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Self-Centered Mankind; From Hermits to Social People

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Basic Philosophical Questions

Final Paper

Dr. Sarah Harasym

11/1/2000


                         Self-Centered Mankind; From Hermits to Social Creatures



         If we can understand the nature of humans in their natural state and how a government first came

into being, we grant mankind with knowledge capable of modifying modern governments into more

efficient ones that are better suited to humans. The knowledge would also allow many to predict which

systems could ultimately end up in disaster. This essay will use both famous philosophical theories and

brand new ones to explain how and why primitive humans may have developed associations with one

another and how and why such associations eventually required an organized government. This

explanation will then be used to explain that humans are always self-motivated in their actions and have no

basic morals or natural laws.

         If one understood the nature of humanity, they would in turn have avoided a government like

communism because its collapse was due to a faulty perception of human nature – that all humans will

expend more energy for a common good than they really have to. All objects in nature, both animate and

inanimate, are physically drawn to their lowest energy state. Here are some examples: Atoms with too

many electrons (reduced atoms) wish to get rid of them while those with too few (ionized atoms) wish to

gain them and thereby achieve a neutral state. All physical objects on earth that have some degree of

potential energy wish to lower it by eroding closer to the earth; Mountains, waterfalls, cliffs, and continents

will be flat and under the ocean in a few billion years. All energy stored in a living thing is lost when the

animal dies and the energy stored in chemical compounds naturally disintegrate. Birds do not build eighty

nests when they only need one. Humans would rather eat or sleep than exercise. Communism assumes

that humans will expend more energy than they must in order to serve a common good. In nature, all

animals normally conserve all possible energy so that they have it when they absolutely need it. As a

result, Communism had motivational problems because the people were usually rewarded regardless of the

amount of work they did and many people would do the minimum amount of work that they had to. On the
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other hand, Capitalism takes a far more natural approach in that a motivation to work is competition for

survival. In Capitalism, compensation for labor increases when the level of work increases. Likewise,

more energy must be expelled in labor in order to increase one’s own security. Most humans will do just

about anything in their power to preserve their own life and physical security. They will also work a great

deal to improve their feeling of physical security, which includes a stress free, healthy life. However, the

rewards of labor seem to allow him to increase these things. Capitalism takes advantage of this by allowing

people to come closer to those basic goals, but they usually must work hard for it and this work indirectly

helps the society as well as themselves. As one can see, the collapse of Communism and the success of

Capitalism are clearly related to the founders’ understanding or misunderstanding of the nature of

humanity.

         It is a common assumption that nearly all of man’s physical, consciously created objects are more

easily created than destroyed. Long ago, In order to guard man’s possessions’ from destruction, loss, or

theft, and to thereby avoid valuable time energy wasted in their re-creation, original man sought to preserve

and protect his created possessions. The individuals living back then apparently understood a basic

philosophy suggested by Thrasymachus in The Apology. He stated that a human desire is to take

advantage of other people without paying a penalty and to avoid suffering injustice without being able to

take revenge: “The best is to do injustice without paying the penalty; the worst is to suffer it without being

able to take revenge.” Original man must have understood, as Thrasymachus had, that another individual

would steal another’s possessions (just as he would) if it increased their likelihood of basic survival. This

meant that a call for protection from others was needed.

         Throughout the eras of human history, technological advancements have caused military strengths

to either be in favor of offense or defense. During the age of the Roman Empire, city walls seemed to

present a nearly invincible defense to a lusting legion. Defeating such an impenetrable defense would

require an extensive siege for years. This all changed during the Middle Ages; primitive rockets spawned

by the invention of the trebuchet changed the entire tide of warfare toward favoring the offense as hurling

multi- hundred pound boulders would smash a distant wall to a powder. Again the tides were changed

toward defense when trench warfare and mines created a “no-man’s land” stalemate. Today, however,

nuclear weapons present an almost invincible offense. As Hobbes suggested, in early human affairs,
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offense was the strength and so warfare for survival was unavoidable under certain pertaining

circumstances but perhaps not as common as he thought. Although someone with a sharp stick or even a

blunt club could easily disable an unarmed, poorly sheltered/defended person, theft was undoubtedly

preferable over a direct confrontation because the objective was not to kill the individual, but only to take

their life prolonging possessions in times of desperation. This probably occurred rarely because using

violence still risked revenge or even death for the attacker. Also (as will be explained in further depth

shortly) they ruin the chance of getting that person’s help when it is needed. Obviously, if the

circumstances were not desperate ones, these risks were not worth taking, just as Thrasymachus alluded to.

