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Free «Human nature and war» Essay Sample


War has been a concern all over the world. War has adverse effects not just to the parties involved but also in the rest of the world. The world has become an open economy and therefore, what happens in one region affects other areas either economically, politically or socially. This is the reason why war is being rebuked by the society.

This essay discusses human nature and war and the reasons why there are always conflicts. Many studies have been done on human nature and violence. This essay discusses two theorists of human nature and war: the human nature theorist and the cognitive theorist. The human nature theorists support the idea that humans are inherently violent. They believe that the violent nature was as a result of the evolutionary process that human beings underwent through. On the other hand, the cognitive theorists believe that humans are violent as a result of the environment in which they are brought up. They learn to be violent, and they can, therefore, relearn and become peaceful beings.

The fact that war is at its lowest level since time immemorial is an evidence that violence is learnt behavior and can be relearn if the society is ready to take responsibility to end it.



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Human nature is the distinctive characteristics that tend to be possessed naturally by human beings. These characteristics may include ways of acting, thinking and feeling. They tend to have these distinctive characteristics without any cultural influence. Humans naturally tend to be aggressive and violent. The main purpose for this is to support genetic fitness. The competition for food and resources ensures survival for the fittest and the weak ones are eliminated. This hostility leads to runaway reactions. War and violence are as a result of exaggerated ethnocentrism and unreasonable exaggerated loyalty to relatives and tribesmen from one`s community. Some forms of aggression are not inherited like the ones that come up as a result of a military formation. When military is formed, this ensures only the aggressive gene survives. Humans have to recognize their aggressive natures and put an effort to overcome aggressiveness that leads to war. Aggression with harm as the main aim is violence. Not all instances of aggression can be termed as violence.

Increased violence has been identified to be caused by some factors such as exposure to violent movies and films (Bushman & Huesmann 2001), guns accessibility (O’Donnell, 1995) and violence exposed to children both at homes and in schools (Hyman 1995, Straus 2000).

Humans have the capability of being violent as well as being peaceful. Since humans are self centered conflicts will always arise. There are different methods that can be used to resolve these conflicts without destructions. The warring humans can also learn from the non warring communities on how to resolve conflicts. Use of violence is a primitive way of dealing with conflicts in the 21st century and the society is condemning it.

Studies have been carried out by different scholars to find out why violence is always there. This has resulted to two theorists, the human nature theorist and the cognitive theorist. The human nature theorists believe that humans are inherently violent. This means that it is natural to have war between different regions as it is part of life. The cognitive theorists believe that humans are peaceful, and they have the ability to solve their conflicts without war.

Human nature theorists

This group of theorists supports the argument that violence is a natural part of humans. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Hobbes came up with theory to explain the human nature. Hobbes based his theory on the assumption that humans are innately violent and competitive. According to Hobbes the selfish characteristics of individuals lead to conflict and eventually into war. Individuals are motivated to act for personal benefits. This competitive nature of the humans for resources has led to survivor for the fittest. Only those who are aggressive are able to get the best in life. This is part of the evolution theory where only the fittest organisms are able to move to the next generation. Ability to control human desires would reduce chances of war. Hobbes had followers who also thought that humans were naturally violent and cannot change.

Pinker believes that the human nature is as a result of evolutionary forces. These forces make humans to be pitiless, heroic and compassionate. He argues that although humans may keep their bloody desires, some historical trends like women empowerment, improved education system, more prosperity, stronger governments and trade will make us tame these desires.

Pinker argues that violence has been decreasing over time. According to him, the most peaceful period on the history of man is today. Humans have been getting gentler and kinder with time. The use of slavery, mutilation, genocide, death penalty and human sacrifice were means of resolving conflicts in the past. This means that the violent nature was there since time immemorial. In today's world, such acts are highly condemned and are no longer in use in conflict resolution. These facts are no longer appreciated as forms of progress and civilization. These acts are now being viewed as dangerous and corny, and they are being discouraged.

