The Nature of Men....political theory question.

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    Oct 01, 2007 1:05 AM GMT
    Hey guys, I was wondering what everyone's outlook is on the nature of men. I'm writing a paper right now for my Ethics of International Relations class, and I've always taken a more Hobbsian/Machiavellian approach to answering this question.

    What about you all though? How do you see mankind? Naturally evil, naturally good? Hobbsian, or do you follow locke? Natural law, positive law??? What do YOU think mankind is truly like?
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    Oct 01, 2007 1:59 AM GMT
    I think everyone by his very nature wants justice done to himself. But he often doesnt see how he is unjust to others. It is very hard to get him to put himself in the other person's shoes. See things from the other's guys point of view. And to come to a reconciling that is agreeable to both.

    That is where the law comes in. The law sets up rules. Disputes are settled by those rules. But people are not reconciled to one another by the laws settlement. The law is inflexible. It must be. But how often is a legal settlement made and yet the parties are not reconciled. They all go away still mad.

    So basing a society on just a legal basis isn't going to cut it. The people of the society must change themselves and want justice for others just as much as they want justice for themselves.

    Our modern western democracies have evolved the fartherest of any major social structures in history to achieve this. But as we all know there is still injustice in the world and in our societies. We still don't see all people as equal to ourselves. But I see progress.

    It is ironic to me. Because this is what is taught by some major religious sects. But it is only as people have given up on these sects that they have started living them.

    I would be interested, cmon, to know if this fits into any of those philosophical points of view that you have mentioned.
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    Oct 01, 2007 2:52 AM GMT
    Confucius says that people are inherently good, but they need role models to guide them to cultivating their innate goodness. The sovereign's job is to guide the people by example and treat them like his children. If people treat others like family there will be no need for punishments, this would be the ideal state of society. I think this is a better philosophy about mankind.
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    Oct 01, 2007 3:27 AM GMT
    I am a Religious (Christian) Humanist by inclination and a Sociologist(Social Psychologist) by training. Gelug(pa) Buddism is very attractive to me; I am also a very strong believer in the persuit of Aristotle's concepts of Arete.

    Politically I am a fan of Aristotle, Mercius, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, John Adams, as well as Friedrich Hayek and John Rawls. I do think Robert Nozick makes some uncomfortably valid points however.

    ----------------------------------------------------

    Caslon - Check out both Buddism and Aristotles Arete - Look in Wikipedia for a quick overview; I think that might interest you.
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    Oct 01, 2007 3:32 AM GMT
    I believe that men are driven by a need to obtain resources while avoiding conflict. Decisions relating to conflict are weighed on three factors:

    Relations - Power - Resources

    Relations - Men are not necessarily 'in it for themselves' so much as they are 'in it for their team'. The closer you are to them or their sense of responsibility - the more likely you will benefit from conflict they win.

    Power - perception of power over the opponent in a conflict for resources influences willingness to engage and tactics used.

    Resources - scarcity and value. The higher the value and the more scarce, the more urgent the need to engage in conflict.

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    Oct 01, 2007 4:45 AM GMT
    OH, you put more importance on the "team" than on the self? What are your opinions on self-preservation then? Fundamentally, I think man is in it for himself more than anything else. Self-preservation is the first inclination any one person has when in a bad situation. Now, while some might do the more "noble" thing and act on behalf of someone else after two or even three thoughts, I have yet to meet someone who's first thought is not, in some way, shape or form, for themselves. You response?
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    Oct 01, 2007 5:02 AM GMT
    People (when born) are basically blank slates- mentally-speaking. They have no concept of society, culture, language, customs, traditions, "normality," or, really, anything outside of their basic natural instincts (blinking, breathing, etc...).

    If you're talking "naturally good/evil," I don't think humanity can be put (as a whole) into either category. There is SO MUCH diversity and difference between individuals, there is no clear way to summarize all mankind. Anyone can find evidence to point to either thesis (good/evil).

    If you're talking nature-vs-nurture stuff, (as a student of psychology/sociology) I tend to lean toward the nurture. I think environment shapes a lot of what people see as normal, how they form their attitudes, what career path they follow, and so on...

