Why are human beings so violent?
Searching for a real answer beyond superficial idealism

Why are human beings so violent?
Accidental Philosopher
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#11 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 9, 2011 - 6:15 PM:

StreetlightX wrote:
So it's not in spite of our reasoning capacity that we're "more violent" - it's because of it.


But on the contrary, couldn't we say that because humans can reflect on and discuss their violent actions in a way that other animals cannot, humans can address the origins of the violence they perpetrate towards one another, and thus take steps to reduce violence? (Admittedly this is easier said than done.) I don't understand why you think that reasoning necessarily has the inherent telos of making us more violent.



Edited by Accidental Philosopher on Dec 9, 2011 - 6:22 PM
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#12 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 9, 2011 - 6:21 PM:

Vykan12 wrote:
You misunderstand me. By violence I meant more in the sense of scale of destruction (bombs, fighter jets, etc), as opposed to violent impulse. I'm sure there are plenty of animals that are far more aggressive than human beings, I'm more interested in why we use our intellectual capacities to amplify violence, even though we have the reasoning ability to coexist peacefully and realize the full consequences of our actions.

For instance, what could drive any sane person to spend their lifetime perfecting biological weapons, without questioning their actions at any point in their careers? That's far different than a base survival instinct to kill as a means of self-preservation.


I think the answer lays in that systems can get to have a genuine will of their own. So as to say people work in the weapons industry, and then this industry get's to somehow be an organic being of it's own, with a sort of intelligence, a will, a way of choosing, and this being takes control over people. The same can be said for religions, and nations, the economoy, and also science. The system get's to be an organic being with self interests, beasts with very low intelligence, and very little concern for humanity. And now, as I continuously make known, the beast at present controlling us in the West is mainly science. People do what the science beast tells them to do, but the science beast has very little concern for humanity. It is not a given fact that people decide their own fate, one can give up their power of decision to a large degree and hand it over to science for instance, or a religion, or the nation, or drugs ofcourse. One must be very wary of attacks on free will of people, as now free will is directly attacked by science.
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#13 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 9, 2011 - 6:31 PM:

Philovitist wrote:

Insanity is only a comparative term. To call all of humanity insane is essentially to take all meaning away from the term.


It doesn't have much meaning to lose, but in its origin 'sana', sound, it is related to health, which again rather escapes definition, but involves proper functioning in a system, I would say. Anyway, it is not meaningless to say that human minds are not functioning very well, and this gives rise to self-destructive behaviour.

I do agree though that it is often used as a disqualifying identity label, and that is also interesting when applied globally. Even philosophers and psychologists ( shocked ) would be disqualified from diagnosis and cure. which is to say that one cannot legitimately address the op unless violent tendencies have been eliminated in oneself. Let he who is without violence stop casting the stone first.
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#14 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 9, 2011 - 6:33 PM:

Rather than answering that perhaps I can throw another twist in whereby the fact that we can "reflect on and discuss our violent actions in a way that other animals cannot", allows us to be even more violent.. The very operation of talking, of discussing, of incessantly babbling about violence enacts the psychic mechanisms required to make us think that we're doing alot, when really nothing at all gets done.

As Zizek writes, this is the most elementary operation of ideology, which has nothing to do with 'seeing things in a distorted way', but rather, functions "at the level of what the individuals are doing, and not only what they think or know they are doing. [In ideology] the illusion is not on the side of knowledge, it is already on the side of reality itself, of what the people are doing. What they do not know is that their social reality itself, their activity, is guided by an illusion, by a fetishistic inversion. What they overlook, what they misrecognize, is not the reality but the illusion which is structuring their reality, their real social activity. They know very well how things really are, but still they are doing it as if they did not know".

This of course does not HAVE to be the case. Our recognition of violence can very well allow us to take steps to reduce it. But it doesn't have to. It may blind us in an even more effective way. Discussion and reflection, despite what communicative discourse theorists will tell us, is not preordaned to lead to good things.
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#15 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 9, 2011 - 6:40 PM:

StreetlightX wrote:
Rather than answering that perhaps I can throw another twist in whereby the fact that we can "reflect on and discuss our violent actions in a way that other animals cannot", allows us to be even more violent.. The very operation of talking, of discussing, of incessantly babbling about violence enacts the psychic mechanisms required to make us think that we're doing alot, when really nothing at all gets done.


I don't delude myself here. It's good for us philosophers to talk about violence, both on a theoretical and empirical level, but if that conversation about violence doesn't seep into public discussions more generally it won't help to reduce violence. Such is the nature of democracy.

