Thursday, November 29, 2012

431: The Art Not to be an Egoist 6

My previous lecture I ended with saying "With regard to  the current state of knowledge, what  should strengthen us on the assumption that our "bad" behavior comes from the animal kingdom, the "good", however, comes from the human culture?

When you look at the question from  a historical perspective, we can make a few interesting observations. 

The answer to the question whether  human nature is inherently good or bad relates strongly to political ideologies.

Hobbes' idea of the social contract was based in the conviction, that man as such was neither good nor bad, 

but that conflicting interests leads to a war of all against all.Therefor you need a strong government and in his opinion a king.

John Stuart Mill also saw the selfish nature of man, but he was milder. He believed that the conflicting interests would balance out.

Not because we are such brilliant beings, but because there always was an "invisible hand" that would guide the social processes. Of course he believed it was the hand of God.

Darwin too looked at man as an individual, trying to be the fittest, where being good or bad inherently, being a moral individual, was something typically human.

Huxeley was clear about it. Ethics is the product of culture and not an inherent feature of human nature. And all these ideas were perfect for a liberal point of view: it is the individual who has to make it.

But not everybody agreed to this individualistic approach around 1900. Survival of the fittest? OK, but how did that work? Do you survive as the fittest individual or as the fittest member of a group, this strengthening the group?

This was the the direction Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin (1842 –  1921), a Russian zoologist, evolutionary theorist, philosopher, revolutionary, economist, writer, and one of the world's foremost anarcho-communists, was thinking.

In 1902 Kropotkin published the book "Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution", which provided an alternative view on animal and human survival, 

beyond the claims of interpersonal competition and natural hierarchy offered at the time by some "social Darwinists", such as Francis Galton.

He argued "that it was an evolutionary emphasis on cooperation instead of competition in the Darwinian sense that made for the success of species, including the human."

Kropotkin explored the widespread use of cooperation as a survival mechanism in human societies through their many stages, and animals. 

He used many real life examples in an attempt to show that the main factor in facilitating evolution is cooperation between individuals in free-associated societies and groups, without central control, authority or compulsion. 

This was in order to counteract the conception of fierce competition as the core of evolution, that provided a rationalization for the dominant political, economic and social theories of the time; and the prevalent interpretations of Darwinism. 

Kropotkin did not deny the presence of competitive urges in humans, but believed that they were not the driving force of history as capitalists and social Darwinists claimed.

What means Kropotkin to our question? Has his kind consideration of man as an inherently collaborative being maintained itself? What do the experts say about it at the present? 

Kropotkin's understanding of our animal and human ancestors had been limited perforce: some unearthed bones of prehistoric man, some unfortunate creatures of great apes in the London Zoo - 

on this  basis one  could only speculate about the nature of man. Do we still speculate or do we have real knowledge about human nature today?

