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[Philosophy] Human Nature. (P2)
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Default [Philosophy] Human Nature. (P2) - 10-26-2010, 11:47 AM

Many philosophers have agreed with Freud that human beings are essentially aggressive.
Long before Freud for example the British philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) argued for a similar view.
Hobbes was a materialist who held that everything in ¨The Universe, that is the whole mass of things that are, is corporeal, that is to say body.¨
Humans, too, are material bodies, and we can explain their activities much like those of a biological mechanism. The mechanism of desire moves human beings to act. Consequently, whenever human beings do something, they are seeking satisfaction of power their own mechanistic desires. In fact, Hobbes claimed, the antisocial desire for power over others is what mainly motivates human beings. He wrote ¨In the first place I put for a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death.¨

The European philosopher Moritz Schlick (1882-1936), also a materialist, suggested that we do not have to look at extreme instances of agression to see self-interest at work.
Schlick argued for the view called psychological egoism. This theory says that human beings are made so that they can act only out of self-interest. Self-interest is present in even the most apparently unselfish behaviors.
When people choose between any two options, they always choose the option that gives them the most pleasure.
If we examine our own behavior and that of others, he held, we will see that this self-interested pursuit of pleasure is always present. We can explain even the apparent exceptoions as the self-interested pursuit of pleasure.
When a child ''Sacrifices'' by giving up the larger slice of a cake to a friend, Schlick claimed, it is because the child associates more pleasurable consequences with giving up the peice of cake.
The pleasure of giving up the cake is greater then the pleasure of eating it. So the child gives away the larger slice of cake because doing so gives her the larger pleasure.
Similarly, heroes risk their lives for others because they associate pleasurable emotions with the thought of being heroic and consequently choose the more pleasurable act. Even when no egoistic motive is obvious, self-interested motivations are always operating in human beings.

The views that we have just breifly described, then, say that human nature is selfish and material. Apart from their intrinsic interests, these views have profound and highly personal implication for each of us.
For example, your views about these aspects of human nature will shape your relationships with other people. If a person thinks that human beings are basically unselfish, then won't that person instinctively relate to other people with trust and openness?
Won't such a person accept the kind gestures of strangers as natural and not feel suprised that others help simply because they want to?
But if a person believes that believes that human beings are basically self-interested, then won't that person mistrust others?
Won't (s)he be suspicious of kindness and continually wonder what people are trying to get from him/ her.
Won't (s)he feel that the only way to get help from others is by offering them something in return?

Your views about human nature also influence your relationship to the universe. If a person believes that human beings are spiritual as well as material, then won't that person be open to religious experince?
Won't such a person see himself as having a spiritual aspect that makes him different from the purely material and biological universe?
Won't such a person be willing to see his life in this material universe as a kind of preperation for a spiritual life in another world and universe?
On the other hand, a person may feel that a human being is a purely physical creature. The person may feel that a human is a creature with a highly developed brain, to be sure, but not fundamentally different from other animals.
For such a person, doesn't death have to be the end of existence?
Won't such a person be convinced that this material universe is all there is and all that anyone can have?

Last edited by caliban; 11-10-2010 at 04:52 PM.
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