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Volume 1

Expanded Contents


1: Introduction [and Summary]
2: Physical Field Theories
3: Psychological Field Theories
4: Social Field Theories
5: The Field of Power
6: Field Theories in Summary
7: Perception and Reality
8: Actuality versus Potentiality
9: Manifests versus Latents
10: Latent Functions
11: Perception, Space, and Field
12: Cognitive Dissonance
13:Behavior, Personality, Situation, and Expectations
14: The Behavioral Equation: Behavior, Situation, and Expectations
15: Situation, Expectations, and Triggers
16: Person-Perception and Distance
17: The Behavioral Occasion
18: Social Behavior
19: Motivational Explanation
20: Energy and Attitudes in the Psychological Field
21: Motivation and the Superordinate Goal
22: What About Other Motivations ?
23: The Dynamic Field and Social Behavior
24: The Sociocultural Spaces
25: The Biophysical Spaces
26: Intentions and The Intentional Field
27: A Point of View
28: The Self As a Power
29: The Will As a Power
30: Determinism and Free Will
31: Alternative Perspectives on Freedom of the Will
32: A Humanism Between Materialism and Idealism
33: Atomism-Mechanism versus Organicism
34: Between Absolutism and Relationism

Other Volumes

Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix
Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective
Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace
Vol. 5: The Just Peace 

Other Related Work

The Conflict Helix: Principles and Practices...


Chapter 35

Humanity And Nature*

By R.J. Rummel

Hath man no second life? Pitch this one high!
Sits there no judge in heaven, our sins to see?--
More strictly, then, the inward judge obey!
Was Christ a man like us?--Ah! let us try
If we then, too, can be such men as he!
---- Matthew Arnold, Anti-Desperation


 Among the historical antitheses stimulating philosophical dispute since ancient times, such as idealism versus materialism, unity versus diversity, and being versus becoming, one of the most basic and central issues has concerned our relationship to nature. So basic is this question that historically it seldom has been debated explicitly. How we relate to nature has been assumed deep within the cluster of meanings, norms and values we call culture, and the cultural answers have been the unquestioned starting points for philosophical debate on other issues.1

At least three fundamental perspectives on humanity and nature can be discerned, and these serve as partial differentia of the Greek, Western Judeo-Christian cultural system, the Indian Hindu-Buddhist culture, and the Chinese Confucian-Taoist culture. At the outset in discussing cultural differences, I want to make it clear that cultures are understood as coherent, but loose, clusters of meanings, values, and norms as described in Section 24.2 of Chapter 24. There is considerable latitude within any culture for intellectual innovation and contrary or independent subcultures.2 Nonetheless, cultures can be differentiated by major themes which infuse, in spite of historically sporadic or minor movements to the contrary (as the spiritually oriented subcultures coexisting with the dominant sensate-materialistic theme of contemporary Western culture), the language, philosophy-religion, science, art, and ethics-law of a culture.

A major theme of Western culture is our separation from nature. Nature is hostile to us, as in the Christian tradition where it presents temptations to our desires when we our trying to reach God, or a realm to be dominated as in Renaissance humanism and contemporary Western science and technology, or a domain of facts to be studied, explored, and exploited. This basic and pervasive dualism has survived the West's shifts from the idealism of Greece of the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. to the hedonistic materialism of Rome and our current age, to the spiritual, ideational period of Medieval Europe. This dualism is manifested in the separation between facts and norms--the opposition between nature and convention--that is a continuous thread in Western philosophy (the belief that norms can be made and changed by us goes back to at least the philosophy of Protagoras and is much evidenced today by the prevalent Western belief in and the philosophical spell of a presumed is-ought dichotomy). It is manifested in the Christian dualism between God and a dependent nature that could not help us in our spiritual advancement but only provide temptations to test our faith and religious strength. It is manifested in the mind-matter dualism of Plato (the forms recognized by reason versus the world of experience), the Cartesian separation between mind and matter, Locke's representative perception, and Kant's noumena and phenomena. It is manifested in the opposing monistic doctrines that treat mind and matter as intrinsically all mind (Hegel, Berkeley, Leibniz) or matter (Lucretius, Hobbes, Marx). And perhaps most clearly, this separation between us and nature is most evident in the growth of modern science out of Renaissance humanism which glorified our ability to explore and control nature.

