Lorenz, K.  On Aggression.  Harcourt Brace & Co, Orlando, FL.  1966.



Introduction

(ix)  The subject of this book is aggression, that is to say the fighting instinct in beast and man which is directed against members of the same species.  

(x)  I had expected unbridgeable differences of opinion over the concept  of  the  death  wish  which,  according  to  one of  Freud’s theories,  is  a  destructive  principle  which  exists  as  an  opposite pole  to  all  instincts  of self-preservation. In  the  eyes  of  the  behavioral scientist this hypothesis, which is foreign to biology, is not only unnecessary but false. Aggression,  the  effects  of which are frequently equated with those of the death wish, is an instinct like any other and in natural conditions it helps just as much as any other to ensure the survival of the individual and the  species.  In man, whose  own efforts  have  caused  an  over-rapid change in the conditions of his life, the aggressive impulse often has destructive results. But so, too, do his other instincts, if in  a  less  dramatic  way.  When  I expressed  these  views  on the theory of the death wish to my psycho-analytical friends I was surprised  to find  myself in  the  position  of  someone trying  to force  a  door  which  is  already  open.  They  pointed  out  to  me many passages in the writings of Freud which show how little reliance  he  himself  had  placed  on  his  dualistic  hypothesis, which  must  have  been  fundamentally  alien  and  repugnant  to him  as  a  good  monist  and  mechanistically  thinking natural scientist.

(xiii)  [There are] certain inner obstacles which prevent many people from seeing themselves  as  part  of  the  universe and  recognizing  that  their  own behavior  too  obeys  the  laws  of  nature.  These  obstacles  come first  of  all  from rejection  of  the  idea  of  causality,  which  is thought  to  contradict  the  fact  of  free  will,  and  secondly  from man’s spiritual pride.  (revisited on pg 220).


Ch 3.  What Aggression is Good For

(23)  Darwin’s expression, ‘the struggle for existence’ is sometimes erroneously   interpreted   as   the   struggle betweendifferent species.  In  reality,  the  struggle  Darwin  was  thinking  of  and which drives evolution forward is the competition between near relations.

     - intra-specific selection/competition:  fighting among one’s own species for resources and reproduction rights.

(41)  My teacher, Oskar Heinroth, used to say jokingly, ‘Next to the wings of the argus pheasant, the hectic life of western civilized man is the most stupid product of intra-specific selection!’ The rushed existence into which industrialized, commercialized man has precipitated himself is actually a good example of an inexpedient development caused entirely by competition between members of the same species. Human beings of today are attacked by so called managerial diseases, high blood pressure, renal atrophy, gastric ulcers and torturing  neuroses; they succumb to barbarism because they have no more time for cultural interests. And all this is unnecessary, for they could easily agree to take things more quietly; theoretically they could, but in practice  it is  just as impossible for them as it is for the argus pheasant to grow shorter wing feathers.

   - because of autocatalytic trajectory of “progress.”

   - autocatalytic:  any process that increases in speed according to the amount of the products is has created.  The longer the process runs, the greater its speed, (E.O. Wilson, 84).

 

Ch 5.  Habit, Ritual, and Magic

(57)  Shortly  before  the  first  world  war  when  my  teacher  and friend, Sir Julian Huxley, was engaged in his pioneer studies on the courtship behavior of the great crested grebe, he discovered the remarkable fact that certain movement patterns lose, in the course of phylogeny, their original specific function and become purely ‘symbolic’ ceremonies.  He called  this process ritualization and used this term without inverted commas; in other words, he equated the cultural processes  leading to the development of human rites with the phylogenetic processes giving rise to such remarkable ‘ceremonies’ in animals. From a purely functional point of view this equation is justified, even bearing in mind the difference  between the cultural and phylogenetic processes.  I shall try to show how the astonishing analogies between the phylogenetic and cultural rites find their explanation in the similarity of their functions.

(75)  Our fidelity to the symbol [like a Christmas tree] implies fidelity to everything it signifies, and this depends on the warmth of our affection for the old custom. It is this feeling of affection that reveals to us the value of our cultural heritage. The independent existence of any culture, the  creation of a super-individual society which outlives the single being, in other words all that represents true humanity, is based on this autonomy of the rite making it an independent motive of human action.

    - “phylogenetic rite formation” is a prerequisite for “social organization” is a prerequisite for culture.  

(76)  The  beautiful  forms  and  colors  of  a  Siamese fighting fish’s fins, the plumage of a bird of paradise, the peacock’s tail and the amazing colors on both ends of a mandrill have  one  and  all  evolved  to  enhance  some  particular ritualized movements. There is hardly a doubt that all human art primarily developed in the service of rituals and that the autonomy of ‘art for art’s sake’ was achieved only by another, secondary step of cultural progress.

