Were we better off in a state of nature?

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coberst
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Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby coberst » Sun Nov 04, 2007 12:10 pm UTC

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?

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby Goplat » Sun Nov 04, 2007 4:03 pm UTC

Aren't we still in the state of nature? I don't see anyone with supernatural powers around, and we're still subject to the same natural laws as always. Quarks and electrons still interact via gravity, electromagnetism, and nuclear forces. But that's not what you meant by "nature", was it? I'm guessing that you've drawn an arbitrary line somewhere in history, where everything prior was "natural" and everything after is "artificial". As if the Proper Order Of Things was somehow violated as soon as humans made their lives too good. If that's the case, and you're trying to say we'd be better off by regressing to some age back when the average lifespan was 20 or 30, then there is no <font> size large enough for the NO that belongs in this reply.
The thing is that society is constantly changing. How can we create a stable society within such a dynamic world culture?
A synonym for "stable", as it applies to organisms and societies, is "dead".
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.
Since everybody has a different set of "wants" (and therefore a different set of needs - "needs" are just the requirements to fulfill "wants"), you just contradicted yourself.
[...incomprehensible gibberish snipped...] 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?
You know, the Amish are farmers, and farming is a technology. If you really want to go for the "state of nature", chimpanzees would be a better model.

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby Barbie » Sun Nov 04, 2007 5:01 pm UTC

coberst wrote:How can we create a stable society within such a dynamic world culture?

Why do you value a stable society? The human race gains more knowledge and more expertise every minute of every day. Our wants and needs change as we gain more knowledge. I would think that we would actually benefit from a -less- stable society so that we could adapt more quickly to newly-discovered truths (like the concept that black slaves are real people).

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

I don't really get how the Amish could be considered natural. They have even more rules than we do, and are even more bound to their their "fictional play." Just because something is traditional doesn't mean it's more natural. Wouldn't it be most natural to have a state of complete anarchy?
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby coberst » Sun Nov 04, 2007 5:11 pm UTC

Bill Moyer has a video wherein he discusses the book “Amish Grace” that you might find to be very interesting regarding the Amish response to their tragedy. Compare that Amish response to their tragedy and the response of America to our 9/11 tragedy.

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/10052007/watch4.html

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby coberst » Sun Nov 04, 2007 5:13 pm UTC

We create the society we live in. Most of what we value is our own artificial creation. Thus we can create a much better world if we were to become more intellectually sophisticated.

When we recognize that we do the terrible things that we do merely because we have created a culture that does these things then we can set about the process of creating a better set of artificial values.

Humans have moved from a state of almost totally a state of nature to a state of almost totally a fictional state of reality. As we have evolved from our primate ancestors we have steadly become more artificial. Civilization is a process of acquiring artificial values.

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby bbctol » Sun Nov 04, 2007 5:15 pm UTC

Depends on your definition of "better off". I count the transition from natural state to artificial state the agricultural revolution, because that was when we stopped taking things from nature and started controlling nature. The way I see it, hunter-gatherer societies don't destroy themselves, have major wars, have pollution, global warming, overpopulation, etc, but they don't get to be as cool as our civilization. Our civilization has longer and maybe better lives, but more suicide, misery, war, and death. It's a hard decision.

But isn't the point kind of moot? It would take a near-extinction of humanity for anyone to transition from artificial to natural state.

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby Goplat » Sun Nov 04, 2007 6:35 pm UTC

bbctol wrote:The way I see it, hunter-gatherer societies don't destroy themselves, have major wars, have pollution, global warming, overpopulation, etc,
Regarding the wars and overpopulation at least, that's a complete and utter myth. Oh, I'm sure you can find plenty of anthropological studies showing primitive peoples today who aren't constantly at war. But any group of humans who are still hunter-gatherers today would have to be highly isolated from the outside world, which means they have no competition and abundant resources. It's easy to be hunter-gatherers when you're the only ones in the area. But this is NOT how the vast majority of people lived before civilization.

