western illusion of human nature

(2008) by marshall sahlins.. 116 page pdf [https://irows.ucr.edu/cd/courses/202a/sahlins.pdf] via nika dubrovsky:

Reading this very important book

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/nikadubrovsky/status/1592294935017193472


5 (1)

Time and again for more than two millennia the people we call “Western” have been haunted by the specter of their own inner being: an apparition of human nature so avaricious and contentious that, unless it is somehow governed, it will reduce society to anarchy. The political science of the unruly animal has come for the most part in two contrasting and alternating forms: either hierarchy or equality, monarchial authority or republican equilibrium: either a system of domination that (ideally) restrains people’s natural self-interest by an external power; or a self-organizing system of free and equal powers whose opposition (ideally) reconciles their particular interests in the common interest. Beyond politics, this is a totalized metaphysics of order, for the same generic structure of an elemental anarchy resolved by hierarchy or equality is found in the organization of the universe as well as the city, and again in therapeutic concepts of the hunan body

6 (2)

I am going against the grain of the genetic determinism now so popular in America for its seeming ability to explain all manner of cultural forms by an innate disposition of competitive self-interest. In combination with an analogous Economic Science of autonomous individuals devoted singularly to their own satisfactions by the “rational choice” of everything, not to mention the common native wisdom of the same illc, such fashionable disciplines as Evolutionary Psychology and Sociobiology are making an all-purpose social science of the ‘selfish gene.” But as Oscar Wilde said of professors, their ignorance is the result of long study. Oblivious to history and cultural diversity, these enthusiasts of evolutionary egoism fail to recognize the classic bourgeois subject in their portrait of so-called human nature. Or else they celebrate their ethnocentrism by taking certain of our customary practices as proof of their universal theories of human behavior.

rather.. deeper.. ie: we have no idea what legit free people are like.. all data/history ness to date.. like data from whales in sea world

7 (3)

Still, I would argue that neither the Chinese nor any other cultural tradition can match the sustained Western contempt for humanity: this long-term scandal of human avarice, together with the antithesis of culture and nature that informs it.

47 (43)

Alternative Concepts of the Human Condition

[skimmed to here.. but seemed mostly about how man is naturally bad so needs govt to keep in line]

Beyond the current controversies over human nature and its supposed cultural complements, the Western tradition has long harbored an alternative conception of order and being, of the kind anthropologists have often studied: kinship community. True that in the West this is the unmarked human condition, despite that (or perhaps because) family and kindred relations are sources of our deepest sentiments and attachments . Ignoring these, our philosophies of human nature generally come from the larger society,
organized on radically different principles . What we are pleased to consider human nature mostly consists of the inclinations of ( bourgeois) adult males, largely to the exclusion of women, children and old folks and to the comparative neglect of the one universal principle of human sociality, kinship. One would think that human nature begins at home; but then it would have to be understood differently than self-interest, since charity was always already there

sounds like steiner care to oppression law et al.. graeber violence in care law et al..


Referring broadly to the Mrican concept of “the individual,” Roger Bastide writes : “He does not exist except to the extent he is
‘outside’ and ‘different’ from himself.” Clearly the self in these societies is not synonymous with the bounded, unitary and autonomous individual as we know him in particular, as in our social theory if not our kinship practice. Rather, the individual person is the locus of multiple other selves with whom he or she is joined in mutual relations of being; even as, for the same reason, any person’s self is more or less widely distributed among others

beyond the monastic self.. i’m never just me et al.. one body ness

67 (63)

Renaissance Republics

[skimmed to here.. from 52 – back to being about assumed evil/sin in man]

68 (64)

The idea was that if everyone had a share in government, no one would be tempted to rebel. Civic peace was indeed an obsession because it was constantly threatened, and the judicial systems proved unable to protect the interests of all.

76 (72)

Founding Fathers


Speaking of the implications for America, Adams wrote: “Human nature is as incapable now of going through revolutions with temper and sobriety, with patience and prudence, or without fury and madness, as it was among the Greeks long ago


The dismal view of human nature that the Founders could derive from ancient history was largely complemented by the Christian tradition of fallen man-if anything even more contemptible in the Calvinist version-and especially by its naturalized, Hobbesian recension.

In an influential discussion of the same, Hofstadter endorses Horace White’s observation that the United States was built on the philosophy of Hobbes and the religion of Calvin, which is to say, on the assumption that the natural state of humanity is war and the human mind is naturally at odds with the good.


Of course, rather than an absolute sovereign, Madison argued-in what turned out to be the most famous passage of The Federalist Papers-that Ambition must be made to counteract ambition …. ‘It may be a reflection of human nature that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary.’.. Or in the equally famous words of Tom Paine in Common Sense, invoking the Christian rather than the Hobbesian condemnation of humankind: “Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise.” Paine also opined that, “Society is produced by our wants and government by our wickedness” -which rather neglected the common opinion that our wickedness is produced by our wants.


For although it was generally acknowledged that the people were sovereign, it was also more or less conceded that they should not
govern. On the contrary, they needed to be governed


The Moral Recuperation of Self-Interest

Considered natural and accorded the positive function of maintaining social equilibrium, the self-interest beating in every human breast was by the end of the eighteenth century well on its way to becoming a good thing-so good that, by the twentieth century, some would claim it was the best thing

need to let go of everything else.. get out of sea world .. and trust the itch-in-8bn-souls


Other Human Worlds


Now is the Whimper of Our Self-Contempt


For Freud, “nothing is so completely at variance with the original human nature” as “the ideal command to love one’s neighbor.”


Culture is the Human Nature


It’s all been a huge mistake. My modest conclusion is that Western civilization has been constructed on a perverse and mistaken idea of human nature. Sorry, beg your pardon; it was all a mistake. It is probably true, however, that this perverse idea of human nature endangers our existence..t

keeping us all in sea world .. all data/history ness to date non legit.. we have no idea what legit free people are like.. or what they need

hari rat park law et al

need 1st/most: means to undo our hierarchical listening to self/others/society ie: tech as it could be


1\ undisturbed ecosystem (common\ing) can happen

2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b legit free people