Jan 25, 2018 in Research

Human Nature and War

All human history and its prehistory are riddled with wars. People always fought with each other and they still continue fighting. There is even a point of view - and it is reasonable - that the human species are children of war. In this regard, the following questions emerge: firstly, does war deepen some human needs – psychological, social, etc. If not, then how can we explain war constant reproducibility and vitality? Secondly, can a man live without war? We finally got to the point where war threatens the very existence of humans as species. Is there a chance that the humanity will be able to eliminate this aspect of their life, like war, and armed violence more realistically and largely? If we answer this question negatively, does it mean that mankind is doomed to self-destruction? If we answer yes, and a person can live without war, then, what are the conditions and mechanisms to eliminate violence from human arena? Consequently, theoreticians, practitioners and educators question such issues since they become more and more urgent. A man always was, is, and probably will be aggressive. It seems clear and indisputable. There were opposing, sometimes mutually exclusive views on its causes, nature, drivers of creation and manifestation. Today, there are diverse theories of aggressive behavior. Among these theories, of course, we should mention the theories of Freud, Lorenz, Fromm, etc. All aggression theories should be classified into four main categories: 1) innate impulse, 2) external stimuli (frustration theory), 3) cognitive processes, and 4) social manifestation (Lorenz, 1937). This paper is focused on two approaches: the first and third ones. The first category is based on the fact that aggressiveness is seen as an innate instinctive form of behavior. In other words, aggression is manifested because it is genetically programmed. Consequently, any, even the most positive changes in social environment, cannot prevent its manifestation. The third group takes into account such aspects of human experience as cognitive and emotional activities. Proponents of these theories assert control over aggression as control of behavior by a “simple” teaching of people who really think of the potential risks to adequately assess the threatening situation. So, according to two opposing sides (human nature theorists and cognitive theorists), violence and war can be either innate in a human being or it can be eliminated by different approaches and teachings.

The inner essence of a person stems from an animal beginning which is forced to survive amongst other animals. It is well known that only the strong ones survive, when the weak ones die sooner. However, not only due to their physique – muscle strength, speed legs, acute teeth, jaw strength or flexibility of the body – they can survive, but due to physical force embodied in their internal energy, inner power, which determines an individual way of perceiving the environment (Axson, 1935). This is the power of aggression, an instinct of aggression. A human need to label everything what makes him (a man) to disclose this instinct, put in a specific content. Moreover, the fact that a person invests in this concept is determined solely by subjective motives, needs, experiences and, in the end, moral and ethical attitudes and values, worked out in the course of human evolution of species. Here is an apparent contradiction that is manifested in the fact that nature cannot be moral, good or bad, beautiful or not, etc. Nature is what it is. The fact that there is today existed yesterday and will exist tomorrow. Ethical categories are the product of man. And only people believe that something is beautiful and something is ugly. Depending on what kind of image perception of aggression occurs in humans, it is called to determine its appropriate moral and ethical categories and concepts.

According to human nature theorists, men and animals are fundamentally the same in nature. However, it is a special animal with such characteristics, aimed at deceiving oneself and others that he is not an animal. What is so special? It seems that a human is the only animal that is able to create an ideal and strive for it. Still, in its quest to get closer to the ideal a human is ready “to break anything” due to his/her biological (animal) nature, transforming under the influence of the social nature which is still dominant. Basic instinct (force) in humans, despite their social evolution, remains to be the instinct of aggression, covered with “a social blanket” – certain norms, attitudes, rules and values. Does not this explain a human desire for the creation of so-called cyborgs (cybernetic organisms), which fundamentally devoid man's inmost feelings, frustrations and feelings (Wilson, 1913)? Thus, people may solve the problem of “whiners and moralists”, taking the path of formation of “a God-man” (Ford et al., 1965). When a “biological animal” man transformed into a “social animal” man, his aggressiveness has also acquired the relevant social forms. No animal kills more than it needs, no animal kills for fun, and no animal is improving its ability and opportunity to kill. The only animal that has it all is a man. However, he is the one who is looking for and trying to find reasons and justification for his aggressive behavior, thinking of all the “isms” and acting solely on behalf of the majority (a family, a group, a tribe, a nation, and a world community). He is the one who kills his own kind in order to achieve his goals and intentions. In nature, this phenomenon is one of casuistic, as even the most rapacious and ferocious animal is content with its flight opponent. A man kills far more than he needs. While even bloodthirsty jackals and hyenas are content which what they get as remains from the “royal” lion table, “knowing” the measure of all things. A human being is the one who destroys and kills with no need. Finally, he is the one who kills for pleasure.

