• JackBRotten
    15


    It’s amazing how common past perceptions become skewed in time to the point of sometimes entirely misrepresenting the very basis of the original concepts. Communism being a prime example.
  • Gnomon
    1.1k
    Just to clarify. I’m skeptical that human nature exists. That is, I’m doubtful that there is some universal trait that we all share, and that is immutable. I think this because nurture seems to affect all traits, thereby making all traits mutable. However, thinking of humans as having a nature may be useful to help us understand ourselves. It may be a useful fiction, at best.Pinprick
    I definitely think that too much generalisations about 'human nature' are not particularly helpful.Jack Cummins
    The human mind instinctively looks for common features (general traits) in its environment, as an aid to categorizing the relationships of parts to wholes. Without the short-cut of "chunking" categories, we would have to deal with each new person or thing like babies, who have never seen anything "like" it before. But, like all shortcuts, Generalizing from a few individuals to a whole group, can lead to Stereotyping (over-generalization). Classification allows us to pre-judge based on past experience. But, that same prejudice can lead us astray, if our sample is too small or biased by unique circumstances.

    Assigning common traits to a class, based on limited experience with individuals, is a "useful fiction" for most purposes. But it can also result in Racism or Speciesism. So we probably should put our "Types" in quotes, to remind us that the rule-of-thumb may or may not apply in this particular case. Generalizations are always Approximations. The science of Sociology has a broader scope than Psychology, in that it attempts to understand Human-Nature-in-general rather than the peculiarities of individual humans. Hence, there is no need to deny the existence of "Human Nature", or "Race", as a crude concept, as long as we don't apply that abbreviated understanding in critical situations, where inaccuracies in prejudices can mislead us. Skepticism toward our own "truths" can help us avoid leaping to erroneous conclusions. :smile:

    Generalizations and Stereotypes : When do generalizations move into stereotypes? Stereotypes are overgeneralizations; they often involve assuming a person has certain characteristics based on unfounded assumptions..
    https://www.everydaysociologyblog.com/2012/05/understanding-generalizations-and-stereotypes.html
  • Jack Cummins
    461

    You are raising a good question. To what extent should we be trying to change our nature? Of course we do try and change our nature to some extent by medication: antidepressants, antipsychotics, hormone replacement, and many other chemicals.

    Of course the other possibility is bioengineering. The ideas of the transhumanist writers, such as Ruth Chadwick are interesting in this respect.

    Right now, I would like some chemicals to improve my functioning because we need to be smart and tough to survive these times. 2020 is worse than the rough tumbles in the playground and it is a struggle, but perhaps we will evolve and change through the rough times naturally.
  • Pinprick
    455
    The question is how will we evolve in the future?Jack Cummins

    Yeah, that’s an interesting question. I really have no idea, but I think to make an educated guess you would need to analyze what traits are most necessary for us to survive and reproduce. In this modern world this is difficult to determine, because with advances in things like healthcare and fertility, almost anyone is capable of surviving long enough to reproduce. To take a very rough view though, it seems like physical traits like strength are becoming less important for survival, whereas emotional/psychological traits like compassion, or mental health in general, are becoming more important. We’re less likely to have to rely on things like strength to survive, but our ability to navigate the world mentally without falling victim to incapacitating mental illnesses, or becoming suicidal, seems like a real challenge in today’s world.
  • Pinprick
    455
    Assigning common traits to a class, based on limited experience with individuals, is a "useful fiction" for most purposes. But it can also result in Racism or Speciesism.Gnomon

    Yes, I was aware of that, but it’s good that you stated this explicitly. I agree completely.
  • Jack Cummins
    461

    You suggest that the main point is to survive and reproduce. I am not denying the importance of future generations but I think we may need to adapt not just in the future but now, in order to survive in the gateway of the future.

    Many are suffering now, not just in a remote future, from poverty, unemployment, depression and suicidal ideas . Human nature in the sense of the limits of human potential is critical right now.

    Of course, many might argue that there have been critical periods in history and the majority survive, but surely that is simply a means of negating the critical factors of our own time.
  • Jack Cummins
    461

    Many writers have got themselves in a deep mess by assigning characteristics to a particular race, gender or group of people. Even though I see a lot of strengths in Jung's writings, his enormous weakness, or shadow was the way he made generalisations about racial groups, in particular about the Jewish and German nation, and at a critical time in history.

    Certainly, any use of the term human nature needs to go beyond stereotypes. If the term is used it is about understanding the basics of the human condition and nothing more.
  • Pinprick
    455
    You suggest that the main point is to survive and reproduce.Jack Cummins

    I was just speaking in evolutionary terms. That’s all that matters from an evolutionary perspective.