Population always grows until some cause of death expands enough to keep it steady. This is true of all animals and it's true of humans. Don't delude yourself into thinking that people restrained themselves when it came to births - evolution doesn't look any more kindly on a "fitness" reduction just because it's voluntary. Any group who decided to practice population control would be squeezed out by those who didn't and their genes would disappear.

Once humans acquired the ability to slay their own predators a million or so years ago, the main limiting factor on population was food. Whenever an area was saturated with humans, some of them had to die. But why face certain death through starvation when you could attempt to kill your neighbors and steal their food, and possibly live through the famine? Those who opted to make war rather than starve had a huge evolutionary advantage over those who didn't.

War, then, is not an aberration of human nature caused by "unnatural" modern conditions. Anybody who tries to claim, like coberst did above, that "we do the terrible things that we do merely because we have created a culture that does these things" is completely missing the mark. It is not violent video games, movies, or any other external scapegoat that gives people the urge to kill each other. It is the inevitable result of having evolved under conditions of scarcity.

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby Barbie » Sun Nov 04, 2007 6:43 pm UTC

coberst wrote:When we recognize that we do the terrible things that we do merely because we have created a culture that does these things then we can set about the process of creating a better set of artificial values.
So, if I understand you correctly, by "natural" you mean that society should rationally create a culture that is consistent with what is -actually- in our best interest, instead of letting our culture develop... er... naturally. I don't agree with your use of the word natural, but I think I agree with the concept.

The Amish, in my opinion, are are not a good model for this, because their rules are -not- based on rationality. The video you linked says that their way of life is "drawn from their reading of the Bible." I personally believe that forgiveness is an excellent practice, but the Amish don't do it for rational reasons. They forgive because God tells them to forgive. They are blindly following rules that they would not dare to question. Anything they've got right is just a fluke, really.
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Nov 04, 2007 7:43 pm UTC

I'm surprised the phrase "nasty, brutish, and short" hasn't come up yet. Since, if you take "state of nature" to mean "existence free of any society", those three words give a pretty good summary of what human life was like.
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby Herman » Sun Nov 04, 2007 9:39 pm UTC

Well, if the contest for "who lives better" is between people who live in democracies posting on Web fora, and hunter-gatherers from 10,000 years ago, it's not even close. We've got it made in the shade. I think discussions like this only arise because people have it so good that they can't fully grasp how much the past SUCKED by comparison. (Neither can I, of course. No one can. It's like trying to hold in your mind the distance between the Earth and sun. You can remember the number, but you can't visualize it).

But if you're making the comparison between a hunter-gatherer, and say, a sweatshop worker, a child soldier in Africa, or anyone at all in North Korea, then you've got a case. "Civilization" does create circumstances that are actually worse than dying of starvation or exposure or getting your head bashed in by the guys that discovered iron first.

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby Dan Frank » Sun Nov 04, 2007 9:47 pm UTC

No.


For more details, see gmalivuk's post. He summed up the "why" very nicely.

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby zenten » Sun Nov 04, 2007 10:40 pm UTC

coberst wrote: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?


Noble savage is an insulting and bigoted term, Socrates lived in an Agricultural society, so do the Amish.

And if you actually practiced what you're preaching you wouldn't have the capability of posting on the internet.

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby TheStranger » Sun Nov 04, 2007 11:05 pm UTC

I'm unsure of your definition of Noble Savage... that phrase is more descriptive of a hunter-gatherer society rather then a preindustrial society (like the Amish).

It is easy to romanticize such a society, to see it as "simpler", though this is hardly the case. Nasty, brutish, and short about sums it up (with a dose of dirty added on top). I count not worrying about freezing to death or being eaten by wolves to be a good thing.
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Mon Nov 05, 2007 12:00 am UTC

zenten wrote:And if you actually practiced what you're preaching you wouldn't have the capability of posting on the internet.