    Naturally, people are inclined to look out for themselves first, because self-preservation is one of the guiding principles through which we make our decisions. However, socialization plays a big role, as well, and through the development of friendships, relationships, families, communities, etc... we expand to doing things that benefit others in meaningful ways. What comes to mind is people who serve in the military- they don't HAVE TO do it, and it presents great risks to their own safety, but most (if not all) have a sense of duty, honor, and so on, and that is their motivation, not self-benefit.

    Thanks for considering my thoughts!icon_smile.gif
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    Oct 01, 2007 5:34 AM GMT
    So you're a Locke man...and you think "a posteriori" decisions are the centrality of human existence? What about human nature in general? Do you think it doesn't exist, or is created only as experience is built upon? If so, how about the uniformity of it? How would you explain it?

    I'm just trying to get some ideas here...this is a topic I really enjoy discussing with people so please, feel free to defend or argue as much as possible, lol.
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    Oct 01, 2007 6:02 AM GMT
    Ooooohhhh.... you're making me think too much!! icon_biggrin.gif

    But seriously... in a nutshell, yes, I think our experiences guide our existence, for the most part. Who hasn't had an experience that changed they way they thought or acted?? While we can go from what we read of, and what we hear, I think it is what we SEE and what HAPPENS to us that are the most influential in our lives. Its one thing to read about cancer or talk to someone who has it, and another thing to have it YOURSELF, for instance.

    Human nature exists, but it is very broad. Like I say... people & groups are SO different, its hard to sum them all up, but we do have many common qualities that we share. For example, (most) people want to be happy, people want to be healthy, people want to be around other people, people want to be wealthy, and so on... Its human nature to want these things because experience, instinct, culture, family have TOLD us these are good things and we should want them.

    Its far from uniform: Happiness in the United States would be different than happiness in Madagascar- meaning we require different things to achieve it, but have the same "state of mind" as our goal.

    How to explain human nature- It is a basic set of natural, healthy, common, wants, needs, actions, and beliefs based upon the norms and standards of a society. You could also add that human nature has been shaped by experience, but I think that's a given.

    Good luck with your paper!! Ethics is fascinating stuff. icon_smile.gif
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    Oct 01, 2007 6:41 AM GMT
    Ooooh, interesting discussion. Rather than work on the essay I have due on Wednesday, which I have yet to start writing, I’ll spend time here O=) (no angel smiley?!?!??!?!!! icon_question.gif)

    ITJock: “Politically I am a fan of Aristotle, Mercius, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, John Adams, as well as Friedrich Hayek and John Rawls. I do think Robert Nozick makes some uncomfortably valid points however.”

    I’m curious, IT, what prompted this list, since it seems strange, or at least eclectic. Aristotle was a virtue ethicist, Hobbes and Locke were social contract theorists, Hayek was a libertarian-streaked utilitarian, and Rawls was a neo-Kantian. Nozick was also a neo-Kantian, except that he accepted utilitarian arguments for vegetarianism.


    Twisterguy20: “If you're talking ‘naturally good/evil,’ I don't think humanity can be put (as a whole) into either category.”

    I wonder how you reconcile that position with the doctrine of original sin? Incidentally, however, I agree with you that it is neither innately good nor bad; it contains people hardwired to respond to incentive environments.

    Btw, I’ve never quite understood the nature-vs.-nurture debate. It seems if anything results from nurture, nature must have some role in shaping the organism’s response to that environmental stimulus.
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    Oct 01, 2007 7:40 AM GMT
    S331 Wrote "...what prompted this list, since it seems strange, or at least eclectic..."

    Yes, it is a little eclectic, but then that is my view of the world - complex.

    I believe each of them had significant and important things to contribute, but I believe that none of them came up with the complete answer - if such a thing is even possible. I prefer to look at them all and learn what I can, rather than pigeonhole myself into one doctrinaire position.

    Personally, I don't like extremists or those that believe they have the one and only answer to the exclusion of all others. I think life is more complex than that.

