FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Friday, February 9, 2018

Human Nature: Marx, Nietzche, Russell, Weber, Constant, Durkheim

My complete collection of Grad School Notes can be found here (Africa, IR, Ethnic Conflict, Economics, Writing, Islam, Comparative Politics).

(These notes are from my grad school Comparative Politics Class)


Marx's view of human nature was that we change nature. And that this labour is a social act. I'd imagine he'd say human nature was capable of reaching perfection, since communism require people to fulfill their work perfectly in cooperation with others.

They disagree in that Marx has emphasis on the man doing work for the benefit of society, while Nietzsche quite plainly states man works to achieve his own power.


              Nietzsche believes that there is no such thing as a good or evil human nature, and that the thought that there would be these two values derives from master-slave morality as he liked to call it. These values arise from life-affirming and life-denying things, such as wealth vs. poverty, strength vs. weakness, etc. He also believed in something called the will to power, basically saying everything we do is an attempt to further our own power in some way. Another important concept is the Ubermensch - superperson. Basically this is his ideal person. There's really no concrete definition of what this is, although i personally just hold to the idea it's someone who has completely separated himself from morality.

             They disagree in that Marx has emphasis on the man doing work for the benefit of society, while Nietzsche quite plainly states man works to achieve his own power.


Believes that the lust for power is a part of human nature.

"The love of power is a part of human nature, but power-philosophies are, in a certain precise sense, insane. The existence of the external world... can only be denied by a madman... Certified lunatics are shut up because of the proneness to violence when their pretensions are questioned; the uncertified variety are given control of powerful armies, and can inflict death and disaster upon all sane men within their reach."

Nature of power: 

Russell's view of human nature, like that of Thomas Hobbes, is somewhat pessimistic. By Russell's account, the desire to empower oneself is unique to human nature. No other animals besides Homo sapiens, he argues, are capable of being so unsatisfied with their lot, that they should try to accumulate more goods than meet their needs. The "impulse to power", as he calls it, does not arise unless one's basic desires have been sated. (Russell 1938:3) Then the imagination stirs, motivating the actor to gain more power. In Russell's view, the love of power is nearly universal among people, although it takes on different guises from person to person. A person with great ambitions may become the next Caesar, but others may be content to merely dominate the home. (Russell 1938:9)
This impulse to power is not only explicitly present in leaders, but also sometimes implicitly in those who follow. It is clear that leaders may pursue and profit from enacting their own agenda, but in a "genuinely cooperative enterprise", the followers seem to gain vicariously from the achievements of the leader. (Russell 1938:7–8)
In stressing this point, Russell is explicitly rebutting Friedrich Nietzsche's infamous "master-slave morality" argument. Russell explains:
"Most men do not feel in themselves the competence required for leading their group to victory, and therefore seek out a captain who appears to possess the courage and sagacity necessary for the achievement of supremacy... Nietzsche accused Christianity of inculcating a slave-morality, but ultimate triumph was always the goal. 'Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. '" (Russell 1938:9, emphasis his).
The existence of implicit power, he explains, is why people are capable of tolerating social inequality for an extended period of time (Russell 1938:8).
However, Russell is quick to note that the invocation of human nature should not come at the cost of ignoring the exceptional personal temperaments of power-seekers. Following Adler (1927) — and to an extent echoing Nietzsche — he separates individuals into two classes: those who are imperious in a particular situation, and those who are not. The love of power, Russell tells us, is probably not motivated by Freudian complexes, (i.e., resentment of one's father, lust for one's mother, drives towards Eros and Thanatos (Love and Death drives, which constitute the basis of all human drives, etc.,) but rather by a sense of entitlement which arises from exceptional and deep-rooted self-confidence. (Russell 1938:11)


He thought that what moved people was a religious principle so that catholics who could get resolution at any time for their sins within the framework of a loving god could basically be childlike and play whereas the protestants had a harsh god whom you had to devote your life to pleasing and even then could not guarantee your good works would get you into heaven as god is a god and all powerful and has his choice so protestants are more driven to good works and piousness and driving social change.
look up protestant work ethic we still use the term now-

Given that we choose our brand of religion it would be safe to say that he thought people were driven by that choice about how to act in society In Northern Ireland Where there is roughly 60/40 protestants to catholics there is the notion that the catholics are the childlike ones whilst the protestants are responsible and running the country.
Weber sees that human beings are animals oriented toward meaning, and meaning, as we’ve seen, is subjective and not objective. Weber also understands that all humans are oriented toward the world and each other through values.