    I think we may need to adapt not just in the future but nowJack Cummins

    However you personally adapt in your lifetime makes no difference if your DNA isn’t passed on. People who have more adaptive traits, and pass on those traits to future generations, are the only ones that cause evolution to occur.
  • Valentinus
    838

    I haven't read your thread yet on Jung's shadow. I will check it out.

    In my remarks, I was considering your question: "is the idea of human nature still a fundamental part of philosophy or has it been superseded by a more important agenda?" Jung is cartographer of that nature as well a healer who wants to promote the end of the civil war we find ourselves in. This work is philosophical in that we have to improve our conditions to understand them. The effort to know oneself and be honest with your self and others is an activity that involves its own end and purposes.

    The call to lead an examined life is either about this energy or it is not. I read the following from Jung's On the Nature of the Psyche (108) as a vote for the energy existing:

    This is not the place to discuss the possible reasons for the present attitude to sex. It is sufficient to point out that sexuality seems to the strongest and most fundamental instinct, standing out as the instinct above all others. On the other hand, I must also emphasize that the spiritual principle does not, strictly speaking, conflict with instinct as such but only with blind instinctuality, which really amounts to an unjustified preponderance of the instinctual nature or the spiritual. The spiritual appears in the psyche also as an instinct, indeed as a real passion a "consuming fire" as Nietzsche once expressed it. It is not derived from any other instinct, as the psychologists of instinct would have us believe, but is a principle sui generis, a specific and necessary form of spiritual power. — Carl Jung
  • Jack Cummins
    461

    I am sure that the whole way in which I am influenced by Jung permeates my thinking and probably even influenced the way in which I wrote the start of this thread. I do regard Jung is my important mentor and even though I come to philosophy in search of truth I am concerned about healing. I think that both are of supreme importance.

    I am interested in spirituality in the sense in which your Nietzsche's quote says, a 'consuming fire'. I also love his writings, especially Thus Spoke Zarathustra. I think his writing is spiritual in the truest sense, separated from the dogmatic framework of conventional religious frameworks.
  • Valentinus
    838
    Nietzsche had a lot of chips on his shoulders. Jung did not draw the boundaries around himself the same way. They both saw themselves as bridges but across different rivers.

    The difference between them as sets of experiences is large. Jung was a doctor who treated people as well he could imagine was possible. Nietzsche was knight errant who often misplaced his horse.

    Human nature keeps returning like a pesky relative.
  • 8livesleft
    58
    Hello all,

    I think there is a basis for what we call "human nature." In my opinion, it is based on two things:

    1. We generally share the same aversion to unnecessary pain and suffering.

    2. We are group oriented - we generally rely on the protection/services of the group to survive.

    Those two things require the constant re-calibration of our needs with regards to the group we belong to but ultimately, we are doing it out of self-interest.

    regards,

    8
  • Jack Cummins
    461

    I think that the couple of points you make are important as they speak about the human condition in a broad sense. Also, you don't make any generalisations about certain groups, which can be dangerous, but simply frame the individual within a group context.
  • Athena
    937
    Of course, Human Nature doesn't "exist" in a materialistic concrete sense. It's a generalization, and an abstraction. So, it's not a testable empirical "thing" to be studied by scientists. But it's certainly amenable to philosophical study. "The writer" must be a hard Materialist, who doesn't accept immaterial things, such as Minds, to be Real. For them, the only things that "exist" are Atoms & Void. But Unfortunately, speculations on generalizations & universals are always somebody's Opinion, not hard facts. What's yours? :smile:Gnomon

    I think science is full of materialistic explanations of our human nature and it most certainly is testable and empirical. Take for example what we know of hormones. Hormones strongly effect how we feel and what we do.

    Then there is brain imaging and we know we share in common empathy with other primates.

    Anthropology gives us lots of information about social animals and humans are a social animal.

    Then there are biological studies of the brain and this is very informative when the brain has been damaged and we can look at the damaged area and study the effect of that damage.
  • Gnomon
    1.1k
    I think science is full of materialistic explanations of our human nature and it most certainly is testable and empirical. Take for example what we know of hormones. Hormones strongly effect how we feel and what we do.Athena
    Yes. Materialistic Science has learned a lot about human physiology, much of which which we share with our ape cousins, who are quite clever as animals go. But Human Nature, as a philosophical enterprise, is mostly about how humans differ from animals. For example, the age-old question of non-empirical Souls. If there is no such thing, how do we account for the gap in reasoning power, which, seems to be our only significant advantage over more instinctive creatures? Even apes have hands.