(78)  In cultural ritualization, the two steps of development leading from communication to the control of aggression and, from this, to the formation of a bond, are strikingly analogous to those that take place in the evolution of instinctive rituals, as illustrated in Chapter 11 by the triumph ceremony of geese. The triple function of suppressing fighting within the group, of holding the group together and of setting it off, as an independent entity, against other, similar units, is performed by culturally developed ritual in so strictly analogous a manner as to merit deep consideration.
         Any human group which exceeds in size that which can be held together by personal love and friendship depends for its existence on these three functions of culturally ritualized behavior patterns.  Human social behavior is permeated by cultural ritualization to a degree which we do not realize for the very reason of its omnipresence.  Indeed, in order to give examples of human behavior which, with certainty, can be described as non-ritualized, we have to resort to patterns which are not supposed to be performed in public at all, like uninhibited yawning and stretching, picking one’s nose or scratching in unmentionable places.  Everything that is called manners is, of course, strictly determined by culturalritualization.  ‘Good’ manners are by definition those characteristic of one’s own group and we conform to their requirements constantly; they have become ‘second nature’ to us. We do not, as a rule, realize either their function of inhibiting aggression or that of forming abond.  Yet it is they that effect what sociologists call ‘group cohesion’                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            (80)  Though immeasurably faster than phylogenetic speciation, cultural pseudo-speciation does need time.

    - E.O. Wilson’s cultural evolution happens faster than biological evolution.

(83)  The dark side of pseudo-speciation is that it makes us consider the  members  of  pseudo-species  other  than  our own  as  not human,  as many  primitive  tribes  are  demonstrably  doing,  in whose language the word for their own particular tribe is synonymous  with  ‘man’.  From their  viewpoint  it  is  not,  strictly speaking, cannibalism if they eat the fallen warriors of an enemy tribe.  The  moral  of  the  natural  history  of pseudo-speciation  is that we must learn to tolerate other cultures, to shed entirely our own cultural and national arrogance and to realize that the social norms and rites of other cultures to which their members keep faith as we do to our own, have the same right to be respected and to be regarded as sacred. Without the tolerance born of this realization it is all too easy for one man to see the personification of all evil in the god of his neighbor, and the very inviolability of rites and social norms which constitutes their most important property  can  lead  to the  most  terrible  of  all  wars,  to  religious war – which is exactly what is threatening us today.

   - speciation: the formation of different species through the course of evolution

   - pseudo-speciation: cultural differences giving the illusion that one’s own culture represents the truth of how humans should be, and often devaluates “the other” into non-human status

(84)  If social  norms  and  customs  did  not  develop  their  peculiar autonomous  life  and  power,  if  they  were  not raised  to sacred ends in themselves, there would be no trustworthy communication,  no  faith  and  no  law.  Oaths cannot  bind,  nor agreements count, if the partners to them do not have in common a basis of ritualized behavior standards at whose infraction they are overcome by…magic fear..

   - the “magic fear” of not obeying custom/habit.   

   - “no force is stronger in the human psyche/spirit than the ache to belong”


Ch 6.  The Great Parliament of Instincts

(89)  The four big drives of species preservation:  feeding, reproduction, flight, and aggression.


Ch 7.  Behavior Analogies to Morality

(136)  In the National Park on Isle Royal in Lake Superior, S. L. Allen and L.D. Mech observed an unexpected function of the  greeting ceremony.  In winter the pack of about twenty wolves lives on moose and, according to observations, on weakened ones only. The wolves bring to bay every moose they can find, but they do not immediately attempt to savage it, and abandon the attack if the victim puts up a strong defense.  If, however, they find  a moose that is debilitated by worms or illness or, as so often in old animals, by dental fistulae, they at once know that it is a suitable prey. Then all the members of the pack suddenly gather together and indulge in a ceremony of general nuzzling and tail-wagging, movement patterns that we see in our dogs when we let them out of their kennels for exercise.  This nose-to-nose conference signifies without any  doubt the decision that the hunt is about to begin. Here we are reminded of Masai warriors who, in a ceremonial dance, work themselves into the necessary state of courage for a lion hunt.

(138)   If it is argued that animals are not persons, I must reply by saying that personality begins where, of two individuals, each one plays in the life of the other a part that cannot easily be played by any other member of the species.  In other words, personality begins where personal bonds are formed for the first time.


Ch 8.  Anonymity of the Flock

(148)  Anonymous flock formation and personal friendship exclude each other to a large extent because personal friendship is always coupled with aggression. We do not know of a single animal which is capable of personal friendship and which lacks aggression.


Ch 11.  The Bond

(217)  the personal bond is known only in teleost fishes, birds and mammals, that is in groups that did not appear before the early Tertiary period. Thus intra-specific aggression can certainly exist without its counterpart, love, but conversely there is  no love without aggression.  

