Pro Logica

June 6, 2011

HUMAN BEINGS–A Difficult Subject

Mankind is exceptionally difficult to govern and the following quote explains why. I only wish that I would have written its author’s name.  The ‘HIS’ is my quirk, not the author’s.

The politics of governing a body of human beings is made difficult because each human sees HIS own drives and wants differently from any other human and also prioritizes those drives and wants  differently from other humans and also thinks that HIS drives, wants and prioritizations are more important than all the other humans living within the same governing sphere.  It appears that a human’s governing sphere can exist in various sizes from some type of small family organization to  that of a large empire and some humans seem to be advocating some sort of global governing sphere.  By and large, the most popular forms now consist of the nation state with smaller entities beholden to it.  The drives and wants and prioritizations of individuals are all determined by the emotional state of the individual but with the realization that many of these needs depend upon the cooperation of the other humans,  Human beings also have the good fortune to possess a rational faculty which enabled them to compromise their needs for the good of all within a select group.  The disgruntled ones either stayed and mildly complained or left to form a different group.  A mild herd instinct in humans is what causes some individuals to stay and grumble rather than set out on an unknown venture.



  1. 1. One of the strongest drives of the human is the drive to be accepted. When you hear of “peer pressure” causing an individual to behave in ways quite out of character, then you need to be aware that a main component of the individual’s character is based on the need for group acceptance. We in a sense do have split personalities–one as an individual, the other as a social organism.

    Note that this “split personality” is most obvious in adolescents. Pre-adolescents confront the world as individuals functioning under the watchful eye of a guardian. Then when hormones start flooding their body (adolescence) and the required instinctive mechanisms are triggered, they move from meeting the world head on as individuals to striving to stand facing the world shoulder to shoulder with peers. Of course, peer acceptance requires group conformity. The adolescent as an individual struggles for survival, but he (or she) had rather die than be ridiculed, scorned, or ostracized from the group. (Nature has encoded in their genes the fact that the organism’s struggle for survival as an individual isn’t going to be as successful as the individual’s struggle for survival as a member of a pack/herd/flock/troop/group/gang.)

    2. “Peer pressure” isn’t a force external to the individual. Peer pressure is the result of instinctive mechanisms within the individual. The instinct is one of the factors that drive the individual to strive for group acceptance. But this doesn’t mean no peer would ever twist your arm in an attempt to stimulate you into conformity. It only means such arm-twisting would likely be unnecessary considering the effectiveness of the internal stimulation being experienced.

    3. Organisms are not gear driven. They instead are dynamic systems. For instance, the fruit fly isn’t genetically preprogrammed to seek ripe fruit in a specific and invariable manner. Instead, the fruit fly is motivated by a particular form of internal stimulation–such as thrust or hunger, or the “attraction” of a particular scent. And the fruit fly strives to satisfy the “want” through trial and error and/or as a result of previous learning experience.

    This is true for all organisms. And the only difference between the fruit fly and the whale, or the human for that matter, is the complexity of the organism. We seek ripe fruit for the same reason the fruit fly does. But our behavior is much more complex, because the memories and learned-behavior stored in our “large” brains are more complex. And the reason one person may seek particular fruit while another avoids it is determined by instinctive “wants” and previous learning experiences. (Note: Certain smells may be pleasing to one person but repugnant to another because the second person had previously been “over stimulated” or gotten sick while sensing the smell. Also note we humans have language the fruit fly doesn’t have. We thus develop rhetorical (and most often illusory) excuses for feelings we experience and for our acquired predisposition.)

    The drive to be accepted as a member of a pack/herd/flock/troop/group/gang is directly related to another instinctive mechanism, i.e., the drive to establish one’s self within the “pecking order,” and to maintain that position or elevate whenever possible. Trying to “keep up with the Joneses” or do a bit “better” is instinctive. Much of human so called, “reason” or “intelligence” is spent on such endeavors.