By contrast, the major perspective of Indian culture is one of indifference to or release from nature.3 Nature is the sphere of fleeting sensations and forms, of transient experiences and ephemeral sensations. Thus, nature is not to be dominated, explored, or exploited, but unveiled, and this will display the underlying reality of Self. What nature reveals through our sensations and reason is untrustworthy. Through spiritual insight and receptiveness, we will gain true knowledge of ourselves for our spiritual transformation and release from the world. It is no wonder that the material sciences, technologies, and arts of the West have found little development in India. These developments of Westerners were of nature. To India, it was our soul that required development.

Chinese philosophy followed, characteristically, a middle way. Neither nature nor our soul was predominant. Rather, humanity and nature must harmonize. Nature is orderly and, regular, as should be the relationship of people one to another. Nature's order is displayed in everyday experience--in concrete things--which we can perceive and rationally know because we our a unity with nature. There is no bifurcation between subjective and objective, nor between abstract philosophy and living. Chinese concepts are concrete, rather than abstract,4 and philosophy is a way of life.5 An historical keynote of Chinese culture has been harmony between us and nature, and this has been the essence of both Taoism and Confucianism, the two most influential Chinese philosophical systems.

In substance, then, Western philosophy has emphasized describing and controlling nature, Indian philosophy has emphasized our inner soul beneath nature, and China has emphasized harmony with nature. Clearly, nature as a concept means different things among these cultures and historically has varied in meaning within the same culture. Nature in classical (Greek) Western thought was organismic, suffused with life and having intelligence (as were the Gods of Olympus). To the seventeenth and eighteenth century Western rationalist, nature was a machine. And now it is a probabilistic distribution of energy with a tendency toward entropy. In Indian philosophy, nature is the totality of sense perceptions, while in Chinese thought it is both that which we experience and the laws or principles comprising that experience.

In all these perspectives on nature, the common element is of something out there, a reality beyond the mind, beyond our inner thoughts, consciousness, purposes, reflections, intuitions, and imaginings. And this reality outside our mentality, however structured, whether of matter, spirits, or mathematical forms, of whatever laws or processes or however fleeting, is distinct from our mentality. The realms of mind and nature are differentiable, with Western thought focusing on nature, Indian on mentality, and Chinese on harmonizing the two. None of these solutions to the humanity versus nature problem are justified.

For Westerners, the emphasis on nature has meant the abasement and eventual atomization of human beings. It has meant the exploitation of nature often at the expense of humanity, even if it meant subjecting others to the same exploitation and control applied to physical nature. Emphasis on dominating nature has led, in part, to the crises of Western society, the problems of pollution and growth, the social disorganization of our cities, the urban crime and fear, and the moral bankruptcy of fascism, Nazism, and communism.

The Indian desire to burrow into our soul to find release from nature has been at the expense of even those limited material advances that could relieve our pain, suffering, and hunger and improve our conditions of life. Perhaps we should agree that we ought to seek release from suffering, but to ignore solutions that lie in nature as well as in the Self is to condemn each new generation to the same wheel of life.

And the Chinese solution seems little better. The emphasis on harmony between us and nature and the parallel doctrine of the proper harmony in the social order has led to a preoccupation with proper character6 and a submissiveness to things as they are,7 to the dead weight of tradition. Scholars and rulers turned to the Chinese classics to discover what this proper harmony might be in times of stress and disorder. And this in turn meant an apparently never ending succession of famines and feasts, war and peace, and order and disorder. The China of the eighteenth century was little changed from that at the time of Christ. Many may have achieved harmony and righteous character but, as with India, at the cost of that help a knowledge of nature could have given to relieve suffering and improve our conditions. The inadequacies of the Chinese view were put in stark perspective by the clash between rigid Chinese traditionalism and Western technology during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and by the fumblings of nationalism that eventually lead to the victory of communism in China during our century. If the Chinese view of humanity and nature can be considered a historical thesis, surely, Maoism is the antithesis. Chinese humanism deserved better.


