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Author Topic: Nature of Humanity  (Read 2895 times)

HeartShadow

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Nature of Humanity
« on: July 08, 2012, 09:34:37 am »
This is one of those things that has been rolling around in my head for a bit, but it's really hard to put into language.

What do you think is the innate nature of humanity?  Good/evil/blank slate/something else?  Are we getting better, getting worse, is the question irrelevant?  If the question doesn't even make sense in your religion, why not?

For FlameKeeping, humanity simply IS.  Not good, not bad, and definitely not blank slate - I've seen way too much character in babies to believe in the blank slate theory!  But the good/evil question doesn't make sense.  Good/evil is something we measure against ourselves, so there isn't an external measure to apply to us.

I do believe that we are becoming better people, in general - we do not accept things that in the past were accepted.  The more we move away from simple survival, the more society gives people freedom to be themselves instead of conform to a norm.  I believe that we can /become/ better, as a people.  Doesn't mean there aren't times we fall back, but hey, that's human nature too.

veggiewolf

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Nature of Humanity
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2012, 11:38:52 am »
Quote from: HeartShadow;63203
...

What do you think is the innate nature of humanity? ...

I don't believe humanity has an innate nature. I think the potential for action, ALL action, is in us and therefore, the argument over innate nature is immaterial.

We forget (or don't want to admit), in our debate over good and evil, that the actions done by so called evil men are in fact human actions and therefore not so alien to us after all. We can choose how to act, but we must not deny the fact that our choices are what determine our path.
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Annie Roonie

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Re: Nature of Humanity
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2012, 05:01:13 pm »
Quote from: HeartShadow;63203

What do you think is the innate nature of humanity?  Good/evil/blank slate/something else?


All I can see that is innate in the nature of humanity is growth because that is all that is all I see as innate in human nature.

Literally and/or metaphorically, I observe this to be so.

Quote from: HeartShadow;63203
Are we getting better, getting worse, is the question irrelevant?  If the question doesn't even make sense in your religion, why not?


I think we are coming to a time when the growth of humanity has the potential to damage humanity again (I went through this same problem with the Cold War but now it is concerning things that aren't supposed to be destructive). 7 billion people to level out, according to the U.N. (snagged from this vid a while back), at 10 billion by the end of this century. And that question of what will cause the leveling out nags at me. There are just so very few positive scenarios that I can think of that I am glad I will be dead before the time of the leveling. That video is supposed to be pleasantly informative, but to me, it's scary.

As for my beliefs, given the above, they are in flux. I have begun to think in terms of usefulness instead of either engaging in the battle between good & bad or abdicating it.

I think the nature of humanity is becoming less useful to its continued existence.

Wickerman

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Re: Nature of Humanity
« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2012, 05:51:29 pm »
Quote from: HeartShadow;63203
This is one of those things that has been rolling around in my head for a bit, but it's really hard to put into language.

What do you think is the innate nature of humanity?  Good/evil/blank slate/something else?  Are we getting better, getting worse, is the question irrelevant?  If the question doesn't even make sense in your religion, why not?

For FlameKeeping, humanity simply IS.  Not good, not bad, and definitely not blank slate - I've seen way too much character in babies to believe in the blank slate theory!  But the good/evil question doesn't make sense.  Good/evil is something we measure against ourselves, so there isn't an external measure to apply to us.

I do believe that we are becoming better people, in general - we do not accept things that in the past were accepted.  The more we move away from simple survival, the more society gives people freedom to be themselves instead of conform to a norm.  I believe that we can /become/ better, as a people.  Doesn't mean there aren't times we fall back, but hey, that's human nature too.

