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+4 votes

So part of the primitivist critique of civilization is that it created hierarchy and specialization, but can't we find both of those things in animals in the state of nature. For example, a pack of wolves has hierarchy. Honey bees are extremely specialized, etc. I feel like I'm missing something pretty basic here.

edit: Maybe what I'm trying to ask is do you think do you think humans are less determined by their biology than non-human animals? (I can't figure out a way to phrase that without lumping all non-human animals into one category). I guess this could also bring up questions of human nature, and various other animals nature...

I'm not really a primitivist per se, but -- I don't think the claim has to be that civilization created hierarchy and specialization for the first time ever in the universe. just that it imposed them, unnecessarily, on humans. my understanding is that hunter-gatherers were (and are) highly egalitarian and  although they often exhibit(ed) a gendered division of labor there they lack(ed) specialization in the sense of i.e. jobs.

now that I think of it, it seems to me that, as well, saying that an animal exhibits such and such a behavior is potentially a different order of claim than one about humans, for a bunch of reasons.

I don't think you're missing anything. It just seems like since we're not i.e. bees or  wolves, nothing about our biology forces us to adopt arrangements like theirs.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, and your question is meant to get at something more than this?
since the OP doesn't actually ask a question, it would be hard to answer it.

thumbs up on the change in question (also leaving original up).
what asker said above.

of course there are some animals that have hierarchical social structures, and there are animals that use tools, and there are animals with certain specializations, etc. none of that conflicts with a thoughtful critique of civilization.

the animal kingdom - including humans, of course - has a level of diversity that is almost unfathomable, even within species. some bees, for example, are biologically different from others, making them better suited to being, say, "workers". not unlike how men's general physical size and strength made them more adapted to certain tasks (eg, hunting) than women, and vice versa. i don't mean to be resolving the chicken/egg question around this (were men strong first, then decided to do the heavy lifting; or did they become strong from heavy lifting), and i don't really think it can be.

there are biological realities that life seems to adapt quite well to. but the hierarchical structures (and levels of specialization) imposed by civilized humans - on all forms of life - has little (if any) biological imperative that i can detect. most of that shit comes from the scheming civilized human mind.
it seems to me that so-called bacteria are top-dog. we need bacteria, not vice-versa. second, we seek to eradicate bacteria and they come back stronger than before. third, we actively promote ways in which not to participate with one another like (un)social schemes like civilization, capitalism, technology and ecocide.

all that aside, 'determined by biology'  is so filled with unspoken presups it's almost funny when i hear this phrase.
Can you elaborate on some of the unspoken presuppositions?
i'd like an elaboration on what "less determined by biology" means to the asker of this question.
yeah, i second baa's request for clarity. "determined by biology" seems so vague as to be meaningless.

if it does point towards questions of "human nature", then i will quickly lose interest. i do not think "human nature" can be defined, determined, quantified, whatever.  and i doubt i have ever seen the term used by anyone that was not looking for "scientific" evidence to support their chosen ideology. that includes everyone from primitivists to racists to feminists to politicians to the high priests of science...
My quick answer (cuz I don't have time for a long one right now) is that I mean more possibilities in the ways we behave and arrange ourselves. I think that's what I mean. I'll give it some more thought and add more later.
thanks, sg. that description feels more inviting (and understandable) to me, and makes me want to give it some more thought too.

sg: let me see if i understand correctly,  are you asking if the biology of humans makes them more inclined towards diversity in behavior and social organization than the biology of non-human beings inclines (or allows) them?

i doubt i would even try to answer, but i am curious enough to want to understand the question.


Do you mean behavioral genes/genetics? Like humans have certain traits that cause them to do this or that vs. non-humans not having similar traits?

AmorFati, not that this is relevant, but you described how Doomsday was created from the superman comics. :P
fa: So far that is the best way to put the question that I can think of. To put it again, the question that I'm asking (unless we get another, more refined iteration) is:

Does the biology of humans make them more inclined towards diversity in behavior and social organization than the biology of non-human beings inclines (or allows) them?

No and Yes. Some other animals have a diversity in their behaviors and engage in social organization and hierarchies. I don't know if their biology makes humans more inclined to do so compared to other mammals, but humans more capable of creating these complex organizations and/or social structures.

Humans are more adept at using systems of communication for self-expression, exchanging of ideas, organization, and manipulating their surroundings or objects...etc, compared to say a Bonobo (type of chimpanzee). I believe it has something to do with how the human brain and body is structured compared to the structure of other mammal's brains. Although, Bonobos can do similar, but not as 'advanced' you could say. They're capable of communication and/or self-expression, which are either done by visual cues/facial communication and/or vocal (pitch and type of sound (i.e. bark, grunt, whine...etc). They do have social organization usually with the female as the alpha or at the top and sexual behavior is used for more than reproduction, but also for status in the hierarchy, games, stress relief, and all around fun. The male alpha must gain the acceptance of the female alpha to be the male alpha. They use basic tools and can manipulate their environment also, but not as complex as humans. 

tl;dr humans are more advanced and capable than bonobos.

I don't know if that even came close to a rational response to your question. If this is your reaction, I don't blame you. :P I took inclined (or allow) to mean capable and I like Bonobos.

very interesting question.

the problem with saying that an animal's behavior is determined is that your implying some sort of a god figure or programmer in the question, when the only figure that determines the behavior is the animal itself. Sometimes they are controlled by/attracted to external forces but they are still determining the behavior themselves.

This reminds me of dogs....according the various scientific research with domesticated foxes and dogs (discovering that dogs are more or less passive wolves) it seems that dogs became dogs due to wanting their left over food, and ending up developing "cuter" more infantile faces along the way.....did we manipulate therm, or did they manipulate us, or both?

sg, thanks for the question. a few of the unspoken presuppositions within 'determined by biology' include:

time and our sense of it, limitations and our sense of them, our (western) sense of who is alive and who isn't (who gets to play in the game of Life), and so on.

(edit #2) i'm reminded here of a quote by james hillman which makes sense here (no, i don't necessarily endorse his work, but i like the quote, k?) : "It was only when science convinced us the Earth was dead that it could begin its autopsy in earnest." 

edit 1: when i say 'time (and 'limit' and 'alive') and our sense of it' i mean that 'time' and 'our sense (meaning)' are interwoven yet also somewhat distinct conceptual presups, particularly within western/scientific thinking.

@af: "...our (western) sense of who is alive and who isn't (who gets to play in the game of Life)..."

i love that point.

There are two kinds of determination to be considered. Certainly, human being are just as subject to the laws of nature as anything else in the world, but those laws have determined that the character of agency will differ in different species. Human beings happen to be constrained by nature in such a way that we are forced to make a lot of choices, and our organism is constructed in such a way that choice makes some sense. Because of that, the only hierarchies that are meaningful to us are ones for which we can recognize some rationale. We may look to an animal's pack behavior or pecking order as a possible model to adapt to our own circumstances, but our adaptation would not be the same thing, or even perhaps really the same kind of thing, as the pack-behavior we have observed in other animals.

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