Commentary/Philosophy and the Psychology of the Human Beast
By Richard E. Noble
Is Man basically an aggressive hostile beast? In other words, is Man, at his heart, evil?
I was reading a modern day Chinese philosopher and in the first paragraph of his book, he states why he could not possibly be a Christian. He states that he could never be attracted to Christianity, because, at its base, it believes that Man is basically evil. He believed that Man, in his heart, is basically good.
I have since been reading a book by the famous psychologist Eric Fromm. It is a study in the roots of Man's basic aggression and hostility. Eric states the case that Man is not basically hostile, aggressive and thus evil. He makes the case that Man is, at his root, good, but has been conditioned to aggression, hostility and thus evil, by the customs, mores, traditions and indoctrination of hostile, aggressive societies.
This sounds interesting, until we ask ourselves the question, who, or what is Society? In which case, I think that any of us will have to admit, that Society is people. In which case, we then must interpret Eric as saying that people are basically loving and kind and thus good, but are turned away from their basic internal goodness by other (evil) people. So, people are basically good but what makes them bad are other people.
In Philosophy or Logic, I think that they call this, begging the question. Where did the 'Societies' (other people) learn to be evil in the first place?
If we look at the History of Mankind, I think that there can be no doubt that Man begins as a basic beast, killing out of necessity or possibly pleasure. There was never any need to butcher other animals. Man could have and has survived on fruit, vegetables and products derived from animals without killing them. But he chose not to.
Primitive Man is pictured as a beast, carrying a club. Man's History books, though here and there blotted with invention and discovery, are written in blood, murder, torture, slavery, gore and abuse. Society, and/or Civilization, has been, contrary to Eric's assertion, the domesticator of the basic, savage beast of mankind. Civilization stems from inductive learning. Century upon century, has taught Mankind, in general, that if you strike another man on the left cheek, and you do it often enough, those struck will eventually form an army of disgruntled, who will, if possible, disembowel you and your family. Man is basically an aggressive beast and it has taken centuries of head banging to bring about this compromise tendency towards peace and mutual respect that we call Civilization.
Why is Man basically a hostile, aggressive, cruel beast? I think that the answer is simple and obvious.
It is because Man, who is neither good nor bad, has been placed in a cruel, hostile, threatening environment, subject to death, disease, pain, and attack, with no exercise of his will or freedom of choice. His behavior is his instinctive reaction to the injustice of his position in this environment that we call 'life'. Man is an animal who finds himself entrapped in the cage of existence, with no escape. He knows not why. Civilization is the attempted adaptation of a thoughtful, cleaver, beast to an unexplainable and cruel environment. Man paces in his cage, and as long as he has food, and a reasonable amount of pleasure, he is capable of tolerating his entrapment ... but, not always.