What is Trust

A simple question on the face of it, in the dictionary definitions that follow I have deleted the entries about such things as fiduciary trusts on the basis that I am going to assume we are looking at trust between human beings (other sentient beings might be included) and not contract law, trust deeds and the like.

trust

noun

Definition of trust

1a : assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something

b : one in which confidence is placed

2a : dependence on something future or contingent : hope

archaic : trustworthiness

Definition of trust.

transitive verb

1a : to rely on the truthfulness or accuracy of : believe trust a rumour

b : to place confidence in : rely on a friend you can trust

c : to hope or expect confidently trusts that the problem will be resolved soon

2a : to commit or place in one’s care or keeping : entrust

b : to permit to stay or go or to do something without fear or misgiving

3 : to extend credit to

intransitive verb

1a : to place confidence : depend trust in God, trust to luck

b : to be confident : hope

So immediately we can see that Trust and Trustworthiness is perceived as both a thing ( a fixed characteristic or an ideal?) and something that is an active practice in relation to others. Interestingly the Merriam Dictionary shows trustworthiness as an archaic word but if we watch the following video we can see that for many of us, trustworthiness forms the basis on which trust is built.

I was particularly interested in the idea that if we wish to be seen as trustworthy we need in some way to make ourselves vulnerable to the person/s whom we hope will place their trust in us as this would seem to suggest a transactional process with the possibility of personal loss if we break a trust placed in us.

This psychologist’s view on the way in which trust begins (often on a gut reaction basis) but then, if we are to maintain trust, develops into a requirement for empathy and sometimes forgiveness when trust is reduced or has been broken.

A philosophical approach to the nature of trust is summarised here, I personally found the constant change of camera angle really irritating and ended up wondering who he was talking to and why it was thought necessary to have chill-out music in the background. That said some good starting points are made and I’ve no rational reason to distrust the content.

So here we have some starting points for inquiry an into the nature of Trust that are based on the concepts of Trusting and Trustworthiness and usually in relation to the way we interact with others.

I would therefore like to request some personal introspection and ask you to consider what needs to be in place in a relationship before you can extend trust to another person, and further, if you consider trust to be broken is it ever repairable and what assurances would be needed before you could forgive the breach?

Lastly there is an aspect which I think it would be useful to consider which is encapsulated in the question “Do you always trust yourself?” or are there situations where you think it would be better if you weren’t placed in a particular position because you could easily not meet the expectations placed on you? Depending on your answer this would have a real bearing on your preparedness to forgive others for failing to meet your expectations.

In conclusion I will just add that I found this topic really challenging and have come to the conclusion that my trust of others remains mainly unconscious until something happens that provides evidence of untrustworthiness, so rationality doesn’t kick in until there’s a problem that needs attention.

John Mooney Late Submission (Trust Level 7 out of 10)

The Communist Manifesto – Some brief thoughts and questions (join us this Thursday for discussion!)

John Leam has put together a second stimulus for our discussion on Thursday, 10th June 7:30 – 9:30pm. We will be discussing the 1848 pamphlet Manifesto of the Communist Party by German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Our discussion will take taking place online via Zoom at this link: https://zoom.us/s/91328331644

It is perhaps important to place this in some historical context. The manifesto was written in 1848, in German, at a time when there was no unified Germany, just a series of independent states. It had no influence on the 1848 Paris uprising nor on other revolutions of the year. Indeed, it faded into obscurity for several years. The version I read was the 1888 English version.

From a philosophical viewpoint, it is as well to remember that Marx was not interested in philosophy as a means to interpret the world, only as an instrument of change. We may say that there are philosophical weaknesses in his arguments but we cannot say that they did not influence change.

The manifesto is more an historical analysis of class struggle and of capitalism rather than a blueprint for what communism might look like in the future.

Marx states: “The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles” Is this still true of our present society? He splits society into two sections – Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. Is this simplistic to suit his arguments? “The executive of the modern State is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the bourgeoisie.” – written in 1848 but so relevant in 2021. He sees free trade as equalling brutal exploitation of the proletariat. The capitalist system is dependent upon the need for an ever-expanding market. The Proletariat are “a class of labourers who live only so long as they find work, and, find work only so long as their labour increases capital.” They are “a commodity” – “slaves of the bourgeoisie and of the bourgeois State.”