    If you need a breakdown I think Hobbes and Locke, both social contract theorists were extremely important, Hayek's liberal utilitarian views were an important argument - especially for his defence of liberal democracy and free-market capitalism against socialist and collectivist thought (One of Hayek's Two main problems was his ridiculous and cultural centric assumption that all forms of collectivism (even those theoretically based on voluntary cooperation) could only be maintained by a central authority of some kind); and Rawls and Nozick were less so, but have important points to make in their views that were not adequately addressed by earlier theorists (though I don't necessarily agree with most of their conclusions).

    ----------------------------------------------------

    Twisterguy20 wrote: "...Human nature exists...people want to be wealthy, and so on..."

    Surely if anything the desire for the 'aquisition of wealth' is aquired trait.

    It is certainly not universal; in fact in many tribal societies 'wealth' is seen as evil, immoral, and destructive to the social compact.

    We are not born avaricious (in the sense of desiring to possess more of something than one already has or might in normal circumstances be entitled to). Some of us learn the desire for 'wealth' from our capitalist/materialistic society.

    A better statement might be that we all seem driven to seek approval or status within our social group; and that too may be primarily due to early socialization. Heh - I said my views were primarily that of a Sociologist (even if primarily a Social Psychologist and Criminologist).




  • GQjock

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    Oct 01, 2007 10:35 AM GMT
    Interesting question that I didn't think would pop up here...
    I think that mankind is like most other primate species
    putting a label of good or evil will depend on the context
    we are for the most part good...but we tend to place ourselves into social groups
    and that becomes the we against someone else...
    this kind of thinking leads to strife...political sniping and eventually to things like war
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    Oct 01, 2007 1:16 PM GMT
    I think people are what they are, which is neither good nor bad fully, and not born to be good or bad either. Overall I think humankind has instincts to satiate its needs and desires.

    From there I think we respond to nurture. Were we taught to be generous and kind? Then the nurturing that we receive is filtered through our environment. Do we feel loved? Do we feel special? Is the nurturing coming from someone whom we trust and/or admire?

    I don't think we have a nature so much as a response to what is taught to us and is around us.
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    Oct 01, 2007 1:52 PM GMT
    Demarco4u wrote: "I don't think we have a nature so much as a response to what is taught to us and is around us."

    I find that a truly bizarre response coming from an educated modern american gay male...

    R
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    Oct 01, 2007 2:33 PM GMT
    How is the sentence bizarre, ITJock?
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    Oct 01, 2007 3:06 PM GMT
    Demarco4u wrote: "How is the sentence bizarre, ITJock?"

    Do you believe that you wre born Gay or made a 'Lifestyle Choice' based on your socialization to your environment?

    Most definitions of sexual orientation include a psychological component (such as the direction of an individual's erotic desire) and/or a behavioural component (which focuses on the sex of the individual's sexual partner/s). Some prefer simply to follow an individual's self-definition or identity.

    Recently, scholars of sexology, anthropology and history have argued that social categories such as heterosexual and homosexual are not universal. Different societies may consider other criteria to be more significant than sex, including the respective age of the partners, the sexual role played by each partner (such as active or passive), or the social status of the partners.

    Sexual identity may be used as a synonym for sexual orientation, but the two are also sometimes distinguished, with identity referring to an individual's conception of themselves, and orientation referring to "fantasies, attachments and longings" and/or behavior. In addition, sexual identity is sometimes used to describe a person's perception of his or her own sex, rather than sexual orientation. The term sexual preference has a similar meaning to sexual orientation, but is more commonly used outside of scientific circles by people who believe that sexual orientation is, in whole or part, a matter of choice.

    I believe the majority of Out educated modern american gay males would say that their orientation is a mater mostly of natural forces (determined mostly before birth) somewhat influenced by modern societies limited acceptance of the modern western gay male identity.



    R
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    Oct 01, 2007 3:21 PM GMT
    What has sexuality got to do with this? Cmon's question was a philosophical one about human behavior.

    As I read the thread, the impression that I was getting was that we were discussing man's behavior in the context of good or bad. Is man inherently good and sometimes behaves badly, bad and sometimes behaves good, or something else altogether? Therefore it is my take that we have no nature to be good or bad, only to fulfill our basic needs and desires and how we go about that is a product of our nurturing and environment.

    There is a leap in thought between that subject and our sexuality.