Aggressiveness of a man is manifested in the form of an animal-biological level of a individual (a murder) or a team (a conflict, a war) and in the form of a socialized, appearing in the social-psychological and other human relations (harassment, pressure, restrictions, threats, neglect, and etc.). A man, as noted above, destroys and kills his own kind (of course, we mean not only a purely physical destruction), far more than he needs, but only as much as he needs to eliminate the bulk and subordination to implement his internal motivation and instincts. Aggressiveness of a man requires the application of an object; otherwise, it cannot occur, which may result in destructive manifestations of an individual (Eysenck & Kahan, 2004).

One of the points of view of modern psychology regards aggressiveness as a relatively stable personality trait. Sensitivity, being biologically determined, in a human environment is subjected to certain modifications and is defined as the degree of socialization and ethno cultural norms, requirements, and installations. However, regardless of how long a whale can be swimming in the deep sea, it is still cannot become a fish. So, in the end, it floats to the surface of the water to carry a life-saving breath of air. Similarly, despite the fact how socialized a person may become, a man cannot run away from his biological nature, given huge and sustained strength of aggression (Eissler, 2005).

As a result, what are the internal forces of aggression? From theorists’ point of view, at the very beginning of the person`s formation such traits were based on the need to survive among the fittest and more powerful animals. Subsequently, solving these problems, aggression could not disappear as it was acquired as an environmentally sensible sign. It changed its vector and transformed into forces of envy and hatred, the mechanisms and motor of a modern man` aggression. These forces were posed to human images of the external world by themselves and were developed under the influence of the environment, as a man himself acts in accordance with these images. Depending on the severity and intensity of these forces, and under their influence, the perception of the environment (mostly, of course, social media) and all its intertwined elements lost resemblance to the reality. Each person does what dictates his personal perception of images, a refracted through from the above noted environment. These two forces (envy and hatred) can be called differently – ambitions, self-centeredness, lust for power, but one can also add sadism, narcissism, etc. The essence still does not change.

Despite the consistency of instintivist theories, the theory that presumes that aggression originates from causing, defined as “not an instinctive motivational force that results from the deprivation of any significant body of things or conditions, and increasing as a result of this kind of deprivation” becomes more and more widespread and gains recognition (Lorenz, 1937).

Among these theories, the most widespread theory of aggression and frustration was proposed by Dollard J. et al. (1939). However, it should be noted that the theory of Dollard and collaborators have a precursor in the form of the McDougall`s concept (Bailey, 1974). Among the twelve basic instincts this author pointed out aggressiveness. He defined aggression as “a predisposition to anger, resentment and violent elimination of any interference or obstacles that prevent the free exercise of any other trends” (Bailey, 1974). The essence of Dollard and collaborators` study is simple and lies in the fact that frustration always leads to some form of aggression, and aggression is always the result of frustration. This theory is based on two assumptions: 1) aggression is always the result and consequence of frustration, 2) frustration always leads to aggression (Ford et al., 1965). However, subsequent studies have not confirmed these two postulates, and found that the relationship was not always straight and simple. It can be argued that frustration may contribute to aggression. However, it does not always occur, and not so often. Mostly, frustration causes aggression, especially among those who have learned the habit of reacting to frustration with aggressive behavior. In terms of Miller (Bailey, 1974), it is correct that frustration generates different behaviors and aggression is the result of many factors, other than frustration.

The other aspect is the theoretical work, which is a synthesis of the theories of learning and cognitive theories and behavior (including aggression). First of all, it presents the attractiveness of the expected consequences of actions. Cognitive models of aggression emphasize the emotional and cognitive processes in aggressive behavior. In particular, in terms of Berkowitz (Eisenberg, 2005), frustration or other aggressive stimuli (pain, discomfort, unpleasant odors, etc.) are subjected to cognitive processing and provoke aggressive reactions by forming a negative effect. That is why aggression arises insofar as forming a backlash. Zillman (Daniels, 1946) argued that “the knowledge and arousal are closely interrelated, and they affect each other throughout the process of the experience, which brings suffering”. He argued that the interpretation of the events can affect the degree of excitation. Cognitive theories are quite optimistic in terms of the ability to control aggression, because they assume that a person can learn to be less aggressive. However, on the other hand, the authors of these theories do not exclude the possibility of impulsive aggression which is not subjected to the consciousness and mind.