Further, Weber sees the primary level of analysis to be the social action of individuals; for Weber, individual action is social action only insofar as it is meaningfully oriented toward other individuals. Weber sees these meaningful orientations as produced within a unique historical context. Weber’s perspective, then, is a cultural one that privileges individual social action within a historically specific cultural milieu. This orientation clearly sets him apart from Spencer, Durkheim, and Marx, who were much more structural in their approaches.


“that noble disquiet which pursues and torments us, that desires to broaden our knowledge and develop our faculties… it is to this self-development that our destiny calls us” (Constant 1816). Industry, innovation, and production are all key-words in this tradition.
“Here lies a man who did honor to human nature”

Constantian theses contained in the work on religion and referring to the human nature can be formulated as follows: 1. A man is not entirely the product of society in which he lives and its culture, but he is a being that can be defined by his stable and unchangeable nature. 2. What the human nature is like can be judged by examining the behaviours common to all people and their creations, for example religion. 3. The human nature is unchangeable . However, the forms change, through which it manifests itself in various periods of the development of humanity. In people's religious behaviour, for example, there is manifested something which is the permanent source of every religion and is inherent in human nature. Constant calls it "le sentiment religieux" (a religious feeling). The religious forms, beliefs, rites, institutions etc., in which it manifests itself, change but, itself, it remains the permanent element of the human soul. 4. Rationality constitutes the essence of humanity. There exist, however, such spheres of human behaviour which indicate that the human nature cannot be described only in the rational categories. Besides reason, the man is governed by at least two forces: the above - mentioned feeling and egoism.


In Suicide (1897), Durkheim explores the differing suicide rates among Protestants and Catholics, arguing that stronger social control among Catholics results in lower suicide rates. According to Durkheim, Catholic society has normal levels of integration while Protestant society has low levels. Overall, Durkheim treated suicide as a social fact, explaining variations in its rate on a macro level, considering society-scale phenomena such as lack of connections between people (group attachment) and lack of regulations of behavior, rather than individual's feelings and motivations.[37][56]
This study has been extensively discussed by later scholars and several major criticisms have emerged. First, Durkheim took most of his data from earlier researchers, notably Adolph Wagner and Henry Morselli,[57] who were much more careful in generalizing from their own data. Second, later researchers found that the Protestant–Catholic differences in suicide seemed to be limited to German-speaking Europe and thus may always have been the spurious reflection of other factors.[58] Durkheim's study of suicide has been criticized as an example of the logical error termed the ecological fallacy.[59][60] However, diverging views have contested whether Durkheim's work really contained an ecological fallacy.[61]More recent authors such as Berk (2006) have also questioned the micro-macro relations underlying Durkheim's work.[62] Some, such as Inkeles (1959),[63] Johnson (1965)[64] and Gibbs (1968),[65] have claimed that Durkheim's only intent was to explain suicide sociologically within a holistic perspective, emphasizing that "he intended his theory to explain variation among social environments in the incidence of suicide, not the suicides of particular individuals."[66]
Despite its limitations, Durkheim's work on suicide has influenced proponents of control theory, and is often mentioned as a classic sociological study. The book pioneered modern social research and served to distinguish social science from psychology and political philosophy.[67]
The duality of Human Nature is the opposition of the two following concepts: Soul VS. Body. (From a religious point of view) The Body is egoist and the Soul is Reasonable. These two concepts are in opposition and makes us the contradictory beings we are.

This opposition gives us the need for spirituality in order to bind them. (Or at least make them coexist peacefully.)

Durkheim call the duality of human nature: Homo Duplex. 

Durkheim thus returned to the conception of the duality of human nature first found in The Division of Labor:

... social man superimposes himself upon physical man. Social man necessarily presupposes a society which he expresses or serves. If this dissolves, if we can no longer feel it in existence and action about and above us. whatever is social in us is deprived of all objective foundation... Thus we are bereft of reasons for existence: for the only life to which we could cling no longer corresponds to anything actual; the only existence still based upon reality no longer meets our needs... So there is nothing more for our efforts to lay hold of, and we feel them lose themselves in emptiness.24
It is in this social (rather than the earlier. psychological) sense therefore that our activity needs an object transcending it; for such an object is implicit within our moral constitution itself, and cannot be lost without this constitution losing its raison d'être to the same degree.

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