For people, the true realistic position implies the two possibilities as real potentials for altruism and egoism. This means study of the conditions needed for development of one of them. The endeavour for a synthesis of both contrasted anthropological positions will impart a new dimension to the problem. Fromm provided a critical approach to the standpoint that war cannot be avoided because it is a consequence of the destructive quality of human nature. Although man’s destructive inclinations are strong, one cannot draw a conclusion that they are insurmountable and that they prevail in man. War does not start only due to psychological factors. The historical experience indicates that political and economic factors have greater influence on this. The opinion of the majority is that the human kind is progressing towards the good although there are occasional regression trends. According to Fromm, evil is an attempt towards regression in the primitive stadium of human development i.e. an attempt for elimination of what is specifically human, and that is reason, love, and freedom. The dilemma remains whether the essence of human nature consists of the destructive egoistic impulses rooted in evil or of some other features such as rationality, altruism and freedom. The logical deduction is that altruism brings our existence nearer to our essence, while evil separates them. In his book, Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, Fromm explained his vision on human nature. “Destructiveness is not a parallel, but an alternative biophilia. Man is biologically gifted for biophilia, but psychologically he has a potential for necrophilia as an alternative solution.”13F In other words, necrophilous destructive trends are not stemmed in human nature, but different from the biophilous, the altruistic trends have a biological ground thereby constituting the sum and substance of man. He believed that self-love is not a supreme ruler and that human beings are not always selfish, competitive, and aggressive.
Such anthropologic optimism is found with Rousseau and Feuerbach as well. Polemising with Aristotle’s understanding of inequality, Rousseau said that this Greek thinker replaced the consequence by reason. “So if there are slaves by nature”14F, wrote Rousseau in The Social Contract, “this is because there were slaves against nature.” By his biological predetermination, man is free, and it should be added that he is good, too. His slave nature and his evilness are just a consequence of the existential, and not a reason of essential character. Ludwig Feuerbach also speaks in this spirit affirming that love i.e. altruism towards others, is not derived. Contrary to Hobbes, Feuerbach says, “Homo homini Deus est”.
The modern American psychologist Harvey Hornstein15F thinks in the same manner, and he criticised Spencer’s social Darwinism in the book, Cruelty and Kindness: A New Look at Aggression and Altruism. Spencer wrongly interpreted Darwin because he took into consideration only Darwin’s work Origin of Species, without paying attention to his other works such as The Origin of Man, and Selection in the Aspect of Sex, where he asserts that in nature and in human social life, the cooperation and the kind relatedness among those who are intimate is essential for survival. He elaborated his conviction in the work The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, where he said that the natural selection maintains the cherishing of the altruistic feeling, mutual help, group loyalty, and cooperation. This attitude was accepted by some of his contemporaries who independently of one another formulated a modern evolutionary theory. The first one was Prince Peter Kropotkin, whose standpoints on the referring problem were evidently presented even in the title of his work, Mutual Help – Factor in Evolution. The second one was the anthropologist Alfred Russell Wallace, who at a lecture delivered in 1864 in front of London’s Anthropology Society enumerated a couple of qualities that must have existed for the good of every community; therefore they are an object of natural selection. They are the capability of acting in a synchronised way for protection and provision of food and shelter, sympathy that makes people help each other, and the feeling of justice that prevents desolation. This echo of Darwin’s understanding found its place even a century later in the concepts of Sir Wilfred Lee Gross Clark, when he explained the evolutionary origin of the Homo Sapience: “Our task is to give a full expression of the deeply rooted altruism, which is a quintessential feature of humanness in man.”
The theories of the so-called anthropological optimism point out the presence of sympathy as an inherent quality to human nature good for the development of any community. The researcher Martin Hoffman16F is of the opinion that the stems of morality should be looked for in empathy, which is a kind of sympathising with the possible victims. Empathy instigates people to act, prompts them to react and help others when they are in trouble. According to this author, the roots of altruism ought to be searched for in the capability of experiencing the feelings of other people. It is empathy that urges people to comply with moral principles.
