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Is War Part of Human Nature?

Lisa dedicates her life to studying the behaviours of others. She is currently completing her BA in Psychology and Gender & Women's Studies.

This article explores the question of whether war is an innate feature of human nature through various lenses

This article explores the question of whether war is an innate feature of human nature through various lenses

War and Human Nature

“War is the continuation of politics by other means.” — Carl von Clausewitz

The world is full of people telling others how to vote, which people belonging to which cultures are to be trusted and enshrined, and an overall sense of bitterness towards those who hold contrasting beliefs. Humans’ ability to partake in aggressive behaviours has been ubiquitous since the beginning of the development of the human race.

Historically, countless wars have occurred globally, across borders, and within borders, with war tactics adapting to the different political and social circumstances over time. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors also engaged in forms of combat and hostility, albeit commonly due to alternate reasoning. All things considered, we have also been equally as capable of partaking in actions of peace and upholding empathetic values.

Understanding the root of behaviours that can cause irreversible physical and emotional damage to both our territories and our character aids in the unravelling of why our world and so many people around it are plagued with dealing with hostility and corrupt political systems, and why some nations and people firmly endorse or evade these issues, even though we seem to be equally as capable of partaking in civil actions instead.

Aggressive tendencies can be due to one’s genetic make-up, environment or culture, and/or social relationships. Aggressotype genes may correlate to holding certain political views or have a higher concentration in certain states or cultures, and instinctual in-group/out-group biases catalyze across-border warfare and nationalist dogma. As will be elaborated on, humans have a natural tendency to prioritize and favour their own nation or culture that they most deeply associate with, despite how much one believes that they are wholly independent of nationalism as a concept.

In contempt of engaging in enmity, the values that one holds and their associated culture may be declared to be a personal choice, aggression and warfare are due to, either directly or indirectly, both human nature and environmental factors. As will be substantiated, social and evolutionary psychology concepts support explanations for the instinctual, biological, and sociological qualities of aggression, warfare, and ideologies in support of nationalism.

Aggression has a neurobiological basis

Aggression has a neurobiological basis

The Neurobiology of Aggression

The properties of neurons and neural circuits undoubtedly are responsible for the outcomes of our behaviours. The pathways and chemicals inside our brains function within different areas of the brain, with each area pertaining to a specific function that causes specific behaviours and emotions. Neuroscientists have found certain genetic predispositions that regulate neural networks, leading to them finding associations between genetic mutations and antisocial behaviour (Cupaioli et al., 2021).

But with that, it remains difficult to identify genes that are directly associated with aggression due to the abundance of gene-environment interaction effects (Zhang-James & Faraone, 2015). Nonetheless, Zhang-James & Faraone (2015) have identified 86 genes with mutations associated with aggressive behaviour in a large number of patients, with aggressive behaviour being noted in 95 different, single-gene human diseases.

They came across what are termed “aggressotype candidate genes,” which are a collection of genes that are located on a chromosome that is specifically related to a certain disease or phenotype that is directly related to aggression. A massive 73% of the genes that they studied were connected to aggressotype genes, stating that the genes Glutamate Ionotropic Receptor AMPA Type Subunit 3 (GRIA3) and Monoamine Oxidase A (MAOA) are the largest contenders for susceptibility to aggressive behaviour (Zhang-James & Faraone, 2015).

These genes are especially known to cause aggressive outbursts, with a deficiency in GRIA3 being linked to a general increase in aggressive behaviours (Zhang-James & Faraone, 2015).

Zhang-James & Faraone (2015) correspondingly studied the neural pathways which are involved in aggressive behaviours. They affirm that serotonin and dopamine are known to be critical in regulating aggressive behaviours, with serotonin and dopamine being the most important in this regard.

Extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK)/mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) signalling, methionine degradation, amyloid processing, and reelin signaling pathways are additional pathways associated with aggression (Zhang-James & Faraone, 2015).