Say good bye to unnatural things like medicine; they're no good.
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby muteKi » Mon Nov 05, 2007 12:12 am UTC

I honestly keep rereading the initial question and I can't parse anything that's been put in that post at all.
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby bbctol » Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:06 am UTC

Goplat wrote:
bbctol wrote:The way I see it, hunter-gatherer societies don't destroy themselves, have major wars, have pollution, global warming, overpopulation, etc,
Regarding the wars and overpopulation at least, that's a complete and utter myth. Oh, I'm sure you can find plenty of anthropological studies showing primitive peoples today who aren't constantly at war. But any group of humans who are still hunter-gatherers today would have to be highly isolated from the outside world, which means they have no competition and abundant resources. It's easy to be hunter-gatherers when you're the only ones in the area. But this is NOT how the vast majority of people lived before civilization.

Population always grows until some cause of death expands enough to keep it steady. This is true of all animals and it's true of humans. Don't delude yourself into thinking that people restrained themselves when it came to births - evolution doesn't look any more kindly on a "fitness" reduction just because it's voluntary. Any group who decided to practice population control would be squeezed out by those who didn't and their genes would disappear.

Once humans acquired the ability to slay their own predators a million or so years ago, the main limiting factor on population was food. Whenever an area was saturated with humans, some of them had to die. But why face certain death through starvation when you could attempt to kill your neighbors and steal their food, and possibly live through the famine? Those who opted to make war rather than starve had a huge evolutionary advantage over those who didn't.

War, then, is not an aberration of human nature caused by "unnatural" modern conditions. Anybody who tries to claim, like coberst did above, that "we do the terrible things that we do merely because we have created a culture that does these things" is completely missing the mark. It is not violent video games, movies, or any other external scapegoat that gives people the urge to kill each other. It is the inevitable result of having evolved under conditions of scarcity.


Stuff about population: Then why didn't, say, the Native Americans ever have problems with a population explosion? Methinks the reason is that they were a non-agricultural and hence very diverse society, therefore limited their births because, if they were to overpopulate within their borders, they would have to spill into enemy lands causing war, death etc.

War stuff: My point is that under a successful hunter-gatherer society, we are not living under conditions of scarcity because we're a stable society. A civilization requires conquest, which is why the civilized, right back to the agricultural revolution, were so warlike.

Yes, I'm pulling this out of my ass. Yeah, it's probably wrong. But I want to see you prove it wrong, so I can go back to being a good civilized homo sapiens.

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:45 am UTC

bbctol wrote:Stuff about population: Then why didn't, say, the Native Americans ever have problems with a population explosion?

Some of them did, actually. There are those who say the Anasazi society, for instance, collapsed because of overpopulation. I think the point with *over*population, though, is that it is this overshot and then dieback of the carrying capacity. Hunter-gatherer societies never overshoot to the same extent, because their growth rates are always lower than agriculturalists' rates. And when people are living in cities supplied by stationary agriculture, a comparatively minor natural event can starve far more people to death than it would if they were nomadic and more diverse in their diets, like hunter-gatherers.

Also, with smaller social units, "war" as we know it today simply did not exist. There was limited conflict, sure. And humans are still human, so no doubt some of this conflict was unnecessary for the basic survival of your own group. (Chimps also kill for "fun", so presumably this is not merely a recent social invention.) But there existed neither the means nor the motive for anything on a scale like we see today. Even wiping out an entire clan would be like, today, wiping out a single small village. And in any single modern war, this tends to happen multiple times. "Major wars" are simply not possible without major social groups capable of fighting them.
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby Solt » Mon Nov 05, 2007 4:39 am UTC

Herman wrote:Well, if the contest for "who lives better" is between people who live in democracies posting on Web fora, and hunter-gatherers from 10,000 years ago, it's not even close. We've got it made in the shade. I think discussions like this only arise because people have it so good that they can't fully grasp how much the past SUCKED by comparison.


What a terrible misconception. Do you really think humans in the past felt their lives sucked? Why didn't they all commit suicide then? Why did they fight so fiercely to preserve their way of life when confronted by invaders? Why did they bring new people into the world?

