Human Nature

NoMoreCrazyPeople
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Human Nature

What is "human nature?"  What isn't? Which behavior would you say fits in the "human nature" collumn, and which would you say fits the "product of environment" collumn.

 

 


Nikolaj
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Well, everything that humans

Well, everything that humans do is, by definition, human nature.

 

That is, you are suggesting, I suspect, that some things we do because it is inherent in us, and some things we do because we are "taught" to do so, by our environment.

 

But that is not really the way it works.

 

Humans are capable of doing very complex, and vary varied, things depending on their environmental context, and so sometimes we commit the fallacy of presuming that SOME of the things we do go against our nature.

 

But if you think about it, if a human being CAN do something, then it IS natural, because if we could do something that was UNnatural, then it would be, by definition, SUPERnatural, and of course, there is no such thing as supernatural.

 

I know that this is probably not what you want to get at, and that I am making a rather pedantic point here, but I think it is relevant to keep in mind whenever one enters into a nature vs. nuture kind of discussion, which i suspect is what you are trying to start here.

 

That is a worthwhile discussion to have, and let us by all means go into it, but you should be more specific about what it is you are asking before we can proceed, I think.

 

To ellaborate on the "everything is natural" point, think of it this way: You might think that humans, and maybe other "highly sentient" lifeforms can do things that are in their nature, and also things that they do because of their environment (things they've learned, like for example irrational religious behavior that "goes against" their natural instincts to have sex, or eat certain things).

 

But you would probably agree that say, a tapeworm, doesn't learn anything, and only does what comes natural to it.

 

But if you take a tapeworm and put it into one particular environment, it will behave differently than it would have done in another environment. And if you are imaginative enough, you could probably invent an experiment where you put a tapeworm into an environment where it would behave in a maner that seems "unnatural" for a tapeworm, given the right environmental parameters.

 

But you wouldn't say the tapeworm is "going against tapeworm-nature". I mean, how could it? It's just a tapeworm. It doesn't think about what it does, it just does what tapeworms do... naturally.

 

Well, when all is said and done, so do humans. For example, it is "natural" for a human to avoid eating, if that human has been brainwashed into thinking that all the food it is presented with is poison. Because brainwashing is a "natural" thing: that is, brainwashing is only possible because the human mind is naturally susceptable to certain kinds of suggestions.

 

A trusted athority figure that insists you should eat what's on your plate because it is poison, is trusted only because it is NATURAL for humans to listen to trusted authority figures.

 

That is rather simplified, but I hope you take my meaning: IF you manage to make someone do something that is "Unnatural" (like stop eating), then it is only possible because you have appealed to ANOTHER part of their nature (like brainwashing them).

 

For a human to do something TRULY unnatural, they would have to literally defy the laws of nature, like spontaniously catch fire, and remain unharmed, for example.

 

So, to sum up, if you want to know what makes a person do something that "goes against their nature", like, say, refuse to eat, even when severely malnurished, then you have to look at what OTHER natural process has gone into them overridding THIS particular natural inclination. In the case of people who refuse to eat, there must be a NATURAL psychological explanation, like for example Anorexia, which is a quite complex condition with many psychological and physiological elements causing it, but it is still natural.

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RatDog
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No matter what what I do I

No matter what what I do I can't separate myself from the environment I've lived my life in.  If I try to imagine an environment different then that environment I'm familiar with I'm forced to use elements from the environment I'm familiar with to try to imagine the one that is strange to me.  I can't really answer this question because I don't know.  I can't imagine outside of my limited experience so I can't tell which of my experience are part of being human, and which of my experiences are a product of my environment.  This question can probably only be answered by use of the scientific method.  Maybe you should read peer reviewed papers about developmental psychology.  

On a side note perhaps another way to view things would be to think of human beings and the environment as one.  Think of a rabbit and a fox.  To the rabbit the fox is a dangerous element in its environment.   To the fox the rabbit is an important source of food in it's environment.  Both of these creatures are part of the same environment, but if you look at things from their perspectives your left with the illusion that they live in the environment instead of being the environment.  Perhaps the same could be said for human beings. 