The MAPK signaling pathway has been shown to be differentially expressed between individuals who exhibit aggressive behaviour and those who do not. Disruption of the reelin signaling pathway has been linked to decreased GABA function in individuals with schizophrenia or mood disorders, as well as increased aggression in individuals with said abnormal cognitions (Zhang-James & Faraone, 2015).

Irregularities that are akin to these can be seen in images produced via molecular imaging techniques in nuclear medicine, as stated by Cupaioli et al. (2021). Notably, they are viewed through positron emission tomography (PET) scans, single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans, and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans through the gamma radiations produced by radiopharmaceuticals in the machines.

Cupaioli et al. (2021) connected the evidence that these images produced to gene-environment-epigenetic interactions to create a “cascade of aggression”. This cascade made the connection between environmental factors (for example, maltreatment or substance abuse) and genes and their systems to explain how they can lead to neuronal dysfunction/loss (primarily within the limbic system) and/or neurotransmission imbalances (primarily changes in neurotransmitter synthesis, metabolism, uptake, and transport and connectivity) (Cupaioli et al., 2021).

Cupaioli et al. (2021) present the limbic system components, being those of the cingulate gyrus, insular cortex, orbital frontal cortex, hippocampus, subcallosal gyrus, amygdala thalamus, hypothalamus, and the basal ganglia. They state that the types of harm in these areas which can cause dysfunctions are lesions, volumetric alterations, inefficient processing, or altered activity. Further, neurotransmission imbalances related to aggression can be concluded to be found in 6 different systems of the brain which each provoke their own individual processes:

  1. Raphe nuclei neurons: Send serotonin projections to the ventromedial and cingulate cortexes.
  2. Substantia nigra neurons: Send dopamine projections to the cingulate cortex and the central nucleus of the amygdala.
  3. Basolateral amygdala: Sends glutamatergic inputs to the nucleus accumbens.
  4. Serotonin connectivity between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex, and the amygdala.
  5. γ-Aminobutyric acid inhibitory neurons within the amygdala function in the structure of intercalated cell clusters.
  6. Amygdala deviation to the nucleus basalis affects acetylcholine activity.

(Cupaioli et al., 2021)

These anatomical and functional imbalances within the brain’s networks are related to an imbalance in reward, fear, and cognitive control, all of which will generate aggressive behaviour (Cupaioli et al., 2021). With acknowledgment of the above information, it is important to note that multiple environmental factors (e.g., cultural and social contexts, early-life events, life experiences, pharmacological treatments, drug and alcohol abuse) and biological factors (e.g., genetic mutations at neurotransmitter and receptor levels, pathological conditions such as morpho-functional alterations primarily caused by tumours, accidental brain lesions) all contribute to human aggression (Cupaioli et al., 2021).

As such, some of these factors (e.g., genetic mutations) can only be considered as risk factors for antisocial and impulsive aggressive behaviour, while others can be considered as triggers for antisocial and impulsive aggressive behaviour (for example, brain injuries, particularly those to the frontal lobe, as well as substance abuse, which damages the neural networks responsible for emotional decoding, abstract reasoning, and inhibitory control) (Cupaioli et al., 2021).

Brain cancer chromosomes

Brain cancer chromosomes

How Envrionment Affects Neurobiology

Other critical risk variables are crime rates at the neighbourhood and national levels. While these characteristics may contribute to an individual’s proclivity for aggressive attitudes, not everyone who grows up in a deprived community becomes a wrongdoer. Different types of aggression exposure, such as direct/physical and indirect/relational exposure to traumatically violent events may interact with the predilection for aggressive behaviour and may operate to moderate the size of hereditary and environmental perspectives on aggressiveness (Cupaioli et al., 2021).

Centrally, the neurobiological factors which contribute to aggressive behaviours are not exclusive to brain chemistry and their functions but conjointly extends out to the environment and how one’s surroundings, both socially and physically, can create neural changes in the brain by source of affect which can inhibit aggression.