    Comment by unseenstrings — January 27, 2012 @ 7:18 pm

  2. The author of the quote in the post and I, myself, in previous posts have used the phrase ‘mild herd instinct’. Unseenstrings has used the phrase ‘drive to be accepted’, which, in many ways, is a somewhat superior term. Unfortunately, both terms are ambiguous to the extent that the range of variation within the class of human beings is overly large and probably more environmentally influenced than the physiological drives. In this sense, generalizations are much more problematic and exceptions abound.

    Take peer pressure, for example. Can there ever be what might be called a single peer group? True, some peer groups may be unusually large, others may encompass a single area, but eventually their composition and extent changes. It also happens that as individuals age they become less prone to go along unless they have hardened their brain against change of any sort; even if they do not change their mind they are much less prone to be active in their cause. Yes, peer pressure is ubiquitous, but most individuals belong to more than a few peer groups (even if they don’t think so) and their ensuing contradictions over time lead to changes within the entire peer group establishment. Adolescent peer pressure is no exception, but woe to the individual who gets shunned by all peer groups.

    The striking point illustrated by the post’s quote is its political aspect which leads to the question, “How can human beings who have very different goals, beliefs and aspirations cluster into two major political parties that vie for power which often leads to the destruction of their own goals, beliefs and aspirations or to the suppression of other worthy goals, beliefs and aspirations?”

    Comment by Ron Toczek — January 28, 2012 @ 4:29 pm

  3. Ron Toczek said, “…the range of variation within the class of human beings is overly large and probably more environmentally influenced than the physiological drives.”

    That statement confuses me. Is the statement in reference to the variation in the way people look? Are you saying that the individual experiences, for instance, the sensations of his (or her) own hunger-drive, which is quite similar to the hunger-drive that others experience? Does the tastes that the individual develops during maturation have anything to do with the variation in the way one person may satisfy the hunger-drive in comparison to another? Does preference and behavior have psychological roots. Does the psychological have biological roots? Can environmental factors effect biological factors in any shape, form, or fashion?

    I’ll agree the terms “mild herd instinct” and “drive to be accepted” are ambiguous but only in the sense that science currently has no way of measuring the strength of an instinct or the intensity of a drive being experienced. We can only assume that when the gazelle goes down to the crocodile and lion infested watering hole then the instinct to get water or the intensity of the thirst must be overwhelming. And when another gazelle refrains from going down to the watering hole then we can only assume the strength of the instinct or the intensity of the thirst isn’t as powerful as the fear of the lions lurking nearby and the crocodiles in the water. We will not really know whether previous learning experiences modified the internal mechanisms or if some other factor is involved in the behavior variation.

    Actually first I guess we should agree upon definitions. I use the word instinct and drive interchangeably. And by “instinct” I mean a mechanism with genetic components that functions by stimulating the organism with desire, thirst, hunger, and feelings of psychological need. For instance, love would be the consequence of the attraction/bonding instinct. And instincts are capable of being adapted to new and varying circumstances.

    In the New Testament, Jesus stated that he had come to divide family members against one another. Now bear in mind that the family is the most basic of all peer groups. And remember, humans instinctively seek to belong to a group. So once the family has been divided, the members start looking for another group. Wallah – a new group of peers are born whom we call Christians. They even call each other, brother and sister.

    The family group is limited by who is related. The Christian family is limited only by who shares the ideology. And who shares the ideology is limited only to the extent the ideology can be effectively propagated.

    Often a group within a group is designed to foster the larger group. Sometimes a group forms within a group because of ideological drift or radical ideological mutation. The Christian ideology of today isn’t precisely like the ideology held by those who walked with Jesus and listened to his talks.

    How can an individual harden his brain when he is using his brain to do the hardening? Wouldn’t that merely be the brain going into self-defense mode? Or do you feel something separate from the brain is hardening the brain?

