Perspectives on Human Nature
Prof. Kurt Frey
Nature vs Nurture
For the past five weeks we have studied three different but influential people in our perspective on human nature class. They are Freud, Plato and Tzu. The main discussion between all of them is nature versus nurture. I will discuss the difference between nature and nurture and then I’ll apply to each of these philosophers and how they react to it.
When looked up in the dictionary the term nature means the universe and its phenomena or one’s own character and temperament. When discussed with these philosophers it is meant as one’s own character revolved around the universe for which they live in, basically they’re surroundings. At the same time when I looked up the word nurture it said the upbringing, care or training of a child. And in this meaning it stands on its own. Meaning exactly how it’s listed in the dictionary.
Freud’s point of view on this topic is that the human development depends on nurture and nature at the same time. Freud believes that human nature contains powerful uncontrollable innate drives and repressed memories. The only way that these can happen is by nurture, because of some of the innate drives have been brought up through one’s upbringing. In a way Freud’s point of views are definitely supported by both nature and nurture. Another reason for this is because if you look at just Freud’s Psychoanalytic Perspective they too support both. As an example look at the id, the id is all due to nature, the reason being because hunger, thirst, sex and aggression is in nature. But if you look at superego, you find out that it is supported by nurture for the simple fact that the superego is brought through the upbringing by the training of the child. Another example of Freud’s use of nature and nurture together was stated by Freud on page 15 of his book and it says, ” Originally the ego includes everything, later it separates off an external world from itself. Our present ego feeling is, therefore, only a shrunken residue of a much more inclusive indeed, an all-embracing-feeling which correspondence to a mere intimate bond between ego and the world”(15).
In my opinion I also think that Freud’s analyses both support nature and nurture. A perfect example is the quote I left in the last paragraph. Therefore, a lot of Freud’s points support nature and nurture. Perfect examples of this are his Psychoanalytic Perspectives. Examples of that topic are the topological model which would represent nature for the simple fact that the three main things described about it are all things that we have had in our minds for a long time and are in the subconscious mind. Not because we were taught those things but for the fact that they are instincts embedded in our minds for survival. For nurture the psychosexual development is due majorly because of nurture. From oral to anal-retentive these are all due to expressive characteristics that are given or raised from birth. The one that has the most effect is the structural model. Reasons for me stating this is because the id is the primitive part of the mind that is basically a natural instinct. At the same time the ego is also because of natural instinct simply because of the reality principle. Freud even went as far as stating, “..adults ego-feeling can’t have been the same from beginning. It must have gone through a process of development”(13). The part where it changes is the superego, which is the only form of nurture in the psychoanalytic perspective, which is because the superego only developed because the child began to incorporate parental values and also operates according to the raising and discipline of the parents.
Now if you look at Plato’s point of view Plato supports nurture more than nature. The only points that Plato made that would seem to support nature is the point he made for example is when he talks about female guards. The reason for this is also because he feels that women should be given lighter work. Because of nature it has always been seen that the women would do the weaker work compared to man. At the same time it could also be seen as nurture for the simple fact that the cultures are raised in a way such that women are seen as not being able to handle the workload of man. My reasons for choosing nurture is because Plato through out his book makes many distinguishes which in these cases requires very well organized societies which could only be accomplished through nurture and not nature. The reason for nurture is because every position held in these societies are well thought up which would require training from the upbringing to adulthood in order for these societies to run properly.
I have to admit though I found Plato a little more difficult to talk about for the simple fact that Plato spent more time discussing about society. So when reading Plato, I came to the conclusion that Plato supports nurture more than nature. My reason for this is societies through out history have to be developed and when they are it is because of strong influence from a group of people. Rather than nature where people would just live amongst each other without order or authority that comes with a selection process.
The final person I’ll talk about is Chuang Tzu. In reality Chuang Tzu stated what he supported from the beginning of the book and that is the simple fact that he supports nature over nurture. Chuang Tzu even went as far as making the statement that, “Nurture keeps you out of touch with your true self”(Healey). Chuang Tzu spoke greatly about other things, which had a deep routed meaning, but in all that he talked about he made one distinction and that is the fact that he supported nature over nurture. As Chuang Tzu said, “Those who go quietly with the flow of nature are not worried by either joy or sorrow. People like these were considered in the part as having achieved freedom from bondage. These who cannot free themselves are constrained by things”(53). Chuang Tzu made many comments like this after all, “if you are prepared to accept this and flow with it, then sorrow and joy cannot touch you”(24) ” The best thing to do is leave it all to fate, even if this is not easy to do”(32).
In reading Chuang Tzu I had felt that the things he said did not need any explanations. At the same time his view on life have deep meanings to me. His view on nature was incredible and reasonable but at the same time I feel that through the right influential nurture mankind can develop the right spiritual and psychological mind to understand why nature alone should work. In simple meanings I see nurture as way to lead to the utopia that Mother Nature provides. My reasons are that without proper understanding that would be taught by nurture, mankind wouldn’t know how to handle the freedom from nature.
In conclusion reading these books from Plato, Freud and Tzu on nature versus nurture was very intriguing although it does leave one especially me pondering what life would be like if we lived on nature. But at the same time the reasons for wondering reasonably or realizing the reality of how it would be done is all because of nurture. Through nurture I’ve had time to rationalize and mature as one person.