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Were we better off in a state of nature?

  1. Oct 5, 2007 #1
    Were we better off in a state of nature?

    How credible was the concept of the Noble Savage?

    The thing is that society is constantly changing. How can we create a stable society within such a dynamic world culture? We need an ideal as a North Star. An ideal does not depend upon what is or what was but upon what we want or what we need—hopefully that are similar.

    I think that Socrates may very well be the first person to recognize what we need. Socrates recognized that the basic need was for wo/men to awaken their critical faculties. Socrates was perhaps the first to recognize that humans are too easily delighted by the praise of their fellows and that this sought after social recognition prevented their free and enlighten action. Humans need to share in a shared social fiction. The anxiety of self-discovery is a constant source of internal conflict for humans.

    It appears that human play forms “may even outwit human adaptation itself”. The created fiction becomes more real than reality itself. New humans enter this world and immediately begin the process of survival which becomes “a struggle with the ideas one has inherited”. This fiction reality destroys our rational adaptive process which can react to the real world; we are too busy reacting to our fictional play.

    Is it appropriate to say that the Amish might be considered to be the modern Noble Savage?

    Is it possible that we could study the Amish as a means for creating a better society?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2007 #2
    Its not, its a treehugger myth. If we weren't ruthless violent animals we would never have made it to the top of the food chain.
     
  4. Oct 6, 2007 #3

    I think that if Americans were to become significantly more intellectually sophisticated we might be in a position to decide upon a suitable North Star together. I also think that if we did become more sophisticated we might recognize that we are eating our planet.
     
  5. Oct 6, 2007 #4

    russ_watters

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    Joe is right and:
    The Amish most certainly do not quality as "noble savages" and they do not live in the "state of nature".
    Sure. The Amish have a pretty decent society with certain advantages over the more typical American society. They also have some pretty major disadvantages.

    Based on your line of questioning here, your usage of these two terms implies you think they are connected/related. And that means you don't really understand either of them.

    The "noble savege" is not part of any political theory. It is a backhanded, condescending, racist compliment thrown around by Europeans who didn't understand the indiginous cultures they were interacting with during the age of exploration. It has no formal definition.

    The "state of nature", on the other hand, is a critical concept in the study of political science and one people learn early in their first poly sci class. It is Hobbes's term for the way people would live if there were no laws or social structure. Beyond being pure anarchy, it is an unstable anarchy from which people band together to decide that laws and formal social structure (the "social contract")are better than living in the state of nature.

    I recommend you start your study of poly sci where everyone should: by reading Hobbes "Leviathan". A quick synopsis can be found here, though: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Hobbes
     
  6. Oct 6, 2007 #5

    arildno

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    Nasty, brutish and short. That's what the state of nature is.
    Hence, absolute monarchy is morally justified. :smile:
     
  7. Oct 6, 2007 #6

    arildno

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    1. We are not on top of the food-chain; we are eaten by various bacteria.

    2. Whatever behaviour was necessary in earlier times might not be either necessary or advantageous today.
    What does that have to do with the "noble savage" myth?
     
  8. Oct 6, 2007 #7
    We humans have the brains to be much more than we are. The question is why are we not bettter than we are? I conclude that we lack the courage to be self-reliant. Do you have an answer?
     
  9. Oct 6, 2007 #8

    arildno

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    Well, I'd say we're much better than we ever were previously.
    It takes time to grow..:smile:
     
  10. Oct 6, 2007 #9

    russ_watters

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    That's kinda OT, but trying to define the food chain as a heirarchy is maybe a little bit loose when dealing with things like bacteria. They don't exactly eat us and we don't eat them. They perform a different function than other organisms.
     
  11. Oct 6, 2007 #10

    Ivan Seeking

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  12. Oct 6, 2007 #11

    russ_watters

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    Your earlier posts imply you think we were better off in the past. I'd like to know the criteria on which you base that. The way I see it, we are better off now than previously in history, meaning we are continuing to evolve socially. So the answer to your second question is simply that development (evolution) takes time (it is, in fact, a never-ending process). [edit:heh, I wrote that before reading arildno's post - we said almost the same thing]
    Well, could you explain what you mean by that a little better? Do you mean you believe people should live off nature, alone in the woods? And you believe that that would somehow be better than the way we live now?

    If I am understanding you correctly, what you are suggesting is just flat absurd. It is a straightforward misunderstanding of not just human nature but biology. Animals - all animals - are social (some more than others). They have to be and thus they evolved to be. We are not meant to be loners. And, in fact, we never have been - not even primitive humans. They don't call them "tribal" for nothing - a tribe was a highly complex sociatal unit.

    You should watch "Meercat Manor"... http://animal.discovery.com/fansites/meerkat/meerkat.html
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2007
  13. Oct 6, 2007 #12

    arildno

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    It's a food CHAIN, not a ladder. It is the ladder concept that is loose.
     
