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A thought on Human nature
Posted: 10 June 2010 05:17 PM   [ Ignore ]
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“What makes a person “bad”? I’ve often wondered this while growing up. When I was young, I could tell you exactly what made a person bad. Someone who attacks others either physically or mentally, someone who disobeys, someone who steals; these are all considered “bad” people, but why? All these actions stem from instincts, we are all born this way. Picture a child’s mentality before they have been taught “right from wrong”, now picture this mentality on an adult. This adult would be seen as criminal; as a bad person. Why is it that the adult is seen as a bad person while the child is seen as the symbol of kind heartedness and innocence? It’s because on a day-to-day basis we are forced to act against our instincts. Let the child grow up without teaching them to fight those “bad” instincts and you will be left with what we would call a bad person. However, I disagree. That is what a true human being is, it is what lies beneath our surface and the way we project ourselves. We all still have these thoughts to do what is dubbed bad, but we force those thoughts away to ensure we are seen as normal. If we are all doing this to seem normal, then clearly it’s not normal; unless, of course, human nature is to change human nature itself. We don’t want to be who we are, we want to be better. We want to fight away our instincts as a subconscious way of proving to ourselves that we are not animals, we are better than animals; we are the best.”


An excerpt from my best buddy. Comments?

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Posted: 10 June 2010 06:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I see things a bit differently.  Yes, we all have a drive to satisfy our needs and desires, probably derived from our need to stay alive long enough to procreate our species.  However, like many other animals, we are also social.  We are more efficient and generate more value for the group and ourselves when we cooperate than when we compete.  I believe we are hard wired with both of these drives.  Our parents and others tend to guide us toward cooperation (helping others - morality, liberal) or competition and self interest (not caring about others - immorality, badness, criminality, neo-conservative, etc.) 

Occam

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Posted: 11 June 2010 06:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I think the not caring about others thing is an inevitable outcome of rampant population growth and territorialism.
Remember, the 50/60s rat crowding experiments.

Also, don’t we have a spectrum within us.  Don’t we behave differently being influenced by the particular group of people we happen to be with?  And don’t circumstances bring unexpected good and/or evil acts out of us?

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Posted: 12 June 2010 08:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Without a doubt the more relevant question is: “What makes people perceive good and bad?”
The answers to most of that are obvious, so why do people continue to apply adjectives to common behavioral activities?
Murder and organized mass murder are both perfect examples of common behavioral activities.
Most people view axe murderers as bad, far less people view carpet bombing civilians as bad.( or even noteworthy) But what’s worse? I’d say carpet bombing civilians!
Now to sidetrack from that a little, humans may never carpet bomb each other again.(last time was WWII, there has since been other types of bombings that are just as atrocious, but let’s stick with carpet bombing.)
Why didn’t humans collectively step back and view the actual horror of that and renounce warfare forever? There were certainly voices for it. Minority voices, people of prestige and intelligence who pleaded to end that kind of killing forever. Did the killing stop? No!
Will it ever stop? No! Is that bad behavior? No! That’s human nature. We make movies of it, and watch it again. That is obviously the neutral standpoint on carpet-bombing.

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Posted: 13 June 2010 10:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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SupaDave - 10 June 2010 05:17 PM

“What makes a person “bad”? I’ve often wondered this while growing up. When I was young, I could tell you exactly what made a person bad. Someone who attacks others either physically or mentally, someone who disobeys, someone who steals; these are all considered “bad” people, but why?

Someone who disobeys WHAT?

Does it make sense to talk about “human nature” without taking about culture?

I went to Catholic schools.  Eating meat on Friday was being disobedient. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LG292heZfOc

I’m a Baaaad Boy!  LOL

psik

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Posted: 14 June 2010 01:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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psikeyhackr - 13 June 2010 10:57 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LG292heZfOc

I’m a Baaaad Boy!  LOL

psik

The posters name alone had me sold from the git-go.
And I thought I’ve heard every Beatles’ song.

so Brando actually was slim and trim once upon a time LOL

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Posted: 15 June 2010 05:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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SupaDave - 10 June 2010 05:17 PM