The reason you assume their life sucked is that you have to, to allow modern society to exist. Modern society is based on the ideas of "improvement" and "progress" and if those weren't happening, we wouldn't have modern society. It's perfectly possible, and even likely, that the majority of humans who ever lived have been as satisfied with the quality of their life, on their deathbed, as anyone who is alive today will ever be.

When considering the past like this, please, please remember one thing: Everything is relative.


Personally I haven't made up my mind. I'm just pointing out the fallacies of the arguments that have been made so far, but I obviously don't know the truth myself either. This is a fundamental question for me because I've devoted my life to "progress" and I often wonder if we are actually going anywhere.
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby TheStranger » Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:44 am UTC

Solt wrote:What a terrible misconception. Do you really think humans in the past felt their lives sucked? Why didn't they all commit suicide then? Why did they fight so fiercely to preserve their way of life when confronted by invaders? Why did they bring new people into the world?


It would suck, compared to modern society. Spending nine hours digging through the forest looking for a handful of tubers to feed your family sounds bad compared to a 5 minute wait at Starbucks.

The reason you assume their life sucked is that you have to, to allow modern society to exist. Modern society is based on the ideas of "improvement" and "progress" and if those weren't happening, we wouldn't have modern society. It's perfectly possible, and even likely, that the majority of humans who ever lived have been as satisfied with the quality of their life, on their deathbed, as anyone who is alive today will ever be.


But we have not stopped trying to improve our lives, we are still working to make them better.

When considering the past like this, please, please remember one thing: Everything is relative.


While this is true it is important not to romanticize hunter-gatherer societies. Every day is a struggle to find food (a not always successful one). diseases and injuries that are mild annoyances today were killers before antibiotics / surgery

Personally I haven't made up my mind. I'm just pointing out the fallacies of the arguments that have been made so far, but I obviously don't know the truth myself either. This is a fundamental question for me because I've devoted my life to "progress" and I often wonder if we are actually going anywhere.


we are going the only way available... forward.
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby coberst » Mon Nov 05, 2007 1:13 pm UTC

My statement says that I consider a creature is living in a total state of nature when that creature is controlled by its nature and its instincts. Humans have an ego which stands in the way of instinctive behavior for humans. Animals other than humans do not have an ego. The more effect the ego has on human behavior the more civilized we become and the further removed from nature.

Instincts are the emotions that an animal is born with. Animals are hardwired with certain automatic control reactions. These emotions, i.e. these instincts cause the deer to run and the lion to fight.

Ego says, HOLD IT, TIME OUT!

The ego is our command center; it is the “internal gyroscope” and creator of time for the human. It controls the individual; especially it controls individual’s response to the external environment. It keeps the individual independent from the environment by giving the individual time to think before acting. It is the device that other animal do not have and thus they instinctively respond immediately to the world.

The id is our animal self. It is the human without the ego control center. The id is reactive life and the ego changes that reactive life into delayed thoughtful life. The ego is also the timer that provides us with a sense of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. By doing so it makes us into philosophical beings conscious of our self as being separate from the ‘other’ and placed in a river of time with a terminal point—death. This time creation allows us to become creatures responding to symbolic reality that we alone create.

As a result of the id there is a “me” to which everything has a focus of being. The most important job the ego has is to control anxiety that paradoxically the ego has created. With a sense of time there comes a sense of termination and with this sense of death comes anxiety that the ego embraces and gives the “me” time to consider how not to have to encounter anxiety.

Evidence indicates that there is an “intrinsic symbolic process” is some primates. Such animals may be able to create in memory other events that are not presently going on. “But intrinsic symbolization is not enough. In order to become a social act, the symbol must be joined to some extrinsic mode; there must exist an external graphic mode to convey what the individual has to express…but it also shows how separate are the worlds we live in, unless we join our inner apprehensions to those of others by means of socially agreed symbols.”

