The nature of man

Discussion in 'SHH Community Forum' started by Why Are You Crouching Spock?, Nov 9, 2007.

  1. Why Are You Crouching Spock?

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    This is an interesting read, especially the utopian society and self interest paragraphs.

    http://www.blupete.com/Literature/Essays/BluePete/Man.htm

    Utopia:-
    The book shelves of the world are filled with the works of the Utopian writers, "both ancient and modern." They all suppose that a state of society is possible in which "the passions and wills of individuals would be conformed to the general good, in which the knowledge of the best means of promoting human welfare and the desire of contributing to it would banish vice and misery from the world, and in which, the stumbling-blocks of ignorance, of selfishness, and the indulgence of gross appetite being removed, all things would move on by the mere impulse of wisdom and virtue to still higher and higher degrees of perfection and happiness."6
    The word Utopia comes from the book, Utopia, wherein Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) described his view of the perfect society. But the first Utopian blueprint in history was written in ancient Greece at about 380 BC. It is Plato's Republic. It was Plato's view that the individual person was not, and could not, be self-sufficient. His view of man is the same that one might have of a laboring beast of the field:

    "... And even in the smallest manner ... [one] should stand under leadership. For example, he should get up, or move, or wash, or take his meals ... only if he has been told to do so. In a word, he should teach his soul, by long habit, never to dream of acting independently ... There will be no end to the troubles of states, or of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands." (Plato).
    There was, in this world, to be no perfect state and no perfect men in it, one can only strive for the ideal. To Plato, there was no natural sense on how men ought to live, education was to be the key to the construction of a better society; from the "educated" would arise the elite to rule society. Plato thought it essential that a strict threefold class division be maintained. In addition to the rulers, the Philosopher-kings, there were to be "Auxiliaries" (soldiers, police and civil servants) and the "Workers" (the rest of us). Plato's view of society was pinned by the belief that philosophers are capable of knowing the absolute truth about how to rule society, and, thus, are justified in wielding absolute power. Such a view is in striking contrast to that of his principal teacher, Socrates (469-399 BC), who was always conscious of how much he did not know, and claimed superiority to unthinking men only in that he was aware of his own ignorance where they were not.
    Now, I think most would agree, a stable and efficient society is important; but one should wonder about a society that will use force (legislation) to make the individual give in to the desires of those who have set themselves up as knowing what is best for everyone. Those who subscribe to the theory that we should be ruled by those who really know best, subscribe, whether they know it or not, to Plato's theory of man. Whether we know it or not (and most do not), it is upon this Platonic theory that our modern day society dwells. The theory is: the community is to permit government to use persuasion and force with a view to unite all citizens and make them share together the benefits which each individually can confer on the community for the benefit of the community. This theory -- so attractive in its statement -- is a false theory. When, in its legislation, in its use of force, government suppresses the welfare of the individual; when its efforts are aimed to foster the attitude that one should not proceed to please oneself, government commits a fatal error in the achievement of its laudable object, the betterment of the whole. The essential problem in proceeding in this manner is that individuals cannot contribute to the whole, indeed will be a drain on the whole, unless they are allowed to be free and productive, that is to say allowed to suit themselves.
    Men did not evolve into robots; they did not come to possess the independent spirit, so characteristic of man, by serving others; man came to be the superior being, that he clearly is, because of the exercise of free choice: free choice, the essential ingredient in the evolutionary process.
    [TOC]
    Tradition and Prejudice:-
    Habit, as Oliver Wendall Holmes has said, is "a labor-saving invention which enables a man to get along with less fuel." Habit comes naturally to man; and, habit "makes the custom." In turn, custom becomes the great guide to human life. "Customs, even the most foolish and the most cruel, have always their source in the real or apparent utility of the public."7 Some customs, we might safely conclude, are harmful, and, thus, not to be followed; but where left with a choice, habit or custom is more true then most anything else one might choose as a guide. Habit may be equated to prejudice; it is an impression or an inference which one has picked up, -- a person knows not when or how -- as likely as they are unavoidable, they are fair; they are taken from one's general observation, or past experiences. There is nothing necessarily wrong with a prejudice, as Edmund Burke has written, "it is natural and right."


    "No wise man can have a contempt for the prejudices of others; and he should even stand in a certain awe of his own, as if they were aged parents and monitors. They may, in the end, prove wiser than he."8
    ( William Hazlitt.)
    We lawyers have an expression, a legal maxim, Via trita via tuta, fancy words meaning, "The trodden road is the safe road." Tradition is simply a set of evolved rules, rules for living. These rules grew spontaneously, viz., they have not by definition been deliberately designed by a mind; the origins of these moral traditional rules are obscured in the mists of past times. While the function of tradition has been to preserve an existing state of affairs, it, nonetheless, has allowed for culture to evolve; the growth of culture, in turn, has allowed for the growth of civilizations.9 Man has had no choice in this process, but that has not stopped him, during the course of the last couple of hundred years, to attempt to lend a hand in this natural process; man's attempts, however -- and History will show -- have done nothing but impede, or reverse the process of man's cultural development. [TOC]
    Self-Interest:-
    The human individual, in the evolutionary process, considers his choices and calculates which of his chooses will be to his advantage, not necessarily to his exclusive advantage, but to his advantage.10 A person normally proceeds to take steps which he thinks would best promote his advantage, which often includes "scratching another person's back."