“What makes a person “bad”? I’ve often wondered this while growing up. When I was young, I could tell you exactly what made a person bad. Someone who attacks others either physically or mentally, someone who disobeys, someone who steals; these are all considered “bad” people, but why? All these actions stem from instincts, we are all born this way. Picture a child’s mentality before they have been taught “right from wrong”, now picture this mentality on an adult. This adult would be seen as criminal; as a bad person. Why is it that the adult is seen as a bad person while the child is seen as the symbol of kind heartedness and innocence? It’s because on a day-to-day basis we are forced to act against our instincts. Let the child grow up without teaching them to fight those “bad” instincts and you will be left with what we would call a bad person. However, I disagree. That is what a true human being is, it is what lies beneath our surface and the way we project ourselves. We all still have these thoughts to do what is dubbed bad, but we force those thoughts away to ensure we are seen as normal. If we are all doing this to seem normal, then clearly it’s not normal; unless, of course, human nature is to change human nature itself. We don’t want to be who we are, we want to be better. We want to fight away our instincts as a subconscious way of proving to ourselves that we are not animals, we are better than animals; we are the best.”


An excerpt from my best buddy. Comments?

The group, whatever group you happen to be part of collectively and perhaps arbitrarily decide what is bad. For some groups the death penalty is good for some groups it’s bad. For some groups belief in God is good, for others bad.

Good and bad in the past I think was based on power or authority. Now good and bad or good and evil is based on what the majority say it is in a democracy anyway.

I don’t really think there is a universal base line for good and bad. There is good and bad perhaps for your own self interests but self interest vary from person to person.

Morality is defined by the group. To be accepted by the group you have to accept the group morality. Otherwise you are labeled a criminal? antisocial?

What’s good and bad for me may not be what is good and bad for you. Yet we are kind of coerced/taught according to the morality of the group what is good and what is bad.

Good is what you agree is good and bad is what you agree is bad. It just not the same nor should it be IMO the same for everybody. That’s why we have different groups, nations, government, political parties etc.

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Posted: 07 March 2011 02:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I’ll admit it’s my tendency to want the world to sort itself out into absolutes at some level.  I am not comfortable with any view of morality which doesn’t ground itself in universal truths because an ungrounded moral system would mean that any other moral system could be justified in existing.  I’d like to be able to look over at Earth prime where it’s acceptable to rape children and say with certainty, “Don’t do that.  It’s wrong,” instead of only being able to say, “Don’t do that: I think it’s wrong.”  In the former case I’d have the right to step in and do something.  In the latter case one could argue that I have no right to do anything. 

That being said, there’s some evidence to suggest that evolutionary altruism exists in a number of species.  If that’s true, then you could argue that in groups of individuals, in order for them to survive across a number of generations, evolutionary altruism is a necessary trait. (I know that you could assume that societies could evolve without this, just as not all life needs to be carbon based).  I hate to play such a cop-out-card, but you cold consider altruism an emergent property of a functioning society. Assuming altruism is a cornerstone trait of any social species; all morals could be derived from this one truth: helping others is needed for your own survival.  It’s such a basic and overarching fact that it’s easy to see how groups could view and apply the rule differently as societies grow more complex and face less basic moral problems.  Complexity doesn’t discount truth, however.  If altruism is the basis of all morality then in any given case it should be possible to present logical arguments showing that one course of action is correct and another is wrong.

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Posted: 07 March 2011 02:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Interesting approach, Sarah.  My view is as follows: The basic drives of all animals are to survive and to copulate (most don’t know anything about preserving the spcies).  The former can be expressed as self-interest, that is any action which benefits the individual.  Quite a few species are solitary and focused on themselves.  However, many are social because that structure offers far more benefits on balance.  For a society to function successfully there have to be rules of behavior.  Otherwise, as each member satisfies his/her self-interest at the expense of the others the group drifts apart.  Those rules are the basis for ethics and morals.  A good part of the benefits gained by each individual are supplied by the others. 

There is the argument that altruism is really done out of self-interest, to make the person feel better about him/herself.  While that may be the case at times, I don’t think it’s always so.  The classic example is the soldier who throws himself on top of a live grenade to protect his comrades without any time to think about himself. 

