Human Nature article

October 2021 Forums Socialist Standard Feedback Human Nature article

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    As per usual I post a link once a month (sometimes more) to one or other article in the Socialist Standard on the 40 or so Facebook groups I am on (others here should try this too its an effective form of publicity), One of the groups I on – the ancom v ancap group (with 18k members) is particularly responsive to stuff I post.

    Here’s one response to Howard’s article. Comments welcome

    Harrison Hicks
    This article overstates the depravity of human nature to justify understating its importance. They give historical examples like the people of Britain cooperating during the blitz:
    “The numerous examples he cites of this kind of thing allow him to state that ‘catastrophes bring out the best in people’ and to regard the ‘bad’ behaviour frequently seen in human beings and their societies as aberrant.”
    But this ignores the fact that the catastrophe is the result of the worst in people. Are all humans entirely depraved? Of course not, and pointing out that “oh yeah well this one time some people did some nice stuff too so evil human nature doesn’t exist and need not be considered” is a correspondingly stupid argument in return. So why make such an argument? Obviously it’s because leftists want to gloss over the fact that we don’t need to be 100% depraved beasts for the right’s argument for individual rights and responsibilities to still stand. Burglars make up .003% of society, but we all still know that that level of risk posed by society is enough for individuals to put locks on our doors.
    The problem of communism is that it justifies small amounts of harm (ostensibly only at the expense of the bourgeoisie but in reality far beyond) for its concept of the greater good, which only serves to incentivize it and increase its prevalence. We see this reasoning with another historical argument from this essay:
    “Again, amidst the carnage of the First World War, Bregman provides evidence that very few soldiers in the trenches actually fired their weapons at members of the enemy they could see and many deliberately fired into the air. Likewise, during the Second World War he quotes research showing that only a very small percentage of soldiers actually managed to fire their guns when they came into direct contact with the enemy despite being under orders to do so.”
    What does it matter to me as an individual being shot whether or not it was likely on a societal scale? What leftists are quick to deny is that individual acts and choices have any significance in society unless their acts are collectivized. But in reality, individuals have the potential to create harm greatly disproportionate to their representation in society. The opposite is true as well, that they can enact great good in society on their own. But that sort of thinking can’t be allowed on the left, lest they have to reckon with the fact that their own choices contribute to the hegemony of capitalists that they claim to despise.
    None of the practices that socialism suggests are denied to you under a free market. Cooperate all you like. The only reason that leftists could have for suggesting doing away with capitalism is because it reveals to us that the free and voluntary interactions of individuals in society are just bad enough to keep class alive and well. And that’s something that you can’t just coerce out of people


    More feedback

    Pyotr Malatesta
    “Human nature” is a conceptually confused myth.
    There is no set of necessary and sufficient properties that are distinctively human.
    Until such a set of necessary and sufficient properties that are distinctively human can be identified, “human nature” as a concept has no definitive identity.
    If “human nature” has no definitive identity, the concept of “human nature” is undefined, vague and equivocal.
    The concept of “human nature” contains two concepts which contradict each other.
    The concept of “nature” or “natural” is a conceptual contrast with that which is “artificial”.
    “Nature” is that which is without human intervention, while that which is “artificial” is the result or product of human action.
    Therefore “human nature” is conceptually contradictory.
    If humans have a “nature” then everything which is “artificial” is also “natural” a product of “human nature”, which reduces “artificial” to an empty set.
    If there is a “human nature” then humans do not act, but merely behave as their “nature” dictates. If there is a “human nature” then humans may exhibit behavior, but to talk of “human action” would be merely pretense, as what appeared to be “purposeful action” would merely be instinctual behavior. If individual humans can act purposefully, then they could act purposefully against their “human nature” which would entail that either that they are no longer human, or that there is no “nature” that the individual human is compelled to obey. If this can be true for an individual human, then this could apply to nearly every human, implying there is no general “human nature” that any human must exhibit.
    If the concept of “artificial” is not an empty set, then “human nature” is conceptually confused
    If one can say that, “individual humans act purposefully” then “human nature” is conceptually confused.

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