    "The first principle ... is that all actions whatsoever arise from self-interest. It may be enlightened self-interest, it may be unenlightened; but it is assumed as an axiom, that every man, in whatever he does, is aiming at something which he considered will promote his happiness. His conduct is not determined by his will; it is determined by the object of his desire. Adam Smith, in laying the foundations of political economy, expressly eliminates every other motive. He does not say that men never act on other motives; still less, that they never ought to act on other motives. He asserts merely that, as far as the arts of production are concerned, and of buying and selling, the action of self-interest may be counted upon as uniform."11
    And, now we quote the great man, himself:
    "Every individual necessarily labors to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally indeed neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good." (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations.)
    There is of course in life to be exceptions. (In the evolutionary scheme of things life could not have come about or combine into complex orders without chance aberrations.) There are people that seemingly do things which are not in their interest, indeed, often against their interest. There is, however, as Rochefoucauld put it, no limit to the roles that self-interest will play, even the role of disinterestedness. Ask yourself, what are the feelings of one as they go about doing charitable work? In what conditions will they proceed to do charitable work? Quite separate from the preceding questions, one might ask, "Does Mother Theresa have absolutely no self-interest in what she does?" Whatever the answer to this last question, one might be assured that the mother Theresas of this world are in a distinct minority. "In general," as Hume has said, "it may be affirmed that there is no such passion in human minds, as the love of mankind, merely as such, independent of personal qualities, or services, or of relation to ourselves." People, in the final analysis, are, as it should be, out for themselves; especially when they are in trouble, even the slightest bit of trouble. "The least pain in our little finger gives us more concern and uneasiness than the destruction of millions of our fellow-beings."12
    "Man is a creature of social instinct condemned by his nature to be solitary. Creatures in all outward respects similar to himself are awhirl about him. They cannot help him, nor he them; he cannot even be sure, for all he may assume it, that they share his hope and calling." (Hewlett.)13
    "No man is much regarded by the rest of the world. He that considers how little he dwells upon the condition of others, will learn how little the attention of others is attracted by himself. While we see multitudes passing before us, of whom perhaps not one appears to deserve our notice or excite our sympathy, we should remember, that we likewise are lost in the same throng; that the eye which happens to glance upon us is turned into a moment on him that follows us, and that the utmost which we can reasonably hope or fear, is to fill a vacant hour with prattle, and be forgotten." (Dr. Johnson.)
    For a Utopian society to work -- What is Needed; and, What is Missing; And Which Accounts for Why Utopian Schemes Have Never Worked and Will Never Work -- there must exist in a large majority of the population, in each individual, a disregard for their immediate self-interest and in its place a public spirit, a patriotism and a concern for humanity in general. The fact of the matter is: it is not in the best interests of the individual to proceed in such a fashion, simply because he knows that most of his fellows will not; and in the face of this he has himself and his own to take care of. William Hazlitt wrote of this:
    "The personal always prevails over the intellectual, where the latter is not backed by strong feeling and principle. Where remote and speculative objects do not excite a predominant interest and passion, gross and immediate ones are sure to carry the day, even in ingenuous and well-disposed minds. The will yields necessarily to some motive or other; and where the public good or distant consequences excite no sympathy in the breast, either from shortsightedness or an easiness of temperament that shrinks from any violent effort or painful emotion, self-interest, indolence, the opinion of others, a desire to please, and sense of personal obligation, come in and fill up the void of public spirit, patriotism and humanity."
     
  2. Ghostvirus

    Ghostvirus Registered

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    Interesting.
     
  3. The Original Bamfer

    The Original Bamfer Big, Bald and Beautiful

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  4. Ghostvirus

    Ghostvirus Registered

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    Utopian society can't exist until we care just as much if not more about our neighbor, than we do about ourselves.
     
  5. The Original Bamfer

    The Original Bamfer Big, Bald and Beautiful

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  6. Why Are You Crouching Spock?

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    The jist i got from it was something along the lines of everyone ultimately everyone being out for them selfs, we help other people so that we may help ourself, we put out own short sighted self-needs before the more logical grander need, and because of that, we will never have a perfect utopia society.
     
  7. EdRyder

    EdRyder Registered

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    Sounds like bs to me...Im not buying this at all
    When you're on your own personal path to enlightenment the end goal is of little importance,its the journey that counts.It is in self interest and personal discovery that you will find that higher consciousness and then want to pursue what that role is in the public domain.
     
  8. Why Are You Crouching Spock?

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    When you put it like that, it makes perfect sense.
     
