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    1. #1
      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      Human nature and Violence

      Pretty straightforward. Is it in human nature to be inherently violent?

    2. #2
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      Yes. What starts mediating the violence and the philosophy of whether it is right or wrong is mostly the frontal lobe/prefrontal cortex imo. This is a later evolved part of the brain and involved in higher thinking. In fact, read up about emotional responses in the brain from childhood and the teenage years and how it differs from adults with fully developed brains. Facial expressions are a good example, these are processed via the amygdala during the earlier years and actually lead to quite a few inaccuracies based on fear responses from the amygdala. Once your brain is fully developed, the frontal lobes are more involved in facial expression recognition and you are much more able to accurately label the emotions on others' faces because of this. The lack of a developed frontal lobe is also the reason for the ill-thought out decisions that teenagers and children make and poor planning skills. Without the frontal lobe higher reasoning function in our brains, I imagine humans would tend to be much more violent.

      So, what I am saying is that, yes, it is in human nature to be violent. Can we change our nature through higher thinking? That answer is also yes.

    3. #3
      Member Photolysis's Avatar
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      Nature is a violent struggle to survive, and it's only very recently that most of us in the western world have been able to live lives with very limited violence. Even today, there are many that do not share that luxury.

      We wouldn't have made it to the position we're in without a predisposition towards violence... but neither would we without an ability to cooperate either.

      Violence is in our genes, and while rationality can override those impulses, they are still going to be there.

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      It's a complicated question and I'm not sure how to even read it exactly. Does 'inherently violent' describe a lack of concern over other people and therefore a willingness to fight whenever it would be advantageous? Or is it a desire to fight, does 'inherently violent' mean that people actually derive pleasure from suffering?

      I'd answer no in the sense that we only resort to violence if it's necessary. Even sharks won't kill if they aren't hungry. It's probably safe to say it isn't a simple yes/no answer. People will be violent under different circumstances and many factors come into play. Nature, nurture, levels of empathy, sadism, the costs and benefits of using violence in the specific situation.... etc.

      And I don't really agree with the "people are naturally violent but this society has told them they can't be so it doesn't count and we have to look elsewhere" viewpoint. If anything, the relative lack of violence in more developed areas hints that people may be predisposed toward non-violence, and only resort to violence when it's necessary. Again it depends what 'inherently' means. Inherently under what circumstances?

    5. #5
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      My first reaction is that life is itself violent by nature. Even plants kill each other in their ceaseless competition for light, nutrients and space, and entire species that can no longer compete effectively die out. So plants are genocidally violent. Is the fact that it isn't done consciously important?

      There are 'safe' places where small communities can survive for a time free of violence, but unless those areas are somehow protected from intrusion, what's to stop outsiders from preying on them? Buddhist monks are masters of martial arts for a reason. Peace comes at a cost.

      In cities with low violent crime rates isn't that usually enforced by an armed police force - the threat of violence keeping outbreaks in check?

      Too much peace and quiet makes people restless and eventually creates disorders in them - they start to go stir crazy and feel the need to break out and get somehow closer to their wild roots. It's well known that people who are too protected and pampered become spoiled and resentful and hate their protectors, seeing them as oppressors instead and seeing the security as a cage. This is essentially why every time a society reaches a level of social stability where it's eliminated the natural dangers it becomes decadent and spawns generations of spoiled, spiteful punk-asses who seem to deliberately want to destroy the safe haven they see as a prison.

      High testosterone makes men aggressive and violent. Low testosterone makes men sexually undesirable to women and incapable of being strong protectors or soldiers. A society that loses its aggression will be destroyed by surrounding societies.

      So I guess yeah.

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      ^ But all that said, I think it's unrealistic to isolate both humanity and violence. To me it makes a lot more sense to say that violence is one part of the cycle of all life. We're not defined entirely by violence - for me personally anyway it's pretty rare and tends to be in pretty mild forms, at least so far. Things are different depending on whether we're talking about individuals or a species as a whole, or about the whole ball of wax - the entire mass of life that is the earth's ecosystem.

      Yes, violence is an inescapable fact for our species, though much less so than pretty much any other animals, which mostly end their days as something else's lunch after spending much of their time fleeing and fighting for survival (which for many means killing and eating a lot of other animals). But life is a vast tapestry, also filled with beauty and friendship and occasionally love, with moments of tranquillity and bliss.

      So asking if human nature is inherently violent is like asking if sound is predominantly screaming. Yes, screaming is a part of sound in general, but so is music and crickets and the breeze.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 08-02-2013 at 10:02 AM.

    7. #7
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      I don't think it is human nature, at least not for all people. There are people who do not have any violence in them. Society, culture, and life and interaction with others reinforces any violence people may already have, so that violent people are more likely to become more violent.
      You may say I'm a dreamer.
      But I'm not the only one
      - John Lennon

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      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      But does that make them free from violence? Does a rabbit have violence in it? And yet its life is ruled by violence.
      Well, I am not a violent person, and I wouldn't say my life is ruled by violence. Of course, I may be wrong in that assessment - maybe I am a rabbit and don't know it. However, I would say that violence is mostly a non-issue for me in my day to day life.
      You may say I'm a dreamer.
      But I'm not the only one
      - John Lennon

    9. #9
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      I did already say humans have created a society in which individuals and sometimes groups can live without violence for long periods, and that it's only possible because of the society of force we've established. If you eat meat then violence has been done many times on your behalf by unseen butchers. We've just segregated society so most of us don't have to see it or participate in it. And you're safe on the streets because armed police patrol.

      But then, are we only referring to physical violence? The few fights I've been in left no lasting marks, unlike the emotional violence which pretty well mutilated me for life.

      I also don't think it really means anything to say a person "doesn't have violence in them". It's an act, something that can happen in an instant. It's' not something you either have in you or not.

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