    But out of respect for you I will answer your question. I think our sexuality is a product of both nature and nurture, and the degrees to which they play varies with each of us. The only thing in life that is a "lifestyle choice" is whether to buy or rent.

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    Oct 01, 2007 3:40 PM GMT
    Demarco4u wrote : "What has sexuality got to do with this? Cmon's question was a philosophical one about human behavior."

    Don't you believe your sexuality is a major part of human behaviour and the human experience? BTW - I am only using this as a single specific example. I could have asked is good or evil naturally inherent in us? or I could have asked about the drive to compete? I am simply making the argument for nurture, at least in the case of some basic drives and predispositions.

    As I read the thread, the impression that I was getting was that we were discussing man's behavior in the context of good or bad. Is man inherently good and sometimes behaves badly, bad and sometimes behaves good, or something else altogether? Therefore it is my take that we have no nature to be good or bad, only to fulfill our basic needs and desires and how we go about that is a product of our nurturing and environment.

    I didn't see the discussion limited to simply a discussion of good and evil - rather opened to a wide range of socio-economic and political topics. However one of our most basic needs and desires is for sex and reproduction. Although the way in which we go about fulfilling that specific need may be culturally determined, the need itself is inherent in almost all species.

    There is a leap in thought between that subject and our sexuality.

    I don't think so, the discussion of nature vs nurture would be incredibly difficult to have without some referal to sexual drive and orientation, one of our most basic instincts. Sexuality is a primary need like that for self preservation, food, or group socialization.

    But out of respect for you I will answer your question. I think our sexuality is a product of both nature and nurture, and the degrees to which they play varies with each of us. The only thing in life that is a "lifestyle choice" is whether to buy or rent.

    Well we can agree that our sexual orientation is a product of 'nature' , but I contend that it is not a product of 'nurture or socialization' so much as our 'nurture or socialization' allows us the expression of that orientation.

    ...I don't think we have a nature so much as a response to what is taught to us and is around us...

    That statement I read to mean that you believe that something as basic as sexual orientation - among many other genetic/hormonal/biochemical predispositions can be a learned - socialized - trait.

    I disagree, I don't believe that. Thank you for your response though.


    R
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    Oct 01, 2007 5:23 PM GMT
    You bring up many interesting points.

    My apologies to cmon and others if this is seen as veering from the original intent of the question.

    ITJockDon't you believe your sexuality is a major part of human behaviour and the human experience? BTW - I am only using this as a single specific example. I could have asked is good or evil naturally inherent in us? I am simply making the argument for nurture, at least in the case of some basic drives and predispositions.


    Sexuality is indeed a major part of human behavior, but I don't think that it plays a role in whether we behave in a good or evil way. Anything is possible in a big world, but I don't think that true goodness like that of Mother Teresa or Mahatma Ghandi, or true evil like Hitler or Pol Pot, had anything to do with their sexuality. They saw a world that they wanted molded in their impression for better and worse, respectively, and I think that is our own primary motivation.

    It is frequently joked that men who can't get it up or aren't getting any plan instead to conquer the world. It's a joke that goes back even to Aristophanes. Are we motivated by sex? There is no doubt. Does it cause us to behave in extremes that would cause us to alter the course of our life and the life of others? Again, never say never, but typically I think we keep its role in persepctive.

    ITJockI didn't see the discussion limited to simply a discussion of good and evil - rather opened to a wide range of socio-economic and political topics. However one of our most basic needs and desires is for sex and reproduction. Although the way in which we go about fulfilling that specific need may be culturally determined, the need itself is inherent in almost all species.


    I agree. But still it is the other variables (culture, nurture, etc.) that seem to be the most likely influence on our actions, rather than sexual need.

    ITJockWell we can agree that our sexual orientation is a product of 'nature' , but I contend that it is not a product of 'nurture or socialization' so much as our 'nurture or socialization' allows us the expression of that orientation.


    As with all my remarks, I qualify that any variation is possible in a world of billions of people, but I happen to feel that we can be born with a predisposition to be straight, bi or gay. I do think that the orientation is most often completed by the nurturing and the environment, and I base that view on the fact that the vast majority of gay men I've known and met share a uniquely similar family dynamic: the mother played a dominant role, while the father played a lesser role in a child's early development.


