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do anarchists have a perspective on the question of human nature?

+4 votes
what does human nature mean? is it any set of characteristics that are inherent (born into) humans?
asked Jun 5, 2010 by anonymous
edited Jul 31, 2013 by dot

3 Answers

0 votes
Yes, human nature does not exist. Human nature is a lie. "Do I mean to advise you to be like the beasts? That you ought to become beasts is an exhortation which I certainly cannot give you, as that would again be a task, an ideal (“How doth the little busy bee improve each shining hour. In works of labor or of skill I would be busy too, for Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do”). It would be the same, too, as if one wished for the beasts that they should become human beings. Your nature is, once for all, a human one; you are human natures, human beings. But, just because you already are so, you do not still need to become so. Beasts too are “trained,” and a trained beast executes many unnatural things. But a trained dog is no better for itself than a natural one, and has no profit from it, even if it is more companionable for us." http://theanarchistlibrary.org/HTML/Max_Stirner__The_Ego_and_His_Own.html
answered Jun 6, 2010 by frenzy (720 points)
+1 vote
This might not be appropriate for the 101 section, but this is my two cents on Stirner and human nature:
According to philosophers from Plato to Hegel, human nature is defined by the capacity for rational thought or reason, while physical activity and toil are typically relegated to the lowly realm of animality.  Against this idealist tradition, a Young Hegelian upstart named Ludwig Feuerbach contended that the essence of human nature consisted in community, arguing that human nature or “species-being” existed through individuals’ consciousness of themselves as part of a common species or human community, which in his view implied everyone should get together in a big love-fest for their fellow humans and worship “Man”.  This provoked Stirner’s scathing critique of human nature/'Man', which for him was merely an abstract concept serving to conceal and repress the real uniqueness of individuals.  By positing human nature as a fixed essence or set of attributes, Stirner argued in proto-existentialist fashion, Feuerbach established an exclusionary and oppressive norm which denied the individual’s capacity to freely create him- or herself.  Like God, “Man” was essentially a religious illusion demanding the same obedience and self-sacrifice.  Meanwhile the young Marx, then well-known as a Feuerbach groupie, defined human nature/species-being as co-operation in production, that is, labour or work.  With a big slap to the philosophical tradition, Marx argued that human essence is defined by the mundane everyday activity and relations of production.  Animals may “work” to sustain and reproduce themselves, but their activity is purely instinctual, whereas human work is conscious and planned.  In his view, humans are especially distinguished from animals by the fact they produce their own means of production, thus creating and modifying their own needs, beyond the mere animal needs for food, water, sex.  So Marx’s account of a universal or essential human nature accounts for the variation and development of particular human needs, desires, characteristics etc. manifested in different historical epochs according to the level of production and other circumstances.  Furthermore, the relations of production denoted by Marx’s concept of human essence/Man are a *material* reality determining/conditioning what individuals can be or make of themselves.  In other words, they are not merely imaginary “spooks” or “wheels in the head” that can be dissolved by an act of individual will in the style of Stirner.
answered Aug 31, 2010 by pauley (240 points)
edited Sep 1, 2010 by pauley
+3 votes
Though ultimately the question of whether the concept "human nature" is a useful one would/has been answered differently by different anarchists, I think we can mostly agree that those that have put forth serious proposals on What Human Nature Really Is tend to, in their conceptions, limit the expressions of humanity with narrow definitions. For example, many capitalists argue that humans are greedy and individualistic by nature. Many anarchists have thoroughly repudiated this claim.

To me it is clear that humans are incredibly, surprisingly adaptable and malleable. This is part of the joy of being alive. There are humans whose cruelty and malign tendencies are shocking (the Austrian man that kept his family in a dungeon for decades), and there are humans whose unique beauty and self-expression are a delight to behold (the 10-person ensemble band I saw playing in the streets). Do these all share some basic common nature? I have not seen any attempts at defining human nature that come close to encapsulating the profligate diversity of humanity that exists, let alone that which may come to exist.
answered Sep 20, 2010 by enkidu (6,110 points)
Chomsky once debated Foucault about this.  It was boring.

Here are some highlights:
Part one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WveI_vgmPz8

Part two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0SaqrxgJvw&feature=related

I feel pretty indifferent about it myself.

edited to make it a comment.
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