  9. Abaddon

    Abaddon Watching

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    The nature of man is to be really mean.:mad:
     
  10. EdRyder

    EdRyder Registered

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    Im saying the two arent at odds like its described here.They're intertwined.
    You cant help anyone when you're all ****** up yourself.So to say,that you would need to disregard your own self interest is nonsense.You need a greater understanding of self.You need to make a commitment to that.
    How could the pursuit of consciousness be self indulgent?
     
  11. Ghostvirus

    Ghostvirus Registered

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    This is true. That nature of man is violence. We justify out existance through violence, & blood shed.
     
  12. Why Are You Crouching Spock?

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    I think what the article is trying to argue is something along the lines, if your in a group, family, friends, town, city, nation, ethnic group, and you strengthen that group in some way, you are strengthening your self, if it benefits them, you benefit, if you help someone, your helping your social status, you scratch my back, I scratch yours, there's abit about market also, but cant be bothered reading it again, I think that went on about it in some way also.
     
  13. Damien Rage

    Damien Rage Registered

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    dang...that's deep I agree. I think people are selfish. I was talking with my friend the other day about people and what they do and how that will affect them...etc. Think like the movie Pay It Forward, but in a bizzaro way. You cut someone off on the highway, they yell at their kid, kid beats someone up at school, that kid punches his sister...so on and so on.

    True I am not holier than thou, but I try to think things through (on a higher level).
    I hate traffic. Once had to merge becuase of construction, it was a cluster f. It was so unorganized (I'm anal retentive about order & structure). So I'm about to either get really mad, or cry, then this guy beeps at me and waves to me like "go dude I got your back". Everyonce in a while someone will do something so nice that makes me think "ok not everyone is a creep". So we merge go through the toll, nice guy behind me and I paid for his bridge fare.
    I wonder how did I affect his day? I read once that that basically said "a postive thought or action, will cause a chain reaction of postivity..." I cant remember it word for word, but it made sence.
     
  14. turtlefocker

    turtlefocker Registered

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    As a man all I can say is booze, burgers, and Corey Feldman.... no need for a god-damn essay on it.
     
  15. Damien Rage

    Damien Rage Registered

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    booze & burgers :up:
    but corey feldman???
    wtf?
     
  16. Ghostvirus

    Ghostvirus Registered

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    I know right. It is as if Corey Haim never existed!:cmad:
     
  17. AhabTheArab

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    haha Utopian societies are impossible. so i didnt bother to read it.
     
  18. EdRyder

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    History would disagree with that.
    Tribal life wasnt ideal but its simplicity had Utopian elements.
    If all you know is our totalitarian agriculture based civilization then I can see why youd believe its impossible.Especially If you're using America as the template.There are still cultures in the world that are in the "bondage" of totalitarian agriculture,yet still manage to view the community as a priority.
     
  19. primemover

    primemover Registered

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    Live a selfish life, and in doing so you will find you help many others in return, because nobody lives in a vacuum and making friends and allies is within self interest. Veil it any way you want, but it all comes down to this, from the family level to the nation-state level, anything else is a misfire of your mental wiring.
     
  20. GNR

    GNR Registered

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    Yea,that's basic common sense.But I see no Utopia happening for quite a long time.Unless some big disaster occurs and has everyone holding hands longer than the headlines last.
     
  21. primemover

    primemover Registered

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    It's real easy to be nice on the tribal level, as the repercussions of being a jerk hinder personal success much more, it's great incentive. don't **** where you sleep. Lost trust of your tribe-mates and you will be ostracized, which meant being sent away, or outright being killed. Utopian right?

    Personal interaction outside of the tribe was worse, as most of it was bloody and full of mistrust, when usually the first thing two people of different tribes would do was fight. Tribal peoples of the world are some of the most xenophobic people on the planet. Utopian right?
     
  22. Zero_Vault

    Zero_Vault Registered

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    The nature of men: evil.

    Under the wrath of God.
     
  23. EdRyder

    EdRyder Registered

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    Personal interaction outside the tribe Pre or Post totalitarian agriculture?
    Certainly in any tribal civilization there were rules to follow.Indeed,sleeping with another mans wife could get you both banished from the community.Take into consideration that consequence is known in the tribe and the conclusion is most likely these two people were in love.They accepted the repercussions of the action before the adulterous act was commited...


    Now,granted there were varying rules for different tribes in any situation.,,And there certainly isn't any 1 right way to live.But it was the right
    way to live for them.

    So,is that what you base Utopian civilization on is the disparity between punishments from civilization to civilization?
     
  24. primemover

    primemover Registered

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    No, just pointing out that I wouldn't hold up tribal living as any bastion of what Utopian is, when tribal living is very fascist, violent and xenophobic towards it's neighbors.

    If a Utopian civilization is everybody living in peace and harmony, I really don't see it being a possibility in realistic terms, in fact I don't think it has ever existed for any considerable length if time with any sizable population, unless you force people with threats of excommunication or death.

    With free will you will never have peace and harmony, so unless you are suggesting a high level nanny state scenario, just try and make the best living you can for you and yours, and hope for the best :D
     

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