(219)  All that I have said in this chapter should be a warning to the spiritual pride of many people. In an animal not even belonging to the favored class of mammals we find a behavior mechanism that keeps certain individuals together for life, and  this behavior pattern has become the strongest motive governing all action; it can overcome all ‘animal’ drives, such as hunger, sexuality, aggression and fear, and it determines social order in its species-characteristic  form.  In all these points this bond is analogous with those human functions that go hand in hand with the emotions of love and friendship in their purest and noblest form.


Ch 12.  On the Virtue on Humility

(220)  There are people who see in this question an insult to human dignity.  All too willingly man sees himself as the center of the universe, as something not belonging to the rest of nature but standing apart as a different and higher being.  Many people cling to this error and remain deaf to the wisest command ever given by a sage, the famous “know thyself” spoken by Chilon but generally attributed to Socrates.  What keeps people from listening to it?  There are three obstacles, all of them motivated by strong emotions. The first is easily overcome by the man of insight; the second is at least honorable, in spite of its harmful effects; the third is understandable from the standpoint of cultural history and is therefore forgivable, but it is the most difficult to remove. All three are inseparably bound up and shot through with a most dangerous human quality, of which the proverb says that it goes before a fall: pride. I will now discuss these obstacles and try to show in what manner they are harmful, and then I will do my best to contribute towards their elimination.                                                                                                                                       The first obstacle is the most primitive. It hinders self-knowledge in inhibiting man’s awareness of his own evolutionary origin. Its irrational quality and its stubborn tenacity are paradoxically derived from the great likeness which our nearest animal relations bear to us. If people did not know the chimpanzee they would be more easily convinced of their own origin. An inexorable law of perception prevents us from seeing in the ape, particularly in the chimpanzee, an animal like other animals, and makes us see in its face the human physiognomy. From this point of view, measured by human standards, the chimpanzee of course appears as something horrible, a diabolical caricature of ourselves. In looking at the gorilla or the orang-utan, which are less closely related to us, our judgement is correspondingly less distorted. The heads of the old males may look to us like bizarre devils’ masks, impressive and even aesthetically appealing. However, we cannot feel like this about the chimpanzee: he is irresistibly funny and at the same time as common, as vulgar, as no other animal but a debased human being can ever be. This subjective impression is not altogether wrong: there are reasons for supposing that the common ancestor of man and the chimpanzee stood not lower but considerably higher than the chimpanzee does today. Absurd though the contemptuous attitude of man to the chimpanzee may be in itself, its strong emotional content has nevertheless misled several scientists into building up entirely unfounded theories about the origin of man: his evolution from animals is not disputed, but his close relationship to the repulsive chimpanzee is either passed over in a few logical skips or circumvented by sophistic detours.  The chimpanzee, however, is irresistibly funny just because he is so similar to us. What is worse is that in the narrow confinement of zoological gardens, adult chimpanzees degenerate much in the same way as human beings would under comparable circumstances, and give an impression of real dissoluteness and depravity. Even the normal chimp observed in perfect health gives the impression not of an extremely highly evolved animal but rather of a desperate and debased human being.                                                                   The second obstacle to self-knowledge is our reluctance to accept the fact that our own behavior obeys the laws of natural causation. Bernhard Hassenstein has called this attitude the ‘anti-causal value judgement’. The reluctance of many people to recognize the causal determination of all natural phenomena, human behavior included, undoubtedly comes from the justifiable wish to possess a free will and to feel that our actions are determined not by fortuitous causes but by higher aims.                                                                                                                        A third great obstacle to human self-knowledge is – at least in our Western cultures – a heritage of idealistic philosophy. It stems from the dichotomy of the world into the external world of things, which to idealistic thought is devoid of values, and the inner world of human thought and reason to which alone values are attributed. This division appeals to man’s spiritual pride. It supports him in his reluctance to accept the determination of his own behavior by natural laws. How deeply it has penetrated into accepted ways of thinking can be seen from the alteration in meaning of the words ‘idealist’ and ‘realist’, which originally signified philosophic attitudes but today imply moral value judgements. We must realize how common it has become in Western, particularly German, thought to consider that whatever can be explained by the laws of nature is automatically devoid of higher values. To anybody thinking in this way explanation means devaluation.

   - items of faith then, are more real than items of common sense/reason/intuition.

   - “God has a reason, but we can’t know it, but it is more important than everything/anything we can know.  The everyday world is devalued, less important than the world of faith.

   - three obstacles that keep humans from knowing themselves/understanding our current situation:  (1)  irrational unwillingness to accept evolution because of the perceived crudeness of animals (2)  the wish that human actions are   not susceptible to natural causes, but are part of a higher (religious/spiritual) force.  (3)  dualistic ideology -  particularly that the world of the mind/spirit is more real than physical (animalistic) existence.

(224)  Humanity defends its own self-esteem with all its might, and it is certainly time to preach humility and try seriously to break down all obstructions to self-knowledge.