 

I do not believe in an innate nature so to speak. We are social creatures, and as such we have an inborn desire to fit in, or to further society. As to getting better, on the surface it would appear so. What concerns me most is that we are becoming a population of individuals. We have individual morality, individual standards, and really individual realities. We no longer function as a society, but as a collection of individuals. It is good that many things are accepted that were not in the past, and that many behaviors that were destructive are no longer acceptable. What is not good is that we have no one standard, but millions of standards, many often at odds with each other. Our efforts at furthering civilization have done the opposite, dissolving the glue that held communities together. Most people today have a hundred or so facebook friends, but don't know their neighbors. Evacuees from Colorado are being robbed at hotels, when all they would have to do is organize a parking lot watch. They don't because they are individuals, and not a community. We won't pull together to help each other, instead we rely on the government to protect us, giving that government more and more authority to do so, until we have no freedom left. We have become a collection of selfish individuals each grabbing for individual rights without thought for whom else's rights they are denying.
"Don\'t take life too seriously, or you\'ll never get out of it alive." (Bugs Bunny)

Starglade

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Re: Nature of Humanity
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2012, 06:33:37 pm »
Quote from: HeartShadow;63203


 
When I was a child (up into college, really), I went along with the Judeo-Christian concept as I understood it (note: not as I was taught, necessarily, but as I understood it) that humankind was inherently flawed and evil and in need of salvation.

I gave that up in college, and meandered around pagan/Wiccanoid religion and thoughts for a couple of decades, not concerned much with whether we as humans are innately anything (good, bad, indifferent, etc.), focusing instead on being properly paganish without being outlandish in the process. Concepts about human nature didn't come into my head much during these times.

Then (and no, I won't retell the story AGAIN, so stop groaning, ok?) I was drawn to Buddhism and I started reading. Lots. And those questions about human nature that hadn't really been much in the forefront (or even the background) of my thoughts resurfaced and have been bobbing there for the last few years. I'm still contemplating them. They're Big Questions(tm).

The basic Buddhist view of human nature is this: We're born ignorant, and that plagues us throughout our entire life. Not born stupid: born ignorant. We don't know things we need to know, and throughout our life we need to learn them. Babies learn to cry to get attention. Children learn to spell, write, calculate. Adults learn to live independently (in theory, anyway). Elderly adults may have to relearn how to live dependently if their health fails in certain ways.

Without knowledge, we tend to follow blindly in whatever direction our desires (or cravings, to use a more Buddhist term) lead us. In theory, then, knowledge helps us become less focused on following those desires, less controlled by our cravings, and more able to make wise decisions and find personal (and perhaps societal) satisfaction.

Here's a link to a good writeup about the subject over at Buddhanet. (Don't let the "economics" thing fool you.)

And then, with all of that said: I'm leaning toward the FlameKeeping POV that Shadow and Veggie have already brought up. It's not incompatible with Buddhism at all, and I think it makes good sense--to me.
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HeartShadow

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Nature of Humanity
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2012, 12:44:11 pm »
Quote from: Annie Roonie;63281

As I understand it, the leveling out is because people are having fewer children.  Not because people are going to be killed or something.

Annie Roonie

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Re: Nature of Humanity
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2012, 09:06:39 pm »
Quote from: HeartShadow;63555
As I understand it, the leveling out is because people are having fewer children.  Not because people are going to be killed or something.

 
People are having fewer children because the ones they do have are more viable long term, lower infant mortality etc.. That's true.

But even if there were a harmless way to limit the number of babies born, the growth is exponential, so people having fewer would only be effective if they could have negative numbers of kids. And reasonably, nobody is apt to bump off the elderly.

The small amount I've culled seems to point to a combo of bacteria, natural disasters and conditions, and viruses. There are already shortages in supplies to make some vaccines and some bacteria are resistent to treatment. Some anti-biotics are scarce too.  But in 88 years? To stop the exponential growth of 7 billion in 88 years blows my mind.

If it were a household budget to bring in to line instead of world resources, there would be a need for a drastic lifestyle change.

I adore the Hans Rosling vids on TED and there is a new one out now about babies that I have not seen yet. I wonder what his take will be. I hope it is more hopeful!

