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Why Are Humans Violent?

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The Centrality of Violence
We may be shy or even ashamed to admit it, but violence is one of the central modalities through which humans relate to each other. Not only we are violent against strangers or acquaintances, but we are often violent also against ourselves. Why is it so? Why is violence one of the main modalities through which we relate to the world?

Violence, Nature and Education
Among the foremost interrogatives circa the centrality of violence in our lives is the extent within which violence is part of some sort of unavoidable biological heritage or, rather, a set of culturally acquired behaviors.

Oftentimes, this sort of interrogatives are ill-posed: there is hardly any trait that is immune to development, that is immune from the influence of the context within which a person grows; and there is hardly a trait that is purely cultural, that is completely independent from the biological traits from which it did develop. Thus, if we are asking whether violence is biologically determined or a product of human culture, the answer is likely that it is both or neither, but more fundamentally the issue ought to be rethought.

Observation teaches that those who have been exposed to physical violence tend to replicate it later in their lives. And we may believe that other forms of violence, such as psychological or verbal, may not be any different. In this sense, the development of a person becomes what that person is, in a way which will make it harder – even if not impossible – for that person to behave otherwise.

Violence and Emotions
However, violence seems not to depend solely on development and those behaviors that we are exposed to: there is some inner core that seems to make us prone to be violent, and those are emotions. Understanding emotions as a relatively broad class of desires, we may say that emotions such as rage, contempt, and anger are at the basis of violent behaviors.

To what extent are you in control of yourselves? This may be one of the most important questions to ask yourself, with the goal of achieving a sort of control that allows you to lead the life you wish to. The emotions related to violent behaviors compose a very important chapter on the topic of self-control: since violent behaviors are most often reprimanded in society, not to be able to control them amounts to incurring into societal disapproval. Yet, to what extent are you capable of controlling the emotions that prompt your worst violent behaviors?

Violence and Ecology
An interesting perspective on violence is the following: violent behaviors are a form of way of relating to the world, that is, they are a modality of ecological relationship. To physically injure another being is a way to relate to the world, as is it psychologically damage it or to verbally abuse of it. Violence, in this sense, may have as targets also non-human entities, including inanimate objects. Assaulting and destroying a work of art, such as a precious painting or statue, is a form of violence, as is to destroy a rose garden or to torture ants. We may and perhaps we should, indeed, start our investigations and reflections on the reasons why humans are violent from this angle: why is it that humans entertain violent relationships within their ecosystems?

That the living world is characterized by the struggle for life is standard lore. It should not surprise us that humans have as a modality of relating to their surrounding a whole apparatus of mechanisms aiming to place other beings into hardship. It may be self-defense, or just that we are born evil; be it as it may, it seems hard to dispute that the violence we witness in humans is part and parcel of a wider spectrum of violent behaviors proper of living entities.

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