The transmission of genetic traits to succeeding generations is a biological necessity. Because we share the greatest genetic material with our close relatives and kin, we naturally wish to protect them to guarantee the ongoing continuation of our genes. As a result, we may be expected to fight in order to defend members of our kin group.

This is where it helps to recall that conflict was characterized by raiding and ambushing for the overwhelming bulk of human history (Dawson, 1996). It was about stealing items from other people’s kin groups in order for one’s own kin group to occupy them. That is how humans battled throughout most of human history; not as structured nations at war with one another (as will be described later) (Dawson, 1996).

Insofar as genes want anything, they desire continuation; life seeks continued existence. And in order for those human genes to survive, they need people to survive, which requires two resources: food and sex (Dawson, 1996). Thus, it is easy to understand how rivalry for these two resources might descend into violence; this could serve as an evolutionary justification for war (e.g., skill in fighting meant more food because you were better at fighting the food, or a greater chance at targeting women for reproductive purposes).

So, is it conclusive to say that humans are evolutionary or genetically predisposed to violence? Most of us live our lives without murdering a single person, so it is a probable exaggeration to claim that our genes have bred us to be callous killers. Yet, it is conceivable that aggressiveness is an inherent characteristic in humans. And, given the proper circumstances, may manifest itself in acts of violence and war.

Canadian flag waving in Montreal, Québec

Canadian flag waving in Montreal, Québec

In-Group/Out-Group Biases Within the Political and Nationalist Sectors

An in-group/out-group bias can more simply be put as an “us versus them” dynamic which affects how we form certain beliefs or ideologies based upon the beliefs or ideologies that are characteristic of one’s in-group, and the rejection of beliefs or ideologies that are characteristic of one’s out-group.

According to Goel (2021), the creation of in-groups and out-groups is a pervasive human tendency and holds stature as an instinct. We are compelled to make distinctions along these grounds as it is human nature; the reasoning mind has relatively little authority on in-group/out-group systems (Goel, 2021). The in-group is the social group to which we belong. It is always better, more honorable, innocent, honest, and God-pleasing (Goel, 2021). Everyone else comprises the out-group. Its members are weak, deplorable, vile, and can barely even be considered human (Goel, 2021).

The creation of “us” and “others” is universally innate; it pervades every human culture known to us (Goel, 2021). Other branches of the evolutionary tree provide clear evidence of antecedents, and computer modelling demonstrates that group formation and partiality promote cooperation, which benefits one’s fitness on an individual level (Goel, 2021). So, it can be concluded then that not only do we wish to benefit members of our own group, but we also wish to damage members of the opposing group. Once a group is formed, it is not merely that we prefer the in-group and are uninterested in the out-group; we actively strive to disrupt the out-group (Goel, 2021).

According to Abulof (2018), human nature propels people, instinctively, to have a sense of belonging to their kin and to their nation, which explains how modern nationalism is rooted in legitimization — nationalism is, in a sense, institutionally set in stone at a political level. The formation of nations provides us with symbolic immortality, meaning that one’s nationality will be remembered after their death (Abulof, 2018).

While this is not intrinsically harmful, in-group commitments can result in certain powerful psychological tendencies that are potentially hazardous and detrimental to the pursuit of knowledge (and subsequently, the truth) because they can result in warped ideological thinking that prioritizes information that conforms to the ideology and esoteric values of one’s in-group over information that does not (Clark & Winegard, 2020).

Tribalism and Human Warfare

Our ancestral tribes, according to Clark & Winegard (2020), had the capacity for cooperation and coordination with coalition members, and it would have been critical. Thus, it appears likely that humans were shaped by the selective pressures of coalitional conflict to possess psychological abilities and proclivities associated with group competition, such as the ability to discriminate between in-group and out-group members, a proclivity to punish disloyal group members, and an inclination to reward loyal, valuable group members with status and prestige.