StreetlightX wrote:
This of course does not HAVE to be the case. Our recognition of violence can very well allow us to take steps to reduce it. But it doesn't have to. It may blind us in an even more effective way. Discussion and reflection, despite what communicative discourse theorists will tell us, is not preordaned to lead to good things.


I agree that discussion and reflection on violence doesn't necessarily lead to us taking steps to reduce it. But on the other hand, if we forego discussion and reflection we will almost certainly not be able to reduce violence. So I think your initial pessimism about reason is unwarranted.
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#16 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 9, 2011 - 6:42 PM:

At any rate, violence is irreducible. There no peaceful 'state of nature' where things are happy, shiny and bright and everyone gets along - such a vision is purest of all fantasies (dare I say the most violent of all fantasies?), one moreover, that structures fascism in it's worst guises. And there's numerous studies by Benjamin, Agamben, Derrida and so on all of which show that any regime of law, representation and order is structurally founded on violence in the first place. Succinctly, Nature is violence (although perhaps not just violence), it is already 'unnatural' from the very beginning. As Badiou puts elsewhere, "Nature does not exist". Elizabeth Grosz is somewhat kinder:

"The natural does not limit the cultural; it provokes and incites the cultural by generating problems, questions, events that must be addressed and negotiated, symbolized, or left unrepresented. Cultures distinguish themselves through the questions or problems that press most directly on them (these problems are the consequence of precise geographical, historical, and institutional contingencies), through the resources each culture (in the form of its varying natural resources and modes of technological development) gleans from its environment or context, and through the inventiveness each culture adopts to address or transform these problems or provocations so that it can gain a measure of stability and cohesiveness, a cultural ‘‘identity’’directly linked to its (indirect, mediated) relations to the natural world and its elaborated relations to its own (collective) past".

It is the violence of nature which begets the violence of culture, and any attempt to do away with one or the other is nothing less than an attempt to deny nature itself. The question is always then one of negotiation - can we navigate the violent waters of nature with more or less violence? Often enough, we opt for the former, with more or less tragic consequences.

Edited by StreetlightX on Dec 9, 2011 - 7:18 PM
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#17 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 9, 2011 - 6:45 PM:

So I think your initial pessimism about reason is unwarranted.


It's not pessimism. It's "agnosticism" about reason. Destroy the world or scratch my little finger, reason will give no answers.
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#18 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 9, 2011 - 6:49 PM:

unenlightened wrote:


It doesn't have much meaning to lose, but in its origin 'sana', sound, it is related to health, which again rather escapes definition, but involves proper functioning in a system, I would say. Anyway, it is not meaningless to say that human minds are not functioning very well, and this gives rise to self-destructive behaviour.

I do agree though that it is often used as a disqualifying identity label, and that is also interesting when applied globally. Even philosophers and psychologists ( shocked ) would be disqualified from diagnosis and cure. which is to say that one cannot legitimately address the op unless violent tendencies have been eliminated in oneself. Let he who is without violence stop casting the stone first.


Let's not forget inner violence, which is often associated to outward violence, but inner violence on it's own is also serious enough. One might even say that reasonably judged, things like tribal warfare, are less serious than cases of widespread inner violence. Half of the students at Harvard suffer from debilitating depression during their student carrier. There's commonly a lot of inner violence associated to depression. Is that worse or less worse than tribes killing each other off in a situation of population surplus?
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#19 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 9, 2011 - 6:49 PM:

Even Bible mentions "the flaw in creation" of people. I say, not only people. People are animals as well, and they can not avoid laws of biology and procreation: only the winner gets the ticket on life. The fact that people kill people massively only shows that people became far more successful species, to the point that carnivore animals are not their worst enemy anymore, but other people remain to carry a capacity to be dangerous rivals. Weapons have to be created even for protection, not necessarily for an attack, because evolution proved that people's safety can not be entrusted completely to other people or nations.

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#20 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 9, 2011 - 7:04 PM:

"You misunderstand me. By violence I meant more in the sense of scale of destruction (bombs, fighter jets, etc), as opposed to violent impulse. I'm sure there are plenty of animals that are far more aggressive than human beings, I'm more interested in why we use our intellectual capacities to amplify violence, even though we have the reasoning ability to coexist peacefully and realize the full consequences of our actions."

If I don't want peace - I want you dead - then what "have the reasoning ability to do" doesn't matter much at all.

Reason is a tool for achieving ends, the likes of which are mine and not yours.
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