 What alternative to the Western, Indian, and Chinese perspectives on humanity and nature can be proposed? Two movements, philosophical anthropology and humanistic naturalism might be considered. Philosophical anthropology is largely a German movement, originating in the 1920s, and since then absorbing existentialism and phenomenology.8 This movement correctly sees a crisis in and a breakdown in the materialistic model based on science. We have become alienated, without a central doctrine to guide us and integrate our values. Human beings must be taken as a new starting point, and their individuality and sociability must provide our fundamental values. In particular, we must formulate our own destiny based on an understanding of ourselves and our society, and we have a choice as to what that future might be.

To the philosophical anthropologist, truth is that which pragmatically helps us to understand ourselves and select a meaningful future. The proper methods are phenomenological: verstehen and personal experience are to be used to understand the meaning in our life and works. We are at the center of this movement; nature plays a role insofar as it helps us to understand ourselves, to develop our individuality, and to make our choices. Nature is in the service of a secular theology focused on humanity.

This perspective clearly differs from the traditional Western one in which nature was to be dominated, studied, and controlled, not necessarily in the service of understanding ourselves, but for the sheer glory of such domination (the mountain is climbed "because it is there"), for the spiritual benefits (heaven), or for the temporary satisfaction of our desires (hunting). Nor does this perspective share the Indian focus on our inner being. Philosophical anthropology believes our nature is still an open question. We should not necessarily seek release from nature, for nature rather is to serve our self-understanding and growth.

The second movement is humanistic naturalism (sometimes named the new humanism, scientific humanism, evolutionary naturalism, empirical naturalism, or just humanism). This movement should be distinguished from Renaissance humanism, which was a turning away from religion toward humanity as exemplified in Greek literature, art, and philosophy. Humanistic naturalism, while sharing a belief with Renaissance humanism in our creative abilities and dignity, turns away from the traditional humanistic study of the classics and toward science. In this it shares much with Auguste Comte's positivism and the pragmatism of John Dewey.9

Characteristic of this movement is a dual faith in humanity and science, interpreted as the experimental method. Science is considered as a means for us to control the world and better understand ourselves in order to develop our freedom and improve our social life. There is, consequently, an emphasis on social science along with a distrust of metaphysics, intuition, and revelation, which are not subject to empirical test.

Besides this faith in a method, humanistic naturalists have an organic perspective on humanity and nature. We are of nature and not apart from it. Dualisms that separate in kind or substance, mind and body, mental and physical, and humanity and nature are rejected; reality in toto is nature. Rather than drawing an "arbitrary" line between nature and ourselves, the continuity between them is stressed. This continuity moves from physical processes to the biological to the intellectual. Our mental processes are organically based, and in turn our biological processes result from physical nature. In its pragmatism, empirical emphasis, and belief in a unity between ourselves and nature, humanistic naturalism shares much with Chinese humanism. The difference lies in the Chinese belief in harmony, a rational concretism (as contrasted to the abstract rational approach of Western philosophy, as for example, in the Platonic forms or monads of Leibniz), and a pervasive metaphysics (Taoism).

Both the humanistic naturalists and philosophical anthropologists focus on humanity, on putting nature into our perspective, not making our perspective that of nature. Both essentially view human beings pragmatically. Both stress freedom, improving our self-understanding and our life. They differ, however, in their method for helping humanity. For the philosophical anthropologists, the phenomenological way is most appropriate. Science is not the best or salient approach. Understanding our spiritual plight requires an insight that is beyond empirical science to give. By contrast, the humanistic naturalists assert that our plight is due to our failure to apply science to ourselves and our problems. The scientific method provides the means for us to see ourselves as we really are and to improve ourselves accordingly.