Because loyalty and commitment improved an individual’s worth to a coalition, they were, and continue to be, rewarded with status and resources; and because disloyalty was damaging, it was and continues to be penalized by depriving the fickle individual of status and resources (Clark & Winegard, 2020). At their most heinous, crimes of perfidy were punishable by death. As a result, natural selection rewarded people who formed and demonstrated devotion to present or future group members (Clark & Winegard, 2020).

This explains why humans are a uniquely tribal species, one that finds purpose and identity from group membership and rewards and reveres dedicated and useful group members with reverence and plaudits (Clark & Winegard, 2020). Collaboration and trade are more fascinating than the violent and destructive parts of global history since one could believe they are more significant. However, war is still a very critical stage in global history.

Clark & Winegard (2020) state that modern tribalism influences human behaviour in at least 2 ways: in-group favouritism (as previously discussed) and ideological epistemology. Ideological epistemology, meaning ideology’s capacity for influencing one’s thoughts and insights about reality, causes desires to adhere to communal ideas which can alter world views and undermine epistemic processes, resulting in predicted biases, impaired judgment, and erroneous beliefs (Clark & Winegard, 2020).

Authentic beliefs, on the other hand, tend to be more compelling, and many views influenced by social motives are formed by unconscious processes and calculations, with people reasoning only after reaching a decision (Clark & Winegard, 2020). Thus, the majority of thinking is strategic in nature and is intended to convince, defend, and show commitment to others, rather than to calmly judge between competing claims. Clark & Winegard (2020) also specify 3 different types of ideological epistemology:

  1. Selective exposure (or selective avoidance): Humans purposely approach or avoid certain pieces of information.
  2. Motivated skepticism (or motivated credulity): Humans provide favourable and charitable treatment of congruent information and less favourable and critical treatment of incongruent information.
  3. Motivated certainty: Humans’ affinity for arrogance and insensitivity to plausible counterarguments and exchanges of beliefs.

An appropriate illustration of motivated certainty is unambiguously supporting open borders without understanding the costly trade-offs, or having exaggerated levels of confidence about a politically significant and complex topic in which one is not an expert (and on which the actual experts possess relatively substantial opposing views).

People’s political biases grow more vague or unclear as the information becomes more ambiguous or obscure, although people reject this as they have the tendency to view and remember incorrect information if it portrays their out-group adversely (Clark & Winegard, 2020).

Our tendency towards egotism, which presumably evolved to boost morale and intimidate opponents, is likely to be misinterpreted today, as its original signaling and feedback mechanisms have been lost in the contemporary sense of mass armies, advanced weapons, and military leaders stationed away from the front lines (Cashdan & Downes, 2012).

Black Lives Matter protest, Chicago IL

Black Lives Matter protest, Chicago IL

Tribalism and Selective Knowledge

Humans expose themselves to knowledge selectively because evolution programmed us to seek out the finest narratives and justifications to refute arguments opposing our tribe’s worldview (Clark & Winegard, 2020). We do not squabble in order to ascertain the truth; we squabble in efforts to progress our tribe’s values in order to advance our own individual standards (Clark & Winegard, 2020).

Correspondingly, humans are wary of material that contradicts their tribe’s preferences since we were created to resist data that weakens our tribe’s ethos (Clark & Winegard, 2020). We are driven to deny or disregard expensive trade-offs as they were created to convince people effectively, not to assess complex problems objectively and honestly. The person who guardedly illustrates that open-border policies are highly hazardous because they erode cultural cohesion before recognizing that they are presumably more ethical than other policies is likely to be less convincing than the person who ignores trade-offs and focuses exclusively on the advantages of open-border policies (Clark & Winegard, 2020).