MadZealot

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Re: Nature of Humanity
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2012, 06:04:05 am »
Quote from: Wickerman;63287
I do not believe in an innate nature so to speak. We are social creatures, and as such we have an inborn desire to fit in, or to further society. As to getting better, on the surface it would appear so. What concerns me most is that we are becoming a population of individuals. We have individual morality, individual standards, and really individual realities. We no longer function as a society, but as a collection of individuals. It is good that many things are accepted that were not in the past, and that many behaviors that were destructive are no longer acceptable. What is not good is that we have no one standard, but millions of standards, many often at odds with each other. Our efforts at furthering civilization have done the opposite, dissolving the glue that held communities together. Most people today have a hundred or so facebook friends, but don't know their neighbors. Evacuees from Colorado are being robbed at hotels, when all they would have to do is organize a parking lot watch. They don't because they are individuals, and not a community. We won't pull together to help each other, instead we rely on the government to protect us, giving that government more and more authority to do so, until we have no freedom left. We have become a collection of selfish individuals each grabbing for individual rights without thought for whom else's rights they are denying.

 
I agree with much of Wickerman's statement.  I'd LOVE to say we're innately "good", but look at how cruel children can be to their peers.  Otoh, it seems that children are incapable of murder.  Is there a lesson here?  Dunno.  
To me a large part of the robberies experienced by Colorado evacuees is due to lack of forethought and initiative, which ain't just a die roll.  Self protection and self determination begin with the self.
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HeartShadow

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Nature of Humanity
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2012, 02:51:53 pm »
Quote from: Annie Roonie;63612
People are having fewer children because the ones they do have are more viable long term, lower infant mortality etc.. That's true.

But even if there were a harmless way to limit the number of babies born, the growth is exponential, so people having fewer would only be effective if they could have negative numbers of kids. And reasonably, nobody is apt to bump off the elderly.

The small amount I've culled seems to point to a combo of bacteria, natural disasters and conditions, and viruses. There are already shortages in supplies to make some vaccines and some bacteria are resistent to treatment. Some anti-biotics are scarce too.  But in 88 years? To stop the exponential growth of 7 billion in 88 years blows my mind.

If it were a household budget to bring in to line instead of world resources, there would be a need for a drastic lifestyle change.

I adore the Hans Rosling vids on TED and there is a new one out now about babies that I have not seen yet. I wonder what his take will be. I hope it is more hopeful!

But the first world is already below replacement rate.  As prosperity goes up, women tend to have less children.  Lots of families with no kids or one kid.

DancesWithHorses

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Re: Nature of Humanity
« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2012, 04:50:12 pm »
Quote from: Wickerman;63287
I do not believe in an innate nature so to speak. We are social creatures, and as such we have an inborn desire to fit in, or to further society. As to getting better, on the surface it would appear so. What concerns me most is that we are becoming a population of individuals. We have individual morality, individual standards, and really individual realities. We no longer function as a society, but as a collection of individuals. It is good that many things are accepted that were not in the past, and that many behaviors that were destructive are no longer acceptable. What is not good is that we have no one standard, but millions of standards, many often at odds with each other. Our efforts at furthering civilization have done the opposite, dissolving the glue that held communities together. Most people today have a hundred or so facebook friends, but don't know their neighbors. Evacuees from Colorado are being robbed at hotels, when all they would have to do is organize a parking lot watch. They don't because they are individuals, and not a community. We won't pull together to help each other, instead we rely on the government to protect us, giving that government more and more authority to do so, until we have no freedom left. We have become a collection of selfish individuals each grabbing for individual rights without thought for whom else's rights they are denying.

 
I agree with you. I guess that is why I am pulled back into the farming community again and again.  In the city I am one lost soul. Place me out in the country side and I feel at home at any kitchen table where the discussion is around that new Fendt the neighbour bought, the lack of rain and the government's meddling.  I have only a few neighbours. One drives me nuts, hired one of his sons and he had the gall to tell me I can't play country music while the kid is doing chores (only one small example). The other family is great, such sweet kids, helpful etc. Our newest neighbour almost ran me over last night. Want to guess which ones are the farmers? ;) My family might have some crazy characters but they are family. There's really only one person that is a write-off to me and only because he's hurt so many people. To me, if you are a good friend of mine, you are family. And Facebook is for managing acquaintances, the true meaning of "friend" has really eroded over time.

