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