The social wolf

lupo 1It’s nine o’clock of a foggy morning and just like every single day a crowd of desperate souls flows over London Bridge to reach their workplace. They keep on walking “up the hill and down King William Street ”  with their head bowed and their “eyes fixed before their feet as if they had neither past nor future. This famous section belongs to Eliot’s Waste Land, but today would Eliot really conceive the same scene to stress the meaninglessness and hopelessness of modern society? Would it still work? I guess he would need to think about something else and you know why? All these lost souls would hold a fancy smartphones in their hands as remedy to their loneliness and stare at the colorful screens in rapture rather than fix their toes.

lupo3Modern man is “social” and happy to be so, there is no more loneliness, since the web can provide you with a good bunch of friends, a community you can chat with, ready to help you mitigate your sorrows or dissolve your doubts. It is in this new modern dimension that  man seems to express better his natural tendency to associate with others. But is it really so?  Many philosophers have always been controversial about the “social” nature of man. Aristotle, for example, was one of those who was convinced that men associate with one another instinctively, it is in their DNA and they do it for two reasons: to satisfy the reproductive instinct which leads men and women to unite and  the self-preservation instinct, which causes master and slave to come together for their mutual benefit. For Aristotle the state is a natural society and the proof that nature intended man to lead a social life is his faculty of speech, which no other animal possesses. And nature does nothing in vain, does it?

lupo 4Aristotle seemed to have some good points about it, but Hobbes along with Rousseau and Locke refuted Aristotle’s thesis one by one, dismantling his optimistic view. Hobbes in particular held that societies were not a product of a primeval instinct, but rather an explosive mixture of mutual fear and need, which, if it weren’t disciplined by a strong authority, the State, it would lead to an uncontrollable series of abuses and violence. Man is  “homo, homini, lupus“, that is a dangerous animal, a wolf, who actually displays the following characteristics, which seems to be in antithesis with the idea of “homo socialis“:
1) he is competitive, that’s why he is dominated by feelings such envy, hatred which lead eventually to war;
2) man develops private interest and he is happy, when he compares himself to others in order to excel/prevail;
3) man, being endowed with reason, is inclined to criticize the behaviours and actions of others and in particular of those who rule, as he is convinced that they if he were in their shoes, he would do much better. Such a conduct leads to divisions and civil wars;
4) this final point is the one I love the most and made me ponder a lot. Aristotle’s observation upon man’s faculty of speech seemed incontrovertible, but Hobbes disintegrates it, pointing out that man is the only one in nature to use his communicative  faculty to lie.
Hence, the contract which is at the basis of any human society is not natural but artificial.

Therefore, I cannot help but wonder: is the web the place where men can perform their honest social instinct or that fertile land where they can become more esily wolves?


30 thoughts on “The social wolf

      • That is why God is looking down from above to see the hearts of mankind and work in their hearts. Repentance. That is why, ” the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” as stated in the book of proverbs.

  1. Interesting. I think I agree with Yoshiko.

    In the history of technology, it’s always been a case of good or bad, depending into whose hands it falls. The web is only another stage upon which humans perform, either to creative purpose or destructive end.

    I think it’s a wonderful place for introverts to communicate. It’s also good that you can turn off the power when you’ve had enough of people! But I don’t like that it’s a place where people can abuse, bully, demean, and plot violence.

  2. So interesting. That’s really made me think. Hobbes saw the worst in men it seems, but I’m having trouble disagreeing with him. I wonder if part of reaching for a life that has integrity, authenticity and meaning is reaching for a life that goes against our nature? I wonder if that’s why it’s so hard? You’ve certainly explained why the web is such a mess. Great post.

    • I agree with you, I find hard to believe in the good nature of men ( mine included 🙂 ) You have to consider that there is not a real control, the State/ authority, in the web, this is the reason of the mess you were talking about.

  3. Stefy a though provoking post. Finding the balance with technology and social media has become a personal work of mine. In the last year I have ‘met’ so many wonderful people from around the world via the technology and yet I need to ensure my living is not overshadowed by the draw of the ever increasing accessibility.