I believe we don't quite have a blank slate but one that is somewhat shaped by past lives and family luck. But I do believe in "innocent until proven otherwise."
Jinx or Jinxy :)
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Wickerman

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Re: Nature of Humanity
« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2012, 10:09:46 pm »
Quote from: DancesWithHorses;63717
I agree with you. I guess that is why I am pulled back into the farming community again and again.  In the city I am one lost soul. Place me out in the country side and I feel at home at any kitchen table where the discussion is around that new Fendt the neighbour bought, the lack of rain and the government's meddling.  I have only a few neighbours. One drives me nuts, hired one of his sons and he had the gall to tell me I can't play country music while the kid is doing chores (only one small example). The other family is great, such sweet kids, helpful etc. Our newest neighbour almost ran me over last night. Want to guess which ones are the farmers? ;) My family might have some crazy characters but they are family. There's really only one person that is a write-off to me and only because he's hurt so many people. To me, if you are a good friend of mine, you are family. And Facebook is for managing acquaintances, the true meaning of "friend" has really eroded over time.

I believe we don't quite have a blank slate but one that is somewhat shaped by past lives and family luck. But I do believe in "innocent until proven otherwise."

 
Yes, I am rural as well. I can relate as for neighbors. But they are my neighbors, and I deal with them. Saw in another post that you need rain too, hope you get it. We aren't doing so well here either, I still need another cutting of hay to make the winter so it is not looking good.

I really don't buy the flawed creation thing. If god created man with full knowledge, and if god doesn't make mistakes, then man did what he was created to do. According to my early indoctrination original sin made mans nature sinful and evil, only god could make it good again. That just doesn't jive with all the prechristian civilizations. Man is obviously capable of good on his own as well as evil.
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DancesWithHorses

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Re: Nature of Humanity
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2012, 08:59:40 am »
Quote from: Wickerman;63769
Yes, I am rural as well. I can relate as for neighbors. But they are my neighbors, and I deal with them. Saw in another post that you need rain too, hope you get it. We aren't doing so well here either, I still need another cutting of hay to make the winter so it is not looking good.

I really don't buy the flawed creation thing. If god created man with full knowledge, and if god doesn't make mistakes, then man did what he was created to do. According to my early indoctrination original sin made mans nature sinful and evil, only god could make it good again. That just doesn't jive with all the prechristian civilizations. Man is obviously capable of good on his own as well as evil.

 
Again agreeing with you. The flawed creation, being born sinful and evil doesn't mesh well. We're a product of our environment.  In my experience the people you don't want to meet in life run from the same environment and usually come from the same families.  I think somebody already said that most "evil" deeds have to be taught.

We need rain desperately, thank you for noticing that. My neighbours are interesting people, but some of them are great people. My one neighbour might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but if I ask for help, he'll be right there and I'd do the same for him. I just don't appreciate almost being run over on a regular basis.
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EJay

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Re: Nature of Humanity
« Reply #12 on: October 22, 2012, 04:29:46 am »
Quote from: HeartShadow;63203
For FlameKeeping, humanity simply IS.


I agree with that.  Good and evil are measured against ourselves.  Like intelligence.  I find it interesting how we measure all things by/against ourselves and the new big thing in intelligence is slime mold.  If it thinks like us, it's intelligent.

A little OT, but after moving to Texas, I've become fascinated with my new nemesis--the fire ant colony.  The colony is completely foreign when compared to human intelligence, but I'm not convinced that its intelligence as a colony (really just an organism) isn't superior to ours.

Of course, like in most topics, this comes down to definition.

Quote from: HeartShadow;63203
I do believe that we are becoming better people, in general - we do not accept things that in the past were accepted.  The more we move away from simple survival, the more society gives people freedom to be themselves instead of conform to a norm.  I believe that we can /become/ better, as a people.  Doesn't mean there aren't times we fall back, but hey, that's human nature too.


Not sure I agree with this.  I guess it depends on how broadly you define "we."  I think "we" are capable of more atrocities than ever, perhaps because we have too much time to think rather than concentrating on survival.

The social media has it's good points, like this site, but I'm a gamer who loves to play World of Warcraft and I tell you what!  People speak to me there like they would never dare to in person.  Actually, I think folks speak to each other here like they would never dare to in person--in good ways and in some not-so-good.  I don't think hiding behind a monitor/phone/tablet is helping to make us better, but I suppose this is a separate topic.

