BIOLOGY, EVOLUTION, AND HUMAN NATURE / Vol. 36, No. 4 (Winter 1969)
Despite all religious, philosophical and scholarly teachings to the contrary, man has always been inclined to assume that he is the yardstick for everything and that the world exists only for his use and pleasure. Any measures, any forms of interference have seemed and still seem justified in furtherance of this claim. The reorganization, pillage, and destruction of nature are accepted as inevitable as long as they promise to profit the individual or augment the “common good,” however that may be defined.
Our knowledge of man has changed, to a great extent, because of the discovery of prehistoric and early historic skulls, because of a cultural anthropology deepened by psychoanalysis, and above all because of behavioral research. Only philosophy has played no part in this development. But in the long run philosophy cannot avoid the obligation of recognizing these facts, since the question of the nature of man has always been central to it.
When modern man considers his current social and psychological problems, he often reflects on the mores of the animal or the nonhuman being which guided or still guide a less complicated, that is a more simple, a more natural life. There is practically no biological problem, in the widest sense, that has not been studied extensively on the animal level, i.e. aggression, sex, learning, child rearing, language, sleep, reactions to drugs, radiation, surgical interventions, space travels etc. In the opinion of the author, we should keep in mind that all these animals are man-made.
Every system of social structures is at the same time a system of biological processes; every change of social systems changes the biological structure of the population. If this is true, the biological structure of a population can be manipulated by the manipulation of social structures. So then, may we manipulate the biological structure of populations?
Ten years after the Darwinian centennial sociologists are discovering professionally what they must have known all along: that man is animal. The implications of this discovery are manifold, but most of all this discovery restores man to his evolutionary past and forces a diachronic perspective upon the analysis of social behavior.
We begin by defining philosophy as that way of life informed by the passion to know what is truly good for oneself. However much it may dwell upon logical, scientific, or epistemological puzzles, its guiding question remains the nature of good life. By “good” I mean that which appears dearest or most precious to one; what seems closest to one’s heart, what presents itself as most beneficial.
We have seen that in some respects the outlook for peaceful race relations in Great Britain is rather good. The colored man is now the victim of prejudice and discrimination; but integration in housing and education may create a climate in which he is treated as a human being, employment may reduce his discontent even if race hatred persists, and in any event the diminutive size of the sub-group of the colored population with which he is likely to identify may make him afraid to take to the streets.
This is an overview of those aspects of metabletics, or historical psychology, which relate to the field of the social sciences. Metabletics, the study of the changing existence of Western man, has been developed by the Dutch psychiatrist J.H. van den Berg; this paper is focused on his book, Life in Multiplicity, of which an English translation is in preparation. The aim of this book is nothing less than an inquiry into the history of neuroses; it appears to have many implications.
Review of book by Robert A. Nisbet New York: Oxford University Press. 1969. 335 pp.
Review of book by Wolfgang Lipp. Berlin: Duncker & Humboldt, 1968. 216 pp.
Review of book by Michael Tanzer. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969. 435 pp.
Review of book by Ivar Oxal. Cambridge: Shenkman Publishing company, 1968. 194 pp.
Review of book by Dan Soen and Izhak Tishler. Tel Aviv: Institute for Planning and Development, 1968. 143 pp.
C. Neale Ronning
Review of book by Helen Katel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967. 413 pp.