(225)  According to some authors, the term ‘descent’ may derive from the fact that in ancient times man was fond of tracing his origin to the gods. That the family tree of life grows not from above downwards but from below upwards escaped man’s notice until Darwin’s time; thus the word ‘descent’ stands for the opposite of what it means, unless we wish to take it literally that our forefathers, in their time, came down from the trees. This they actually did, though as we know today, a long time before they became human beings.

(226)  The scientist who considers himself absolutely ‘objective’ and believes that he can free himself from the compulsion of the ‘merely’ subjective should try – only in imagination of course – to kill in succession a lettuce, a fly, a frog, a guinea-pig, a cat, a dog, and finally a chimpanzee. He will then be aware how increasingly difficult murder becomes as the victim’s level of organization rises. The degree of inhibition against killing each one of these beings is a very precise measure for the considerably different values that we cannot help attributing to lower and higher forms of life. To any man who finds it equally easy to chop up a live dog and a live lettuce I would recommend suicide at his earliest convenience!

(229)  To regard man, the most ephemeral and rapidly evolving of all species, as the final and unsurpassable achievement of creation, on the virtue of scientific humility, especially at his present-day particularly dangerous and disagreeable stage  of  development,  is  certainly  the  most  arrogant  and dangerous of all untenable doctrines. If I thought of man as the final image of God, I should not know what to think of God. But when  I  consider  that  our ancestors,  at  a  time fairly  recent  in relation  to  the  earth’s  history,  were  perfectly  ordinary  apes, closely related to chimpanzees, I see a glimmer of hope…Far from seeing in man the irrevocable and unsurpassable image of God, I assert –  more  modestly and,  I  believe,  in  greater  awe  of  the  Creation and its in finite possibilities – that the long-sought missing link between animals and the really humane being is ourselves!

(234)  The true scientist does not need the inexplorable, the supernatural, to evoke his reverence; for him there is only one miracle, namely that everything, even the finest flowerings of life, have come into being without miracles.  

(234)  Immanuel Kant: ‘Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing awe: the stars above me and the moral law within me.’  Admiration and awe did not prevent the great philosopher from finding a natural explanation for the laws of the heavens, indeed an explanation based on their evolutionary origin.  Would he, who did not yet know of the evolution of the world of organisms, be shocked that we consider the moral law within us not as something given, a priori, but as something which has arisen by natural evolution, just like the laws of the heavens?

    - E.O. Wilson.  If biological evolution is true, and cultural evolution is true, then why wouldn’t the natural evolution (not god given) of “the moral law within me” also be true??


Ch 13.  Ecce Homo!

(236)  Let us imagine that an absolutely unbiased observer on another planet,  perhaps  on  Mars,  is  examining human behavior  on earth, with  the  aid  of  a  telescope  whose  magnification  is  too small  to  enable  him  to discern individuals  and  follow  their separate behavior, but  large  enough  for  him  to  observe occurrences such as migration of peoples, wars and similar great historical  events.  He  would never gain  the  impression  that human  behavior  was dictated  by  intelligence,  still  less  by responsible morality. If we suppose our extraneous observer to be  a  being  of pure  reason,  devoid  of  instincts  himself  and unaware of the way in which all instincts in general and aggression in particular can miscarry, he would be at a complete loss how to explain history at all. The ever-recurrent phenomena of history do not have reasonable causes. It is a mere commonplace to  say  that  they  are caused  by  what  common parlance  so  aptly terms  ‘human nature’.  Unreasoning  and  unreasonable  human nature causes  two  nations  to compete,  though  no  economic necessity compels them to do so; it induces two political parties or religions with amazingly similar programs of salvation to fight each other bitterly and it impels an Alexander or a Napoleon  to  sacrifice millions  of  lives  in  his  attempt  to  unite  the world under his sceptre. We have been taught to regard some of the persons  who  have  committed  these  and  similar  absurdities with  respect,  even  as  ‘great’  men, we  are  wont  to yield  to  the political wisdom  of  those  in  charge,  and  we  are  all  so  accustomed  to  these phenomena  that  most of  us  fail  to  realize  how abjectly stupid and undesirable the historical mass behavior of humanity actually is.

(237)  All these amazing paradoxes, however, find an unconstrained explanation, falling into place like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, if  one assumes  that  human  behavior,  and  particularly  human social behavior, far from being determined by reason and cultural tradition alone, is still subject to all the laws prevailing in all phylogenetically adapted instinctive behavior. Of these laws we possess a fair amount of knowledge from studying the instincts of animals. Indeed, if our extramundane observer were a knowledgeable ethologist, he would unavoidably draw the conclusion that  man’s social  organization is very similar to that or rats which, like humans, are social and peaceful beings within their clans, but veritable devils towards all fellow-members of their species not belonging to their own community. If, furthermore, our Martian naturalist knew of the explosive rise in human populations, the ever-increasing destructiveness of weapons, and the division of mankind into a few political camps, he would not expect the future of humanity to be any rosier than that of several hostile clans of rats on a ship almost devoid of food.

