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A thought on Human nature
Posted: 14 March 2011 09:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]
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Nietzsche might have had a “massive” influence on you and the philosophers but, once again, as far I as I can see he added nothing to our knowledge of the human nature. Almost every piece of text in anthropology will say that Darwin was right, almost right, etc., but I have yet to come across a reference to Nietzsche’s wisdom.

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Posted: 14 March 2011 10:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]
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George - 14 March 2011 09:58 AM

Nietzsche might have had a “massive” influence on you and the philosophers but, once again, as far I as I can see he added nothing to our knowledge of the human nature. Almost every piece of text in anthropology will say that Darwin was right, almost right, etc., but I have yet to come across a reference to Nietzsche’s wisdom.

Darwin’s ideas were not completely novel. They emerged from the philosophical and critical context of his time. You think Darwin wasn’t influenced by Hume? Or that no one but Darwin could add to discussions of anthropological or social nature?

I believe that your response represents [yet another] fallacious position: the fact that you are unaware of Nietzsche’s influence does not mean that it does not exist. I cannot account for your experience in the sciences or in philosophy (between which it seems you perceive there is a greater divide than actually exists).

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“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.”
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Posted: 14 March 2011 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]
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Sure, Hume might have had some influence on Darwin, many others did as well. Darwin supposedly had read Hume’s books so I guess we could agree that the possibility of Hume’s influence on Darwin exists. Fine.

And yes, you are obviously correct that I am unaware of Nietzsche’s influence on the subject of human nature. That is why I am still waiting for you to show me why I should think that Nietzsche is not dead...  smile

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Posted: 14 March 2011 09:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]
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Did Darwin contribute to the philosophy of human behavior or did he explain evolution? I am not sure if the comparison is valid.
Each contributed in the areas of their expertise.

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Posted: 15 March 2011 06:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]
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Philosophy, shmilosophy. Philosophy is as useful to explain human nature as is religion.

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Posted: 15 March 2011 06:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]
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Oh come on, George.  Philosophy is important.  What else lets so many people sit around pretending they’re smart and deep by spouting off obtuse gibberish in pointless, circular arguments.

Now to be philosophical myself.  I find myself falling further and further into absurdism every day.

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“In the end nature is horrific and teaches us nothing.” -Mutual of Omicron

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Posted: 15 March 2011 07:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]
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Well, every human being with a brain is a philosopher just like every human being with a digital camera is a photographer. It’s just that smart people make good philosophers and people with good taste make good photographers. And I guess a little bit of training also helps—in some cases. In other cases it does probably more damage than good, as is evident from such book titles as, for example, “Consciousness Explained.”  smirk

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Posted: 15 March 2011 07:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]
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There are such things as good philosophers?  Really?  Hmm, maybe I’m confusing “good” with “not annoying’ again.

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“In the end nature is horrific and teaches us nothing.” -Mutual of Omicron

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Posted: 21 March 2011 12:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]
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George - 15 March 2011 06:10 AM

Philosophy, shmilosophy. Philosophy is as useful to explain human nature as is religion.


Ahh, the truth speaks. excaim

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Gary the Human

All the Gods and all religions are created by humans, to meet human needs and accomplish human ends.

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Posted: 22 March 2011 07:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 70 ]
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Hmm. Been out for a few days.

Okay. I’m trying to think of the best way to address this. So your contention is that I have to demonstrate Nietzsche’s influence on “our understanding of human nature?” Just what is that understanding? Often times when I participate in forums or discussion groups I pick up on this common, but seriously flawed heuristic of assuming that “science” or “our understanding” are discreet, measurable things. As if they are bodies of knowledge about which we have determined the truth, and against which all arguments should be measured. My contention is that that is dogma. Not science.

As I stated before, this scheme of dismissing philosophers is patently silly, because science is a philosophical method.

The human nature discussion is a little bit complex. Philosophers (the ones who aren’t necessarily analytical scientists) have relevance because they can ask a few important questions that fall outside of the realm of science, such as, “does this have meaning?” Science, as a method, is notably limited. At its edges, its empiricism breaks down and it becomes more a feature of mathematical theory, which sometimes has proven practical probable, and other times practically impossible. To categorically dismiss thinkers that work either on the edge of our understanding of the universe or in realms which fall outside of the methods of science is hubristic and intellectually dishonest.

If your contention against Nietzsche (or anyone else, for that matter) is simply that he was a philosopher and can therefore add nothing to a conversation of human nature, then you are guilty of a) ad hominem dismissal, b) the straw man fallacy (since you are attacking philosophy in general instead of actual arguments), c) ignorance. I cannot possibly take responsibility for making you aware of Nietzsche’s relevance to modern discussions of human nature, both scientific and non-; that burden falls upon you. My suggestion is to take a few classes in the philosophical discourse and in sociology that relate to human behavior and instinct. More immediately, read On the Genealogy of Morality and contend against it specifically. I would be surprised if you found that you disagree with it very much.