    ITJockThat statement I read to mean that you believe that something as basic as sexual orientation - among many other genetic/hormonal/biochemical predispositions can be a learned - socialized - trait. I disagree, I don't believe that. Thank you for your response though.


    I am not trying to quibble over the use of the word "learned" but I think it is more a matter of steered. In essence, do these outer signals shape us internally? It is my belief that they play a major role in such things.



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    Oct 01, 2007 6:15 PM GMT
    sorry - looking back I was less than accurate in what I really meant to say - what happens when yopu are trying to type furiously in the airport lounge.icon_lol.gif

    Demarco4u wrote: "ITJock
    Don't you believe your sexuality is a major part of human behaviour and the human experience? BTW - I am only using this as a single specific example. I could have asked is good or evil naturally inherent in us? I am simply making the argument for nurture, at least in the case of some basic drives and predispositions.


    Sexuality is indeed a major part of human behavior, but I don't think that it plays a role in whether we behave in a good or evil way. Anything is possible in a big world, but I don't think that true goodness like that of Mother Teresa or Mahatma Ghandi, or true evil like Hitler or Pol Pot, had anything to do with their sexuality. They saw a world that they wanted molded in their impression for better and worse, respectively, and I think that is our own primary motivation.

    I'm sorry, I should have been more specific, I wasn't trying to suggest linkage at all in any way, I should have stated "...I could have asked is good or evil naturally inherent in us? or I could have asked about the drive to compete? I am simply making the argument for nurture as an inherent pre birth fact, at least in the case of some basic drives and predispositions such as sexuality, the drive to satisfy hunger, or the drive to socialise with others in a group.

    It is frequently joked that men who can't get it up or aren't getting any plan instead to conquer the world. It's a joke that goes back even to Aristophanes. Are we motivated by sex? There is no doubt. Does it cause us to behave in extremes that would cause us to alter the course of our life and the life of others? Again, never say never, but typically I think we keep its role in persepctive.

    I think you, perhaps like most westerners, underestimate the sex drive; but again I wasn't trying to suggest that particular linkage as a genetic/hormonal/biochemical predisposition.

    ITJock
    I didn't see the discussion limited to simply a discussion of good and evil - rather opened to a wide range of socio-economic and political topics. However one of our most basic needs and desires is for sex and reproduction. Although the way in which we go about fulfilling that specific need may be culturally determined, the need itself is inherent in almost all species.


    I agree. But still it is the other variables (culture, nurture, etc.) that seem to be the most likely influence on our actions, rather than sexual need.

    I disagree, I think the need for sexual expression (our orientation) is inherent in the human being. I hold the traditional eastern view that to suppress those needs and drives can lead to physical and mental illness. In other words, if our sexuality is repressed or suppressed and has no outlet, then we can become physically and mentally unhealthy, even disordered.

    ITJock
    Well we can agree that our sexual orientation is a product of 'nature' , but I contend that it is not a product of 'nurture or socialization' so much as our 'nurture or socialization' allows us the expression of that orientation.


    As with all my remarks, I qualify that any variation is possible in a world of billions of people, but I happen to feel that we can be born with a predisposition to be straight, bi or gay. I do think that the orientation is most often completed by the nurturing and the environment, and I base that view on the fact that the vast majority of gay men I've known and met share a uniquely similar family dynamic: the mother played a dominant role, while the father played a lesser role in a child's early development.

    Again I apologise, what I should have written more specifically was "...but I contend that it (our sexual identity) is not a product of 'nurture or socialization' so much as our 'nurture or socialization' allows us the expression of that orientation..."

    I also believe we are born with a genetic/hormonal/biochemical predisposition for our orientation. I think our early socialization and upbringing has little to do with that inate orientation.


    I base that view on the fact that the vast majority of gay men I've known and met share a uniquely similar family dynamic: the mother played a dominant role, while the father played a lesser role in a child's early development.

    I think that is a very old and largely disproven theory of sexual identity - unless you are really a hardline Freudian.

    ITJock
    That statement I read to mean that you believe that something as basic as sexual orientation - among many other genetic/hormonal/biochemical predispositions can be a learned - socialized - trait. I disagree, I don't believe that. Thank you for your response though.