(238)  All the great dangers threatening humanity with extinction are direct consequences of conceptual thought and verbal speech…Knowledge springing from conceptual thought robbed  man  of  the  security  provided  by  his well-adapted instincts long, long before it was sufficient to provide him with an equally safe adaptation.

     - because cultural evolution moves much faster than biological evolution (E.O. Wilson).

(238)  Conceptual thought and speech changed all man’s evolution by achieving something which is equivalent to the inheritance of  acquired characters.  We  have  forgotten  that  the  verb  inherit had a juridical connotation long before it acquired a biological one. When a man invents, let us say, bow and arrow, not only his progeny  but  his  entire community  will  inherit  the  knowledge and  the  use  of  these  tools  and possess  them  just  as  surely  as organs grown on the body. Nor is their loss any more likely than the  rudimentation  of  an  organ  of  equal survival  value. Thus, within one or two generations a process of ecological adaptation can  be  achieved  which,  in  normal  phylogeny  and without  the interference of conceptual thought, would have taken a time of an altogether different, much greater order of magnitude. Small wonder  indeed  if  the  evolution  of  social  instincts  and,  what  is even  more  important,  social inhibitions  could  not  keep  pace with  the rapid  development  forced  on  human  society  by  the growth of traditional culture, particularly material culture.

(242)  The distance at which all shooting weapons take effect screens the killer against the stimulus situation which would otherwise activate his killing inhibitions.  The  deep,  emotional  layers  of  our  personality  simply  do not register the fact that the crooking of the forefinger to release a  shot  tears  the  entrails  of  another  man.  No  sane  man  would even go rabbit hunting for pleasure if the necessity of killing his prey  with  his  natural  weapons  brought  home  to  him the  full emotional realization of what he is actually doing.

   - R McNamara, The Fog of War                                                                                                                                                                                                 - unless, as in Nature based societies, the cycle of life is held in the highest respect of any other cultural value

(243)  In 1955, I wrote in a paper, ‘On the killing of members of the same species: ‘I believe – and human psychologists, particularly psychoanalysts should test this – that present day civilized man suffers from insufficient discharge of his aggressive drive.  It is more than probable that the evil effects of the human aggressive drives, explained by Sigmund Freud as the results of a special death wish, simply derive from the fact that in prehistoric times intra-specific selection bred into man a measure of aggression drive for which in the social order of today he finds no adequate outlet’…At  the time of writing, there were already some psychoanalysts who did not believe in the death wish and rightly explained the self-destroying effects of aggression as misfunctions of an instinct that was essentially life-preserving.  Later I came to know one psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who, even at that time, was examining the problem of the hypertrophy of aggression owing to intra-specific selection.

   - intra-specific selection/aggression, when environmental changes take away the outlet, Freud interprets as death wish                                                                                       

   - hypertrophy: the extreme growth of pre-existing structures

(245)  It  is  self-evident  that  intra-specific  selection  is  still  working today in an undesirable direction. There is a high positive selection premium on the instinctive foundations conducive to such traits  as  the  amassing  of  property, self-assertion,  etc,  and there  is  an  almost  equally  high  negative  premium  on  simple goodness. Commercial competition today might threaten to fix hereditarily in us hypertrophies of these traits as horrible as the intra-specific aggression evolved by competition between warfaring tribes of Stone Age man. It is fortunate that the accumulation  of riches  and  power  does  not necessarily lead to large families – rather the opposite – or else the future of mankind would look even darker than it does.

(246)  It is a widely held opinion, shared by some contemporary philosophers, that all human behavior patterns which serve the welfare of the community, as opposed to that of the individual, are dictated by specifically human rational thought. Not only is this opinion erroneous, but the very opposite is true. If it were not for a rich endowment of social instincts, man could never have risen above the animal world.

(247)  It is hard to believe that a man will refrain from a certain action which natural inclination urges him to perform only because he has realized that it involves a logical contradiction…Man, as a purely rational being, divested of his animal heritage of instincts, would certainly not be an angel - quite the opposite.  

