want to get into just for the heck of it. Nobody wants to be a sex slave or to have to sell their kids.

    The addicts I know got into it because they somehow got into the wrong crowd in school. And these crowds are typically led by kids with familial issues.
  • Brett
    2.4k


    If human nature existed, then it would imply that there is some part of all of us that our environment does not affect. I fail to see what this part of us is, or even possibly could be, so I doubt it’s existence.Pinprick

    I’ve only scanned the rest of this OP so my post may gave already been addressed, but I feel that the part of us that our environment does not affect is reason, and that is the core of human nature. Which suggests to me that there is a human nature.
  • Brett
    2.4k


    Your view of “human nature” as something that exists as a “fixed” and “unalterable” structure of perceptual cognition easily falters under the mounting history of a fluidly changing cognitive and societal existence. Our “nature” wasn’t always as it exists today. As such it cannot be “fixed”.JackBRotten

    Reason responds in a fluid way. It’s fixed as a core attribute but it’s responses are fluid.

    In fact our nature is exactly the same now as it was earlier.
  • 8livesleft
    58
    Reason responds in a fluid way. It’s fixed as a core attribute but it’s responses are fluid.

    In fact our nature is exactly the same now as it was earlier.
    Brett

    I agree with this.

    At our core, we need 4 basic things: eat, sleep, sex, drink. Everything we do revolves around delivering those 4 basic things at a particular combination specific to each individual.

    So that will never change. What changes are the methods and strategies to attain the sufficient combination.

    For example, 3 squares a day, 8 hours of sleep - are both recent inventions. Back then, people ate one large meal and maybe had a snack. And it was also common to break up sleeping periods into 2 distinct times. Some cultures have a "siesta" or nap period during the day, for example.
  • Brett
    2.4k


    At our core, we need 4 basic things: eat, sleep, sex, drink. Everything we do revolves around delivering those 4 basic things at a particular combination specific to each individual.8livesleft

    Yes, they are of a animal nature, common across the planet. Most of it is probably achieved by instinct, or association among other things. It’s repetitive and necessarily controlled by environment. This is not human nature. Human nature may be regarded as destructive because it has learned how to use nature and control nature to the degree it suits our purposes. But nevertheless right or wrong it’s clearly how things work. Reason serves man’s interests only.
  • 8livesleft
    58
    Human nature may be regarded as destructive because it has learned how to use nature and control nature to the degree it suits our purposes.Brett

    I think a lot of our needs require some sort of destructive elements. Eating for instance, terraforming our environment.,

    But that's not specific to just humans. From bacteria to large animals, you see similar types of destructive behavior.
  • Jack Cummins
    461

    I read your posts and I know that you come from the Phillipines, which I am sure is very different from England. I have known work colleagues from the Phillipines.

    Regarding poverty, it is true that on the whole the Phillipines is a poorer country. The main difference is that England is a very consumer orientated society, although I think that is beginning to break down.

    In one of your posts you suggest that there are 4 basic needs: 'eat, sleep,sex and drink'. I find this a rather simplistic picture of human nature. I am not saying that this is not the case at all though, as I see that many appear to be driven by these goals, even in England.

    It may come down to basic sets of values and aspirations. Of the those raised in poverty may in some cases be told that these are the important aspirations. But you leave out the whole aspect of relationships with others which I would think is treated as more important than material goals, particularly in some more poverty stricken societies. Perhaps?
  • Jack Cummins
    461

    Reading through your comments made earlier today it seems that you are concerned about the destructive potential of human nature.

    There are many aspects of the whole debate on human nature captured in the many comments made already but what I would say to you is that I have found the psychological perspectives of Freud and Jung useful for considering human destruction potential.

    Freud speaks of an inherent conflict between the life and death instincts. Jung points to the idea of repressed aspects of the personality, which can give rise to destruction potential, which he calls the shadow. But I won't say anymore here because I created one thread on Freud and one on the shadow a few weeks ago. If you are interested you would find these by scrolling back a few weeks ago.
  • Brett
    2.4k


    Reading through your comments made earlier today it seems that you are concerned about the destructive potential of human nature.Jack Cummins

    I’m not sure how you got that impression, in fact I’ve received a considerable amount of flak on this forum for being positive about human nature.

