On this note, I should properly declare something really sinister: I don’t have any formal education in the level of human behavior I will examine. Rather, I do have a keen eye for human beings, having being one my self, and my graduate studies are intimately connected with human nature. I am open to criticism and contribution to my limited knowledge of the subject.
In the following paragraphs I will discuss my take on rationality and instinct as well as argue why I think our outdated instinct is the source of our problem today.
Starting with rationality. To say a decision is rational it must fit a simple criterion: better. A rational decision is one that leads to a better situation. What is a better situation? Well that depends on the situation really. But I think we can make a sweeping generalization, that is the better situation almost always the one that we think at that time will ultimately lead to a better chance of survival. Survival as in self-preservation. Of course, not all decisions that we make have to have some thing to do with increasing our chance of survival? Nonetheless many of out decisions is directed towards that end, even thought we might not always be aware of it. Try this, if can think about the decisions that you make and question the ultimate motivation of them. For example, most of have gone to school; we go to school because we need to have a career, why, because we need money to eat and shelter for our protection. – Survival.
Many other seemingly trivial decisions in our life may also be self-preservation decisions even when we are not aware of it. Human desires, feelings and habits are often link with our survival in this article I will use instinct to describe them. A common example of such instinct is our desire for sex is to reproduce, perpetuate our genes and survive. While in developing countries it is also a mean to have your offspring take care of you when you grow old. Other examples of instinct are feeling such as fear which discourage actions that might leads to reduce chance of survival; nervous prepare our muscle for the perceived danger and ahead; little kids whom don’t like bitter vegetables little do they know that bitter veggies are often hard to digest for their underdeveloped stomach. Instinct tells us how to survival in our surroundings.
Now, both rationality and instinct are gear for our survival. However there is one crucial difference: instinct are inherent it’s something that we are born with its like our hardwired survival manual. Its strength lies in its ability to act without much detail processing through our brains and sometime bypassing our conscious giving it the ability to act quick. It helps us to react to sudden movements like run when a car is about to hit you. Research has shown that people without instinct have problem living and unable to get them self out of dangerous situations quickly. Because it does not require much brainpower it also means that it is less capable of anything other than shallow examination of our environment. Whereas rationality are learned, it’s our conscious interpreting our environment and make decisions to react base on information about the environment that we learn after birth. Counter to instinct it is able to insightfully survey our environment and make sophisticated calculations.
This is where the conflicts lie. Our instinct is way out of date! Its does not know the world has change; it thinks we still live in the jungle. When is the last time that you cant help resisting a chocolate knowing that you will only gain unwanted weight
? In that scenario your instinct is telling you that you need to stock up on energy/sugar so that you can live through another day. What your instinct don’t realize is that food is hardly a problem for people in modern developed world, we just go to the supermarket and pick them up, no more hunting and no more foodless winters. This is the problem with modern human beings, we are not always aware of these problems but they are constant part of our daily struggle. Impulse decisions people regret later can usually be attributed to it.
This is not trivial. Some reader might begin to regret spending the last 20 minutes reading this. Understanding this allow us to see our problems from a different angle.
Effect in politics
If you believe as I do that human being will be a lot better of if we can all work together than you might like to know that one of the fundamental element that is making its hard for that to happen is our instinct. Its not that instinct do not recognize the benefit of cooperation, it does and it encourage it by giving people the sense of belonging to a group fill with people of same identity. Instinct is better able to form bonds with people of related genes whom are often identified via appearance and language they use. Sometimes this view may be reinforced by rationality via nationality or religion. Instinct is less able to trust and cooperate with people it deems to be of different identity. An extreme expression of this is racism. The makes its harder to cooperate even when rationality understands that the benefit of cooperation outweighs confrontation. Sometimes the belief that other identities will cling on instinct effects rationality’s calculations. Realist political philosophy is such an example: trust no others because your can never be sure that you will not be dominated when others have the power to do so even if they rationality know no benefit will arrive from such domination. Perhaps domination is in our instinct too, for in the past weaker neighbors are weaker enemies. Today our rationality tells us otherwise, weaker neighbors will leads to refuge floods, economic instability, and even terrorism as some western countries have experienced in the pass.
One happy thought
I have never in my academic years read anyone who attributes the malice of our political realm to our emotions. Have I just created a new school of political philosophy? Can I call it the Hanian School? Please, can I? Keep dreaming Steven!!
Graphic source: www.byronfineart.com.au/ades.htm