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Thread: Is Human Nature Determined by Our Material Conditions?

  1. Top | #11
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    Adult humans have impulse control? I'd say history says otherwise.

    Social self restraint is a thin veneer that easily breaks down under stress.

  2. Top | #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    I'd say material conditions manifest which aspects of human nature manifest.

    I was at a friend's house for dinner and they had a rug rat. Another couple was there with a rug rat.

    The two kids were sitting upright on the floor toe to toe pulling back and forth on a toy.

    Fighting over possessions before they could talk.
    If one of these children was a capitalist he would have offered the other kid a dollar for the toy (but what if he doesn't have a dollar? Well I didn't say that he would pay it, just offer to pay). So this proves capitalism is against human nature (human nature as portrayed in this anecdote).
    Of course I am joking, but there are people who seriously claim that say socialism is against human nature but capitalism isn't [because apparently non-cooperation and selfishness are ingrained in humans (ignoring that capitalism is not purely predatory and also relies on cooperation and ideally enlightened self-interest)], whereas they are both human inventions.

  3. Top | #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spacetime Inhabitant View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    I'd say material conditions manifest which aspects of human nature manifest.

    I was at a friend's house for dinner and they had a rug rat. Another couple was there with a rug rat.

    The two kids were sitting upright on the floor toe to toe pulling back and forth on a toy.

    Fighting over possessions before they could talk.
    If one of these children was a capitalist he would have offered the other kid a dollar for the toy (but what if he doesn't have a dollar? Well I didn't say that he would pay it, just offer to pay). So this proves capitalism is against human nature (human nature as portrayed in this anecdote).
    Of course I am joking, but there are people who seriously claim that say socialism is against human nature but capitalism isn't [because apparently non-cooperation and selfishness are ingrained in humans (ignoring that capitalism is not purely predatory and also relies on cooperation and ideally enlightened self-interest)], whereas they are both human inventions.
    This claptrap mat be more suited to the politics forum and America bashing.

    One might argue that the failure of all the communist state experiments and the success of the western systems is based on the fact that free market competitive capitalism is more in line with our basic nature.Soviet and Chinese communism stifled personal initiative and suppressed competition, and both systems failed. China advanced from western investment, but system wise they are limping along.

    Modern free market capitalism allows for a wide range of humans and human behaviors.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PyramidHead View Post

    Must have been some kind of android or alien
    Altruism and social conscience, being adaptive, is a part of our repertoire of traits and abilities of the mind....sadly underutilized. Nice example of altruism over business and profit though.

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    Human Nature is hard-wired into our brains, from a million years of selective breeding for success as hunter-gatherers. Our 'material condition', on the other hand, is a cultural overlay; a veneer, affected by luck and culture.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DBT View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by PyramidHead View Post
    Must have been some kind of android or alien
    Altruism and social conscience, being adaptive, is a part of our repertoire of traits and abilities of the mind....sadly underutilized. Nice example of altruism over business and profit though.
    I agree, I was being sarcastic. The idea that people won't or can't do amazing things that benefit humanity without the incentive of deprivation is a fairly modern invention of reactionary politics.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by SLD View Post
    https://isreview.org/issue/82/marxis...d-human-nature

    In another thread, someone posted a picture of Engels holding his book, The origin of the family, private property and the state, and pointing out that what we view as human nature depends on our material conditions. ... Still the basic question remains, is human nature truly malleable, set by our material conditions? Or is it something more eternal?

    SLD
    So the theory is, if only Engels had been raised in a society that had "passed beyond class morality" he wouldn't have been a genocidal racist?

    Here's a competing theory on the topic: Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature
    Pinker's book is not a competing theory, because Marx's view was not at all that people are blank slates and have no natural innate dispositions. His view is that our "nature" is to have a number of possible behavioral repertoires available and to respond to the conditions we exist in. Since human beings evolved within social systems and only flourished via cooperating with others for shared goals, it is extremely likely that non-adversarial cooperation is among our most selected for and ingrained behavioral repertoires. At the same time, there are contexts of scarce resources where aggressive competition against others is required for survival, so that would also be an available behavioral repertoire.

    Different social and economic systems can be created that will amplify one type of behavior more than others, or highlight different features of our nature.


    Quote Originally Posted by SLD
    do we always need a profit motive to be productive?
    Depends on what you mean by "profit". All we need to have the motive to produce something is for that something to have value to us.
    By definition, "productive work" produces something of value. If that value is split evenly among those who worked to produce it, then everyone has acquired something of value and thus everyone in rewarded and incentive to do that productive work.
    Last edited by ronburgundy; 05-23-2019 at 05:54 PM.

  8. Top | #18
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    Another wrench in the discussion (or maybe just another way to frame what I said above) is that there is no single "human nature" but rather countless complex psychological and behavioral tendencies, many which directly contradict each other. For example, while it might be "natural" for people to cheat/game a system for personal advantage, people have evolved cognitive system for detecting cheaters and an innate desire to punish them.
    Therefore, a system that monitors and punishes selfish cheating is not going against human nature, but going with one aspect of human nature to constrain another aspect of human nature that can be destructive for shared outcomes.

    Since no human has ever existed in a non-variable context, we would never have been successful species if our "nature" was not highly context dependent, meaning that context determines which of the countless and often conflicting aspects of our nature are accentuated.

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    If X is our human nature, then it would be only there because of the environment that gave birth to us. Seems like we are islands that oceans make, change or destroy.

  10. Top | #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryan View Post
    If X is our human nature, then it would be only there because of the environment that gave birth to us. Seems like we are islands that oceans make, change or destroy.
    Which effectively eliminates the idea of free will?

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