I was talking with a friend, nay, a peer with whom I am friendly, and who is friendly with me, about an article I wrote in The Sudial, my university’s newspaper. Well more precisely, it was about my biography. In it, I say that I am a fan of Jordan Peterson and Camille Paglia. And both of them criticize modern left wing movements like Feminism and Marxism for being absolutely ignorant about nature.
To this, my friend replied “[I don’t agree with them because I don’t agree with the claim that there is such a thing as human nature]”.
Now when you want to convince someone of something, there are different ways to go about doing so. One thing I could have done was tell him a whole bunch of scientific facts showing how there are many things which suggest that human nature does indeed exist, and that we are not just social constructs.
I could have told him for example that a few days after birth, boys are more interested in things, whereas girls are more interested in people. Or that boys are a great majority of the ones who have speech problems, not girls. Or that wherever you go, clothing is a human universal. So on and so forth.
But would these have gotten to his heart of hearts? No, me thinks not. I think they would’ve fallen on deaf ears. Not only to his, but to the people around him as well. Remember, you’re never arguing only in front of one person.
So below, I’m going to sketch out some arguments for human nature that are not very “scientific” but which are hearty, true, and perhaps even funny.
Human nature is best understood by contrasting it with social constructivism. The idea behind the latter is that our environment is what defines who we are and how we become. The idea that societies are built on a particular conception of human nature is a foolish one.
But I beg to differ. What do I need to prove exactly? I need to prove that certain things are constant cross culturally as a function of them being there before we were modified by society. The easiest way (and really the only way I know) of doing this is to ground your opinions in biology. So, such and such is human nature because it’s in your genes.
So! What is human nature?
Well, the most cliched answer that comes to mind is “imperfection.” As humans we make mistakes, and we will always make mistakes, and we always have made mistakes. As humans, we’re not all the same, nor are we all beautiful or intelligent or artistic, nor can we be.
For example, in Romeo and Juliet, both of them made the mistake of becoming passion’s fool. They rushed into marriage in order to be with each other, but then tried to run away with each other, but then died with each other over a simple mistake. Whoops!
Furthermore, humans can be evil, vicious, and cruel. They aren’t because of this because they were socially constructed to be so. They are so because they choose to be. They choose to cause unnecessary suffering to other people, and they enjoy it when it happens.
So for example, most people who abuse children were abused as children. The social constructionist would say “ahah! The abusers abuse others because they were abused themselves, not because they chose to abuse their children!” But then I would say that most people who were abused as children don’t go on to abuse their children.
The social constructivist viewpoint seems to denigrate and dismiss consciousness as a role in determining history and identity and the future. But this is contradictory.
How does a society then change if not by the actions of every one in it? If it’s the case that we’re all being oppressed, then who is doing the oppression, and why do you always consider yourself to be the victim, and never the oppressor?
And sex! Sex is a human universal, of course! In every culture, it is the subject of social taboo, of ridicule, of jokes, of weariness, of fear, of sadness, all of these things can come from sex. In fact, I’d dare to say that the reason we have the rituals we have between the two sexes is to contain sex. That’s because humans can’t contain nature. We are feeble compared to her. We can just try to weather her storms.
How does sex relate to this? Well, I think that it’s a human universal to want sex. You are born with a desire to have sex. “But what about the asexual?” Well, to this I would guess that the asexual is not so because of choice. Perhaps its genesis can be found in the family relationship, but I’m going to say that I highly doubt nobody is purposefully crafted to be asexual. You can’t construct what or who someone desires.
I hope my three arguments prove that human nature exists.