    I have no doubt that we do what we WANT when possible. But how can a person choose what WANT he (or she) will be stimulated with on any particular occasion? I know from experience that tomorrow near noon time I shall get hungry, but I am not choosing to WANT to eat, I am only choosing to eat because I experience the WANT, which I did not choose. A man can choose what he WANTS, but he cannot predetermine what WANT he shall experience. And when he tries to predetermine what WANT he shall experience, something besides his conscious self has stimulated him into WANTING to predetermine the WANT. This is like the Buddhist WANTING to eliminate DESIRE. Something had to stimulate him into desiring to eliminate the desire before he would feel a need to eliminate the desire. Isn’t desiring not to desire a contradiction?

    The question, “How can human beings who have very different goals, beliefs and aspirations cluster into two major political parties that vie for power which often leads to the destruction of their own goals, beliefs and aspirations or to the suppression of other worthy goals, beliefs and aspirations?” is a good question. I suspect the answer lies in the fact that we humans are not as intelligent as is commonly supposed. I suspect people swarm to a particular political party because they cannot see the inherent contradiction. I suspect the average person believes the party’s ideology, aspirations, and goals are an extension of their own. I suspect most of them in later life will become like George Carlin did as he was becoming an elder. That is, they will start to see the contradiction when they are too old to do much about it.

    Comment by unseenstrings — January 29, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

  4. Sorry about the confusion but my statement was a characterization of human beings between the one end of ‘ultra strong desire to be accepted’ to the other end of ‘ultra strong desire not to be accepted’. I may be wrong but it is my belief that such a graph would be closer to a straight line than a well peaked bell curve and that whatever variation does exist comes more from environmental experience than any basic instinctual motivation.

    I totally agree that ‘drive’ and ‘instinct’ are interchangeable words in this context but not totally convinced that the drive to be accepted is in the same category as the basic instincts. When we are born, there is a period of acceptance by a group which then awakens this drive but later experiences will definitely modify its intensity, either up or down. The WANT in this case is not like a hunger WANT, yet if it gets deprived it does act in a similar way to the deprivation of any of the basic instincts.

    Hardening of the brain may not be the best phrase to use for the process of habituation. People can become so comfortable or obsessed with a certain way of thinking that it becomes a habit and almost nothing can change that. I would certainly call a well entrenched habitual way of thinking a hardening of the brain. Who knows? I may have some habits along this line which a well reasoned argument could not convince me otherwise.

    As to the Gospel section where Christ says that he came to divide family members, I don’t believe the group acceptance viewpoint is the best way to interpret those words, even though the group of Christians in their community behavior has probably converted more people than any other single cause. The emphasis therein is more on the individual and somewhat against the all-inclusive covenant/law tradition of the Jewish religion. It is also my belief that these words were added at a later time than the earliest gospel versions.

    Finally, I agree with the reasons given in your last paragraph and would add a competitive aspect to most human beings where winning is a major motivation, often trumping individual desires.

    Comment by Ron Toczek — February 5, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

    • Ron Toczek said, “…whatever variation does exist comes more from environmental experience than any basic instinctual motivation.”

      Biologists say that talking about genetic expression without talking about environment is illogical. Seems to me this can be comparable to what you are saying. The instincts, like the genes, function in a specific manner. And any variation in function is the result of environmental influences. The instinct, like the gene, has been designed by evolutionary forces in such a way that the outcome is not determined purely at conception, but determined by a complex interplay between the environment and the gene/instinct under consideration. In fact, genetic determinists would do good to bear in mind that environmental factors created the gene; and environmental factors never quit acting on the gene (or organism) from the cradle to the grave.

      Adaptation is not the organism adapting itself to a particular environment, but instead the environment changing preexisting structure and/or state.

      Ron Toczek said, [I’m] “…not totally convinced that the drive to be accepted is in the same category as the basic instincts.” (brackets mine)

      In brief, what I’m saying is that the dog and cow are “social” animals. And each instinctively strives to be accepted within his/her respective group. My Chihuahuas strive to establish themselves within the “pecking order” and advance that status whenever possible. We humans have a much more complex social life. But the original force behind our strivings (drives) is instinct. However, as stated, one cannot logically talk about instinct without taking into consideration the environmental forces that have molded and shaped the instinct into its current state.