(248)  By itself, reason can only devise means to achieve  otherwise  determined  ends;  it  cannot  set  up  goals  nor give us orders. Left to itself, reason is like a computer into which no relevant information conducive to an important answer has been fed; logically valid though all its operations may be, it is a wonderful system of wheels within wheels, without a motor to make them go round. The motive power that makes them do so stems from instinctive behavior mechanisms much older than reason and not directly accessible to rational self-observation. They are the source of love and friendship, of all warmth  of feeling, of appreciation of beauty, of the urge to artistic creativeness, of insatiable curiosity striving for scientific enlightenment. These deepest strata of the human personality are, in their dynamics, not essentially different from the instincts of animals, but on their basis human culture has erected all the enormous superstructure  of  social  norms  and  rites  whose  function is so closely analogous to that of phylogenetic ritualization. Both phylogenetically and culturally evolved norms of behavior represent motives and are felt to be values by any normal human being. Both are woven into an immensely complicated system of universal interaction to analyze which is all the more difficult as most of its processes take place in the subconscious and are by no means directly accessible to self-observation. Yet it is imperative  for  us  to  understand the dynamics of this system, because insight into the nature of values offers the only hope for our ever creating the new values and ideals which our present situation needs so badly.

(250)  Whatever the consequences may have been that prevented the first killers from repeating their deed, realization of these consequences and, therewith, a primitive form of responsibility must have been at work.  Apart from maintaining the  equilibrium between the ability and the inhibition to kill, responsible morality does not seem to have been too severely taxed in the earliest communities of true men.

    - the physical, emotional, and spiritual energy it took to kill kept this responsibility self-regulating.  cluster bombs and chemical warfare, etc have subverted this (because cultural evolution, technology in this case, has happened faster than biological evolution, emotional responsibility in this case).

(252)  Loving your neighbor like yourself and risking your life in trying to save his is a matter of course if he is your best friend and has saved yours a number of times; you do it without even thinking. The situation is entirely different if the man for whose life  you  are  expected  to risk  your  own,  or  for  whom  you  are supposed  to  make  other sacrifices, is  an  anonymous  contemporary on whom you have never set eyes. In this case it is not love  for  the fellow human being  that  activates  self-denying behavior – if  indeed  it  is  activated – but  the  love  for some culturally evolved traditional norm of social behavior.  Love of something  or  other  is,  in  very  many  cases,  the motivation behind  the power  of  the  categorical  imperative – an  assertion which, I think, Kant would deny.  Our  Cro-Magnon  warrior  had plenty  of  hostile neighbors against whom to discharge his aggressive drive and he had just the right number of reliable friends to love. His moral responsibility was not overtaxed by an exercise of function which prevented  him  from  striking,  in  sudden  anger,  at  his  companions with  his  sharpened  hand-axe. The increase  in  number  of  individuals belonging to the same community is in itself sufficient to upset the balance between the personal bonds and the aggressive drive.  It is definitely detrimental to the bond of friendship if a person has too many friends. It is proverbial that one can have only  a  few  really  close  friends.  To  have  a  large  number  of ‘acquaintances’,  many  of  whom  may be  faithful  allies  with  a legitimate claim to be regarded as real friends, overtaxes a man’s capacity for personal love and dilutes the intensity of his emotional attachment. The close crowding of many individuals in a small  space  brings  about  a  fatigue  of  all  social  reactions [see Tender Carnivore, P Shepard]. Every inhabitant of a modern city is familiar with the surfeit of social relationships and responsibilities and knows the disturbing feeling  of  not being  as  pleased  as  he  ought  to  be  at  the  visit  of  a friend, even if he is genuinely fond of him and has not seen him for a long time. One notices in oneself a tendency to bad temper when the telephone rings after dinner. That crowding increases the propensity to aggressive behavior has long been known and demonstrated experimentally by sociological research.

     - therefore, local tribalism makes common sense; xenophobic nationalism doesn’t.

(253)  Most of the vices and deadly sins condemned today correspond to inclinations that were purely adaptive or at least harmless in primitive man.

(259)  Without the phylogenetically programmed love for traditional custom human society would lack the supporting apparatus to which it owes its indispensable  structure.

     - i.e., animalistic habits, “instincts,” become “traditional custom” in human society.  i.e., unconscious habits,  carried over from our animal heritage, become conscious culture, within the natural flow of evolution.  

(260)  Historians will have to face the fact that natural selection determined the evolution of cultures in the same manner as it did that of species.  

(267)  The instinctive need to be the member of a closely knit group fighting for common ideals may grow so strong that it becomes inessential  what  these  ideals  are  and  whether  they  possess  any intrinsic value. This, I believe, explains the formation of juvenile gangs  whose  social  structure  is  very  probably  a  rather  close reconstruction of that prevailing in primitive human society.

(268)  Militant enthusiasm is particularly suited for the paradigmatic illustration  of  the  manner  in  which  a phylogenetically  evolved pattern  of behavior  interacts  with  culturally  ritualized  social norms and rites, and in which, though absolutely indispensable to the function of the compound system, it is prone to miscarry most tragically if not strictly controlled by rational responsibility based on causal insight. The Greek word enthousiasmos implies that a person is  possessed  by  a  god.

   - military enthusiasm then, is god ordained warfare, of which there is plenty of inspiration in the Bible.  (http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/cruelty/long.html).                                                                                                                     

   - enthusiasm:  en-theos, in god.  