    As I said,
    Human nature may be regarded as destructive because it has learned how to use nature and control nature to the degree it suits our purposes.Brett

    There’s no doubt many people today view human nature as destructive. In fact I find that position destructive. I have a lot of faith in human nature, it’s extremely adaptive and curious, and as I’ve said, we’re ethical creatures. Wrongs are eventually righted.
  • Jack Cummins
    461

    I was a little confused about the full basis of your argument . Can you explain in what way you believe that destructive elements of human nature will be righted. Is it in an evolutionary perspective?
  • Brett
    2.4k
    Can you explain in what way you believe that destructive elements of human nature will be righted.Jack Cummins

    Because we are ethical creatures. That may sound ridiculously simplistic, but what else can I say? Except, of course, that the morals based on those ethics can be bent according to culture. Which is the position I’ve stated in other posts.
  • Jack Cummins
    461

    I am afraid that I do not understand the logic of what you are saying. The only posts I have seen by you were in the thread on Kant's moral view, so it would be helpful if you could say briefly but a bit more clearly your point of view. I do not see how 'morals can be bent according to culture'. Surely, it is about circumstances, and you have not stated your basis for believing that we are 'ethical creatures.'
  • Brett
    2.4k


    it would be helpful if you could say briefly but a bit more clearly your point of view.Jack Cummins

    That we are ethical creatures:

    “Darwin’s two most significant points concerning the evolution of morality are stated early in chapter III of The Descent of Man. The two points are (i) that moral behavior is a necessary attribute of advanced intelligence as it occurs in humans, and thus that moral behavior is biologically determined; and (ii) that the norms of morality are not biologically determined but are rather a result of human collective experience, or human culture as we would now call it ...

    ... I propose that the moral evaluation of actions emerges from human rationality or, in Darwin’s terms, from our highly developed intellectual powers. Our high intelligence allows us to anticipate the consequences of our actions with respect to other people and, thus, to judge them as good or evil in terms of their consequences for others. But I will argue that the norms according to which we decide which actions are good and which actions are evil are largely culturally determined, although conditioned by biological predispositions, such as parental care to give an obvious example.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK210003/


    Ethics is the question of what should one do in a situation where there is a choice to be made, where we must “anticipate the consequences of our actions with respect to other people”.

    How we answer that question is the moral action. Our environment, our culture, will have an impact on that decision. It’s only within a culture that the moral decision is consistent: the Catholic Church, or Marxism, as an example. All people are creatures of reason, that is consistent, and it requires them to consider which is the best course of action, to;

    “ think in the abstract and form images of realities that are not present (and, thus, anticipate future events and planning future actions),” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK210003/

    Edit: I include these quotes not in an effort to bolster my thoughts with an expert opinion but because it explains clearly what I mean without spelling it out myself.
  • 8livesleft
    58
    In one of your posts you suggest that there are 4 basic needs: 'eat, sleep,sex and drink'. I find this a rather simplistic picture of human nature.Jack Cummins

    Yes those are indeed very basic but the process and resources required to achieve the right balance is extremely complicated and specific for each individual.

    It's also heavily affected by the environment. So it requires constant readjustment.

    It may come down to basic sets of values and aspirations. Of the those raised in poverty may in some cases be told that these are the important aspirations. But you leave out the whole aspect of relationships with others which I would think is treated as more important than material goals, particularly in some more poverty stricken societies. Perhaps?

    That's a great point. Impoverished communities are heavily reliant on each other to provide the basics and so relationships are definitely important.

    That's why sharing is such a vital part of our culture. Anytime you pass by somebody eating, they'll typically offer what they have no matter how little it is. Of course, the polite response is to simply decline but if you did decide to join them, they would happily share.
  • Jack Cummins
    461

    What you describe about community in your society is a sharp contrast to the one I am familiar with in England where there is a whole culture of materialistic individualism. Of course there are exceptions and bonds between friends but, generally, the principle of sharing is not applied. Life is tough and fierce for many, with a whole emphasis on performance and outward goals, targets and markers of success.
  • 8livesleft
    58

    I guess that's possibly because your country already provides the basics (but maybe not 100%? I'm not sure) that it allows the citizens to focus on other things that may not seem to be related to the needs I mentioned.
  • Jack Cummins
    461

    Unfortunately, the country I live in is failing to provide the basics for many. Perhaps, in the past the majority were in relative comfort but not now, as there are many people who are queuing at food banks. The Covid_19 situation has been a major factor but it was beginning already.

    Life as we know it is turning upside down but it may involve relearning the basics and essence of human nature, for worse, or preferably, for better.
  • 8livesleft
    58

    Yes, this pandemic has put most countries in a bad situation. This is where community really comes in to ideally cover for whatever the government can't provide.