I just don't know if I agree that humans will get "better."  I think humans just "are."  We live our lives being human and judging everything by human standards.  That's just the way we are, as humans.

I don't think we'll every be a utopian species.  I believe we're already a "utopian" soul temporarily residing in a very interesting human existence, but I really don't see a "better" in what we are now from what we've ever been.
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Re: Nature of Humanity
« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2013, 03:22:03 pm »
Quote from: HeartShadow;63203
This is one of those things that has been rolling around in my head for a bit, but it's really hard to put into language.

What do you think is the innate nature of humanity?  Good/evil/blank slate/something else?  Are we getting better, getting worse, is the question irrelevant?  If the question doesn't even make sense in your religion, why not?

For FlameKeeping, humanity simply IS.  Not good, not bad, and definitely not blank slate - I've seen way too much character in babies to believe in the blank slate theory!  But the good/evil question doesn't make sense.  Good/evil is something we measure against ourselves, so there isn't an external measure to apply to us.

I do believe that we are becoming better people, in general - we do not accept things that in the past were accepted.  The more we move away from simple survival, the more society gives people freedom to be themselves instead of conform to a norm.  I believe that we can /become/ better, as a people.  Doesn't mean there aren't times we fall back, but hey, that's human nature too.

 
I don't think we are good or bad, we just are.  We can only measure how good or bad we are in relation to our values which are affected by our culture, even if we have taken the opposite stand than our culture.

Ultimately I believe all of our behavior is a result of genetic and environmental interactions.  Our brains, from which our behavior ultimately comes from, are subject to the laws of physics, biochemistry, and electricity.  I do not believe in free will as many understand that term, but I will work with the concept in that my actions do have consequences and those consequences could in turn cause me to reshape my behavior.  That's "freedom" enough for me even if I don't ultimately think it exists.

I don't believe in an in tact self or ghost in the machine as it is sometimes called.  From my studies I am convinced of the Buddhist notion that there is no innate self, that we are ultimately emptiness, a temporary composition of aggregates that will one day disperse and the energy will continue on in another form.  (This is not to say I can't work with the idea of life after death or reincarnation, but if I do, it is metaphorical for me, a way to commune with the mystery that is existence.)

Thus I do not even define a person by their actions.

I don't know that the human condition is getting better overall.  It seems to me that some things about my modern culture are better, but there are a lot of other things that seem much worse.  I try to work on myself and not get attached to the things I can't change.
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Re: Nature of Humanity
« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2013, 07:03:01 pm »
Quote from: HeartShadow;63203
This is one of those things that has been rolling around in my head for a bit, but it's really hard to put into language.

What do you think is the innate nature of humanity?  Good/evil/blank slate/something else?  Are we getting better, getting worse, is the question irrelevant?  If the question doesn't even make sense in your religion, why not?

For FlameKeeping, humanity simply IS.  Not good, not bad, and definitely not blank slate - I've seen way too much character in babies to believe in the blank slate theory!  But the good/evil question doesn't make sense.  Good/evil is something we measure against ourselves, so there isn't an external measure to apply to us.

I do believe that we are becoming better people, in general - we do not accept things that in the past were accepted.  The more we move away from simple survival, the more society gives people freedom to be themselves instead of conform to a norm.  I believe that we can /become/ better, as a people.  Doesn't mean there aren't times we fall back, but hey, that's human nature too.

 
I don't think humans are in and of themselves evil but we are not things that merely are. We are in fact the most evil species because we some how became the only ones capable of falling out of harmony with the balance of universe. Humans because of the nature of the true will could be said to be good, but the problem is that humans do not always follow it and their dharma.  In a sense the problem stems from being not quite as animal as we once were. Not that we shouldn't do a lot of the things we do, but rather that we should strive become like them in the sense that we should not be wanton in our actions, doing only what is necessary to accomplish our goals, approaching the world in a balanced way.
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Bob, Catja, Emma-Eldritch, Fausta, Jubes, Kelly, Phouka, Sperran, Star, Steve, Tana

Cauldron Assistants
[Non-Staff Positions]

Site Assistants
[Non-Staff Positions]
Webmaster:
Randall