It is strange how relevant Marxist theory is today. The pandemic has highlighted the inequalities in our society and the hideous wealth of the few, not to mention the almighty power of big corporations. But are we still hooked into the capitalist system? Are most people focused on commodities? Is the fact that the majority of people in the affluent part of the world are not on the bread-line enough to prevent radical change? Do we actually like our private property too much?

It is perhaps important to look at the ten proposals Marx outlines in section two of the manifesto.

  1. Abolition of private property
  2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax
  3. Abolition of the right of inheritance
  4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels
  5. Centralisation of al credit in the hands of the State National Bank
  6. Centralisation of all communication and transport
  7. Extension of factories (owned by the State), cultivation of waste lands etc
  8. Equal liability of all labour – establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture
  9. Gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, manufacture and agriculture
  10. Free education, the abolition of child labour in its present form and the combination of education with industrial production

How many of these would we see as desirable today?

Further questions

  1. In Marx’s time, the bourgeoisie argued that the abolition of free trade and capitalism would mean the loss of individual freedom and individuality. Did this prove to be true in communist states? Marx would argue that the proletariat had no freedom of individuality, they were mere wage slaves.
  2. Has communism failed? If so why?
  3. Marx spoke of Bourgeois Socialism – “A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous of redressing social grievances, in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society.” Did they succeed? Was this why there was no revolution in Britain? Are we bourgeois socialists? Was Marx a bourgeois socialist?

Finally – Marx believed that the revolutions would need to be.at a national level but then all differences between nations would disappear and the movement would become international.

“Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution” Communists “openly declare that their ends can only be attained by the forcible overthrow of existing social conditions.”

‘The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”

“Working men of all countries, unite!”

John L

Online Philosophy in Public Spaces Reading Group, Grimsby: Manifesto of the Communist Party – Thursday, 10th June 2021 7:30 – 9:30pm

Our next PiPs Grimsby Reading Group is on Thursday, 10th June 7:30 – 9:30pm. We will be discussing the 1848 pamphlet Manifesto of the Communist Party by German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Our discussion will take taking place online via Zoom at this link: https://zoom.us/s/91328331644

We love having new people come along, so please join us!

John Leam will be guiding our discussion on the night and says a few words here…

For once, we should all be able to manage to read the whole of the document as there are only 48 pages and it is readily available on-line free of charge:

Nearer the event, I’ll try to formulate some questions to stimulate our discussions on the night. For now, I’ll just make a few very brief points which, hopefully, won’t prevent you from reading this with an open mind.

It is appropriate that this is our next text as we ended on an outline discussion about the State after our reading of Mutual Aid by Kropotkin. To me, it is amazing that this pamphlet was written in 1848 by Marx as it still has great resonance and relevance today. I hadn’t read it since I was 18, way back in 1967 and it definitely inspired different thoughts in me today from those back then.

Marx saw the revolution of the Proleteriat as inevitable, especially in the more developed industrial nations such as Britain yet when it occurred, it was in the far less developed area of Russia. An interesting side issue, in addition to looking at depth at his ideas, might be to consider why this was so. Is it possible that Marx’s writings actually helped the bourgeoisie avoid the overthrow of capitalism in some way?

I would urge us to look at both the strengths of Marx’s position and also the flaws in his arguments. I will try to stimulate this with some further points and questions in a couple of weeks’ time. For now I think it best to let everybody just read the pamphlet and formulate their own ideas. Good cop out, eh!

Online Philosophy in Public Spaces Grimsby: “Are the interests of humanity always the most important interests?” Thursday, 27 May 2021 7:30 – 9:30pm:

An online meeting of our Grimsby Philosophy in Public Spaces group to ask the question ‘Are the interests of humanity always the most important interests?” – Thursday May 27th 2021, 7.30pm – 9.30pm.

Here’s the Zoom link, just come along and join us: https://zoom.us/s/91328331644

Are the interests of humanity always the most important interests?

This question is founded on ideas of the moral status of animals – if you answer yes, then that suggests there is something distinctive about humanity and non-humans do not have a moral status? Finding an answer is important because it speaks to our treatment of animals in our world. It will also help us understand ourselves better.

Argument 1: humans are distinguished from the rest of the natural world.

Many of those who accept this answer are interested in justifying certain human practices towards non-humans—practices that cause pain, discomfort, suffering and death. The expectation is that in answering the question in a particular way, humans will be justified in granting moral consideration to other humans that is neither required nor justified when considering non-human animals.