    I am not trying to quibble over the use of the word "learned" but I think it is more a matter of steered. In essence, do these outer signals shape us internally? It is my belief that they play a major role in such things.

    I don't doubt that they play a major role in our expression of our sexuality (our sexual identity); what I doubt is that they play a strong role in our sexual orientation. I don't believe that your sexuality is a 'sexual preference', but rather something that was originally hard wired into you that finds expression through a culturally ... edited - appropriate(still not happy with that term)... form of identity.

    I think we agree more than not, however I rely much more heavily on 'nature' to detremine factor in sexuality; while you believe 'nurture' is the stronger force.

    R





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    Oct 01, 2007 7:07 PM GMT
    Hi guys, these are interesting posts, however they are straying from the original question. I posed a question asking specifically about your opinion of what Human nature is, if you believe there is an inherent nature at all. Forgive me for originally saying "the nature of men"; I mean, of course, mankind as a whole.

    While it's all well and good to look at sexual orientation and sexual desire as catalysts to certain actions human beings take throughout their lives, I don't think it should be the only factor looked at. Approaching this from a philosophical/Political Theory angle might help in formulating answers, as I'm more interested in people's broader philosophic interests and opinions.

    Lastly, nature vs. nurture cerainly has its place, but perhaps we might relegate them to their respective importance in the larger philosophical arguments. I'd hate to see this topic get bogged down in a single argument about nature vs. nurture, and sexual orientation. I think we spend enough time talking about why we're Homosexual, Bisexual, etc. Let's try and keep this seperate to a degree.
  • jarhead5536

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    Oct 01, 2007 7:18 PM GMT
    I tend to think that our basic nature is primarily self-interest. If we broaden our heirarchy of needs to the family/tribe, it is only because this group is important to us. We care about them because they validate us and make us happy. Therefore, we protect them and go about making sure that their needs are met before the needs of strangers.

    I also think that sex is the driving force behind almost everything. Wealth, power, prestige - all these things are said to be goals in and of themselves, but what do each of these provide? Access to desirable sexual partners, and denial of same to other men.
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    Oct 01, 2007 7:41 PM GMT
    Cmon, self-preservation is not a "thought", it's an instinct. Look up Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Self-preservation is the lowest need in that hierarchy. Higher needs take on more importance after the lowest needs are satisfied. For example, the need to be right, to be just, to live in a harmonious society, to make a difference, these are higher needs.

    Since it's a lot easier to be honest and to accept one's feelings than to lie and to deny oneself (gay people know this first hand), people desire to live in communities where their natural thoughts and feelings are validated as "right" or "just". And certainly this desire for validation extends to his immediate family as well as extended family.

    Governments throughout the ages have tried to make its subjects treat all other citizens as family members. Often the way to do so is by discriminating against other groups, be it racial or religious. By telling their subjects that people outside of their families can be divided into the "like them" and "unlike them", the government tries to induce people to treat those "like them" with more friendliness and understanding.

    Jarhead says that the need of validation is self-interest; yes it is but it's subconscious. Nobody deliberately seek validation, they gravitate to sources of it (i.e. social/religious institutions) that they find powerful and credible.
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    Oct 03, 2007 4:33 AM GMT
    I don't think man is innately good or evil. The "creation" is good, but I think man is a work in progress, and can do good things or bad things. It is our "incompleteness" that drives us forward. The problem is that good and bad is relative to ones perspective and we try to make sweeping judgments or conclusions.

    When we see what is similar between ourselves we are driven together. When we see what is different about ourselves we are driven apart unless we see those differences as complementary. In that case difference brings us together because we see it in the context of a whole harmonious system. Those statements also holds true for other 'systems." When we see ourselves as being apart from our environment for example, we tend to abuse nature and reap the ill consequences. It is hard for humans to get the big picture. The more definitive we are, the bigger the trap we MAY set for ourselves and the more our view narrows. The more we can step outside ourselves, the broader the perspective we can gain.

    If you want to understand a system, you have to see it in relation to other systems. If you want to understand humanity you have to see it as humans relating to humans and humans relating to other systems etc.