Human beings are different from most animals in the degree to which we can shape the environment around us, yet at the same time the environment has shaped us into the species we are today.  This seems to be a recursive process were human beings are constantly shaping and being shaped.  Given this view of things perhaps a more interesting question would be given the existence of human beings what kind of environments are possible.  Although I can't answer  this question any better then the last one.  Based of your venues project thread I assume that your trying to figure out the best possible environment given a specific set of criteria.  If possible I'm guess that meeting such an ambitious goal would require a large number of experts in a number of different fields working together, and a great deal of scientific research.  

 


Luminon
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NoMoreCrazyPeople wrote:What

NoMoreCrazyPeople wrote:

What is "human nature?"  What isn't? Which behavior would you say fits in the "human nature" collumn, and which would you say fits the "product of environment" collumn.

There are many ways you could say it. What about adaptability, beauty, conflict and investigative intellect? Or multi-faceted intellect, love and power expressed less or more perfectly?

Anyway, there is the influence of environment and our animal heritage, but people are able to get in control of it and develop aspects of true humanity, depending on their... well... factors that don't seem to be completely genetic nor dependent on upbringing. 

The ordinary, weak people are largely defined by their environment and subject to primitive urges, like to get drunk, break several glasses, damage the kitchen table and make a great noise after the midnight at my boardinghouse. 

 

Hey, Nikolaj, I've got an idea. (as I see now, RatDog noticed it too) You talk about the environment defining us (or tapeworm). Isn't one of our characteristics the ability to take our environment alongside with us or re-create it to our needs? Just think of Muslim or other immigrants, how they keep their culture and language for many generations. 
Just please, don't take it to the extreme, we are humans, therefore everything we do is human, therefore the human or non-human definition is meaningless. You would remind me of EXC too much Smiling

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NoMoreCrazyPeople wrote:What

NoMoreCrazyPeople wrote:

What is "human nature?"   

Often, it's what gets in the way of simply enjoying the passing of time...

I keep asking myself " Are they just playin' stupid, or are they just plain stupid?..."

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Luminon wrote:Hey, Nikolaj,

Luminon wrote:

Hey, Nikolaj, I've got an idea. (as I see now, RatDog noticed it too) You talk about the environment defining us (or tapeworm). Isn't one of our characteristics the ability to take our environment alongside with us or re-create it to our needs? Just think of Muslim or other immigrants, how they keep their culture and language for many generations. 
Just please, don't take it to the extreme, we are humans, therefore everything we do is human, therefore the human or non-human definition is meaningless. You would remind me of EXC too much Smiling

Luminion, it is because I wanted to point out the overarching existential/philosophical point that should always be kept in mind when having a nature/nuture debate: namely that nothing that happens in the universe, from "action that i human being does" to "two stars colliding" is UNnatural. If it happens in the natural world (the Universe) then it is, by definition, natural.

 

The nature/nuture debate is really a political debate, about what behavior we should tolerate, or at least forgive, because the perpetrators of that behavior "can't be helped" because they are just doing what's in their nature, and what behavior we should condemn as unacceptable, because it is a dangerous afront to the collective human endeavour, horribly repulsive, or just downright counterproductive to everyone.

 

Because to try and discuss what is "natural" human behavior on a existential/philosophical level is completely moot, because if a human CAN do it, then it IS natural human behavior. "Natural" simply means "that which happens in nature", and since we are PART of nature, nothing we CAN do is UNnatural.

 

But there is still a perfectly reasonable debate to be had about what we, as a society, should accept as natural human behavior, and what we should condemn, and contain, because we don't want people to act that way. It is just a debate about ethics and morals, and also about political and legal frameworks, and not a philosophical debate.

 

I mean, what Hitler did, was natural, simply by virtue of him doing it: it happened in the universe, therefore it was a natural occurence. But it is perfectly reasonable to argue that Hitler was a seriously disturbed individual, and that he went against such "natural" human impulses as empathy and a wish to work together with other humans to promote the wellbeing of everyone, and that therefore, we do not wish to simply forgive him "because his behavior was only natural". That's not what I'm suggesting at all.

 

I mean, sure, there must have been a complex cause-effect relationship in both his genetic make-up, and his environment (his experiences and thoughts about them throughout his life) that inveriably led to him doing what he did, and so in that sense it was "natural", but that doesn't mean I am suggesting we should just sit back and say: "oh well, that's just natural human behavior, there's nothing we can do about that".

 

In Hitler's case what he did was a dangerous afront to the collective human endeavour, horribly repulsive, and just downright counterproductive to everyone, including himself and all Germans, because what he did only served to get Germany destroyed, and drove himself to suicide, and causing an enormous amount of grief for everyone else in the process.

