human_aggression and war - Environmental history timeline

PEAC 200: Introduction to Peace Studies
Dr. Alan Forrest
Spring 2012
To what extent is peace possible?
Einstein – is there any way of delivering mankind
from the menace of war?
 Intentional behavior aimed at doing harm or causing
pain to another person.
For centuries, scientists, philosophers, and other
serious thinkers have been arguing about the
human capacity for aggression.
Some are convinced that aggression is an inborn,
instinctive human trait.
Others are just as certain that aggressive
behavior must be learned.
Carl Jung – the shadow (dark) side
Dark side – unacceptable to one’s consciousness
Freud – a direct link between aggression (a
behavior of individuals) and the social
phenomena called war
Does warfare pave the way to peace?
Why do we, you and I, and many others protest
so vehemently against war, instead of just
accepting it as another of life’s loathsome
Hierarchy of needs
What is the value of all the fighting?
Chimpanzees are the only nonhuman species in
which groups of male members hunt and kill other
members of their own kind.
Bonobos, on the other hand, are known as the
“make love, not war” ape. Prior to engaging in
activities that could otherwise lead to conflict,
bonobos engage in sex. This sexual activity
functions to diffuse potential conflict.
The bonobo are a rare exception, however. The
near universality of aggression strongly suggests
that aggressiveness has evolved and has been
maintained because it has survival value.
Aggressive behaviors in human beings, as well as
in the lower animals, are associated with an area
in the core of the brain called the amygdale.
When the amygdale is stimulated, docile
organisms become violent.
Similarly, when neural activity in that area is
blocked, violent organisms become docile.
Social Learning Theory
 The idea that we learn social behavior (e.g.,
aggression) by observing others and imitating them.
When a nation is at war, its people are more likely
to commit aggressive acts against one another.
Being at war serves to legitimize violence as a
way to address difficult problems.
Elicited by:
 A social group with which one identifies self as being
threatened by some outside danger;
 The presence of a hated enemy from whom the threat
to one’s values originates;
 An inspiring leader figure
 The presence of many other individuals all agitated by
the same emotion
The fact that a nation is at war:
(1) Weakens the population’s inhibitions against
(2) Leads to imitation of aggression,
(3) Makes aggressive responses more acceptable,
(4) Numbs our senses to the horror of cruelty and
destruction, making us less sympathetic
toward the victims.
Would humans kill if they experienced the full
emotional realization of what they were doing?
Stanley Milgram studies – Obedience to authority…
40 male subjects, variety of backgrounds
 Told experiment was to study effects of punishment on
 learn word pairs
 Teacher (subject) is to increasingly shock learner for wrong answers
 15 volts (“slight shock”) – 450 volts (“XXX”)
 Learner (confederate) is strapped into chair, electrodes attached to
 Not actually being shocked, but teachers don’t know this – pain
sounds prerecorded
 When teacher would question continuing, experimenter told him he
must continue
If people are “naturally” inclined to be peaceful,
why are there so many wars?
If people are “naturally” inclined to be warlike, is
the hope for peace unrealistic and doomed to
To what extent is peace possible?
We can never make peace in the outer world
until we make peace within ourselves.
~Dalai Lama~
While you are proclaiming peace
with your lips, be careful to have it
even more fully in your heart
~St. Francis of Assisi ~