         As Locke alluded to in reference to natural law in The Second Treatise on Civil Government, a

weary defender might have been likely to use violence to ward off or even kill the trespasser in order to

protect his possessions and restore his own security: “every man in the state of Nature has a power to kill a

murderer, both to deter others from doing the like injury … and also to secure men from the attempts of a

criminal … .” However, if the possessions were in fact successfully stolen or if the attacker escaped

unharmed, revenge was certainly sought after. Revenge would physically demonstrate that certain damage

inflicting actions were simply intolerable and would be punished with loss inflicting retribution. This

retribution was aimed at forcing the attacker to see that the benefits of steeling were dramatically

counterbalanced by the damages done in return for the theft. Idealistically, the attacker would never

consider attacking again and this restored physical and possession security to the defendant when he acted

in revenge: “Each transgression may be punished to that degree, and with so much severity, as will suffice

to make it an ill bargain to the offender, give him cause to repent, and terrify others from doing the like.”

With this, the idea of punishment in return for a damaging action was brought to humanity.

         In refutation to one of Locke’s meditations, pitying others was not a natural law at all. The only

reason why an individual would “pity” and help someone else is if they were expecting a sort of reward in

some way or another. Consider the term Man1 to name the first man and Man2 to name the second. If

Man1 were to help Man2 out of a dangerous situation, Man1 would most likely have done this not out of

pity but because Man2 would be more likely to help him in the future, even if it were for comparably trivial

circumstances such as moving a large log for a shelter or assisting in a hunt. Since the monetary system

was not developed, there was no clear and distinct compensation for someone’s assistance. When Man1
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assisted Man2 for the first time, Man2 was in his debt. While in debt, Man2 understood that man1 might

not assist him further unless he did something to compensate for the original assistance given to him. This

meant that man2 would perform deeds for man1 in order to ‘break even’. In typical trade, one desires the

other person’s product or services over the one they are offering for trade. Both felt that they received the

better half of the trade and so they would keep attempting to break even by assisting the other. They did

this because they feared that if they did not, the other would stop offering their assistance and this could be

disastrous in an emergency that required the other’s help. In actuality, both felt that they were in the

other’s debt and before long; a “friendship” between the two strangers came into being.

         With this in mind, natural law (defined by Locke) becomes nothing but a delusion – a series of

specific laws that are actually results from a far deeper and far more selfish human psychology. One of the

laws commands that man should try to preserve one another and not infringe upon one another’s liberty.

The reason why man wishes to do this is because they reason that they can later benefit from one another or

perhaps please the other person enough so that they are no longer a threat or competitor. Another wrong

assumption about the natural law of man deals with one taking his own life. From Locke’s perspective,

since God created man, he does not have the authority to destroy it. This is assuming that that man believes

God had created him and that Judaism or Christianity takes presidency over Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism,

and Atheism. In fact, no one is capable of proving that God indisputably exists and as a result, everyone

must assume that were indisputably created by his or her parents. If one strips away his belief in a deity, it

becomes merely human instinct to do everything in one’s own power to survive (as already established

previously), but there is no higher law that says one does not have the authority to destroy one’s self.

Obviously, most (if not all) of the natural laws proposed by philosophers can be reasoned with an

understanding of basic human nature.

         As Locke suggested, it appears highly probably that man and woman often lived together as a unit

and had divisions of labor, but just how and why did this occur and what role does self-motivation play?

At first, man’s instinctive sex drive probably told him to spontaneously mate and then leave the woman

behind, but perhaps the man realized that he could mate any time he pleased if she were always nearby.

The woman understood that the man (much stronger than she) would protect her from harm and give her

food in order to ensure that he could keep mating with her. Through this, they achieved a basic relationship
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and shortly after, they most likely realized that dividing the daily jobs between them was more beneficial in

the long run for the couple because the male was more proficient at certain jobs that required aggression or

strength. The results of this unity surely led to conception; the mother instinctively nurtured the children as

the father, wishing only to keep his female happy, helped her to foster and raise the children. In addition to

basic maternal instinct, the woman surely wanted to have children so that they could in turn help her with

her daily jobs. And so, the mother & father union then served as a successful life-style model for the

children. A tradition was then born.

         As families and friendships came into being through the processes stated above, so were tribes.

When individuals found they would be better off when working together, so were their families. Groups

suddenly found themselves with a more stable lifestyle. One man might return with an animal even though

another was unable to. With their combined work, larger building materials were capable of being moved

into position to make larger and stronger shelters. Each was sure to dedicate their labor to the tribe’s

causes or else they risked being removed from its support.