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As a result of condemnation by society, the acts of violence have declined at a high rate all over the world though not at a uniform rate. The society is against acts such as genocide, war, homicide and inhumane treatment of children and animals. Violence is still found in the Bible where nations celebrate when they kill their enemies. The Bible is a source of moral guidance and, therefore, human beings in the past perceived war as a method of resolving conflicts. There was also stoning to death for those who did not follow the laid down laws. In additional to the Hebrews killings, other tribes such as Chinese, Christians, Hindus and Muslims celebrated genocide and torture. This means that even in the ancient times the violent nature of man was still there. They celebrated victory after winning the war and they could even torture the slaves that they got. Human beings can easily recall that was violent than a peaceful event.

The reason why there is a decline in violent behavior among the different populations in the world is because there has been a change of attitude towards war. People have stopped glorifying acts of violence, and this shows their human nature is slowly changing. However, despite this change of attitude human beings still want to be violent. They fantasize about killing those they hate, and they enjoy watching violence in movies and films.

The only thing that has changed is the willingness to take up actions and fulfill their fantasies. As a result of self centrism and fear, individuals will attach one another unless there is a policy guiding what they should do. Therefore, the state should take it as its responsibility to put down these policies, hence, reducing chances of violence. Where there are fallen governments and collapsed empires violence has become the day to day activity.

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Use of technology and lengthening of economic efficiency has also made humans put more value on their lives, and they do not choose to engage in violent activities. The need to cooperate to achieve more has also made people value their lives. The expansion of molar circles makes it hard for one to want to hurt what surrounds them. One stops being self centered and will try to ensure that he/she is at peace with his/her environment. Therefore, we should work to end the violence that is there today for the future generations to enjoy peace.

Wilson compared the human nature to the ants. Wilson argued that just like the ants have ecological dominance on the microhabitats they occupy human beings have their own macro world. Human and ants gain superpowers by cooperating in groups and doing away with the selfish desires. There are many benefits to this social living, but there are just a few species in the world that get eusocial benefits. This is because it is difficult to sacrifice personal interest for the group. Human beings have the eusocial nature but not like that of the ants because of humanity aspects such as emotions and intellect.

The human hyper social spirit can build or ruin their lives. It is easy to make strangers work together and they can be turned against each other easily. The competition between the individual and everyone else to have the best in life also cause some of human desires that may eventually lead to violence. According to Wilson the violent condition is a prevalent turmoil originating from the evolution process that we are formed from. Nonetheless, by accepting ourselves and applying reason human beings can change the world to be a paradise.

Stoessinger argues that it is the individual leaders who are the main determinants of whether nations will go on war. He gives different historical events such as the events in former Yugoslavia to prove his arguments. The nation leaders are the decision makers in bringing countries into conflicts. The ego and character traits of the leaders make them commit to going to war. Other issues like religion, territorial dispute and economic factors may be just contributory. The case studies of various leaders like Hitler and Saddam show that the leaders of countries are the leading causes of war.

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The leaders planning to attack the other nations find themselves powerful and engage in war with hope that the war will be for a short time, and they will be the winners. Poor judgment and incorrect perceptions by these modern leaders led to disaster and suffering of the natives in these countries. He emphasizes that moral courage is extremely beneficial, especially when governments must confront evil. The leaders must also not let their ego cause suffering to the people.

Konrad Lorenz argues that humans social behavior is not only determined by culture and reason, but also by behavior that is adapted phylogenetically. He brings up the idea that humans are biologically violent, and they can control this behavior through ceremony and ritual (Perlmutter, 1999). Since humans are biologically violent this would mean that the violence that is watched in the media shows real life happenings. Though it might be fiction films human beings enjoy watching violence movies. This makes violent to be acceptable to some extent in the society. However, violent films are meant to give therapeutic discharge of the aggressiveness in humans.