  14. Oct 6, 2007 #13

    baywax

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    Sufice to say coberst that we are at the mercy of nature regardless. And, who's to say that the culture, pollution and everything else of today isn't part of nature. It is all born of nature and it will all return to nature and it is all nature. There's no escaping nature.
    Generally all of our actions are dictated by the laws of nature. We are unable to break our bonds with nature. This came up a long time ago in a thread about artificiality. I said that there is no such thing as artificial. This is because we create things and we are nature and so nature creating things is not artifical. There really is no way to escape being nature.''

    It is our ego and our drive for specialness that has us thinking we are separate from nature. That we are somehow supernatural or unique to nature. But, lets take a look at a bee hive. The hive is constructed and inhabited by bees. Is it artificial? No. A beaver builds a dam. Is that artifical? No. A man builds a house and a dam, are these artificial? Suddenly they are! Suddenly we're special because we build things..... I don't think so. We are, like everything else, a part of nature, living naturally.

    If we end up decimating all life on this planet, that was going to happen... naturally. I have studied the Great Blue Heron and it completely decimates its habitat... then moves on and does it again.... They s**t so much on the tree they inhabit, the tree dies an they have to move....... how much different does that sound from humankind?
     
  15. Oct 7, 2007 #14
    I think you are quibbling here, 'top' doesn't mean we're the only ones there.

    However a fair point can be made that the usage of 'chain' is outdated. I think biologists now refer to it as a food-web because of its less than linear quality.

    Regardless, we are predators, and omnivores and there are very few creatures that can be honestly said to prey on us any more. We've done a good job of exterminating or containing most competing species.

    We do not live in harmony with our environment, we fight it tooth and nail, always have. Idealized 'savages' are just that, they never existed. As was mentioned this idea originated with the Romantic (different from modern romance) period and Colonialist egotism.
     
  16. Oct 7, 2007 #15
    I suspect that if you were a student of history you might have a different world view.
     
  17. Oct 7, 2007 #16

    Thank you much for that reference. I had forgotten about that incident. Compare the Amish response to the American response at 9/11, who is the better to emulate in this hostage to hostility?
     
  18. Oct 7, 2007 #17

    My observation and study leads me to conclude that our civilization is in deep peril and very well may not last beyond the next 200 years. I think any study of history will convince one of this possibility.
     
  19. Oct 7, 2007 #18
    Ernest Becker has woven a great tapestry, which represents his answer to the question ‘what are we humans doing, why are we doing it, and how can we do it better?’

    Becker has written four books “Beyond Alienation”, “Escape from Evil”, “Denial of Death”, and “The Birth and Death of Meaning”; all of which are essential components of his tapestry. Ernest Becker (1924-1974), a distinguished social theorist, popular teacher of anthropology and sociology psychology, won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction for the “Denial of Death”.

    Many weeks ago a forum member suggested that I might be interested in the author Ernest Becker and I was given the following web site.
    http://faculty.washington.edu/nelgee/hidden/solomonsound.htm This is a great one hour audio about Becker’s ideas given by a very good lecturer.

    Becker provides the reader with a broad and comprehensible synopsis of the accomplishments of the sciences of anthropology, psychology, sociology, and psychiatry. Knowledge of these accomplishments provides the modern reader with the means for the comprehension of why humans do as they do.

    Becker declares that these sciences prove that humans are not genetically driven to be the evil creatures that the reader of history might conclude them to be. We humans are victims of the societies that we create in our effort to flee the anxiety of death. We have created artificial meanings that were designed to hide our anxieties from our self; in this effort we have managed to create an evil far surpassing any that our natural animal nature could cause.

    Becker summarizes this synoptic journey of discovery with a suggested solution, which if we were to change the curriculums in our colleges and universities we could develop a citizenry with the necessary understanding to restructure our society in a manner less destructive and more in tune with our human nature.

    The only disagreement I have with Becker’s tapestry is in this solution he offers. I am convinced that he has failed to elaborate on an important step that is implied in his work but not given sufficient emphasis. That step is one wherein the general adult population takes up the responsibility that citizens of a democracy must take on; adults must develop a hobby “get a life—get an intellectual life”. In other words, it will be necessary that a significant share of the general population first comprehend these matters sufficiently to recognize the need for the proposed changes to our colleges and universities.
     
  20. Oct 7, 2007 #19

    baywax

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    This is in answer to my post? I'm not Becker, and evil is so relative I don't use the word. You might take a more macroscopic view of our species before tieing yourself so tightly to the actions of college students, professors, generals and the like. Look at us as though we were one Great Blue Heron with no morals or justifications, no plans and no motivation other than to eat when hungry, procreate when stimulated by a courtship dance and perhaps the motivation brought on by the hoarding reflex before a harsh winter.. etc... Try to see our species the way Kurt Vonegutt did.... Brewer's Yeast... eating, overpopulating and defecating until we all die in our own excrement... (and make a nice tasty beer). Is that what evil is?
     
  21. Oct 7, 2007 #20

    russ_watters

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    A comment like that implies that your knowledge of history is pretty limited.
    Perhaps you could explain how you reached this conclusion....

    You are making an awful lot of very bold claims here while providing nothing whatsoever in the way of evidence or logic to back them up. That's no way to have a discussion.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2007
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