Argument 2: humans are different, but…

Although humans are different in a variety of ways from each other and other animals, these differences do not provide a philosophical defense for denying non-human animals moral consideration. What the basis of moral consideration is and what it amounts to has been the source of much disagreement.

Other questions we might ask:

  • Are all species of animal equally worthy of moral consideration?
  • How can we understand the mental landscape of any other sentient creature?
  • How do we compare the relative interests of different animals in the same category?
  • Should animals have rights?
  • What about the problem of human animals that are not self-aware?
Suggested Reading

Who’s to Blame?

(c) Lady Lever Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Who Is To Blame

Blame – Etymology

blame (v.)

c. 1200, “find fault with” (opposed to praise, commend); c. 1300, “lay responsibility on for something deemed wrong,” from Old French blasmer (12c., Modern French blâmer) “to rebuke, reprimand, condemn, criticize,” from Vulgar Latin *blastemare, from Late Latin blasphemare “to blaspheme, to speak lightly or amiss of God or sacred things,” which also had a sense of “revile, reproach” (see blaspheme). Replaced Old English witan (with long “i”). Related: Blamed; blaming.

blame (n.)

early 13c., “an act or expression of disapproval, rebuke, etc., for something deemed wrong;” mid-14c., “responsibility for something that is wrong, culpability,” from Old French blasme “blame, reproach; condemnation,” a back-formation from blasmer “to rebuke” (see blame (v.)

Introduction

It’s always helpful to begin with definitions, to look at the etymology of words and to see their origins. The close relationship with blaspheme is useful and significant when considering the question as it aligns the concept of blame with how God is spoken of and how the question of blame has a Biblical significance.

Then Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and sending it away into the wilderness by means of someone designated for the task. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness.

— Leviticus 16:21–22New Revised Standard Version

For a full and detailed commentary on the tradition of the scapegoat, which is not just biblical but also found in other ancient cultures, this is a good overview: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scapegoat

Holman Hunt painted a scapegoat. The painting is on display in the Lady Lever Gallery in Port Sunlight. It is a truly distressing and haunting work. This link will take you to Google images. https://www.google.com/search?q=holman+hunt+scapegoat&rlz=1C1DIMC_enGB862GB862&sxsrf=ALeKk01t-EQF8i17wBbRwx-2Hj1VgqR6cg:1618235215694&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwig1cb56_jvAhUWSBUIHZd0CtQQ_AUoAXoECAEQAw&biw=1280&bih=521

The psychology of the need for scapegoats, for someone to blame is brilliantly explored in this podcast: https://thisjungianlife.com/episode-34-the-scapegoat/

This blogpost from Psychology Today provides a straightforward but helpful overview of the practice of scapegoating: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/hide-and-seek/201312/the-psychology-scapegoating

Philosophy

A key 20th Century thinker on the scapegoat was Girard. This is a brief overview of his theory:

All conflict, competition and rivalry therefore originate in mimetic desire (mimetic rivalry), which eventually reaches destructive stages of conflict both between individuals and social groups that requires them to blame someone or something in order to defuse conflict through the scapegoat mechanism.[3] Unable to assume responsibility or engage in self-reflection to recognize their own part in the conflict, humans individually and cross-tribally unite, to defuse conflict, by murdering the king or whoever appears to have the least support in the conflict, and then recognizing when the person has died how much less stress they have, and the unification leads to them eventually thinking of the deposed dead king as a god, i.e. deification or sanctification. Or, guilt is ascribed to an innocent third-party, whose murder permits the creation of a common unifying mythological underlay necessary for the foundation of human culture.[3]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Girard

Other reading:

It would seem to me that there is a symbiotic relationship between the psychology and the philosophy of scapegoating.  Our key question is Who’s to Blame, but we might want to look at the following:

  • The seeming socio/cultural necessity to blame
  • The nature of targets of blame
  • The consequences of blame

To finish, here is my poem, Azazel, from my 2018 poetry collection, Poems from the Swamp, a collection that is centred on the concept of the scapegoat.

Azazel

In its red ribbon a goat grazes.

The murderous watch it with narrowed eyes.

The goat is at one with its being, of itself.

In the square a goat is garlanded and petted

as the priest intones a meaningless babble,

a mindless, inchoate incantation.