Ghiglieri argued that only the strongest males got the female mates. He connected aggression of males with sex. In order to get the best the males had to be aggressive (Ghiglieri 1999). To conquer this aggressiveness in men one must first understand it and get knowledge on the natural emotions that make human beings carry out these acts. Males are violent because they want to be appreciated by their partners. This is the reason they carried out activities such as hunting in order to be courageous in times of war.

Cognitive theorists

According to these theorists human violence is behavior that is learned just like any other social behavior. This violence can be acquired either as a result of direct experience or by observation.

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Unpleasant experiences produce negative impacts that automatically stimulate different thoughts and memories and responses that lead to fight and fight tendencies. The fight tendencies give rise to feelings of anger that may cause an individual to be violent. These violent thoughts and behavioral trends are connected together in the memory (Collins & Loftus 1975). These theorists argue that humans are violent because of the environment they are brought up in and the experiences they get. These scholars are for the idea that violence is evitable and can be controlled.

Post argues that leaders with high distrust of the people they are working with and a strong sense of nationalism have a higher possibility of observing politics as a way of dealing with intimidation. These leaders are always suspicious about other people's intentions and actions. They are always hypersensitive to criticism and think that they want to challenge their authority.

This is the case with leadership of Hussin. He had high scores on distrust and nationalism and hence the war and conflicts during his leadership in Iraq. Trait analysis of leaders can easily show leaders who are likely to get into war. Character traits of a leader influence the leadership style. Character traits are observed from the way these leaders talk.

Douglas Fry argues that humans are not as demonic and bloodthirsty as they are thought to be. The cultural believes that are there about human behavior are the ones that lead to the behavior. He tries to prove to readers that humans are supposed to be seen as peacemaking primates. His view of human nature has a significant impact on the reduction of violence.

Fry does away with the previous believe of some scholars that human violence is an inevitable behavior. According to him even the baboons make peace with one another. Human beings have the ability and capacity to solve their differences without violence. There is a lot of under appreciation of human potential to resolve conflicts and scholars tend to emphasize on violence, making it look natural. Fry argues that incase war was natural then human beings would not be putting effort to do away with it.

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A macroscopic examination suggests that humans can be able to replace violence with global conflict resolution measures that would ensure there is justice, human rights are observed, and people are being secure. Human beings are exposed to different cultures and beliefs and they also have different views. These views and culture influence the way these human beings think. If they are exposed to the view that violence is natural they tend to take the view as part of their culture without questioning it.

Through studying anthropology materials, Fry came to a conclusion that warfare is not evolutionary and can be changed. By abolishing war, there will be less destruction of life and property, since conflicts will be handled in more constructive methods. There are non warring communities such as Semai of Malaysia who flee into the forest when attacked. There are more than seventy non warring cultures, and they are able to solve their conflicts peacefully. This further proves that violence is not natural to human, but they learn it from their culture and the environment in which they live. These communities have significant value for social harmony. Some countries such as Switzerland and Sweden have also been able to survive hundreds of years without violence. The studies by Ember and Otterbein also prove this fact. The thought that war is a universal thing is, therefore, not true.

According to Zinn the argument that humans are naturally violent is dangerous and wrong since there is no evidence to prove it. This argument is the one that makes humans violent because they are made to believe by the society that being violent is normal. However, Zinn proves that there is no evidence that humans are naturally violent.


Zinn argues that violence is the result of social circumstances and not natural instinct. He agrees with John Stuart, an English philosopher, that it is vulgar to attribute the different characters and behavior to inborn, natural differences. He believes that the beliefs that are there about human nature are just self fulfilling forecasts.

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Zinn criticizes Wilson`s view on human nature. He argues that there is no evidence either in genetic, anthropology or psychology that can show humans are naturally violent. He argues that Wilson's ideas depended on his definition of the words “aggressive” and “innately”. In his view, Zinn argues that humans have the potential of being peaceful as well as being violent. Therefore, the behavior of humans will depend on the circumstances they find themselves in, and the circumstances they create. There is no gene that is known to cause aggression. In the science of genetics no gene is known to carry personal traits from one generation to another. Traits such as kindness, competitiveness, and violence are not known to be genetic.