    So, that's also something that could explain why they say that our impoverished seem to be so resilient.

    And I also feel that that's why some individuals in developed or modern societies seem prone to deviant behavior - their isolation and detachment.

    As individuals, it's easy to justify one's behavior but once we're part of a community - which works by consensus, we find that we need to calibrate our moral compass to more closely coincide with that of the community's.
  • Brett
    2.4k


    Life as we know it is turning upside down but it may involve relearning the basics and essence of human nature, for worse, or preferably, for better.Jack Cummins

    So we’re back to the beginning; is there such a thing as human nature and what is it?
  • Jack Cummins
    461

    I think that part of the problem is that people do not really live in actual communities in all parts of the world, especially England. It also depends how people define communities. Is it the people in one's immediate locality, family groups, religious communities, education or work communities.

    I would say locally is not necessarily a part of community. One does not know one's neighbours. For example, I moved into a shared house of 7 people about 2 months ago and still only know 3 of the other tenants by name. Mind you, this is related to the fact that I am the only person in the house who is from England and 4 of the people can barely speak any English at all.

    What I would say is that it is possible to not belong to any community at all. Most people have some connections with others but it is variable.
    But in some cities people are increasingly becoming numbers and isolated.
  • 8livesleft
    58
    What I would say is that it is possible to not belong to any community at all. Most people have some connections with others but it is variable.
    But in some cities people are increasingly becoming numbers and isolated.
    Jack Cummins

    Yes, it's a sad reality that modern society is moving towards isolation. Is it because people are too busy? Or are they wary of potential problems with opening themselves up to others?

    In the US, there's this custom (?) where children are expected to leave the household by the time they turn 18.

    I'm not sure if it's the same way for the UK, but that's unheard of here, where one household can have 3 generations of relatives and/or multiple families. Interestingly, affluence doesn't change things. All that happens is the houses get bigger haha
  • Jack Cummins
    461

    Without going back to the beginning of the question of human nature, because it has been the whole thread discussion, I would say that the whole way we live is part of way of defining human beings. There are underlying issues, especially the nature and nurture one. However, the possible adaptations we make in the face of our circumstances and possible freedoms are also one way of seeing human nature. In other words, the issue is not just about looking at the past, but about us our nature in present existentialist terms and future potential.
  • Brett
    2.4k


    I would say that the whole way we live is part of way of defining human beings. There are underlying issues, especially the nature and nurture one. However, the possible adaptations we make in the face of our circumstances and possible freedoms are also one way of seeing human nature.Jack Cummins

    Taking into account your comments on community and family, and posts from others about psychotic CEO’s or environmental destruction or politics or poverty, do you think that necessarily defines us and therefore our nature?
  • Jack Cummins
    461

    I think that the main reason why so many people are starting to become isolated is that there are so many people in certain areas, that is easy for certain individuals to get ignored. A lot of people hold on to their established networks. It is not necessarily the case that they are too busy but perhaps do not need to reach out to increase their social support circles.

    Of course for those who do wish to open up to others there are risks and questions of who to trust. Also, as we are beginning to communicate more on our digital devices we are beginning to interact less in the physical world. In that sense, we can be in danger of isolating ourselves.

    In the UK, the age people move out of the family home varies a lot. Many are choosing to remain at home longer because of the difficulty of finding affordable accommodation. But this can be awkward if the houses are not big. As the population gets bigger living conditions are starting to get more overcrowded, to the point where it affects quality of life in a detrimental way.
  • Jack Cummins
    461

    I do not believe in any one simplistic definition of human nature but incorporated ideas from psychoanalysis and other psychological traditions and see the whole question as being a multidisciplinary exploration. I do appreciate the ideas of Charles Darwin, as mentioned by yourself.

    But the point I was making in my last point to you is that we have been viewing human nature based on past history, but this history is still not over an
    we can say that a final analysis involves the fate we make by our choices, especially in this age of technological sophistication. And, here, I will offer a quotation for reflecting upon,

    'Self-made gods with only the laws of physics to keep us company, we are accountable to no one.
    We are consequently wreaking havoc on our fellow animals and on the surrounding ecosystem, seeking little more than our comfort and amusement, yet never finding satisfaction.
    Is there anything more dangerous and irresponsible gods who don't know what they want?'
    Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens:A Brief History of Mankind (2011)
  • Brett
    2.4k


    I decided to go back to to read your first post.