    Based on empirical evidence, our physiological advantage seems to be rather minor. But in terms of evolutionary success, humans have created a whole new form of Evolution : world-conquering Culture, which progresses much faster than physical evolution. A bigger brain is a Quantitative edge in processing power. But a rational mind seems to give humans a Qualitative superiority. Yet, some think it's our Animal Nature, including irrational hormones, that holds us back morally. While others think it's our over-weening intellectual arrogance that gets us into trouble. Both seem to be involved in Human Nature. :smile:


    The Gap -- The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals : . . . psychologist Thomas Suddendorf provides a definitive account of the mental qualities that separate humans from other animals, as well as how these differences arose.
    https://www.amazon.com/Gap-Science-Separates-Other-Animals/dp/0465030149
  • Athena
    937
    Yes. Materialistic Science has learned a lot about human physiology, much of which which we share with our ape cousins, who are quite clever as animals go. But Human Nature, as a philosophical enterprise, is mostly about how humans differ from animals. For example, the age-old question of non-empirical Souls. If there is no such thing, how do we account for the gap in reasoning power, which, seems to be our only significant advantage over more instinctive creatures? Even apes have hands.

    Based on empirical evidence, our physiological advantage seems to be rather minor. But in terms of evolutionary success, humans have created a whole new form of Evolution : world-conquering Culture. A bigger brain is a Quantitative edge in processing power. But a rational mind seems to give humans a Qualitative superiority. Yet, some think it's our Animal Nature, including irrational hormones, that holds us back morally. While others think it's our over-weening intellectual arrogance that gets us into trouble. Both seem to be involved in Human Nature. :smile:


    The Gap -- The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals : . . . psychologist Thomas Suddendorf provides a definitive account of the mental qualities that separate humans from other animals, as well as how these differences arose.
    https://www.amazon.com/Gap-Science-Separates-Other-Animals/dp/0465030149
    Gnomon

    Perhaps I should read the book before responding, or may be I can just question you about what the book says. How is an uneducated person 8000 years ago, different from an animal?

    What does prejudice have to do with our nature?

    Are there limits to our thinking? Do we function as well in a group of 12 people as we do in a group of 500? Is there a difference in how we function in a group of 500 and a group of 5000 people?
  • 8livesleft
    58


    Yes, I think our group oriented nature is what's often forgotten when we talk about human nature. Our world view, moral compass, living habits are shaped by the various group systems we belong to.

    I think it's a mistake to take man out of that context and treat the individual as if it were a separate completely "free" thing. It hardly ever is.
  • god must be atheist
    2.4k
    Asking such a question is indicative of perceptual consideration. My choice in verbiage of stating “Your view...” does possess a nature of linearity. As such, the confusion I perceive you had experienced was understandable.JackBRotten

    Ouch.
  • JackBRotten
    15


    What’s with this fascination I read so often of reference to brain size being so BIG?!

    Our huge/giant/large/reallyreallybig brains! Ego?

    Brain size doesn’t actually mean anything. This is partly displayed in how various mammalian and aquatic brains are considerably larger in size than our own. By comparison, which is used to refer to us as having a big brain, we have a small brain also.

    Ants are also world conquering.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.9k
    I think there is such a thing as "human nature" but it isn't rigidly consistent from person to person, situation to situation. There is a fair amount of variation from person to person as to which features, traits, drives, and innate responses, and so forth come into play at any given moment. But still, all humans have the same traits, drives, innate responses, emotions, brain structure, sensorium, and so on. You may have a learned fear of the spiders and I may have a learned fear of murder hornets, but learning fears is a common trait.

    Adolph Hitler, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and Franklin Roosevelt all exhibited similar human behaviors throughout their lives, even if the consequences of their lives differed enormously. "Human nature" is synonymous with neither goodness nor badness. Adolph, Winston, Joseph, and Franklin were all capable of feeling very similarly emotions, all driven by aspirations (e.g., for power), all having the same sensorium, all having similar learning / memory / comprehension / association / etc. capabilities.

    We are all much more alike than we are different BECAUSE we share in a set of features common to our species. We may not like every person we meet -- indeed, we may heartily loathe, despise, and abhor some of them, and the feeling may be mutual. But there is never any doubt that other people, even disgusting ones, belong to the same species as ourselves, as embarrassing or annoying as that might be.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.9k
    Ants are also world conquering.JackBRotten

    Great read: "Leiningen Versus the Ants" by Carl Stephenson -- a classic short story published in the December 1938 Esquire.

    Here's a reading of it on YouTube.
  • Athena
    937
    The story of the ants was very interesting. It was fun thinking about what I would do. I think I would use fire, but it would also be fun to see what would happen if a live electric wire were put in the ditch filled with water.
  • Athena
    937
    Many writers have got themselves in a deep mess by assigning characteristics to a particular race, gender or group of people. Even though I see a lot of strengths in Jung's writings, his enormous weakness, or shadow was the way he made generalisations about racial groups, in particular about the Jewish and German nation, and at a critical time in history.