“What they needed for a true ego was a symbolic rallying point, a personal and social symbol—an “I”, in order to thoroughly unjumble himself from his world the animal must have a precise designation of himself. The “I”, in a word, has to take shape linguistically…the self (or ego) is largely a verbal edifice…The ego thus builds up a world in which it can act with equanimity, largely by naming names.” The primate may have a brain large enough for “me” but it must go a step further that requires linguistic ability that permits an “I” that can develop controlled symbols with “which to put some distance between him and immediate internal and external experience.”

I conclude from this that many primates have the brain that is large enough to be human but in the process of evolution the biological apparatus that makes speech possible was the catalyst that led to the modern human species. The ability to emit more sophisticated sounds was the stepping stone to the evolution of wo/man. This ability to control the vocal sounds promoted the development of the human brain.

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby Goplat » Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:18 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Also, with smaller social units, "war" as we know it today simply did not exist. There was limited conflict, sure.
So what? Whether you get killed by the U.S. Army or by a band of 40 hunter-gatherers, you've still been killed. I think that when a losing tribe saw themselves being destroyed they would not have been comforted by the fact that it didn't meet the Gmalivuk Criteria For Using The Word "War".

Scale doesn't matter. You can have a few huge nation-states making war, or many tiny tribes making something that's just like war except that we can't call it that because it's too small-scale, and there will still be just as many deaths. Actually, if you look at the percentage of people who die in war today, it would be a lot lower than it used to be because wars are much more infrequent. Possibly because with technology, wealth is no longer a zero-sum game.

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Nov 05, 2007 8:46 pm UTC

Goplat wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Also, with smaller social units, "war" as we know it today simply did not exist. There was limited conflict, sure.

Scale doesn't matter.

The hell it doesn't. The original claim was about major war. Of course major war doesn't exist when the scale is so much smaller.

TheStranger wrote:While this is true it is important not to romanticize hunter-gatherer societies. Every day is a struggle to find food (a not always successful one). diseases and injuries that are mild annoyances today were killers before antibiotics / surgery

Actually, for the most part, those diseases we're so familiar with today are largely a result of a decision a few thousand years ago by our ancestors to live really really close together in really really large numbers, often right alongside livestock animals.
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby letthemeatquiche » Mon Nov 05, 2007 8:59 pm UTC

I tried reading John Zerzan's "Against Civilization". I couldn't stomach it. A bunch of poets waxing on about how they'd rather frolic in the fields than get a job.

In all seriousness though, I think, for many of us, modern life does feel fairly "wrong". We have jobs we probably don't care for a lot, feel run down trying to keep up with our daily tasks (naked people don't have to do laundry, y'know), are bitter and disillusioned about our supposedly democratic governments, and generally feel like our lives are less fulfilling than they should be.

That last bit, I think, is important. In our current economy especially, education, for many, outstrips opportunity. If you have a good education, you've learned about a lot of important people who did great things, and probably have at least some sense of how the fabric of civilization is stitched together... yet, if most of the jobs in your chosen career are being outsourced, you might still end up in a boring call center job, instead of doing something you feel really matters in the grand scheme of things. I'd say the more you know, the more you probably want to "matter" in the world... but if anything, expanding higher education provides fewer opportunities to do so. Thus, modern life feels unfulfilling and generates all sorts of existential despair, and leads to escapist desires to a simpler time when there wouldn't be this desire to "make a difference".

Personally, I'd rather be educated and disillusioned with my menial job than spend my days trying to stab woolly mammoths to survive. I think the entire noble savage/state of nature yearning is rather naive, and is mostly expressed by people who haven't really thought out what their lives would be like in it.

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby zenten » Mon Nov 05, 2007 9:13 pm UTC

letthemeatquiche wrote:I tried reading John Zerzan's "Against Civilization". I couldn't stomach it. A bunch of poets waxing on about how they'd rather frolic in the fields than get a job.

In all seriousness though, I think, for many of us, modern life does feel fairly "wrong". We have jobs we probably don't care for a lot, feel run down trying to keep up with our daily tasks (naked people don't have to do laundry, y'know), are bitter and disillusioned about our supposedly democratic governments, and generally feel like our lives are less fulfilling than they should be.