Again, the string of comments waving hands and dismissing philosophy smack of a total ignorance of even what philosophy is today. Most postmodern thinkers actively draw in both the methodology and the understanding of science in order to ask questions about the world. More importantly, there exist notable critiques of the flaws of scientific reasoning (I tend to disagree with these critiques, but understanding them can be a good intellectual exercise). You guys want science to be the be all and end all, but don’t seem to understand just how dynamic and imprecise science is. It is a method, and a naturalistic method. Excellent and practical, but flawed. I note this as a working scientist (bioanalysis and evolutionary ecology)...if anything my bias is to confirm that strict empiricism is the only practical method of yielding truth about the world…and honestly that is kind of how I am wired to believe: if it can’t be demonstrated mathematically, then it doesn’t mean anything.

However, I cannot, in good conscience, dismiss philosophy as a practice, or dismiss the importance of the questions being asked by philosophers (and even theologians) simply because they seem unscientific. To say that they have no platform is to deny that any questions about the universe exist outside of those that proceed from direct observation. Personally I do become curious about what was before the big bang, or why existence is instead of nonexistence…if my entity is discreet or if the lines between person and world, between species and species, between star and planet are as stark as I imagine them to be. I would not go so far as to assume that “god” is the answer to any of these curiousities or to speculate that their solutions are fundamentally irrational, but those questions exist, and therefore, are important. Human nature might be as deterministic as you imagine it (and I’m sure Nietzsche would agree), but there is some element to humanity that I do not understand…something almost spiritual (the way that Ken Wilber or Carl Sagan used that word, not in the sense of western religion) and there are non-empirical methods of investigation into that nature that are, no matter how hard you deny it, part of the conversation.

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“Ah! How cheerfully we consign ourselves to Perdition!”
-Melville-

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.”
-Pynchon-

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Posted: 22 March 2011 10:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 71 ]
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Before Nietzsche, people thought that morals came from human nature.  A person with a good nature would act morally.  A person with a bad nature would act immorally.  Nietzsche showed, through his analysis of language, that morality was a cultural and language construct that favored the group that was in control of the language.  A person who was downtrodden would value words such as meek, humble, and submissive.  These were attributes to be aspired to.  The powerful, who were in authority would value words such as powerful, confident, and dominating.  They would reject the values of the downtrodden just as the downtrodden would give negative connotation to words such as dominating and arrogant.  George, you have Nietzsche to thank that a discussion of morality is considered a separate discussion today than a discussion of human nature.

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Posted: 23 March 2011 06:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 72 ]
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brightfut - 22 March 2011 10:18 AM

George, you have Nietzsche to thank that a discussion of morality is considered a separate discussion today than a discussion of human nature.

It is? That is certainly not what I got from watching The New Science of Morality, for example. I guess you can discuss morality on the philosophical level if you wish and you can also take a shot at it through theology. To each his own. I prefer science.

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Posted: 23 March 2011 07:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 73 ]
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The_Au_Mean - 22 March 2011 07:58 AM

I cannot possibly take responsibility for making you aware of Nietzsche’s relevance to modern discussions of human nature, both scientific and non-; that burden falls upon you.

The burden falls upon me? How so? It is you who is making the claim that Nietzsche added to our knowledge of human nature. All you need to do is come up with one example. brightfut already gave it a try, now it’s your turn…

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Posted: 23 March 2011 07:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 74 ]
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The_Au_Mean - 22 March 2011 07:58 AM

As I stated before, this scheme of dismissing philosophers is patently silly, because science is a philosophical method.

No, science is a scientific method. The philosophical method describes philosophy.

Let’s take aesthetics, a subject I have now been trying to make some sense of:

The philosophical approach:

“Aesthetic pleasure in the beautiful consists, to a large extent, in the fact that, when we enter the state of pure contemplation, we are raised for the moment above all willing, above all desires and cares; we are, so to speak, rid of ourselves.” (A. Schopenhauer)

The scientific approach:

“Young children prefer calendar landscapes to pictures of deserts and forests, and babies as young as three months old gaze longer at a pretty face than at a plain one. Babies prefer consonant musical intervals over dissonant ones, and two-year-olds embark on a lifetime of composing and appreciating narrative fiction when they engage in pretend play.” (S. Pinker)

Do you see the difference?

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Posted: 23 March 2011 09:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 75 ]
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Pssst The_Au_Mean…

Don’t you know? Only scientific questions are relevant questions…

By knowing how aesthetical preferences arise, we find exactly the correct ones. No reason for further talking, that is useless…

Same for morality. If I have a moral problem (e.g. how to treat my children) I look up what evolution scientists say about where my norms come from, and then I have the answer.

If you find irony here, it might not be accidental.

[ Edited: 23 March 2011 09:39 AM by GdB ]
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