(268)  In reality, militant enthusiasm is a specialized form of communal  aggression,  clearly  distinct  from  and  yet functionally related to the more primitive forms of petty individual aggression.  Every man of normally strong emotions knows, from his own experience, the subjective phenomena that go hand in hand with  the  response  of  militant enthusiasm.  A  shiver  runs  down the back, and, as more exact observation shows, along the outside of both arms. One soars elated above all the ties of everyday life,  one  is  ready  to  abandon  all  for  the  call  of  what, in  the moment of this specific emotion, seems to be a sacred duty. All obstacles in its path become unimportant, the instinctive inhibitions against hurting or killing one’s fellows lose, unfortunately, much of their power. Rational considerations, criticism, and all reasonable arguments against the behavior dictated by militant enthusiasm  are  silenced  by  an  amazing  reversal  of all  values, making  them  appear  not  only untenable  but  base  and  dishonorable.  Men  may  enjoy  the  feeling  of absolute  righteousness even while they commit atrocities. Conceptual thought and moral  responsibility  are  at their lowest  ebb.  As  a Ukrainian proverb says: ‘When the banner is unfurled, all reason is in the trumpet.’

    - further, the feeling of “absolute righteousness” seems to be a necessary condition of committing atrocities.  the “other” must be devalued to devilish levels, which is easily done with any kind of fanatic idealism (religious, political, economic). i.e., cluster bombing small villages is ok as long as it’s democracy winning over communism;  performing genocide is ok as long as it’s civilization winning over savagism, etc..

(270)  To the humble seeker of biological truth there cannot be the slightest doubt that human militant enthusiasm evolved out of a communal  defense  response  of  our  pre-human  ancestors.  The unthinking  single-mindedness of the  response  must  have  been of high survival  value  even  in  a  tribe  of  fully  evolved  human beings. It was necessary for the individual male to forget all his other  allegiances in  order  to  be  able  to  dedicate  himself,  body and  soul,  to  the  cause  of  the  communal  battle.

(271)  Humanity is not enthusiastically combative because  it  is  split  into  political  parties,  but  it  is  divided  into opposing camps because this is the adequate stimulus situation to  arouse  militant  enthusiasm  in  a  satisfying manner. ‘If  ever a  doctrine  of  universal  salvation should  gain  ascendancy  over the  whole  earth  to  the  exclusion of  all others,’  writes  Erich von  Holst,  ‘it  would  at  once  fall  into  two strongly  opposing factions  (one’s  own  true one and the  other  heretical  one)  and hostility  and  war  would  thrive  as  before..

        - the instinct to defend and fight causes opposing cultural camps, not the other way around.                                                                                      - love and aggression go hand in hand.  if you did not love anything, there’d be no need to defend anything.


Ch 14.  Avowal of Optimism

(276)  Science  seldom effects  dramatic  changes  in  the  course  of  history,  except,  of course, in the sense of destruction, for it is all too easy to misuse the  power  afforded  by  causal  insight.  To  use  the  knowledge gained by scientific research in a creative and beneficial fashion demands  no  less  perspicacity  and  meticulous  application  to detail than were necessary to gain it.

(276)  [Solutions to irresponsible aggression] The first, the most obvious and the most important precept is the old [Greek] ‘know  thyself ’:  we must  deepen  our insight  into  the  causal  concatenations  governing  our  own behavior. The lines along which an applied science of human behavior  will  probably  develop  are  just  beginning  to  appear. One line is the objective, ethological investigation of all the possibilities of discharging aggression in its primal form on substitute objects, and we already know that there are better ones than kicking empty carbide tins. The second is the psycho-analytical study of so-called sublimation. We may anticipate that a deeper knowledge of this specifically human form of catharsis will do much towards the relief of undischarged aggressive drives. The third way of avoiding aggression, though an obvious one, is still worth mentioning: it is the promotion of personal acquaintance and, if possible, friendship between individual members of different  ideologies or nations.  The  fourth  and  perhaps  the most important measure to be taken immediately is the intelligent and responsible channelling of militant enthusiasm, in other words helping a younger generation which, on the one hand, is highly critical  and  even  suspicious  and  on  the other emotionally starved,  to find  genuine  causes  that  are  worth  serving  in  the modern world. I shall now proceed to discuss all these precepts one by one.  

(281)  The team spirit inherent in all international sport gives scope to a number of  truly  valuable  patterns  of  social behavior  which  are essentially motivated by aggression and which, in all probability, have evolved under the selection pressure of tribal warfare at the very dawn of culture. The noble warrior’s typical virtues, such as his readiness to sacrifice himself in the service of a common cause, disciplined submission  to  the  rank  order  of  the group,  mutual aid  in  the  face  of  deadly  danger, and above all, a superlatively strong bond of friendship between men,  were obviously indispensable if a small tribe of the type we have to assume for early man was to survive in competition with others. All these virtues are still desirable in modern man and still command our instinctive respect. It is undeniable that there is no situation in which all these virtues shine so brilliantly as they do in war, a fact which is dangerously liable to convince quite excellent but naïve people that war, after all, cannot be the absolutely abhorrent thing it really is.