So, while altruism is important, I don’t feel it’s the basis of morality.  Rather, we learn morality as children and behave that way unconsciously, but its basis is satisfaction of self-interest, albeit deferred benefits or “enlightened self-interest.”

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Posted: 07 March 2011 03:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Sarah Pseudoproblem - 07 March 2011 02:06 PM

That being said, there’s some evidence to suggest that evolutionary altruism exists in a number of species.  If that’s true, then you could argue that in groups of individuals, in order for them to survive across a number of generations, evolutionary altruism is a necessary trait..

I am not following your logic here, Sarah. You might as well say that, for example, adultery is to be found among other species and that it might be a necessary trait for those people who were not fathered by their father. I worry when I see people using evolution to justify their philosophical arguments. It makes very little sense.

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Posted: 07 March 2011 03:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I should wait for Sarah to respond, but I’m not sure, George; do you feel my argument that morality arises from the development of social animals doesn’t work?  If not, what do you see that’s weak in the logic of it?

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Posted: 07 March 2011 03:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Occam, you say that, “For a society to function successfully there have to be rules of behavior.” I don’t think that’s true. We have talked about this many times, but it is important to understand that it’s precisely the other way around: Societies “function” because we have certain rules of behaviour; if we had different kinds of rules of behaviour our societies might be functioning differently. Not that I necessarily believe much different “type of morality” would allow us get where we are today (think of blood-thirsty Klingons building interstellar spaceships), nevertheless, our rules of behavior are a mere product of millions of years of evolution and I simply wouldn’t call any of them “important.” Unless you want to refer to everything that had happened in the past as important.

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Posted: 07 March 2011 05:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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George - 07 March 2011 03:13 PM

I am not following your logic here, Sarah. You might as well say that, for example, adultery is to be found among other species and that it might be a necessary trait for those people who were not fathered by their father. I worry when I see people using evolution to justify their philosophical arguments. It makes very little sense.

My point is that it forms a foundation.  So while you could say that adultery forms the basis of morality that doesn’t seem like a derivation from a that particular behavior to any cross cultural moral truths.  The messy aspect is working backwards from morals in society and forwards from traits seen in primates and other social creatures.  If you want to make an argument that adultery in animals is related to similar traits in humans I’d be in agreement.  I once went to a talk about monkey barter systems and what they tell us about our own sense of value propositions and how we form economies.

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Posted: 07 March 2011 07:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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George, I didn’t define any particular rules of behavior when I made that statement initially.  I agree that the rules set by a dictator, say a Stalin or Hitler, would be very different from those of an egalitarian society, and the societies would and did function very differently.  Without any rules it’s anarchy and not a society.  I’m only saying that every society has defined rules, although they may also be very different for different members.  Slaves have to follow certain rules but not the ones their masters follow.  That’s why I don’t see them as being “a mere product of millions of years of evolution”. 


Rather, since we are social animals, I see the rules (morals, etc.) as coming about by general agreement times power as the society forms and evolves.  The more powerful members set the rules, but it depends on whether they are driven to satisfy immediate self-interest or they see the additional long term benefits of allowing the weaker members some benefits above just not being killed.

Sarah, I agree with you that George’s equating altruism with adultery is a bit of a stretch for an analogy in this case.

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Posted: 07 March 2011 07:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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The program seems to be acting up again.  When one tries to post a reply you get a blank screen and your text disappears.  That’s why I always block off my text and hit contro-C to copy it before I submit it.  That way, when I get a blank screen, I just go in and hit control-V and the text is back.  Then I type Wordpad after my name.
Just thought I’d mention it if you’ve had that problem.

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(Damn, it did it again)
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Posted: 07 March 2011 08:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I wasn’t implying that we can derive moral truths from adultery. I used the analogy (unsuccessfully, as I can see) to suggest that an advantageous adaptation such as altruistic behaviour (or adultery) is not an indicator of the existence of some type of Platonic universal. All that it tells us is that it allowed (along with a complicated combination of other things) to form a society as we know it today.

Sarah might think that altruism is the basis for what is morally right, the Germans thought that it was the superiority of their people and the Communists found their moral guide in the belief that competition was wicked. I don’t think I need to remind you that both the Germans and the Communists got their ideas from committing the same mistake as Sarah: assuming that evolution can teach us what ought to be.

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