         In natural ape herds, the strongest, most dominant ape assumes the leadership position as the alpha

of the herd. This position is desired because the alpha has many privileges including the following: his

choice of females, the amount and type of food he consumes, where he sleeps, and the power to make other

apes be advantageous to him as he commands. This power is maintained by the threat of force and is

virtually absolute. The alpha ape would lead and control the herd while using mild threats to ward off

anyone that would like to take his leadership position. The difference between apes and humans is that

humans are more intelligent and so will not hesitate to gang up against an abusive leader. The most

dominant individual in the mini-tribe, the one who would take command of a project and lead it,

unofficially assumed the position of the tribe’s leader. His physical power and dominance declared him as

a natural leader and enabled him to maintain his position and power over the others so long as most of the

individuals ruled feel that his leadership benefits them. The leader knew that if a rogue individual wished

to kill him and take his position, that person would be afraid of suffering very severe punishments so long

as most of the tribesmen were happy with his leadership. This explains why a person would want to lead

and how they achieve and maintain their leadership.
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         Eventually, a growing tribe would metastasize into a chaotic cluster of people. This occurred

because as a tribal population grows, internal relationships become less personal and people quickly learn

that they can take advantage of the entire group by “slacking off” without penalty. Since it probably took

many angry people in order to oust a “slacker” from the clan, it must have been a rare occurrence because

so many people did not know the individual personally. Because of these impersonal relationships, the

mutual bond between them (which depended upon the need for others’ services) is lost and so one feels a

need to please so many other people (perhaps only a few). Resultantly, many of the tribesmen did not pull

their own weight and so the tribe weakened as the number of tribesmen increased.

         By now, it is clear that human society may have no “morals” as they are commonly thought of

today. Instead, humans have produced codes that maximize their rewards over the long term by

establishing positive connections with other people. With this in mind, every single innocent act of

kindness can be rooted to a deeper self-motivation. However, not everyone agrees with this. They believe

the primary fault of the explanations prior to this point is that if morals actually exist, all of the support is

rendered obsolete. Some seem to claim they have evidence proving the existence of genuine kindness and

thereby disproving the theories for how solitary individuals formed a tribe. For example, some have said

that Christians claim to help others because it is simply “The right thing to do” and that being kind is part

of the list of basic human instincts. Most devout Christians believe that one of the most difficult things to

do is to live in accordance with the doctrines of Christianity. They believe that doing “The right thing” can

be extremely difficult. Of course, the reason why it is difficult for them is because they are either required

to do things without physical rewards or they must refrain from certain rewarding actions. In fact, no one

would ever dedicate their lives to a religion in which its rewards did not outweigh its required sacrifices.

So, in many religions, the drive for making such sacrifices includes earning one’s place into some sort of a

better place or class.

         It is not by chance that even non-religious people appear to do good deeds as well. The most

problematic argument suggested against the “selfish human” concept is the following situation: A man

inside a building is looking out through a one-way mirror/window. He happens to see an elderly woman

struggle up to the door with a walker and so he immediately steps out from the room he was in and walks

over and opens the door for her. The question is why would the man do this other than to be kind? It
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seems to come right down to sincere kindness and good morality. It has previously been established that if

a man helps someone, he hopes to be helped in return. In modern society, people have learned this from a

very early age. They have also learned that by establishing a somewhat positive relationship with everyone

they can, they increase their number of connections so that help is available when needed. Most likely, this

is learned on the conscious level only when humans are young and so it would make sense why children

appear to become less selfish as they grow older – they are only beginning to learn that being kind to

people can sometimes be very rewarding. By the time one reaches adulthood, it has become an

unconscious process to be polite to strangers. The reason why the man helped the elderly lady was because

deep down he would have reasoned that at some later time, if he were to see her again when he had a

problem, she probably be willing to return the favor. This circumstance was unique because he had no

risks by not helping the woman (his presence was unknown to her). Ordinarily, if he were visible, his

motive might have been linked to the fact that he did not want her to complain to others and thereby give

him a bad reputation – a position feared because it ruins potential connections to useful people. Evidently,

there are no situations that disprove that humans are always self-motivated in their actions.

         Many people seem to look upon the topic of “complete self-motivation” as a completely wrong

conception of human nature and somewhat uncomfortable. Perhaps this is because it suddenly makes every

human self centered at heart and this has been taught as an undesirable trait in a person. It also ruins words

that have always had such useful meanings such as polite, rude, love, thankful, sincerely, and moral

because these words become abstract and almost illusionary concepts as they can all be explained by

subliminal ulterior motives. Some have thought that since there are both criminals and law-abiding good

citizens, some individuals must have morals where others do not. But with the knowledge from this essay,

it becomes evident that they simply prioritize their rewards differently. For instance, reducing the

probability of receiving a punishment or extending the likeliness of rewards over the long term are things

people oftentimes do on varying levels, each depending on the individual’s approach to life.

         In order to reorganize a tribal society into a more stable and efficient group of people, official

governments were soon developed. It was realized that the larger the governed population was, the more

complex the government system needed to be to cope with the chaos. The details pertaining to exactly how

each government form was devised and implemented are well beyond the scope of this essay. However,
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with each fallen government, it was likely due to the fact that the founders of it somehow misunderstood

basic human nature. It is to the advantage of new founders to use the information presented in this essay

(concerning the self-motivation of mankind) to design a better government using a more critical analysis of

the mistakes made by governments that have already failed.

				
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