Anarchism & Human Nature?

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HorrorHiro's picture
Joined: 27-09-11
May 7 2012 21:53
Anarchism & Human Nature?

Anyone know of...anything on the subject(s) of Anarchism and human nature, Anarchism and the human condition, or really anything of that nature?

Khawaga's picture
Joined: 7-08-06
May 7 2012 22:09

In the Anarchist FAQ there's a section dealing with just that.

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
Joined: 29-04-08
May 7 2012 22:13

Joined: 25-11-06
May 7 2012 22:14

I think the main summary of a "Marxist conception of human nature" is that the most human is to transform one's environment and in doing so create the tools and circumstances for collective transformation.

That is, human have some persistent social, biological, physical and so-forth traits yet these traits are incidental relative to the process of transformation that we might see at the core of humanity.

And incantations like human nature is "selfish/selfless/violence/peaceful/whatever" generally have so little meaning they're worth arguing with. To the usual cliche of selfishness, you could say, "perhaps human beings have so far been to insufficiently selfish to attain communism because they sacrificed their immediate interests to what the authorities told them would aid the collective interest" but really this is useless argument (though it's common enough that showing its meaningless futility might have some use).

Joined: 4-11-07
May 7 2012 22:45

well Kropotkin wrote this

Croy's picture
Joined: 26-05-11
May 9 2012 08:50

Another standard position for an anarchist, and is the one I take, is that even if there is a human nature, its a pretty useless thing as humans will behave in accordance to their socialisation and environment. Therefore, whilst it may appear that humans must be naturally competitive/self seeking/individualistic because thats how we behave now under capitalism, you realise that the last bit is the most important, it is how we behave under capitalism, that is a specific economic system with its moral superstructure etc.

Dave B
Joined: 3-08-08
May 9 2012 19:15

Letters of Marx and Engels 1844 Letter from Engels to Marx in Paris

In the second place he must be told that in its egoism the human heart is of itself, from the very outset, unselfish and self-sacrificing, so that he finally ends up with what he is combating. These few platitudes will suffice to refute the one-sidedness. But we must also adopt such truth as there is in the principle.

And it is certainly true that we must first make a cause our own, egoistic cause, before we can do anything to further it – and hence that in this sense, irrespective of any eventual material aspirations, we are communists out of egoism also, and it is out of egoism that we wish to be human beings, not mere individuals.

Or to put it another way. Stirner is right in rejecting Feuerbach's ‘man’, or at least the ‘man’ of Das Wesen des Christentums. Feuerbach deduces his ‘man’ from God, it is from God that he arrives at ‘man’, and hence ‘man’ is crowned with a theological halo of abstraction. The true way to arrive at ‘man’ is the other way about. We must take our departure from the Ego, the empirical, flesh-and-blood individual, if we are not, like Stirner, to remain stuck at this point but rather proceed to raise ourselves to ‘man’. ‘man’ will always remain a wraith so long as his basis is not empirical man. In short we must take our departure from empiricism and materialism if our concepts, and notably our ‘man’, are to be something real; we must deduce the general from the particular, not from itself or, à la Hegel, from thin air.

And after the Anti-Christ ‘what’s wrong with shagging your mother’ materialist Stirner

Walk on the ‘Christian’ Darwin in 1871.

And we go from the Feuerbachian deduction of social instincts from basic essential ‘Kantian’ like “christian” moral premises to a reverse deduction of basic essential ‘Kantian’ like “christian” moral premises from social instinct.

Darwin, C. R. 1871. The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. London: John Murray. Volume 1. 1st edition

The following proposition seems to me in a high degree probable—namely, that any animal whatever, endowed with well-marked social instincts,5 would inevitably acquire a moral sense or conscience, as soon as its intellectual powers had become as well developed, or nearly as well developed, as in man. For, firstly, the social instincts lead an animal to take pleasure in the society of its fellows, to feel a certain amount of sympathy with them, and to perform various services for them. The services may be of a definite and evidently instinctive nature; or there may be only a wish and readiness, as with most of the higher social animals, to aid their fellows in certain general ways.

But these feelings and services are by no means extended to all the individuals of the same species, only to those of the same association. Secondly, as soon as the mental faculties had become highly developed, images of all past actions and motives would be incessantly passing through the brain of each individual; and that feeling of dissatisfaction which invariably results, as we shall hereafter see, from any unsatisfied instinct, would arise, as often as it was perceived that the enduring and always present social instinct had yielded to some other instinct, at the time stronger, but neither enduring in its nature, nor leaving behind it a very vivid impression.

It is clear that many instinctive desires, such as that of hunger, are in their nature of short duration; and after being satisfied are not readily or vividly recalled. Thirdly, after the power of language had been acquired and the wishes of the members of the same community could be distinctly expressed, the common opinion how each member ought to act for the public good, would naturally become to a large extent the guide to action. But the social instincts would still give the impulse to act for the good of the community, this impulse being strengthened, directed, and sometimes even deflected by public opinion, the power of which rests, as we shall presently see, on instinctive sympathy. Lastly, habit in the individual would ultimately play a very important part in guiding the conduct of each member; for the social instincts and impulses, like all other instincts, would be greatly strengthened by habit, as would obedience to the wishes and judgment of the community. These several subordinate propositions must now be discussed; and some of them at considerable length.

5 Sir B. Brodie, after observing that man is a social animal ('Psychological Enquiries,' 1854, p. 192), asks the pregnant question, "ought not this to settle the disputed question as to the existence of a moral sense?" Similar ideas have probably occurred to many persons, as they did long ago to Marcus Aurelius. Mr. J. S. Mill speaks, in his celebrated work, 'Utilitarianism,' (1864, p. 46), of the social feelings as a "powerful natural sentiment," and as "the natural basis of sentiment for utilitarian morality;" but on the previous page he says, "if, as is my own belief, the moral feelings are not innate, but acquired, they are not for that reason less natural." It is with hesitation that I venture to differ from so profound a thinker, but it can hardly be disputed that the social feelings are instinctive or innate in the lower animals; and why should they not be so in man? Mr. Bain (see, for instance, 'The Emotions and the Will,' 1865, p. 481) and others believe that the moral sense is acquired by each individual during his lifetime. On the general theory of evolution this is at least extremely improbable.