Humans are tribal in nature as a result of our evolution in a setting of conflicting coalitions (Pagano, 2013). These motives are most visible in tribal conflicts, such as war, but they are also visible in intellectual disputes. Modern political issues are the most significant tribal conflicts of the present era; as such, they elicit strong tribal impulses that result in ideological epistemology (Clark & Winegard, 2020). If combat consisted solely in the annihilation or cultural assimilation of adversaries, it might enhance each group’s internal cohesion. However, if one tribe was able to subjugate or conquer another group with a separate culture, conflicts resulted in the instability of their egalitarian arrangements.

Nationalism and Tribalism

The emergence of the industrial revolution in the late 18th century, following the occupation of agrarian societies, was also the coming of age of nations and nationalism (Pagano, 2013). This shift showed the immense possibilities of exploitation inherent in cultural uniformity and war. The switch from having primarily agrarian societies to industrialized communities created differentiated access to land and its commodities, facilitating the exercise of authority over others.

According to Pagano (2013), social mobility is hampered by cultural diversity, whereas cultural standardization is hampered by social immobility. Social mobility and cultural uniformity enabled the exploitation of a wide variety of possibilities and facilitated the powerful process of creative destruction that is a hallmark of a capitalist society (Pagano, 2013).

Societies that were socially stagnant and culturally distinct were ultimately left behind in terms of economic growth and, as a result, economic power. Furthermore, countries that had developed cultural homogeneity were incapable of being conquered; rather, they could readily colonize agrarian societies (Pagano, 2013). Philosophically, this can be represented by a conflict between Hobbes and Rousseau (both of whom were European philosophers active in the 17th and 18th centuries), where Hobbes viewed people as inherently aggressive and warlike, while Rousseau believed that mankind was originally peaceful until civilization arrived (Dawson, 1996).

Numerous anthropologists have asserted, though, that things were indeed very violent in pre-civilization social systems (Dawson, 1996). Thus, Hobbes seems to be correct in asserting that life in the “state of nature” was most likely violent and fleeting. However, could it be classified as war?

Following centuries of cultural difference, the motto “one people, one nation” captured the human imagination (Pagano, 2013). In certain nations, the fight against conventional social and gendered cultural obstacles immediately garnered widespread support (Pagano, 2013). Regrettably, the ancient history of human combat had a comparable appeal, and the increase of physical riches created new vertical inequalities in individuals’ relative positions inside and across states (Pagano, 2013).

This formed the standard that is, according to Abulof (2018), state-legitimacy, being that ethnicity is what makes a nation more legitimate as it holds the national group together. Associated is that of self-determination: “An impulse to resent and resist control by those deemed aliens.” (Abulof, 2018). These schemes, which are in support of ethnonational bonds, are rooted in human nature. It is due to ethnonationalism’s political potency that causes people to kill or die for their nation; “People do not voluntarily die for things that are not rational.” (Abulof, 2018).

Trump rally, Wildwood NJ

Trump rally, Wildwood NJ

Combat has a propensity to generate more combat (ex. “If you kill my friend, it is just going to make it more likely that I am going to kill you.”). In an environment of inter-tribal mistrust, even perceived wrongdoing by an outsider may result in reprisal against other tribe members. It was much simpler to declare war than it was to put one to a stop (Clark & Winegard, 2020).

This is indeed still relevant today. According to Marlantes (2011), a Vietnam War veteran, warriors acquire a feeling of transcendence via combat, by becoming something greater than themselves: “There is a deep savage joy in destruction, a joy that goes beyond ego enhancement.” Today’s soldiers seldom battle for food or mates, but they fight for their fellow allies; not wanting to disappoint your comrades and feeling loyal to the group are motivating factors.

More profoundly, people find combat thrilling; it gets their adrenaline flowing. Marlantes (2011) asserts that “combat is the crack cocaine of all excitement highs”. He reminds us that, regardless of their genetics, soldiers, like the rest of us, have volition; they make their own decisions (Marlantes, 2011). Additionally, he mentions “choosing sides is the fundamental first choice that a warrior makes. The second fundamental first choice of the warrior is to be willing to use violence to protect someone against intended or implied violence.” (Marlantes, 2011). However, for many people over the eons, that option has not actually been much of an option; you duel for your kin group, come what may (Dawson, 1996).

