Naked Ape or Homo Sapiens?

According to the pseudo-scientific pessimism of Sigmund Freud in his ‘Civilisation and its Discontents’  “The Truth is that men are not gentle friendly creatures wishing for love, who simply defend themselves if they are attacked, but that a powerful measure of desire for aggression has to be reckoned with as part of their instinctual endowment.”

Another example of this pessimistic doctrine is – “The extremes of ‘brutal’ behaviour are confined to man; and there is no parallel in nature to our savage treatment of each other. The sombre fact is that we are the cruellest and most ruthless species that has ever walked the earth; and …we know in our hearts that each one of us harbours within himself those same savage impulses which lead to murder, torture and to war.” So said Antony Storr in his book Human Aggression. However – if there is “no parallel” in other animals how can such ‘behaviour’ be instinctive?

Submission theories – as applied to society say “Man adjusts to his neighbour by intelligent appreciation of means and ends, and by attaining the mental and spiritual level of recognising and striving for values.” [Lewis, J.  (1969),  Naked Ape or Homo Sapiens?]. “We know nothing approaching this in birds or fish.” (ibid).

On the myth of the ‘territorial imperative’ Robert Ardrey fulminates that “…our infant species is not yet divorced from evolutionary process, nations, human as well as animal, will continue to obey the laws of territorial imperative.” [See: African Genesis, and The Territorial Imperative]. We need to ask the question – what are, and where are ‘animal nations’?

Further territorial myths are stated thus – “The threat of conquest is normal, continua, and rests on an ingredient neither exceptional nor artificial. There is constant probing of others territory. Weakness is inevitably followed by invasion.” Also “Men are predators”.  Humans are not predators – predation does not involve ‘aggression’. Conflict concerning territory between people only arose after the development of private property.

Ardrey further says “I can discover no qualitative break between the moral nature of the animal and the moral nature of man…The threat of conquest is normal…Any symptom of illness, disability or social instability will be rewarded by invasion…A portion of then neighbouring property may be added to the domain of the successful…”. This a biological explanation and even justification for colonialist and imperialistic expansion. Also – what are animal morals?

Ardrey continues – “We have here…an innate behaviour pattern, an open instinct, an inward biological demand placed in our nature by the selective necessities of our evolutionary history.”  This is unscientific rubbish – early humans migrated – they were nomadic. They regarded all territory as ‘common’. Only settled communities with a different settled economic base developed competition over land.

There are enormous differences – man and anthropoid apes. Thus = dawn of reason; mastery of technology; discovery of values; creation of standards. Show us the animal that can do this and you will be shown a human being! [See: M. F. Ashley Montagu.  The Direction of Human Development.  Also: Los Angeles Times 26.5.1968.]. Therefore – concerning the conditions of man’s evolution throughout almost 2 million years of development –

“…placed a very high premium upon his ability to cooperate. Human populations were very small, of the order of ten to one hundred individuals. In such hunting, food gathering societies, mutual aid and involvement in the welfare of others were not only highly valued but absolutely indispensable if the group was to survive…Aggressive individuals simply could not flourish in such societies. Hence it is highly improbable that anything remotely resembling and instinct for aggression, not to mention an instinct for territoriality, would have developed.”  Furthermore –

“…there is absolutely no evidence of this (war-likeness in early man). Hunting, food gathering peoples down to this day tend not to be so. There are a few examples (exceptions) but they are rare. Being small in numbers, early man could not have survived long had they made a habit of warfare.” As we know from ancient history – warfare developed as a concomitant of developments in the Bronze Age, thus –

“…to leave out of account technology and verbalisation – that is to say, language, science and art, the essential trademarks of our species – lead inevitably not only to a simplification but to a distorted picture because these activities permeate and transform even those aspects of behaviour which we share with other species, such as feedings, fighting, mating and care of offspring.” [Koestler, A.  The Observer].

Stereotyped behaviour patterns – apart from those we create ourselves =  not – characteristic of man. Men learn to make responses, appropriate ones, to new and intricate situations. Often where significant features are not obvious. Man = infinitely malleable. Not organically specialised. Reactions are not determined by a set of instinctual drives. Thus Freudian concepts – buttress ideas of Lorenz, Ardrey, and Morris.

Unfortunately for Ivor Montagu – “The inborn restraints that have sufficed to enable the species to survive despite its dangerous potential are not adapted to operate effectively against man’s present increased destructive potential.” [Comment. 27.1.1968 ].  A strange analysis by a Marxist – which sadly resembles the following remarks by Antony Storr – “No mutation has occurred to render us radically different from our prehistoric past and we possess the same instinctive equipment which served to ensure the survival of men for whom existence was a struggle (perpetual).”

It is at this juncture that we can discern the similarities with the inhumanity of the Nazi outlook – Oswald Spengler said in 1931 that – “The beast of prey is the highest form of active life. It represents a mode of living which demands the extreme degree of the necessity of fighting, conquering, annihilating, self-assertion. The human race ranks highly because it belongs to the class of the beasts of prey. Therefore we find in man the tactics of life proper to a bold, cunning beast of prey. He lives engaged in aggression, killing, annihilation.”

However – John Lewis counters such reactionary views by pointing out+ “But if we can understand that aggression is not due to an ineradicable instinct, but, as psychologists have explained, is due to resentment at injustice, is the protest of the under-privileged, the cry of the oppressed creature; or when it appears in the young, can be the result of faults in upbringing, to parental and adult repression – could we not see the possibility of preventing it by dealing with its underlying causes and so lessen the likelihood of interpersonal and international conflict.”

Furthermore “…the basic neurological and psychological difference from animals is the fact that man is not a system of built-in mechanical reaction patterns…”.

And again – “Basic are the biological needs for food, shelter, warmth and the like, which are not fixed instinctive reactions, but needs which find all sorts of different ways of satisfying themselves, whereas an instinct is, by definition, a fixed response to the same stimulus.” True – man’s responses are plastic – not stereotyped. Learning has an important role in such adaptability, therefore:

“Learning to make one’s way in the human environment, the man-made environment, was what was required, not biologically determined reactions to situations for which they were neither designed or appropriate, but thought out situations to the novel and continually changing challenges of the environment.” [M. F. Ashley Montagu.  Los Angeles Times, 1968]. Lewis confirms that “The outstanding characteristic of man is his capacity for the kind of response to the environment.”

Ashley Montagu [The Direction of Human Development] expands that in “So far as his psychological responses are concerned man is almost wholly emancipated from dependence upon inherited biological disposition, uniquely improving upon the latter by his ability to learn that which his social heredity, his culture, make available to him.”

On comparisons Lewis states that “…the evidence indicates that prehistoric man was, on the whole, a more peaceful, cooperative, unwarlike, un-aggressive creature (than we of the civilised world)who  have in historical time become more aggressive in many ways.”

Finally – Lewis points out that “The more modern psychological approach to aggression does not proceed on the assumption that we are dealing with an inborn propensity. What it seeks to do for the person whose basic drives have been frustrated and disordered, and whose neurosis is an expression of that disorder, is to relieve him of factors of deformation and frustration, and to restore him the ability to face life in a normal way.”

Therefore “…the precise situations of frustration or inferiority or fear which lead to aggression on the one hand and withdrawal in a normal way.” For example – Karen Horney was moved to state that – “The environment is dreadful as a whole, and it is felt to be unreliable, mendacious, unappreciative, unfair, unjust, greedy and a menace to the entire development of the individual.”


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