Nevertheless, a few well-grounded remarks can be made to anthropological optimism. First and foremost, the facts that freedom, reason, productivity, love and altruism are specific human features cannot lead to a conclusion that they are simultaneously significant characteristics of his nature. The specific and significant features of one’s nature don’t have to be identical. We should remind ourselves of Rousseau’s paradox about the man who is born free, and is in fetters everywhere. In The Social Contract, Rousseau tried to prove that the unfavorable state the human kind is in, is not the one in which “man was at the beginning, and that solely the spirit of society and the inequality that comes from it are the reasons for a change of our natural inclinations”17F. Rousseau quoted a certain allegedly historically reliable primitive natural state of man governed by peace, solidarity, and altruism. People abandoned this state under the influence of the institutions of inequality, which constitute the core of modern civilisation. But our knowledge of the so-called primitive societies does not always produce a depiction of the so-called “tame savages”.
Speaking of altruism, we certainly speak of predispositions, and not of firmly a priori shaped and determined natural inclinations towards good or evil, i.e. towards altruism or egoism. With the majority of the human kind members there is no strict predetermination for destruction, demolishing, or cooperation. It needs to be emphasised that according to their natural dispositions people have never been the same. Everywhere there have always been individuals whose predisposition is directed towards destruction, but, on the other hand, there are individuals whose predisposition is aimed at constructive, altruistic types of behaviour. Whether the predisposition discussed will be entirely realised and whether its bearers will attain their personal maximum in this aspect depends on the state of the family and the other microfactors, on the ruling, cultural and political examples. The differences in the lifestyles of the individuals must not be ignored either. Some people are inflexible and in the course of their entire life have an identical character style, whereas others are flexible, in a certain life period they are egoists, then altruists, or in the same period towards certain people they practice egoism, and to others altruism. The majority is non-defined, flexible, and capable of constructing an elastic lifestyle. But there are individuals, although they present a minority, who are extremely rigid or extremely flexible. Nonetheless, the majority of people, as Ruth Benedict confirmed, adapt themselves to the forms of their culture owing to the immense flexibility of their innate inclinations.
For sure the knowledge of human nature available in present days does not support the thinkers such as Hobbes or Rousseau. By their predispositions, the majority of the human kind do not correspond to the anthropological option featured by the motto “Homo homini lupus est” nor to the aphorism of Ludwig Feuerbach, “Homo homini Deus est”. “Like it or not,” said Dostoevsky, “it is in our nature to be free and through suffering to select between good and evil”. Is there any sense to live only for one’s self or is the sense of life in solidarity, love, and sacrifice for others? This is the question that vexes many people when conscience and ethics unexpectedly enter their comfortable and untroubled lives.
The reply to this query undoubtedly lies in the golden rule: “Treat other people in the same way that you would like them to treat you”18F. We find this golden rule in Jesus’ messages as well, established by Judaism, by the rabbi Hilel, who gave it an unequivocal expression, and proclaimed it as the most important principle for Judaism. Nowadays, many people, Christians and non-Christians, perceive it as a reasonable motto for moral behaviour. But this thought is well known not only in the western world. The Chinese philosopher Confucius proclaimed it as early as in 500 BC, and it can be seen in the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata. In fact, the philosophy of the golden rule is accepted by almost all major faiths. T.H. Huxley in his book Evolution and Ethics published in 1894 came to the same conclusion. There he accentuated that every bigger human religion and the majority of the philosophers independently of each other reached the golden rule. Jesus’ ethic thoughts are deeply altruistic. An evidence for this are the words in Mathew’s Gospel: (5:43-44, the Bible),”Love your enemies, bless them that curse you”.
According to a rude sketch conveyed by Walter Stays19F, the history of ethics in Europe has a few stadiums. It commenced in the world of Ancient Greeks, who were in favour of the perspective that morality is inborn and immanent to human nature. Afterwards came the era of theology, when the understanding about the imposed morality was dominant. This stadium lasted for approximately 2000 years, until present days. Today the era of humanism has begun again. The Greek humanism has returned not as a direct copy, but as a basic inspiration consisting of the general approach that morality is innate.
13. From E. Anatomija ljudske destruktivnosti, II, Zagreb, 1975, str. 179.
14. Ruso, Društveni ugovor, Beograd, 1949, str. 11.
15. Hornstein A. Harvey, Cruelty and Kindness: A New Look at Aggression and Altruism, Prentice Hall, Chapter One 10.
16. Goleman, Danijel, Emocionalna inteligencija, Geopoetika, Beograd, 1998, str.101.
17. Ruso, Društveni ugovor, Beograd, 1949,str, 161.
18. Марк Харт, 100 највлијателни луѓе, Детска радост, Скопје, 1995, стр. 19-20.
19. Валтер Стејс, Судбината на западниот човек, Култура, Скопје, 1991, стр. 32.