Tribalism and Politics

An eminent connection is that between tribalism and politics, and its relation to ideological epistemology. The best way to comprehend this, according to Clark & Winegard (2020), is to approach human psychology evolutionarily and to distinguish between ultimate and proximal levels of analysis and causality.

The ultimate level of analysis focuses on the evolutionary origins of a trait or behaviour and, consequently, on the characteristic’s evolutionary purpose, whereas the proximate level of analysis focuses on the trait’s more immediate causes (Clark & Winegard, 2020). Although the final reason individuals care so intensely about cherished beliefs and ideologies is that they enable them “join and earn” status in a coalition, this is not (usually) the primary reason that they care. The primary reason is very certainly because they feel strongly about particular topics and principles — that they are emotionally motivated to promote ideas they believe are honourable and to ridicule, assassinate, and discredit opinions they believe are wrong or wicked (Clark & Winegard, 2020).

Tribalism is compounded by the fact that individuals belong to and negotiate with several tribes. Individuals may be passionate about one or two topics and identify with a wider coalition (political party) that supports their policy preferences (e.g., xenophobic principles); or they may identify more broadly with a political party and be less concerned with specific policies (Clark & Winegard, 2020).

While popular discourse on tribal prejudice frequently emphasizes the prominence of political parties, Clark & Winegard (2020) claim that this is rather misleading. While communists are almost exclusively motivated by party concerns and are willing to compromise, bend, and negotiate on specific policies as long as they do not jeopardize the success of the broader coalition, ideologues frequently do not, as their primary concern is not so much the health of a political party as it is the status of their preferred policies (Clark & Winegard, 2020). Thus, ideologues’ tribal prejudices are driven by a desire to advance and protect more particular policies and interests of smaller tribal groups (e.g., evangelical Christians), and ultimately to achieve status for doing so.

A mix of psychological characteristics, self-interests, and individual experiences most likely explains why ideologues are so invested in particular causes, from a proximate level. And, in some respects, such caring is not a case of conventional, party-driven tribalism; ideologues will disassociate themselves from political parties that violate their concerns (Clark & Winegard, 2020). If one wishes to comprehend their prejudices, one must mainly overlook the political party and concentrate on the topic. Nonetheless, they are tribally prejudiced at the ultimate level, as their passionate interests originated for coalitional purposes.

It is meaningful to recall that for most of human history, people lacked the ability to express their own preferences about ideology; individuals’ ideologies were inextricably linked to the community’s (Pagano, 2013). Thus, an evolved disposition to care strongly about morals and ideology would have typically enhanced an individual’s capacity to achieve social status (Clark & Winegard, 2020).

Two foxes fight in Shiroishi, Japan

Two foxes fight in Shiroishi, Japan

The Network of Warfare: Is it in Our Nature?

People seem to think that because war has existed for such a long period of time, it must be ingrained in our nature and constitute an undeniable, biological drive to participate; as stated by the 19th Century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: “I am by nature warlike. To attack is among my instincts.” (Marlantes, 2011).

But this view has been rebutted — war is not a drive that demands release, as food or sex do; a state will not suffer from deprivation if it abstains from war (Gat, 2019). Although battle is not a main motivation for people, this does not imply that they are not hardwired for it.

It is hypothesized that warfare is imprinted in humans as a tool, just as collaboration may be used to reach an agreement rather than utilizing conflict or violence (Gat, 2019). Granting, cooperation would mean working together with a different nation, which is not in our nature, thereby possibly being an explanation for the heavy presence of war. Modern weaponry and extremes of money and power increase both the costs and rewards of combat, as well as the extent to which compulsion may promote violence against a fighter’s self-interest (Gat, 2019). Perhaps less evident are the ramifications of large-scale human socialization, in which people fight against one another but also, as we know, create coalitions against other groups (Cashdan & Downes, 2012).