    • I know, I read one of your comments in another blog where you explained how you work on your beautiful blog. The word “work” does not exist if we do a thing we like Confucio said , it’s pure pleasure and we forget the effort. Furthemore it daily gives you/me the chance to meet interesting, beautiful people ….well, “web” beautiful , woould it be the same in real life ? 😉

  4. Both. The cyberworld is populated by the same people who walk across that bridge, and they can perform their social instinct or become wolves just as easily in both environments. Perhaps not the same ones in each environment; nonetheless, both! 😉 xoM

      • Yes, it would seem that the net’s cloak of anonymity would remove a layer of restraint. I also feel it’s an illusion to think that people are more inclined to behave badly in cyberspace than in person. If the inclination is there, the venue to act it out will always be found. Easier? I’m amazed by how easily people have lied to my face! lol xoxoM

  5. I’m more on Aristotle’s side. It’s very easy to emphasise darkness. Darkness was before light, and as Ursula le Guin said in her wonderful book, light is the left hand of darkness: they are yin and yang. It is necessary to acknowledge darkness, but to dwell on it increases, just as to dwell in light increases it.

    • Theologian and philosopher Vito Mancuso maintains, that in the eternal struggle good vs evil , man is naturally attracted by good and tends to it. Hence in time he will be able to redeem his evil/ dark side of his soul. This vision could be a good compromise 🙂

  6. Interesting article, interesting perspectives, and interesting comments. It intrigues me when we use historic philosophers as a basis to compare/contrast today’s world, humanity, and behaviors — when the environment, what influences it, and the advent of technology makes for such a different social construct in 2014. Today and we who inhabit Western cultures is/are what it is. Alone, the present state makes for a fascinating study sans past elite minds.

    This matter *is* social, with open-ended definitions, and biases galore. I’m wondering how parsing “it” solves or changes directions and/or outcomes, especially for the better.

    I’m not a philosopher, an academic, a debater or a dreamer. I’m a simple, grounded person who believes our energies, gifts and skills ought to (individually and collectively) be channeled, now, into doing the best we can for humankind, with the depth of resources that are available to us. Damn the politicians and corporations. Their just due will arrive.

    • I completely agree with you Eric, when you say that our energies, gifts and skills should be properly channeled , as I believe man naturally tends to good ( I made mine theologian Vito Mancuso’s words, even if I am an agnostic). Increasing the quality of education and awareness is the solution. Hence, this work should be impemented at shool.

  7. You raise such interesting questions. I wonder if the difference in world views is related to that of liberals vs. conservatives (in the American sense.) I’ve heard it said that conservatives, especially Christian conservatives, believe that because humans are born with original sin (would we call this inherently “dark,”) they need a strong authoritarian ruler/social rules to keep them from going “to seed.” Liberals are more often to believe that humans are born either as a blank slate or inherently good and it is only society that makes us go “bad.” Therefore being free from authoritarian restraints makes us better.

    What do you all think of that dichotomy?

    • Rousseau said man was born free and society chained him, making him unhappy and evil , but I don’t think we are evolved enough to get rid of authoritarian restraints, which for me are represented by the State ( think about the economic crisis of 1929). As I said before a top quality education is the solution for the years to come.

  8. Thank you, a very interest post! I would have to agree, number four is the most thought provoking. I happen to love Aristotle’s philosophies, but often, and it’s sadly that I think, we have evolved into societies that have become overshadowed by fear. I like your reference to the A-bomb, again creating a fear driven state. I can’t help but think that we are who we are, especially when communicating within the non-regulated on-line sub-culture, holding up facades, dropping defenses and social etiquettes. It’s hard to judge the true intent of another individual, good v. bad. As in all societies, historical outcomes and patterns seem to be predictable even on the smallest scales. I hate the fact that Hobbes appears to be winning this race.

    Take care,

    • Hi Pepper, thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Observation number 4 proves the fragility and unreliability of man’s connections. We wear masks to be accepted or to be at ease but there is always a small or big wolf hidden behind them. It is our nature.

  9. Thoughtful post, interesting perspectives… I’m glad I’ve come across your blog, thanks to Sue Slaght. I’m off for a wander through some more of your posts 🙂

  10. Our society is controlled by the web. In fact we can do everything with our computer and if we do not have our mobile phone we feel disoriented. The word “society” came from the Latin “socios” that means mate. It is an organisation of people who work for a common pourpose. Marx said that labour differentiates men from animals, instead I think that reason differentiates us from animals. In my opinion to create a good society we must not use only the web, but we must use a communication driven by honesty. I know that it is difficult in fact every men has a good and an evil part and that depends on what condition you were

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