The goat grows anxious.

Children kiss its nose and grab at its white fleece.

The goat is led to a glade and left in peace.

The red-ribboned goat looks up from the grass.

She is surrounded but unaware what that means.

The priest approaches in robes of ritual.

She gazes at him, gentle, docile.

In the glade the garlanded goat

hears the cry of her own kind,

shudders, grazes.

Grimsby PiPs Online Reading Group – Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution – Thurs 13th May 7:30pm-9:30pm

Our next online PiPs reading group will be centered around the philosophy of Peter Kropotkin, one of the original Anarchist activists and philosophers.

The main text we will be looking at is his book Mutual Aid, which can be read for free online at: https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/petr-kropotkin-mutual-aid-a-factor-of-evolution

or listened to for free at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rabJVToicf0&list=PLTC2cbdU7Q-Y0xJhRdJ_y26TZrz0zP7LX&index=1 . (I haven’t listened to this version through this myself so I can’t be sure of the quality).

The group will be taking place on zoom at https://zoom.us/s/91328331644

Kropotkin surpsringly was born into a Russian princely family in 1842, but dropped his own title of nobility by the age of 12. Dropping out of the army at the age of 25 to instead study mathematics at university also lead to his father disinheriting him. He developed radical political views throughout his time in the army and university, being exposed to the ‘original’ anarchist philosopher Proudhon. This shortly lead him to being imprisoned for activism for 4 years in 1872, before he escaped to England and then quickly after, to Switzerland. Over this time he developed anarchist views, and came to the belief that small communities and cooperatives were the best way to achieve a free society. After further travelling and imprisonment in France, he returned to Russia in 1917. Though initially pleased with the revolution, he started to become more and more disillusioned with the dictatorship that had began to form. To him this was proof that communism as he desired was not to be obtained by the means of a centralised state or government. Though he passed away in 1921, he is still seen as a central figure in anarchist thought, and continues to inspire many radical activists and philosophers.

The book we are focusing on, Mutual Aid, looks at how cooperative behaviour was a big part in the success of both human evolution and the evolution of other species, and how it is part of our nature to aid one another. He argues in part that making use of this natural urge to cooperate and aid others is a key part of overcoming our struggles.

More can be read about the history and philosophy of anarchism, and Kropotkins influence on it at: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/anarchism/

Online Philosophy in Public Spaces Reading Group, Grimsby: Erich Fromm, To Have or to Be? Thursday, 8th April 2021 7:30 – 9:30pm

Our next PiPs Grimsby Reading Group is on Thursday, 8th April 7:30 – 9:30pm. We will be discussing Erich Fromm’s book To Have or to Be? Our discussion will take taking place online via Zoom at this link: https://zoom.us/s/91328331644

We love having new people come along, so please join us!

To Have or to Be? is a 1976 book by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, in which he differentiates between having and being.

Fromm writes that modern society has become materialistic and prefers “having” to “being”. He mentions the great promise of unlimited happiness, freedom, material abundance, and domination of nature. These hopes reached their highs when the industrial age began. One could feel that there would be unlimited production and hence unlimited consumption. Human beings aspired to be Gods of earth, but this wasn’t really the case. The great promise failed due to the unachievable aims of life, i.e. maximum pleasure and fulfillment of every desire (radical hedonism), and the egotism, selfishness and greed of people. In the industrial age, the development of this economic system was no longer determined by the question of what is good for man, but rather of what is good for the growth of the system. So, the economic system of society served people in such a way in which only their personal interests were intended to impart. The people having unlimited needs and desires like the Roman emperors, the English and French noblemen were the people who got the most out of it.

Society nowadays has completely deviated from its actual path. The materialistic nature of people of “having” has been more developed than “being”. Modern industrialization has made great promises, but all these promises are developed to fulfill their interests and increase their possessions. In every mode of life, people should ponder more on the “being” nature and not towards the “having” nature. This is the truth which people deny and thus people of the modern world have completely lost their inner selves. The point of being is more important as everyone is mortal, and thus having of possessions will become useless after their death, because the possessions which are transferred to the life after death, will be what the person actually was inside.