      I assume the difference in our opinion is that you look upon instinct as an unchangeable mechanism. I look upon instinct as a basic starting point that environmental forces change according to circumstance (providing the change is within the “adaptive” limitations of the instinct). A soldier who steps on a land-mine will undergo radical change in instinctive mechanisms, but that change is beyond “adaptive” limits.

      Ron Toczek said, “I would certainly call a well entrenched habitual way of thinking a hardening of the brain.”

      Electricity takes the path of least resistance. Humans do too. However, one should bear in mind that during brain development (which is a life-long process, with critical stages along the way), certain experiences (environmental circumstances) can cause neurons to act as resistors to signals from neighbors. Maybe this can be construed as the “hardening of the brain” that you were talking about. However, this “hardening” is not the result of conscious effort on the part of the organism involved. The human must have already developed a “drive to desire change” before the “will” to change can exist. We can do what we “will,” but we cannot “will” a “will” into existence without the drive to do so already existing. As stated, “drives” are the consequence of instinctive mechanisms, which are themselves the consequence of environmental influences acting on genetic predispositions (which themselves are the consequence of natural selection).

      I’m unsure what the “Jesus Seminar” has decided is most reasonable in regard to the Bible narrative concerning Jesus coming to destroying the family. When Christianity was chosen as the State Religion of the Roman Empire, very possibly the narrative may have been added at that time or the narrative may have been one of the reasons Christianity was chosen as the State Religion. (Clan unity must be weakened in order to strengthen State unity. Besides: “Whose face is upon the coin? Give unto Cesar…” Et cetera.)

      Ron Toczek said, “The emphasis therein is more on the individual and somewhat against the all-inclusive covenant/law tradition of the Jewish religion.”

      Don’t you find it ironic that the human is so easily befuddled and beguiled? Jesus supposedly said that Heaven and Earth shall pass away before one jot or tittle shall pass from the law. Yet many Christians argue whether “good works” or blind belief (absolute certainty in their particular brand of Christianity) will get them to “Heaven.” The Old Testament obligation the the whole law is completely overlooked/ignored.

      The emphasis on individualism is one of the first steps necessary in order to undermine the strength of the clan. Divide and conquer.

      Ron Toczek said, “Finally, I agree with the reasons given in your last paragraph and would add a competitive aspect to most human beings where winning is a major motivation, often trumping individual desires.”

      I didn’t realize until I reread the paragraph you were referring to that my “easily befuddled and beguiled” statement above was another way of saying what I did in that paragraph.

      And I’d like to add that “competitive aspect to most human beings where winning is a major motivation” is merely an extension of the instinct to establish one’s self as high as possible in the “pecking order” hierarchy. Of course, the issue is much more complex than the “pecking order” instinct. Mirror neuron’s must be taken into consideration as well is other instincts and previous learning experiences (environmental circumstances). As stated, instinct is merely the generalization of an inborn tendency, which functions by sending into consciousness a feeling or desire. And this inborn tendency can be modified (molded and shaped by environmental factors).

      Organisms are complex dynamic physical systems. And the human is no exception.

      Individuals are Republican or Democrat because they are easily befuddled, and because the existing Status Quo (past and current environmental circumstances) resulted in them developing such a mindset.

      Comment by unseenstrings — February 7, 2012 @ 2:47 pm

  5. Obviously, the two of us are considering the matter from different perspectives. You are concerned with individual rights. And I look upon such rights like George Carlin, who I mentioned earlier. You see, in this country individuals don’t have any real rights, they have privileges. Otherwise, the “rights” wouldn’t be being changed and/or taken away.