That last bit, I think, is important. In our current economy especially, education, for many, outstrips opportunity. If you have a good education, you've learned about a lot of important people who did great things, and probably have at least some sense of how the fabric of civilization is stitched together... yet, if most of the jobs in your chosen career are being outsourced, you might still end up in a boring call center job, instead of doing something you feel really matters in the grand scheme of things. I'd say the more you know, the more you probably want to "matter" in the world... but if anything, expanding higher education provides fewer opportunities to do so. Thus, modern life feels unfulfilling and generates all sorts of existential despair, and leads to escapist desires to a simpler time when there wouldn't be this desire to "make a difference".

Personally, I'd rather be educated and disillusioned with my menial job than spend my days trying to stab woolly mammoths to survive. I think the entire noble savage/state of nature yearning is rather naive, and is mostly expressed by people who haven't really thought out what their lives would be like in it.


I think a lot of it has to do with a lack of exercise, and a lack of sunlight.

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby Pesto » Mon Nov 05, 2007 9:14 pm UTC

Hmm, lemme see...

Antibiotics

Nope, I think we're better off not being in a state of nature.

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby TheStranger » Mon Nov 05, 2007 10:14 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Actually, for the most part, those diseases we're so familiar with today are largely a result of a decision a few thousand years ago by our ancestors to live really really close together in really really large numbers, often right alongside livestock animals.


gangrene? cholera? cancer? burst appendix? shattered bones? birth defects?
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby Yakk » Mon Nov 05, 2007 10:21 pm UTC

No, not (everything is relative) is true.

As an example, dieing at the age of 10 painfully from an infected bite is not relative.

I often joke about how much people protect their kids nowadays. Why not just have 3 kids and accept a 33% loss rate instead of having 2 kids?

Hunter gatherer societies had die backs. They overpopulated. They destroyed crucial natural resources (look at North America -- almost every large animal died out at nearly the same time as humans spread over the continent! Or Easter Island, where the last tree that could build the large canoes that they needed to keep their civilization up was destroyed centuries before European explorers found the place). They engaged in genocidal wars (look at the Inuit: there is an ancient "sharp" cultural change that crossed the entire north that looks more like a wave of conquest and slaughter than anything else).

Things really can suck.

...

Speaking of nasty deseases one could pick up in a state of nature, look at what is happening to the taz. devils.

Inter-body infectious cancer!
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Nov 05, 2007 10:40 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:Speaking of nasty deseases one could pick up in a state of nature, look at what is happening to the taz. devils.

Inter-body infectious cancer!

What's the current population of the Tasmanian Devil? Perhaps this particular development might be a result of too much inbreeding in a population that we depressed below healthy levels?

And I'm not saying you can't get diseases in nature. But the *big* killers like smallpox pretty much entered human populations as a result of living in such close proximity to each other and to livestock.

But yeah, we shouldn't romanticize a way of life that, in many cases, people are pretty happy to give up nowadays. Australian aborigines now mostly hunt kangaroo with .22s instead of spears. No one came in and forced them to make this change. They did it themselves, because it's just a lot easier to do it that way. Don't let it get into your head that people in, say, the New Guinea highlands wouldn't have settled down and adopted a farming lifestyle if there'd been anything around worth cultivating (beyond bananas, I suppose).
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby Yakk » Mon Nov 05, 2007 10:57 pm UTC

Gma, also realize that most people don't have a choice. The population density and portability advantages of an agricultural or herding society are so much larger than hunter/gatherer that they can just steam-roll over the hunter/gatherers.

By steam-roll, I mean "slowly push back", because it takes time with primitive tools to clear land and make it suitable for use by agriculture, and herding societies are often geographically limited by what kind of forage the animals like.

You can see this in the ... I guess I could call it anthrogenetics ... of the world. Populations that figure out the agriculture trick, and then proceed to rapidly spread out and generate large areas of relatively genetically related populations.