    So, what I am asking is whether there is a human nature? In this sense, I am also asking about whether there is a fixed nature or whether it can be altered. But firstly I am asking is the idea of human nature still a fundamental part of philosophy or has it been superseded by a more important agenda?[/quote

    First of all I would agree with this comment.
    Jack Cummins
    I do not believe in any one simplistic definition of human natureJack Cummins

    I don’t know whether that was ever possible. Maybe it was when we were still learning about ourselves and our understanding was very basic. What I’m not sure of is whether it was a limited understanding of our “nature” or that our “nature” was actually that simple then and that very quickly we’ve become very complex. I suspect the latter. So complex in fact that the idea of a human nature is redundant.

    We are obviously very adaptable creatures, we can make decisions about the best way to go forward, how to change the environment to suit our purposes, how to produce food according to our needs and not the dictates of environment, how to preserve life and so on; all material gains. But we can obviously be adaptable in how we think about thing and how we respond. Because of that we can sometimes go careering down the wrong path, sometimes we agree to follow someone down that path, we can convince ourselves of the truth of it. Fortunately we can also override that thinking and correct the direction we’re going in.

    One of reasons for my posts is the interest I have in where we’re going and what it will be like. I try to do that by looking at who we are, which means I have to try and find out what brought us here, what is “human nature” and how that affects our decisions. Which is what I as looking at in my Kant OP. Are we moving away from our decision making on a moral basis towards a more ideological position?

    If there is no such thing as ”human nature” then we are free to do whatever we want, but without any sense of morality. So we toss aside the idea that we are ethical creatures and now go with ideology, which is culture to me, but not a natural, organic culture that evolved over time. Instead it’s culture rapidly constructed along ideological claims and reinforced by the media and political response, and as I’ve said, there are cultures within cultures within cultures.

    So I don’t think human nature is a fundamental part of philosophy. But something has replaced it which is the idea of who we can be, who we should be and what purpose we serve, and each culture has its own idea of that. If I’m correct then where does that take us?
  • Jack Cummins
    461

    I am concerned about the history of humanity and where we are going. I agree that ideologies are a problem in the sense that they are ideas involving political agendas, reinforced by the mass media. You say that you don't think that, "human nature is a fundamental part of philosophy' and I do think that philosophy is beginning to abandon some of the basic questions about human living.

    Personally, in my own studies and personal life I have been interested in ethics, including Kant originally, which was why I replied to your thread on the categorical imperative. However, I do believe that ethics based on intention rather than consequences is limited.

    I have read one book which has influenced my thinking in particular, called, Depth Psychology and a New Ethic, by Erich Neumann. The copy I have was published in 1990, and I believe the original edition was 1949, but it is an accepted classic discussion about ethics, influenced by the ideas of Carl Jung.

    In the foreword to this book, James Yandell offers a definition of human nature which includes, 'in potential form, capacities for such virtues as loving generosity, compassion, altruism, courage, patience and wisdom. It also includes potentials for other qualities, like callous selfishness, greed, envy, backwardness, cruelty, pettiness, destructive violence, and wilful unconsciousness.'

    Neumann argues that the problem with traditional ethics is that there was an emphasis on perfection and this could not be achieved, meaning that people failed. Rather than people being given or trying to achieve a certain set of ideals the better option is for people individually to gain wholeness.

    He argues that,'The mortal peril which confronts modern man is that he may be collectivised by the pressure of the forces of the unconscious,' and that, 'growth through wholeness necessarily involves a creative relationship between the dark instincts of man's nature and the light side represented by the consciousness mind.' So, the whole emphasis is about greater self awareness of their 'good' and 'bad' tendencies rather than be driven by them on an unconscious level.

    The whole perspective of Neumann is so different from Kant in the sense that it is about understanding of our basic nature, rather than the importance of 'duty' as part of the moral life. But, the level of the quest is about self knowledge and Neumann stresses that it has, 'nothing in common with any megalomaniac condition of being "beyond good and evil"'.

    I do not know if the ideas of Neumann which I have tried to give in summary will offer any useful way for considering the whole issue of human nature and the future of humanity and hope that you do not see the perspective itself as a dangerous ideology. I certainly believe that the best hope for us is increased self knowledge and this will determine our actions individually but in doing so, this can have an influence on the collective level too.

    Of course, what I have been saying is that we need to understand our own nature on an individual level. This is a psychological journey and we are all unique and it is a picture which does involve a view of the person, involving unconscious as well as a conscious ego. So, it is open to philosophical debate.
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