Right, Left and Wrong – 3

And now for the third and hopefully last part of this long post about Right, Left, Philosophy and Science. You can find the first parts here and here. As noted before, this is more an outline of a future work to do than a definitive text. I am putting here the basic ideas, they need to be refined, fully developed and maybe slightly corrected.

I promised I will scientifically prove that the left is wrong and now is the time to fulfill my promise. Let’s go back to the original argument between « Left » and « Right »: Hobbes against Rousseau about the human condition in the state of Nature: the War of All against All or the Good Savage. It was an abstract philosophical question in the 17th and 18th century when these propositions were made, even if the discovery of primitive people on Pacific islands played a role in the discussion. They had no way of knowing what really happened at the dawn of time. But now, thanks to modern science – paleontology, archeology, evolutionary biology and genetics in particular – we do know, more or less, how humans lived in the state of nature.

I base my argument mainly on the phenomenal work of Tel Aviv University Professor Azar Gat in his groundbreaking book « War in Human Civilization« . Azar Gat aims at explaining why people fight and go to war and, naturally, his book has to encompass a vast array of scientific fields and disciplines. The book is divided in three parts and I will focus on the first one, the most important, that deals with men before the invention of agriculture in the Levant and the start of civilization, 10,000 years ago. Whenever you decide to put the apparition of men, depending on your idea of who can be defined as such – a few million years ago for the homo species, around 200,000 years ago for anatomically modern human beings or some 50,000 years ago for behaviorally human beings, this is the longest time period in human history .

This period is pivotal for explaining human beings during all written history because it was in these dozens or hundreds of thousands of years that human behavior was shaped by evolutionary forces that still influence it today, while the few thousand years of civilization have been too short a time to have any impact on biological evolution.

And what did happen during this period ? Well, basically, inter-clans wars and fighting were permanent and exerting a toll on human lives that has almost no equivalent in historical times. Basically, around 25% of each generation of men were killed in fighting during thousands and thousands of years, a rate that was reached only during the worst years of WWI and WWII. The establishment of the State, after the discovery and development of agriculture, marked a sharp drop in violence among people as a whole even if inter-State conflict is much more spectacular. Life in the state of nature was hard, dangerous, violent and short.

So we have the answer: Hobbes was closer to the truth. But he was not entirely right. It was not the war of All against All but of All Clans against All Clans. What did appear is that human beings always lived in groups, usually of around 150 genetically/family related people, a size that seems to be the basic human unit. Modern human was also able to create wider, bigger groups of related clans, comprising thousands of people, and that is apparently what explains how modern humans could wipe out the Neanderthals who never achieved such level of cooperation between various clans large.

The reality of Man in the State of Nature teaches us at least two things in the setting of our debate between Left and Right:

– Rousseau was entirely wrong and so are the Left assumptions about human nature, and in consequence, all the Left politics and economics.

– But the individualistic branch of the Right, the libertarians in particular, are also clearly wrong. The individual human being that lives as an autonomous entity driven only by his own rationality does not exist. Human beings are social beings and think and behave as a group. Not just a social group, but a genetically/family related group. That’s why Nations exist and are important to people self-identifications. Nations are not an invention out of the imagination of the 19th century’s intellectuals as a fashionable trend wishes to present them. They are based on real and profound human relations and history, deeply encroached in man’s evolution-influenced psyche.

This implies that free-market economics, which rely heavily on these ideas of a free, disconnected individual, have to be adapted and changed to account for a different reality. The basic assumptions, the idea that the market works better when left alone than with government intervention, are still valid and true as demonstrated by Sowell’s theory of knowledge, but the model is obviously flawed somewhere and these insights may help to correct it.

3 commentaires

  1. Justement, je vais ecrire mon seminaire sur ce livre en le comparant a Rousseau et au narratif biblique vu par St Augustin. En gros je suis d’accord avec toi sur tes conclusions mais pas sur l’analyse. Rousseau est un peu plus complique que ce que tu décris. Quand il decrit l’etat de nature il n’y croit pas un seul instant. C’est une hypothese. Lorsqu’il parle de « bonte » de l’homme il entend que la civilisation deprave et abime l’homme, il est soumis a des passions qu’il n’avait pas, comme le conformisme ou la jalousie. La civilisation n’est pas un moteur vers « un meilleur avenir ». Si pour Hobbes, le cadre politique est la pour reguler la violence inherente de l’homme, pour Rousseau la civilisation est celle qui a cree cette violence, il ne parle pas d’une violence entre individu mais son institutionnalisation et la dessus Weber le rejoint. Mais c’est une erreur que beaucoup font. Il faut lire Rousseau attentivement et ne pas se laisser influencer par les racontars de Voltaire.


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