The Discussion

[13:22] herman Bergson: Thank you ^_^
[13:22] herman Bergson: one message...
[13:22] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Hmm ... interesting question to end on
[13:22] Debbie Dee (framdor): yay herman - great topic.
[13:22] Bejiita Imako: hmm yes
[13:22] Lizzy Pleides: thank you Herman
[13:22] herman Bergson: Next Thursday no class because of Thanksgivingday in the US
[13:22] Bejiita Imako: aaa ok
[13:22] herman Bergson: The floor is yours
[13:23] Debbie Dee (framdor): I think moral values, and ethics are the cornerstones of co-operation
[13:23] herman Bergson: They are Debbie
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: sounds logical
[13:23] Oceane (oceane.madrigal): I see - would you see Kropotkin more as an antecedent sociobiologist?
[13:23] Debbie Dee (framdor): we agree to not do bad to each other....
[13:23] herman Bergson: and in that sense Kropotkin was an interesting thinker
[13:24] Velvet (velvet.braham): I think cooperation is a result of evolution. It makes in the individual stronger.
[13:24] herman Bergson: He came up with counter arguments against the individualistic interpretation of evolution
[13:24] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): All that Social Darwinism thinking makes me think (again) of Bees
[13:24] Lizzy Pleides: my opinion is there is no contradiction between Darwin's and Kropotkin's theory and we are still speculating
[13:24] Velvet (velvet.braham): I thought of bees too.
[13:24] Debbie Dee (framdor): Nice name Kropotkin. Velvet, he argues that cooperation evolved too.?
[13:25] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I am currently reading Dawkins latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth
[13:25] herman Bergson: Ahh...
[13:25] Velvet (velvet.braham): Kropotkin did?
[13:25] herman Bergson: canyou tell us about it merlin?
[13:26] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): It is his attempt to convince people of the truth of evolution
[13:26] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ah
[13:26] herman Bergson: well evolution is a fact I would say...
[13:26] Velvet (velvet.braham): It's odd that people have to be convinced.
[13:26] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): But he revisits his old ideas too
[13:26] Debbie Dee (framdor): Is there any doubt about evolution?
[13:26] herman Bergson: yes indeed Velvet
[13:26] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Yes-ah!
[13:26] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): amazing
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:27] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Well Debbie, apparently 40% in USA disbelieve in evolution
[13:27] herman Bergson: Yes is a problem there ^_^
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: hmm eee ok
[13:27] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): evangelicals
[13:27] Lizzy Pleides: but the reason is faith and not science
[13:27] Velvet (velvet.braham): Neil DeGrasse Tyson said, "the great thing about science is that it exists whether you believe in it or not."
[13:27] Debbie Dee (framdor): Oh my! thats alarming. They are creationists?
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: but there are so many ultra religious people in US
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: must be why
[13:28] herman Bergson: Nice quote Velvet!
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: mormons and stuff
[13:28] Velvet (velvet.braham): Tyson is the man.
[13:28] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i like that velvet
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:28] Velvet (velvet.braham): he downgraded Pluto from a planet, but I don't hold that against him.
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: science is the true fact
[13:28] herman Bergson: What Kropotkin adds to our discussion is that evolution is not just an individual thing...
[13:29] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Well Dawkins reminds us that ultimately it is the gene which seeks to survive and it does so by helping the animal to survive
[13:29] herman Bergson: but a group, a social thing...
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: I use to say,I believe in god when it have been scientifically proved hes been seen
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: that he exists
[13:29] herman Bergson: that cooperation is the basis of the emergence of ethics,
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: same with ghosts
[13:29] Debbie Dee (framdor): anyway, the idea that cooperation enhances human survival makes it an evolutionary force. and most of our recent evolution involves huge co-operative efforts - great works etc
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: when science can prove them i believe and i have myself never seen ghosts
[13:29] Velvet (velvet.braham): or the other way, Herman. ethics is the result of cooperation.
[13:30] herman Bergson: Indeed Debbie
[13:30] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): In nature there is very little co-operation
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: thats true for sure
[13:30] Velvet (velvet.braham): Merlin, you were just mentioning bees.
[13:30] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): lol
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: heheh bees cooperate a lot as iI see
[13:30] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Yes Velvet You have got me there ;)
[13:30] Velvet (velvet.braham): and pack animals
[13:30] Debbie Dee (framdor): In nature - ants cooperate ....
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: and make honey . YUKMY!
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: lol
[13:31] herman Bergson: Can you tell us something about Dawkins argumentation Merlin?
[13:31] Velvet (velvet.braham) points at Bejiita
[13:31] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i think there is a great deal of cooperation in nature
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: me too
[13:31] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): He gives the example of trees trying to outgrow each other....
[13:31] herman Bergson: Yes lecture will be about that topic
[13:31] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): If they cooperated they need not be tall
[13:31] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ah
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:32] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): but they are not all tall
[13:32] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): there is the canopy