If agriculture mainly spread by adoption by already existing locals, one would expect populations to be less related than they are.

As an example, sub-Saharan Africa -- there are a number of isolated hunter-gatherers who aren't that related to the main population of the continent. (Pygmies as a clear example, but as I understand it there are a number of others). It looks like the agriculturalists ran over the area in a wave, leaving behind some small amounts of the locals who either adapted or lived in areas that the agriculturalists didn't want or couldn't use their techniques in.

This is probably because agricultural society is a complete culture -- and adapting to it from seeing some neighbors using it isn't trivial before you get overrun by their raw population pressure.

But maybe it is just the drop in a bucket problem, and the spread wasn't quite as bloody as I envision.
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby Indon » Mon Nov 05, 2007 10:58 pm UTC

How are we any less in a 'state of nature' now than 10,000 (or more) years ago?

I submit that the unstable, technologically-enhanced, continually-advancing civilization is Homo Sapiens natural environment, and that displacement would be immoral, and perhaps even possibly endanger the species.
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby letthemeatquiche » Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:07 pm UTC

Indon wrote:How are we any less in a 'state of nature' now than 10,000 (or more) years ago?

I submit that the unstable, technologically-advanced, continually-advancing civilization is Homo Sapiens natural environment, and that displacement would be immoral, and perhaps even possibly endanger the species.


The "state of nature" is a conceptual pre-civilization status. It's usually used to explore theories of how humans would behave without society and technology. Of course, without technology we're monkeys, and without society we're, well, nothing. For whatever my BA in polisci is worth, I think it's a flawed concept that we need to stop referencing.

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby Indon » Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:14 pm UTC

letthemeatquiche wrote:
Indon wrote:How are we any less in a 'state of nature' now than 10,000 (or more) years ago?

I submit that the unstable, technologically-advanced, continually-advancing civilization is Homo Sapiens natural environment, and that displacement would be immoral, and perhaps even possibly endanger the species.


The "state of nature" is a conceptual pre-civilization status. It's usually used to explore theories of how humans would behave without society and technology. Of course, without technology we're monkeys, and without society we're, well, nothing. For whatever my BA in polisci is worth, I think it's a flawed concept that we need to stop referencing.


That's what I'd suspected, myself.

Tool use predates Homo Sapiens; our species did not come up with it, but as far as I know employed it from day one, and thus technology and mankind are literally inseperable, like hermit crabs and their shells.
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:23 pm UTC

letthemeatquiche wrote:
Indon wrote:How are we any less in a 'state of nature' now than 10,000 (or more) years ago?

I submit that the unstable, technologically-advanced, continually-advancing civilization is Homo Sapiens natural environment, and that displacement would be immoral, and perhaps even possibly endanger the species.


The "state of nature" is a conceptual pre-civilization status. It's usually used to explore theories of how humans would behave without society and technology. Of course, without technology we're monkeys, and without society we're, well, nothing. For whatever my BA in polisci is worth, I think it's a flawed concept that we need to stop referencing.

Yeah. As Dawkins points out in the beginning of The Selfish Gene, pretty much all of the treatises on human nature and our "natural" state that were written before the theory of evolution came along are now, apart from historically speaking, completely worthless. Those writers, brilliant though they were, got it pretty much completely wrong.
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby letthemeatquiche » Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:32 pm UTC

The somewhat scary bit is that a lot of the theories that form the foundations of our modern political and economic systems were derived from what would be "just" in this theoretical state of nature.

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby Solt » Tue Nov 06, 2007 12:32 am UTC

Yakk wrote:No, not (everything is relative) is true.

As an example, dieing at the age of 10 painfully from an infected bite is not relative.


And getting incinerated at age 10 by a pair of 500 pound bombs dropped on your hut or a man dressed in C4 walking up to you and detonating it?

The ability to cure some diseases in return for the ability to suffocate to death and literally cough up your lungs as a result of chemical/biological weapons?

Please, come up with better examples.
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby Nath » Tue Nov 06, 2007 1:02 am UTC

Solt wrote:
Yakk wrote:No, not (everything is relative) is true.