    Certainly, any use of the term human nature needs to go beyond stereotypes. If the term is used it is about understanding the basics of the human condition and nothing more.
    Jack Cummins

    Nice consideration. Our history is surely one of ignorance. I have much hope for humanity because of how information can change what we think and do.
  • Jack Cummins
    461

    Let us just hope that the future is one of more knowledge rather than ignorance. I am inclined to think that we are at a crossroads, and history can make negative or positive of knowledge and that it could be used destruction or positively. Perhaps, it will be a mixed picture.
  • Gnomon
    1.1k
    What does prejudice have to do with our nature?Athena
    The tendency to prejudge individuals and groups seems to be innate for humans, in part because quick categorizations proved advantageous for survival during Mammal evolution. But our advanced cognitive powers also allow us to quickly learn from our peers, who is to be trusted, and who is to be avoided. So human prejudice is both Innate and Learned. As for your other questions, read the book. :smile:

    Humans are wired for prejudice : https://theconversation.com/humans-are-wired-for-prejudice-but-that-doesnt-have-to-be-the-end-of-the-story-36829

    Innate or Learned Prejudice : https://alumni.berkeley.edu/california-magazine/fall-2015-questions-race/innate-or-learned-prejudice-turns-out-even-blind-arent
  • Gnomon
    1.1k
    What’s with this fascination I read so often of reference to brain size being so BIG?!JackBRotten
    Note that I mentioned both our Brain Size (quantity) and our Brain Complexity (quality) as partial explanations for human dominance in the world. If you think ants are a dominant species, they don't even come close to the overwhelming numerical superiority and habitat ubiquity of single-cell organisms. But then, we have antibiotics and vaccines that help to even the score. :joke:
    "A bigger brain is a Quantitative edge in processing power. But a rational mind seems to give humans a Qualitative superiority."
  • JackBRotten
    15


    Complexity is a perceptual designation. Not a natural defining separation in function or morphology. The notion that a bigger brain provides us an edge requires one to dismiss the multitude of organisms that possess brains far greater in size, yet demonstrate no quantitative “edge”.

    Neither relative/brain size nor neuronal count can be specifically linked to what creates the particular variances found in humans to other types of organisms. Ergo, this consistent nature of what perceptually amounts to bragging about the human brain size is egotistical.

    The discovery of antibiotics was an accident. They were never hypothesized, theorized, nor even imagined. A stumbled upon means of addressing issues that could not be solved in any other way. The great “intelligent” advances of science are accidents. Things created to do one thing, but found to aid an entirely different thing.

    The one thing that truly separates humans from all other life is perception. We perceive our “superiority”, “rationality”, and “ greater intelligence”. We construct, organize, harvest, and reproduce just like all other forms of life just in a physically larger way.

    As an aside, antibiotics are no match for cells ability to replicate.

    https://alleninstitute.org/media/filer_public/29/93/299346f6-190a-4e24-a8ab-fa1cf0abc249/2016_01_doesbrainsizematter.pdf
  • Gnomon
    1.1k
    The one thing that truly separates humans from all other life is perception.JackBRotten
    And how do you account for our greater "perception"?

    I suspect that you meant "conception". Human perception is widely acknowledged to be inferior to that of most animals. But, our ability to conceive ideas and to make detailed plans, seems to be our primary advantage over even those animals with larger brains and sharper senses. Sometimes size matters. But complexity and coordination make the difference that makes the qualitative difference between human nature and animal nature. :smile:

    Perception : the state of being or process of becoming aware of something through the senses.

    Conception : the forming or devising of a plan or idea.

    the Most Complex Object in the Universe : The human brain contains some 100 billion neurons, which together form a network of Internet-like complexity. Christof Koch, chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, calls the brain "the most complex object in the known universe," and he's mapping its connections in hopes of discovering the origins of consciousness.
  • god must be atheist
    2.4k
    We perceive our “superiority”, “rationality”, and “ greater intelligence”.JackBRotten

    I.... am not so sure about that. A finch or a warbler or a gold fish could think the same of its own kind, and declare that humans behave colorfully, dangerously, but above all inconsequentially. They don't understand our actions, therefore they declare them as stupid. In that aspect fish are remerkably like people.

    I am not stating this as a fact, because I am not a fish or porcupine; but this opinion is just as valid as yours. This is a case when both opinions are equally valid, despite being mutually exclusive. "The cat in the box is both dead and alive."-- until you get empirical evidence to prove it either way.
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