[13:32] herman Bergson: But that is a kind of antropomorphism…of trees
[13:32] Velvet (velvet.braham): and they don't far as we know!
[13:32] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): and undergrowth
[13:32] herman Bergson: trees aren't social beings...
[13:32] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): and ground growth
[13:32] Velvet (velvet.braham): you have to look out for others if you work in a cooperative, hence, ethics.
[13:33] Velvet (velvet.braham): they go together.
[13:33] herman Bergson: Yes Velvet...
[13:33] Debbie Dee (framdor): So to sum up, our moral values are societal norms, to help us co-operate. How and why does the co-operation fail?
[13:33] Velvet (velvet.braham): lots of ways to fail!
[13:33] herman Bergson: Yes Debbie....
[13:33] Debbie Dee (framdor): self interest above group interest?
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: when one in the team absolutely wanna do in another way conflicts arise
[13:33] herman Bergson: but the first question ethics embedded in huma nature.....or is it nurture only...
[13:34] Debbie Dee (framdor): yes bejita
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: pulls in the other direction
[13:34] herman Bergson: If you follow Kroptkins IS human nature...
[13:34] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): but is it in ALL human beings?
[13:35] herman Bergson: So a conclusion could be that we are a peculiar mix of selfishness and altruism...
[13:35] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I think it would be useful to look also at apes
[13:35] Debbie Dee (framdor): Its not just all humans - its all species ;)
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: well u gotta wonder since some people esp the greedy ones seem to completely lack both feelings and ethics
[13:35] herman Bergson: We'll do that in the next lecture Merlin ^_^
[13:35] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): ok
[13:35] herman Bergson: Well...
[13:36] Debbie Dee (framdor): survival depends partially on co-operation - the strongest groups survive.
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: another example is psychopaths that have characteristics that unfortunately make them suited as directors etc
[13:36] herman Bergson: I get the impression you all got a clear idea now about where we stand in the debate
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: thats why the boss is often an arse
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: i guess
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:36] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Lol Bejita
[13:36] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ LOL ♥
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: my boss is at least great and he can do barbecue like amazing
[13:37] Velvet (velvet.braham): Debbie, I read a book about societal collapse you might find interesting
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: another YUMMY!
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:37] Velvet (velvet.braham): it's by Jared Diamond.
[13:37] Debbie Dee (framdor): Oh - I like him.
[13:37] Debbie Dee (framdor): whats it called velvet?
[13:37] herman Bergson: What is that about Velvet?
[[13:37] Velvet (velvet.braham): It's called "Collapse:How Societies choose to fail or succeed"
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:38] Debbie Dee (framdor): ty. ill check it out.
[13:38] herman Bergson: The Rise and Fall of Rome ^_^
[13:38] Bejiita Imako:
[13:38] Velvet (velvet.braham): Rome is in the book
[13:38] herman Bergson: Why did that happen....
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:38] Debbie Dee (framdor): I read "Guns, germs and steel" a while ago ;)
[13:38] herman Bergson: interesting question...
[13:38] Velvet (velvet.braham): Debbie, that's on my list of books to read
[13:39] herman Bergson: Ok....
[13:39] herman Bergson: plenty of reading to do till next Tuesday then ^_^
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:39] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ohoh
[13:39] Debbie Dee (framdor): (Laughing out Loud) herman.
[13:39] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): no time
[13:39] herman Bergson: don't waist your time in ^_^
[13:39] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ LOL ♥
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: hahahaha
[13:39] Lizzy Pleides: lol
[13:39] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): we have plenty of time till next tuesday:)
[13:40] Debbie Dee (framdor): We come to school here
[13:40] Vadaman: Hihi
[13:40] herman Bergson: Yes Debbie..I do a lot of reading for you indeed :-))
[13:40] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): does a book of Stepehn King count too?
[13:40] herman Bergson: saves you a lot of time :-)
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: hmmm NO lol
[13:40] Bejiita Imako:
[13:40] Velvet (velvet.braham): Beertje, King is always a good choice!
[13:40] Debbie Dee (framdor): besides - where else do you get to discuss these ideas
[13:41] herman Bergson: Not quite a philosopher Beertje ^_^
[13:41] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): smiles:))))
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: hehee
[13:41] Velvet (velvet.braham): we can argue that point, Herman
[13:41] Velvet (velvet.braham): :)
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: the philosophy of horror maybe?
[13:41] Bejiita Imako:
[13:41] Velvet (velvet.braham): oooooh. I like it.
[13:41] herman Bergson: Well..
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: now THAT could be interesting subject
[13:41] Bejiita Imako:
[13:41] herman Bergson: Yes…it is interesting but not our subject at the moment
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: hehe we take this one first
[13:42] herman Bergson: But you may discuss it of course after class...
[13:42] Debbie Dee (framdor): Herman you keep us on topic so well.
[13:42] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): yes
[13:42] herman Bergson: So thnak you all agian for your participacion...^_^
[13:42] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ...:-))
[13:42] Debbie Dee (framdor): applause.....
[13:42] Velvet (velvet.braham): thank you!
[13:42] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: another interesting event
[13:43] Vadaman: Thank you for the lecture Herman.
[13:43] Bejiita Imako:
[13:43] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): dankjewel Herman:)
[13:43] herman Bergson: My pleasure Vadaman

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