One of the distinguished biologists, P.W.Medawar, argues that a moral judgment is not controlled by genes or hormones. Thus, it is scientifically incorrect to argue that war is caused by instincts. During the time of war, some of the soldiers do not kill even if they have been ordered to kill the innocent children and women. Those who kill they do so because it is an order to do so. Study by Colin Turnbull concluded that different people act in different ways as a result of the environment they are brought up in and not genetics (Zinn, 1991). Zinn`s arguments are based on these experiments. It has been scientifically proven that genetics has nothing to do with violence.

Grossman argues that most of the participants in battle are usually frightened and when they see bullets flying the start using the midbrain to think. This part of the brain is primitive and cannot be differentiated from that one of other animals. This is observed when there is opposition of killing one's children.

Study done by L.A Marshall showed that only less than 20% fired their weapons at enemy soldiers. These further shows the opposition to kill owns species. Humans tend to resist killing each other, but circumstances and conditions force them to kill. The soldiers only fired when demanded to do so by their leaders. When alone they were unwilling or unable to kill their enemies and other scholars also confirmed Marshall`s conclusion that humans are not naturally killers. This led to revolution in war training, and deeply embedded conditions were put in place of firing at targets. This was the only way to make the primitive part of the brain to act.

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Joseph Fahey argues that the decision to go or not to go to war is the result of self interest, and it can also be part of one's duty. Conscience and customs also affects one`s perception on such matters as war. Ethical decisions on war and peace have to ensure happiness and integrity to those affected.

Intellectual wars also exist like the one between intellectuals and capitalists (Kahan, 2010). The intellectuals want to be recognized because of their level of education while the capitalists feel they have the money, and they should also be respected. This conflict is as a result of their mindset and ego and each one wants to outdo the other. These theorists tried to find out reasons for human conflicts and why it is difficult to eliminate these conflicts.

Flyod argues that human beings are composites of error, ignorance, and chaos.  In the infancy humans begin to cling violently to behavior, thought and emotions that appear to bring protection from dangers. They try to preserve these patterns of behavior and only impose them by violence if required. These patterns become rooted, they stick into the substrate where they function unseen and unquestioned, and they become 'natural'. He argues that humans should resist these behavioral patterns ingrained in them. This because the effect of war lasts forever even though the country involved achieves victory.

In the film Soldiers with Conscience, the soldiers are forced to make choices to kill other humans. This haunts them for the rest of their lives yet they kill because someone else ordered them to kill on their behalf. The soldiers in the military have to fight the instinct that warns them not to kill. The Pentagon recruits the soldiers to kill without listening to their conscience. Some soldiers go to the extent of leaving the army since they cannot obey such orders. This shows that the soldiers have to learn to be violent so that they can execute the orders as required.

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From the evidence obtained from the various sources, I support the cognitive theorists on the reasons for human conflicts. This theory has provided scientific evidence to show that there are no genes that are associated with violence. It has been scientifically proven that the environment that humans are brought up in profoundly influence their behavior and character traits. Exposure to torture and violence causes one to be bitter, and this can be transferred to other people.

The fact that war and violence have significantly reduced as compared to the past, shows that human are not naturally violent, since they can control their actions. Human beings have learnt that they need each other for them to be empowered economically, socially or politically. They have therefore learnt to appreciate one another, and the need to live in unity.  Soldiers kill because they are commanded to do so. This is their duty as part of self defense and protection of their states. They have to overcome the human instincts that warn them against killing their own species. The rules and regulations that guide them require them to kill for self defense and as a duty.

If human beings put an effort and understand the causes of violence, the massive deaths that happen during war can be prevented. There is a need for them to come up with non destructive methods of solving conflicts. To overcome the violent behavior they have first to know its causes and the impact it has on the society. War leads to social, economic and political instability and this has adverse effects on the people of these areas where there is war.


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