All of the above text is from Wikipedia. Here’s an audio file of Fromm discussing his book with a very well informed journalist. And below is a video interview with Fromm talking about the book:

Online Philosophy in Public Spaces Reading Group, Grimsby: Philip Pullman: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, Thursday, 11th March 2021 7:30 – 9:30pm

Our next PiPs Grimsby Reading Group is on Thursday, 11th March 7:30 – 9:30pm. We will be discussing Philip Pullman: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. Our discussion will take taking place online via Zoom at this link: https://zoom.us/s/91328331644

We love having new people come along, so please join us!

The Wikipedia entry is very brief, so I simply paste here in toto as a small springboard to thought. It’s a binary idea, so do you stand on one side or the other? Or is the book not binary at all. What do you think?

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is a novel by Philip Pullman.

Published in 2010 by Canongate Books, as part of the Canongate Myth Series, it retells the story of Jesus as if he were two people, brothers, “Jesus” and “Christ,” with contrasting personalities; Jesus being a moral and godly man, and his brother Christ a calculating figure who wishes to use Jesus’ legacy to found a powerful Church.

Critical reception

Pullman’s historical understanding has been criticised by Jesuit theologian Professor Gerald O’Collins.[4]

While Christopher Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great, praised Pullman’s His Dark Materials, he was more critical of The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, accusing Pullman of being a “Protestant atheist” for supporting the teachings of Christ but being critical of organised religion.

Diarmaid MacCulloch reviewed the book positively for Literary Review.

Online Philosophy in Public Spaces Grimsby: “What is Truth?” Thursday, 25 March 2021 7:30 – 9:30pm

An online meeting of our Grimsby Philosophy in Public Spaces group to explore ‘What is Truth?” – Thursday March 25th 2021, 7.30pm – 9.30pm.

Here’s the Zoom link, just come along and join us: https://zoom.us/s/91328331644

John Leam has compiled a very comprehensive overview of the topic for us.

What is Truth?

This is perhaps the most fundamental question in Philosophy. I feel it underpins everything else we discuss. Philosophers over the ages have written lengthy theories of truth, many complex, some more simple. What I do know is that in our two hour session we can only hope to scratch the surface and perhaps focus in on one aspect.

It is also interesting that many philosophers talk about truths rather than the singular truth. It may be that we want to focus on what truths are and what (if anything) makes them true.

Instead of trying to give a specific theory or answer the question (I wish!), I thought it best to provide a few snippets in the hope of stimulating thought and providing a starting point from which to move forwards.

Common Usage

The words truth and true are part of our everyday language, so I spent five minutes just brainstorming a few usages just to demonstrate different contexts. There are many more than those I use here. Below are a few, in no specific order:

  • in conversation we often say “to tell the truth” or “to be honest” (as if our usual practice may be not to tell the truth).
  • I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth
  • I am the Way, the Truth and the Light
  • I’m searching for the truth
  • She is my true love
  • True story
  • Truth – a Jeff Beck album from 1968 using the word to depict the essence of good music
  • True friend – as opposed to an ordinary friend?
  • Truth versus Lie – such as in the BBC programme Would I Lie to You
  • “We present the truth behind the headlines”
  • True to one’s principles
  • Being true as in “I’ll be True to You”
  • “This Much is True” apologies – I can’t believe I quoted Spandau Ballet
  • “Beauty is truth, truth beauty / That is all ye know on Earth / And all ye need to know” – Ode on a Grecian Urn. I thought it better to finish on Keats rather than Spandau. Dad (or Spike Milligan) joke. What’s a Grecian urn? About £5 an hour.

Plato

I remember writing about Plato’s ideas of truth with regard to his Theory of Forms, fifty odd years ago. It is perhaps a useful starting point on truth theories. Basically, Plato believed there are truths to be discovered, that true knowledge is possible. Moreover, he believed that truth is not, as the Sophists believed, relative. It is objective. Since it is objective, our knowledge of true propositions must be about real things. These real things are Forms. Basically these are blueprints from which we understand everything. They are therefore more real (or true) than particulars we experience everyday. Plato therefore believed in absolute truth.

Four kinds of Truth

  1. Identity – Truth of description A circle is round because we define a circle as round.
  2. Axiomatic truth – Truth about the system. These could be described as self-evident truths
  3. Historic truth – An event that actually happened. (I have a huge problem with this as historic descriptions of events have proven to be false)
  4. Experimental truths – These may not have the clear conceptual underpinnings of axiomatic truths but hold up to scrutiny through evidence

Logic and Mathematics

There are obviously mathematical truths which I cannot even pretend to be able to explain past the notion of 2+2 = 4 (see below). There are also truths of formal logic. In a basic form this can be shown by:

If P then Q

P

Therefore Q

Theories of Truth

OK so here are some basic outlines of just some of the more modern theories of truth, again in no specific order.