 I agree with the emphasis of both movements on humanity and especially the philosophical anthropologist's concern with our mental nature (as this book, The Dynamic Psychological Field, attests). The contemporary Westerner's problem is that he has lost his identity as a moral, rational, and intellectually creative being in a materialistic culture that emphasizes science and technology and the satisfaction of every sensual desire.10 Human beings have been dehumanized. We must be returned to the center of our concerns, and nature must be reconsidered in the light of our qualities and spirit; nature must be redrawn to the scale of our values. In humanizing nature, however, the importance of nature in helping us must not be lost sight of as it was by Hinduism, Buddhism, and, to a lesser extent, by Confucianism and Taoism. We are inextricably linked to our body and physical environment, for they provide us with means to accomplish our intentions; and nature is linked to us by what meaning we gives it in the light of our values. For us, nature is in actuality what we transform it to be through our perspective.

However, I disagree with both the almost total abjuring of scientific methods by philosophical anthropology and the total faith in this method by the humanistic naturalists. Verstehen, intuition and imagination, complement and are, indeed, integral components of empirical science. Science can and must be brought closer to the metaphysical basis for understanding us and the advantages that phenomenological approaches can give us. But, without the discipline that science11 can bring to such approaches, our insight into ourselves is left as any one's insight. Without insight, science is left as empty, insignificant procedures anyone can manipulate.

I see a middle way between the methods of philosophical anthropology and humanistic naturalism, without losing their humanism. This middle way lies in the center, so to speak, of the cultural-philosophic perspectives of Westerners, Indians, and Chinese. And I see this way as a perspective on humanity as the center of an intentional field, oriented toward a future we our free to create. I have been calling this way intentional humanism. This philosophic and scientific view has focused in detail throughout this book on the dynamic psychological core of the field, and will underlie and guide my discussion of conflict, violence, and war in subsequent volumes. At this point, the major elements might be summarized.

(1)Our mentality is the center of our reality, and this mentality is distinguished by its intellectual and creative faculties and, most important, moral capacity.

(2)Nature is the whole of reality; and our biopsychology, sociocultural environment, and ecology are interwoven and continuous.

(3)Nature in terms of our biosphere and physical environment are given scale and perspective only by our meanings, values,12 and intentions. "It is we who introduce purpose and meaning into nature."13

(4)The bridge between mind and physical nature, as biosphere and physical environment, is our culture. Culture provides the link that dualists perplexed by a mind-body dichotomy have sought.

(5)The way to better understand ourselves and our plight is to approach the intuitive, insightful, and introspective answers of humanists more scientifically, and to infuse social science with more self-conscious intuition, insight, and introspection.

(6)And finally, nature from the perspective of and relevant to us is a field of interacting influences on our philosophical, ethical, scientific, and aesthetic choices. The facets of this field are first, and primarily, our mentality in its intellectual, creative, moral capacities; second, our culture; third, our biosphere; and fourth, our ecology (that is, the relationship between mind, body, and culture on the one hand and our environment on the other).

The last element of intentional humanism brings in our intentional field, a field of manifold and interdependent potentials, dispositions, and powers in which relations are similar to John Dewey's "transactions." The field itself is comparable to "situation" or "context" as it has come to be used in the social sciences, and the field's cultural facet is similar to Cassirer's "symbolic" structure or Sorokin's meanings-values-norms system. All this has been elaborated previously. Here, I wish to mention this field view only as it relates to an overall interpretation of humanity and nature.

The intentional field is the nature relevant to us and on the scale of our values. Our mentality is partly in the field, partly independent of it. Those mental aspects within the field are those dependent upon our body, our dynamic psychology, our culture, and our environment. Those independent of this nature comprise our free being, our morality, our individuality, arid our creativity. These make us the only moral animal we know, give us our capacity to exercise choice. Nature that includes human beings, therefore, to be completely defined must be considered to have a distinct mentalistic component involving our free will. And it is this distinction that is most important to us. "If the mind and the spirit of man does not attempt the impossible, if it does not seek to conquer or to eliminate nature but tries only to make the forces of nature the servants of the human spirit and the instruments of moral ideal, a progressively higher justice and more stable peace can be achieved."14

And as I will show in subsequent volumes, this can only be achieved through the freedom of the individual and the minimization of centralized political power.15 


* Scanned from Chapter 35 in R.J. Rummel, The Dynamic Psychological Field, 1975. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. Typographical errors have been corrected, clarifications added, and style updated.

