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On Competition as “Human Nature”

Egoists and other self-interested folks often bring up the notion of “human nature” as if it were some deducible characteristic. The problem is that historical evidence cannot be used to argue human nature in a vacuum. If a few masters hold many men in slavery, and the slaves compete to survive, this says nothing about the nature of humans.

It is understandable – though fallacious – to reason that competition and strife are natural; after all, it is the observable reality. However, there is no empirical basis with which to pursue the argument that it is human nature, as opposed to systemic factors – inequality, domination, exploitation, and hierarchy – that produce this result.

When we talk about cooperation – collectivism, socialism, communism – viewing it against the existing statist, capitalist paradigm, in which one must compete to survive, is useless. If one arbitrarily limits himself to being kept in a cage, he will remain so. So when we talk about such revolutionary notions as cooperation – which transcend the arbitrary and baseless limits often set by so-called “human nature” – think big: upright-walking, tool-making, fire. Either social evolution is coming, or our species (and in many senses, the earth) may very well die off (among other somber scenarios). Surely, we wouldn’t be the first humanoids, nor the first homo species to pursue such paths.

Competition need not exist. It is simply a function of our barbaric society – a monument to the primitive state in which we find ourselves. Those ethical positions which argue in favor of self-interest as a guiding principle seek to perpetuate this.

Comment

One of the reasons Christianity spread so much during the Middle Ages was because during the Bubonic plague, the societal norm was for people to abandon their relatives and friends once they were stricken with the disease. This was understandable considering it was highly contagious and people have a strong drive to survive. Christians instead stayed behind and took care of the sick. Many of the Christians died as a result. But people had never seen that level of self sacrifice before and were drawn to the faith behind it, and to the God who was showing His compassion through these selfless believers. -wiser


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