Correspondence Theory

What we believe or say is true if it corresponds to the way things actually are – the facts. (But how can we establish what are facts, especially now given the mass media flow of information?)

Coherence Theory

A belief is true if, and only if, it is part of a coherent system of beliefs

Semantic Theory (Tarski)

Truth is to do with the way in which we use language. 

Pragmatists

Truth is the end of inquiry. Truth is satisfactory to believe. True beliefs are guaranteed not to conflict with subsequent experience.

Deflationary

The predicate true is an expressive convenience. For example, 2 + 2 = 4 is true, where the phrase “is true” adds nothing to the statement 2 + 2 = 4

Constructivist

Truth is constructed by social processes. It is historically and socially constructed and shaped by the power struggles within a community. Therefore, all our knowledge is constructed.

Consensus

Truth is whatever is agreed upon

I hope this has give some stimulus to thought. In terms of everyday usage of the word truth, I don’t think it has ever been more difficult to discern what is true and what is false.

Fake news abounds

John

Online Philosophy in Public Spaces Grimsby: “Does Human Nature exist?” Thursday, 25 February 2021 7:30 – 9:30pm

An online meeting of our Grimsby Philosophy in Public Spaces group to explore ‘What is a philosophical question?” – Thursday January 28th 2021, 7.30pm – 9.30pm.

Here’s the Zoom link, just come along and join us: https://zoom.us/s/91328331644

It’s worth taking time reading Connor’s careful thoughts here as a starting point.

To answer “Does human nature exist?” we first need a working definition of ‘human nature’. I’m going to assume we’re not asking the question “Is there anything at all that all humans do?”, since due to everyone needing food and oxygen, this would be quite a boring question. I’m going to take it as a question about the social/emotional/philosophical nature of humans.

One way to take the question is “Are there certain social behaviours that every individual human is drawn towards?” This seems to be too strong a question, since for any type of social behaviour, you can always find one person engaging in it and another doing the opposite. There are some people who believe things like “deep down, everybody is selfish”, or that everybody is really just acting to pass on their genes. I don’t really find these thoughts very interesting since they seem so obviously easy to dismiss. A less strong version of this question would be “Are there certain social behaviours that every individual human is drawn towards, but can overcome?” This isn’t as easily answered, since it could be the case that those deviating from the norm have had to fight their ‘human nature’ to lead to their preferred behaviours. Perhaps some people might be tempted to say that deep down everybody is hedonistic, but many overcome this because they develop empathy and compassion.

Another interpretation of the question that has a broader scope is “Are there certain social behaviours/structures that human groups and societies always gravitate to?”. This is less strong than our first question since the answer isn’t instantly ‘no’ as soon as we find one person who is a counterexample. Answering yes to this would be saying that parts of our society are inevitable. Maybe government, trade, money, war, technological progress, population growth etc. are always going to happen so long as humans are thriving. This interpretation is also a lot harder to provide evidence for or against, since one would have to make the claim that society would/wouldn’t always end up in a similar state, had history been different. It depends on other hypothetical human societies that we don’t have access to. We could however potentially look to examples of isolated societies in our own history to see how similarly/differently they developed.

There are political philosophers such as Marx who think that all steps in human progression thus far have been necessary and unavoidable, and are leading us towards some inevitable endpoint (in Marx’s view, communism). This again requires a great deal of proof that we don’t seem to have access to. How do we know that we won’t just get stuck in something like capitalism for the rest of human existence? How could we possibly know that it would end at communism and not progress further? Perhaps humanity could split into a whole host of different systems should the globe become a little less connected over time. To me, such views that spell out exact specifics of how humanity will progress are way too fanciful and claim to know too much, and don’t respect the sheer amount of chaos that the world has to offer. So for the question to be interesting, we perhaps need to talk about general tendencies within society, such as conflict, poverty, division etc. that can be seen manifesting in many different scenarios. There’s also a lot of thought to be had about the pragmatics of human existence (having a secure supply of food, shelter and healthy environments etc.) and how these might tend to shape our societies.