 

 

So if we se other people acting dangerously, repulsivly, or just stupid, what they are doing may well be considered "natural", but it is JUST as natural for the rest of us to respond by not accepting that they continue their behaviour.

 

A psychopath is acting naturally if he hurts other people, because it is in his nature that he is imcapable of empathy, but WE are acting just as naturally when we try to contain him, because it is in OUR nature to empathise with his victims. What he is doing is a dangerous afront to the collective human endeavour, and it is NATURAL for us to want to do something about it.

 

A religious fundementalist who is aggresively protheletizing that we should all give up all our worldly possesions and all our plans for the future, because the world will end next week, is acting naturally, because it is natural for humans to fall prey to all types of irrational thinking given the right (or rather wrong) conditions, but it is equally natural for the rest of us to not only ignore his protheletizing, but also try and help him see the error of his ways, because what he is doing is at best just annoying, and at worst a danger to the wellbeing of himself and others. What he is doing is downright counterproductive to everyone, including himself, and it is NATURAL for us to want to do something about it.

 

But we must never forget that what they are doing, be it dangerous or just stupid, will always have a natural explenation. There is a natural REASON in both their genetic make-up and in their environment, that leads them to do what they do, and understanding that reason is the first step in trying to solve the problem that they impose on of all of us, including themselves.

Well I was born an original sinner
I was spawned from original sin
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There'd be a mountain of money piled up to my chin


RatDog
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Luminon wrote: Hey,

Luminon wrote:
 

Hey, Nikolaj, I've got an idea. (as I see now, RatDog noticed it too) You talk about the environment defining us (or tapeworm). Isn't one of our characteristics the ability to take our environment alongside with us or re-create it to our needs? Just think of Muslim or other immigrants, how they keep their culture and language for many generations. 
Just please, don't take it to the extreme, we are humans, therefore everything we do is human, therefore the human or non-human definition is meaningless. You would remind me of EXC too much Smiling

I think that it can be said that culture is part of any environment that has people in it.  


NoMoreCrazyPeople
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Nikolaj wrote: I know that

Nikolaj wrote:
 

I know that this is probably not what you want to get at, and that I am making a rather pedantic point here, but I think it is relevant to keep in mind whenever one enters into a nature vs. nuture kind of discussion, which i suspect is what you are trying to start here.

A little pedantic maybe, , but neccesarry I guess, ofcourse I understand what you are sying.   I kept it simple, it is difficult to word, that is why I put "human nature" in quotations as it is a...lacking term.  There are many angles on this issue but the particular reason I asked was in response to I believe it was KAPKAO at the end of the Resourced Based Economy thread saying "and their will always be human nature" as an argument for why we will never attain a peaceful world in the future.  This may be true, it may be not, I guess that is the question.  At the moment it certainly seems as though we as a species have some not so good characteristics like the attraction to power, the need for material wealth and ownership over more and more things, tribalism, the need for an enemy, my dad can beat up your dad syndrom, my god can beat up your god syndrom etc...  All this stuff that makes it really impossible for man to co-exist peacefully and equally.  So, would people always exhibit this behavior if they wern't raised in this environment?  If advanced aliens took 1000 children from earth and raised them in a "morally" advanced society without scarcity, racism or bigotry of anykind, no war and vertually no violence, just a loving equal society, how would the humans behave in general?  What if this was done over many generations?  What if the "rehabed" humans were left on their own on a new planet to continue the behavior taught to them, would they resort back to stealing and killing eachother for land and throwing rocks over walls at eachother because they believe in different gods? 

 

The alien example comes to mind when I think of how wild animals can be taken out of their world into a loving peaceful (alien) world and exhibit very different behavior than their wild counterparts.  If you raise a baby lion in captivity with love and abundance of food and it is not released back into the wild before a certain point the animal will not succeed because it has not developed the behavior necessary to survive in a wild world of scarcity and survival of the fittest.  On the other hand a wild born lion after a certain point cannot be tamed as it has too strongly developed the behavior needed to survive in the wild.  Either way you end up with a lion who's behavior is really subject to his environment and not his "lion nature."

So how much of what we do as a species would we be doing regardless of our environement.

 edit:  I don't know wtf is up with the fonts