(282)  Sporting  contests  between  nations  are  beneficial  not  only because  they  provide  an  outlet  for  the collective militant enthusiasm of nations, but also because they have two other effects  that  counter  the  danger  of  war:  they promote  personal acquaintance between people of different nations or parties and they  unite,  in  enthusiasm  for  a common  cause, people who otherwise would have little in common.

    - National and local sports is sublimation for inherited tribal war instinct.

(285)  In  all  these  respects  the  defender  of  peace  is  at  a  decided disadvantage.  Everything  he  lives  and  works for,  all  the  high goals at which he aims are, or should be, determined by moral responsibility which presupposes quite a lot of knowledge and real  insight.  Nobody  can get  really  enthusiastic  about  them without considerable erudition.The one and only unquestionable  value  that  can  be  appreciated independently  of  rational morality or education is the bond of human love and friendship from  which  all  kindness  and  charity  springs,  and which represents  the  great antithesis  to  aggression.  In  fact,  love  and friendship  come  far  nearer  to  typifying  all  that  is  good, than aggression,  which  is  only  mistakenly  identified  with  a destructive death drive, comes to exemplifying all that is evil.

(288)  Truth, in science, can be defined as the working hypothesis best fitted to open the way to the next better one. The scientist knows very well that he is approaching ultimate truth only in an asymptotic curve and is barred from ever reaching it; but at the same time he is proudly aware of being indeed able to determine whether a statement  is  a nearer or  less  near  approach  to  truth.  This determination is not furnished by any personal opinion nor by the authority of an individual, but by further research proceeding by rules universally accepted by all men of all cultures and all political affiliations.  More  than  any  other  product  of  human culture  scientific  knowledge  is  the  collective property of  all mankind.

   - definition of asymtotic: becoming increasingly exact (or corroborative) as a variable (or variables) approaches a limit, usually infinity.  

   - “Certainty” then, in our context, always means more certain than before, but not (and knowingly never) absolutely %100 certain.  The word, then, semantically, and in our common use of it, is a misnomer.  So again, we have to proceed (because as physical bodies we must act, whether we want to or not, whether we’re sure of something or not) as if we were certain, when technically we can never really be certain.

(290)  I believe that the ‘angry young men’ of Western civilization have a perfectly good right to be angry with the older generation and I do not regard it as surprising if modern youth is skeptical to the point of nihilism. I believe that its mistrust of all ideals is largely due  to  the  fact  that there  have  been  and  still  are  so  many  artificially  contrived pseudo-ideals  ‘on  the  market’,  calculated  to arouse enthusiasm for demagogic purposes.

   - and in a world where money is the most important thing for both survival and status, the economic demagogue is king, by divine right.

   - demagogue: a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.

(293)  G.  K.  Chesterton  has  voiced  the altogether novel opinion that the religion of the future will be based,  to  a considerable  extent,  on  a more  highly  developed and  differentiated,  subtle  form  of  humor.  Though,  in  this formulation, the idea may appear somewhat exaggerated, I feel inclined  to  agree,  answering  one  paradox  with another  by saying  that  we  do  not  as  yet  take  humor  seriously  enough. I  should  not write  my  avowal  of optimism  with  so  much conviction  were  it  not  for  my  confidence  in  the  great  and beneficial force of humor.

(295)  If, in ridiculing insincere ideals, humor is a powerful ally of rational morality, it is even more so in self-ridicule. Nowadays we  are  all radically  intolerant  of  pompous  or  sanctimonious people,  because  we  expect  a  certain amount  of  self-ridicule  in every intelligent human being. Indeed we feel that a man who takes  himself  absolutely seriously  is  not  quite  human,  and  this feeling has a sound foundation. That which, in colloquial German, is so aptly termed ‘tierischer Ernst,’ that is ‘animal seriousness’, is  an  ever-present  symptom of  megalomania,  in  fact  I suspect that it is one of its causes. The best definition of man is that he is the  one  creature  capable  of  reflection, of seeing himself  in  the frame of reference of the surrounding universe. Pride is one of the chief obstacles to seeing ourselves as we really are, and self-deceit is the obliging servant of pride.

(297)  I  believe  that  humor  exerts  an  influence  on  the  social behavior of man which, in one respect, is strictly analogous to that of moral responsibility: it tends to make the world a more honest and, therewith, a better place.

     - Buddhist saying that the only difference between humans and animals is that they lack a sense of humor.

(298)  Humor and knowledge are the two great hopes of civilization.