1. For example, a Western temporal metaphysics generates such concepts as process, progress, and evolution which play a large role in contemporary Western philosophy. One could argue that this temporalism itself results from the Westerner's characteristic attempts to describe and mirror nature. On this see W. H. Sheldon, "Main Contrasts Between Eastern and Western Philosophy," in Charles Moore (ed.), Essays in East-West Philosophy (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1951).

2. Even in the most homogeneous culture of traditional China with its pervasive emphasis on harmony with nature, occasional philosophers arose emphasizing the need for our control over nature. Consider Hsun Tzu who during the Han dynasty wrote,

Instead of regarding Heaven as great and admiring it,/Why not foster it as a thing and regulate it?/Instead of obeying Heaven and singing praise to it./Why not control the Mandate of Heaven and use it?/Instead of looking on the seasons and waiting for them,/Why not respond to them and make use of them?/Instead of letting things multiply by themselves,/Why not exercise your ability to transform [and increase] them?/Instead of thinking about things as things,/Why not attend to them so you won't lose them?/Instead of admiring how things come into being,/Why not do something to bring them to a fun development?
---- Wing-Tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963: 122.

3. For my interpretation of humanity and nature in the Indian tradition, I have mainly relied on the sources available to me in W. Theodore de Bary (ed.), Sources of Indian Tradition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958); Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore (eds.), A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957). I have also found useful the classic work by Heinrich Zimmer (Philosophies of India, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951).

4. Sheldon, op. cit., p. 289.

5. Ibid., pp. 291-292.

6. Lin Yutang, My Country and My People, (New York: Reynal and Hilchrodie, 1935): 42.

7. Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954): 655.

8. On philosophical anthropology, see Gladys Bryson, Man and Society (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1945); J.W.S. Pringle, The Two Biologies (Oxford, 1963); Rollo May (ed.), Existence (New York: Basic Books, 1958). Americans perhaps are most familiar with this movement through Ernest Cassirer's An Essay on Man (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1962). See also The Encyclopedia of Philosophy Vol. 6 (New York: Collier and Macmillan, 1967): 159 ff.

9. For a summary account of humanistic naturalism, see Harold H. Titus, Living Issues in Philosophy (4th ed.; New York: American Book Co., 1963): 215-221. For the representative literature, see Y. H. Krikorian, Naturalism and the Human Spirit (New York: Columbia University Press, 1944); John Dewey, Experience and Nature (Chicago: Open Court Pub., 1925); Julian Huxley, Religion Without Revelation (New York: Harper, 1957).

10. To many social scientists I am sure that these statements will appear as rhetorical exaggeration and polemical license in a professional work. This would be a mistaken impression, for on this I am following the best sociological theory and evidence available. The works of Spengler and Toynbee make these points well, but they are discredited as grand speculators by many. Then, I offer Pitirim Sorokin's Socio-Cultural Dynamics (New York: American Book Co., 1937-41) 4 vols., The Crisis of Our Age (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1941), and Personality, Society and Culture (New York: Cooper Square Pub., 1969). These are the latest and best theoretical-empirical writings in contemporary sociology, and the evidence for my view can be seen throughout them. And if personal evidence is acceptable, I simply ask the reader to look around him.

11. I am not making any physicalistic pleas for natural science or the methods of physics or the use of mathematics. To put more of my epistemological foot forward, I think the models of physics, chemistry or astronomy are inapplicable for the social sciences generally, and particularly for international relations study. Social science is sui generis. My use of science in the text is generic, referring for the moment to the acceptance of empirical propositions conditionally, to the emphasis on intersubjective empirical testability, to the requirement for proof or evidence, and to the norm of public criticism.

12. "It is possible to make one's judgments about the value of human life independently of cosmic reflections and then to adopt an imaginative picture of the natural world that harmonizes rather than conflicts with that evaluation. There can be no logical or philosophical objections to that as long as one realizes what is being done" (Ronald W. Hepburn, "Nature, Philosophical Ideas of" in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 5, op. cit., p. 4S7).

13. K. R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), Vol. 2: 278.

14. Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society (New York: Scribner's, 1932): 256.

15. See especially Vol. 5: The Just Peace.

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