    Well, that was just my opinion. The actual difference between the two of us is that I’m concerned with what causes one person to WANT one thing and another person to WANT something else. The laws regarding whether individuals have a “right” to satisfy particular WANTS are not as important to me as the factors that stimulate the WANT into existence.

    Someone may respond that my close inspection of humans has prevented me from seeing the forest for the trees. To which I would respond that one cannot understand the forest without first understanding those factors influencing the development of the individual tree. A forest is a superficial (but poetic) generalization of many individual trees.

    In my YouTube video titled, “Daniel Dennett and Booger Eating” I point out that the reason one person chooses to eat his boogers and another chooses not to is because one person WANTS to do so and the other WANTS not to. We cannot “will” a “WANT” into existence without first experiencing the drive to do so. And as previously stated, “drives” are the consequence of instinctive mechanisms, which are themselves the consequence of environmental influences acting on genetic predispositions (which themselves are the consequence of natural selection).

    A person is a Republican or a Democrat (or whatever), because he WANTS to be one more than he doesn’t WANT to be one. The choice to be one or the other is not free from the individual’s genetic predisposition, which itself is not free from the influence of personal learning experiences (and other environmental circumstances).

    I’m interested in those factors that could cause a person to WANT to be one or the other. And I’ve come to realize the rhetoric most individuals spout in such cases usually has little or nothing to do with the actual developmental processes involved.

    Phil Ochs’ song “There but for Fortune” (1966) can be modified to relate reality whatever the case:

    Show me a candidate, show me a campaign
    Show me a Republican whose face has grown pale
    And I’ll show you a young man
    With so many reasons why
    There but for fortune go you or I

    Comment by unseenstrings — February 15, 2012 @ 8:19 am

  6. First off, I need to apologize for getting your user id wrong in my first reply and for delaying this response. Sometimes there seems to be not enough hours in the day to do all the things I strive to accomplish.

    Before tackling any specific topics, I gather from your comments that you are a Darwinist and biological evolutionist and put a lot of faith into the pronouncements of scientists, something I was guilty of too. I suggest you read my post on epistemology to realize that scientific pronouncements will probably not convince me of anything, especially in the realms of biology and cosmology. Science, today, represents the extreme example of what I classify as conspiracy theory. Most such theories are considerably shallow and popular ones usually fade out only to be replaced by different ones. Scientific theories seem to be so less preposterous that they attain a sense of high believability but they, too, change due to new observations, sometimes imperceptibly but every once in a while, drastically (Newtonian mechanics to Einstein’s general relativity). No more on this topic since I expect to write a separate post.

    I have read, reread and reread again all your comments and have come to the conclusion that a generalized discussion about instincts and drives of human consciences, though interesting, goes well beyond the political aspects of the original post. The quote really assumes the uniqueness of human consciences and points to other aspects which can be used to govern these ‘difficult subjects’. In saying this, I am advising unseenstrings that I will no longer accept his comments to this post unless they deal more directly with the subject alluded to in the post.

    My feeling is that you have fixated on a supposed drive of acceptance as a most basic instinct of all human consciences. This I most heartily disagree with. Human babies are born into an acceptance group and usually the pleasures of being within the group induce a pattern of life that leads to a sense of group belongingness throughout that life. Additional learning experiences teach that conscience that groups are a diverse lot–acceptance is not always available and sometimes it might even be inimical, unhealthy or unwise. What makes the drive for acceptance not a basic instinct is the lack of a reflex action corresponding to the denial of gratification of the drive. Most human motivations stem from just this sort of innate-environmental interaction with lots of feedback refining the outcome. As a human motivation, I would place curiosity as being more important than acceptance. After reading your last comment, It seems that you are more interested in psychology, a more generalized subject, than political governance. I also get the impression that coupled with your fixation on acceptance as a major human drive it can be used to explain the vast number of ‘wants’ exhibited by human beings. Human consciences are much more complicated; in fact, each is unique.

    Comment by Ron Toczek — February 20, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

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