In continuation to these two opposing theories, there is a practical side where people need to face aggression and violence every day, regardless of its origins. “Soldiers of Consciousness” is a documentary about people who participated in the war actions in Iraq (Soldiers of Conscience, 2012). It reveals a hideous truth about what people feel and how they react to different things. For now, a number of American universities are looking at the possibility of more powerful and safe treatment for one of the most difficult and, alas, common neuropsychiatric disorders - post-traumatic stress disorder which is common in returning soldiers. In fact, the basis of this disease lies in aggression and destruction which people need to cause. This disease is brought on by very high stress levels. What is more, the starting age seems to be not less “rich” in wars, especially when now one considers that a failed assassination attempt against one man is declared as sufficient grounds to launch a new war, the consequences of which no one can predict. With all that, people have begun to realize that a man who once took part in a fighting is its prisoner forever. For a former soldier it is very hard to stop being a soldier, even at the end of his life (Soldiers of Conscience, 2012). , One cannot stay in the environment of blood, death, and enemy until the end of his days. The worst moment falls for those who were forced to commit acts of war against any civilian population, for example, to shoot at unarmed civilians, who covered an enemy. So, the soldiers` choice is quite limited: either to destroy tens, perhaps hundreds of civilians with enemies hiding behind them, trying not to make them use chemical weapons, either to cause even larger disasters (Fuller et al., 1994). By the way, Dr. Cass found that before the last war in Iraq, the U.S. Marines were subjected to special desensitizing training, so that they could safely hear screams of a woman being raped in the next room and without being involved (Soldiers of Conscience, 2012). According to Dr. Cass, it shaped the personality`s destruction. So, as in the case of the “medicine of fear”, the situation resembles the scales, where on one side there are people who suffer from post-traumatic disorders, on the other – the danger of “universal” soldiers, murderers, devoid of moral restraints (Fuller, 1994). They know that in their pocket there is a pill which will solve all their conscience and painful memories` problems. The film “Soldiers of Consciousness” reveals that soldiers are taught to kill and be ruthless; their aggression is generated by the state (Woodrow, Stoessinger, 1913).

Already in the 19-20th centuries, there were thinkers who raised the issue of the new philosophy, like Hegel, Nietzsche, and Freud and Lorenz (Lorenz, 1937). They searched not for a substantive cause of violence, but for functional one. Wars, as it seemed, were responsible for some deep social and psychological needs, so war as a phenomenon was difficult to diminish (Freaud, 1896). Lorenz underlined that aggression was spontaneous, and it was associated with the underlying needs, so any real actions to prevent or end a war will be ineffective (Lorenz, 1937). Aggression is eternal, like energy or matter. It takes many forms, and it comes in the form of a hidden agenda, in the form of painful fantasies of destruction and violence (Tinbergen et al., 1963). It affects the state, ethnic groups, generations and may suddenly wake up in a one year-old child. Aggression makes its inevitable cycle in nature: a chief is yelling at a subordinate, he plucks evil on his wife, she – on a child, the child kicks a dog, and the dog rushes to the chief and bites him. So, the circle is a comic cartoon (Pinker et al., 1991).

Energy approach was formulated by Sigmund Freud. He was impressed by the discovery of the law of conservation of energy which was then discussed in academic circles, and attached to everything that was possible. At the heart of his psychoanalytic doctrine lies that a person is an energy system in which the energy is either flowing freely or finds workarounds or is stored as the water in front of a dam. The purpose of all kinds of behavior is pleasure, that is, the reduction of stress, or the discharge of energy. The source of all motive powers lies in the unconscious subsystem, called Id. Energy necessary for human life is initially drawn from the sexual and aggressive drives of Eros and Thanatos, which form the Id. It seeks release (“discharge”) excitation of energy and tension (Baker et al., 1939). This facility operates in accordance with the principle of pleasure – seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. That is, it makes no prohibitions or noise; it does not pay attention to reality and can find satisfaction in both: a real action and fantasy. It wants what it wants when it wants. It is reasonable, regardless of logic, values, and morals.

Interestingly, in the latest gender (sex‑related) studies conflicting social representation of aggression in men and women were found. Women see aggression as  a means for expressing anger and stress by releasing aggressive energy. Men, by contrast, refer to aggression as a tool for a variety of social and material rewards. Here is how Freud (2009) saw the relationship between the aggressive nature of man and culture: “People are not noble, friendly creatures, eager to love, who protect themselves only when attacked; on the contrary, the fact is the strongly expressed desire for aggression is an essential part of human instincts”. Culture directs this aggressive energy in a reasonable direction (military, sports), puts restrictions in the form of laws and moral norms. Then, one of two things occur – either sublimation of that energy, that is, its conversion to higher aspirations, approved by a society (surgery, painting, etc.), or suppression, and constant monitoring of their behavior. Then there is “civilization and its discontents” (2009): excessive self-control doesn’t make us quite happy, even if overall everything is satisfactory.

In conclusion, it is obvious that the natural theory has more proofs and evidence which support the idea that a human being possesses animal traits and instincts, one of which is aggression. However, a human being went further: a human being is the only creature who kills regardless of what is needed; he kills for pleasure and fun. However, it is highly expected that violence is something that could be learned; thus, re-learned in a better way. Surely, in such a scenario people would have more chances to prevent and stop wars. Still, as it was depicted in “Soldiers of Consciousness” people can over use any technique, and teachings on violence are not exception. Nowadays some scientists implement techniques which help soldiers to get rid of moral norms and restraints. All in all, biological approach is the most evident one since it is supported by various studies and it proves that even a small child can show traits of violence and aggression. Therefore, a human inclination to wars and violence is inherent.


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