Human evolution has been influenced significantly by lethal tribal competition. Human social groups have almost undoubtedly competed with one another throughout humanity’s civilization for territory, food, shelter, and mates. At most, the defeated communities will have lost access to desirable territory and reserves; most unfavourably, they were murdered by the victorious group (Clark & Winegard, 2020).

Yet according to Gat (2019), it is pointless to question whether hunter-gatherers are peaceful or militaristic; there is evidence provided for both. Aggression is seen in a wide variety of animals, implying that it has a lengthy evolutionary history. It is a component of our behavioural repertoire and has aided us well in certain situations. Both intergroup conflict and foreign peacekeeping appear to have played a significant role in human political life, dating all the way back to at least 45 000 BP, if not earlier (Gat, 2019).

Auschwitz, Poland

Auschwitz, Poland

For humans, battle did not only foster affection for their own communities, but it also fostered violent disputes, genocides, and exploitation, all of which increased hatred for other illusionary groups (Pagano, 2013). World War II demonstrated the catastrophic consequences of nationalism in terms of the human race’s probable extinction. Humanity’s organization could no longer support unrestricted conflict between competing societies (Pagano, 2013). Specifically, the reigning of the Nazi Party and its strong basis in nationalist regimes, which has been philosophically analyzed by the 20th Century German philosopher Martin Heidegger.

Heidegger believed that Germany needed to be led by Adolf Hitler as his leadership would allow for the people to better decide their own fate (Escudero, 2021). German identity is “linguistically, historically, culturally, and spiritually” moulded by the concept of homeland (Heimat) or native land (Heimatland) – the German mentality is largely defined by the Germans’ connectedness in their heritage and history, in their culture, and physical environment (Escudero, 2021). The living space is a collection of locations to which objects and people belong.

According to Escudero (2021), when Heidegger speaks of the living space (Lebensraum), he primarily refers to an existential space. We are being-there (Dasein), which means that we are receptive to reality in the case that we are principally immersed and concerned with our world – whether that world be our surroundings, our immediate environment, our community, or our state (Escudero, 2021). This level of participation is fundamental to our existence. It is not a matter of a geometric, physical, quantitative, and homogenous space that one can effortlessly gauge the distance between two objects, but of a pragmatic, public, and important space that relates to the field of activity in which human existence occurs (Escudero, 2021).

During the period between World War I and World War II, Germany’s government was managed under the Weimar Republic up until the Nazi Party came into power in 1933 (Escudero, 2021). The Weimar Republic was quite liberal in comparison to the Nazi Party (which, mind you, is not a difficult feat), with Heidegger expressing considerable skepticism about the Weimar Republic’s utopianism and libertarianism, the latter of which he blames for the German State’s diminishing condition by virtue of the Weimar Republic (Escudero, 2021). Heidegger believed that Hitler’s reign “helped people to regain access to the deep roots of Germany and Western philosophical tradition”, and that Hitler’s “nationalist ideologies aided Germans’ sense of homeland and interaction.” (Escudero, 2021).

Presently, it is near common sense that this ideology is not that of good standing and is a great distance from being morally appropriate. Still, the global population contains a select few communities of people who hold the ideologies that are interchangeable with those of Heidegger, further establishing that of the in-group/out-group bias and its ability to circulate hatred and violence between clashing forces.

It is important to note here that partaking in warfare is not synonymous to that of aggressive behaviours. Although existing as a soldier requires one to act upon what can be deemed as aggressive actions, it does not necessarily equate to each participant having innately aggressive tendencies. Warfare in itself is not directly apart of human nature, but instead is catalyzed by factors which are apart of our nature, such as in-group/out-group biases and evolutionary survival tactics, which has allowed and continues to allow war to flourish at a multitude of different levels and for a myriad of different reasons.