As an example, dieing at the age of 10 painfully from an infected bite is not relative.


And getting incinerated at age 10 by a pair of 500 pound bombs dropped on your hut or a man dressed in C4 walking up to you and detonating it?

The ability to cure some diseases in return for the ability to suffocate to death and literally cough up your lungs as a result of chemical/biological weapons?

These are rare events. We have reasonably reliable numbers showing that people are dying less, starving less and so on.

I've read in various places that once the basic requirements of life are met (i.e. you aren't eaten, starved or blown up), the society-wide standard of living isn't correlated with happiness. In other words, people who aren't desperately poor haven't been getting much happier over time. However, I take this study with a large grain of salt, because:
a) I can't remember who did it;
b) I don't see how one might reliably gather that sort of data.
Still, interesting to think about.

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby letthemeatquiche » Tue Nov 06, 2007 1:22 am UTC

Nath wrote:I've read in various places that once the basic requirements of life are met (i.e. you aren't eaten, starved or blown up), the society-wide standard of living isn't correlated with happiness. In other words, people who aren't desperately poor haven't been getting much happier over time. However, I take this study with a large grain of salt, because:
a) I can't remember who did it;
b) I don't see how one might reliably gather that sort of data.
Still, interesting to think about.


I'd say this is fairly accurate. Being happy as a human being requires an awful lot more than just having your basic physical needs met. If anything, I'd say society has gotten worse in terms of providing a sense of community and things along those lines that we also need.

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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby Vaniver » Tue Nov 06, 2007 2:34 am UTC

In a word, no.
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby muteKi » Tue Nov 06, 2007 7:13 am UTC

Indon wrote:
letthemeatquiche wrote:
Indon wrote:How are we any less in a 'state of nature' now than 10,000 (or more) years ago?

I submit that the unstable, technologically-advanced, continually-advancing civilization is Homo Sapiens natural environment, and that displacement would be immoral, and perhaps even possibly endanger the species.


The "state of nature" is a conceptual pre-civilization status. It's usually used to explore theories of how humans would behave without society and technology. Of course, without technology we're monkeys, and without society we're, well, nothing. For whatever my BA in polisci is worth, I think it's a flawed concept that we need to stop referencing.


That's what I'd suspected, myself.

Tool use predates Homo Sapiens; our species did not come up with it, but as far as I know employed it from day one, and thus technology and mankind are literally inseperable, like hermit crabs and their shells.


To my understanding, the shell of the hermit crab, in fact, could be considered technology as the crab does not biologically develop it but instead scavenges for shells from other creatures that have been shed and uses one that fits.
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Re: Were we better off in a state of nature?

Postby quintopia » Tue Nov 06, 2007 5:08 pm UTC

TheStranger wrote:
It would suck, compared to modern society. Spending nine hours digging through the forest looking for a handful of tubers to feed your family sounds bad compared to a 5 minute wait at Starbucks.
. . .
Every day is a struggle to find food (a not always successful one). diseases and injuries that are mild annoyances today were killers before antibiotics / surgery


Perhaps you have never read Genesis. First of all, if a society was strictly hunter-gatherer back then, it was because food was plentiful. Societies could subsist with little effort with rudimentary farming, and a little bit of hunting and gathering. On the whole, I would expect a whole lot less effort out of the HGS. For example, 9 hours in the forest could result in a week's worth of food for a tribe. A few weeks of hunting and gathering could result in months of food, if properly cured and stored. And while diseases were more deadly then, they were never pandemics, and injuries were far less likely to be potentially fatal.

As a more concrete example, I have heard or read many accounts of the Sioux being a "lazy" society, spending a great deal of their lives taking their ease. (Although, such accounts are generally from the white men who observed them before Little Big Horn, an I don't know how much to trust them.) If this is true, then we have to ask: If every day was a struggle to acquire food for all hunter-gather societies, why were the Sioux able to become recognized for how much time they spent on recreative pursuits?


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