Concluding Remarks

Human evolution has constructed the way that our neurocircuitry is laid out and how it functions, our socialization techniques and dynamics, and how our minds have great control over, yet simultaneously lack superiority, on our abilities to hold certain beliefs and ideologies. One might come to raise the cliché question: Is this due to nature or is it due to nurture? A modest answer would not be that of one or the other, but instead would simply be “yes”.

Contemplating the intricate structure of human aggression and its impact on politics and military operations does not provide one with a smooth, straightforward binary of an answer; this issue is to be interpreted through several different lenses which will all provide several different answers. In attempt to state a more intricate answer, human aggression stems from both genetic and environmental predispositions, rooting back to our evolutionary past in cause of our instinctual drive to favour those apart of our own community (in-group) and disregarding or even impairing those that are diverse from us (out-group).

There is a risk in glorifying battle and its transcendence; we must be cautious of understanding war only as an extension of evolutionary force, since this may lead to the tragic assumption that war is ineluctable. While resolving a war is far more difficult than initiating one, it is not unattainable. When we get swept away by biological explanations, we lose sight of the fact that, although people may not have evolved much over the last couple thousand or so years, our foundations and organizations have. And this has occurred as a result of human choices that extend far beyond the need for sustenance or the obligation to reproduce.

References

Abulof, U. (2018). Nationalism as legitimation: The appeal of ethnicity and the plea for popular sovereignty. Nations and Nationalism, 24(3), 528–534. https://doi.org/10.1111/nana.12445

Cashdan, E., & Downes, S. M. (2012). Evolutionary perspectives on human aggression. Human Nature: An Interdisciplinary Biosocial Perspective, 23(1), 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-012-9133-0

Clark, C. J., & Winegard, B. M. (2020). Tribalism in war and peace: The nature and evolution of ideological epistemology and its significance for modern social science. Psychological Inquiry, 31(1), 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1080/1047840X.2020.1721233

Cupaioli, F. A., Zucca, F. A., Caporale, C., Lesch, K.-P., Passamonti, L., & Zecca, L. (2021). The neurobiology of human aggressive behavior: Neuroimaging, genetic, and neurochemical aspects. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, 106, 1–27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pnpbp.2020.110059

Dawson, D. (1996). The origins of war: Biological and anthropological theories. History and Theory, 35(1), 1–28. https://doi.org/10.2307/2505515

Escudero, J. A. (2021). Politics and territory. remarks on Heidegger’s political philosophy. In C. Di Martino (Ed.), Heidegger and Contemporary Philosophy: Technology, Living, Society & Science (pp. 203–214). Springer Nature.

Gat, A. (2019). Is war in our nature?: What is right and what is wrong about the Seville statement on violence. Human Nature: An Interdisciplinary Biosocial Perspective, 30(2), 149–154. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-019-09342-8

Goel, V. (2021). What color is your bubble? Part 1: When failures of belief revision are LESS than motivated reasoning or sloppy reasoning. In Reason and Less: Pursuing Food, Sex, and Politics. Unpublished Manuscript (pp. 401–441). MIT Press.

Marlantes, K. (2011). What it is like to go to war. Grove Atlantic.

Pagano, U. (2013). Love, war and cultures: An institutional approach to human evolution. Journal of Bioeconomics, 15(1), 41–66. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10818-012-9136-2

Zhang-James, Y., & Faraone, S. V. (2015). Genetic architecture for human aggression: A study of gene-phenotype relationship in OMIM. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, 171(5), 641–649. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajmg.b.32363

© 2021 Lisa Hallam

Comments

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on August 06, 2021:

Well presented. Thanks.

ISHIKA MEHERE from NAGPUR on August 06, 2021:

It is a really thoughtful article Lisa hallam, thank you for sharing. I had a great time reading and understanding it.

Hope you have a nice day ahead.

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