Question 1: Human Nature
Nature vs Nurture: scientists have been debating on which one shapes who we are and what we do for many decades now. More recently, most scientists have started to believe that it is a combination of both and not just one or the other that ultimately determines our personality. Early utopian views of this combination, such as Utopia, suggest that if we change human’s surroundings and create some ideal place then the nurturing would lead to a society filled with happy people. However, the other half of the combination, human nature, remained unexplored as to how it would affect a utopian society. While not necessarily disagreeing with this idea, Edward Bellamy in Looking Backward was one of the first writers to at least address this issue in the text.
In Looking backward, Julian West went to sleep in 1887 and awoke to find himself in the year 2000. Obviously, much had changed. However though his exploration of this new age Boston he discovered that one thing had remained constant: human nature. While having a conversation with Dr. Leete, he even asked “Human nature itself must have changed very much.” Dr. Leete’s response caught me quiet off guard when he stated, “Not at all, but the conditions of human life have change, and with them the motives of human action.” With this one statement we are informed of two things. First, that Bellamy believes that human nature remains constant and does not change over time, and second, that nurture (our environment) is again the key to creating a utopian society.
What strikes me as interesting about these things is what they together imply: that it is human nature to want to have a utopia for all of those in the society. Bellamy believes if mankind were given the ability to implament and create a utopian like society then of course we would. Whether it is now, in the year 2011, or 113 years for now as it was in Bellamy’s case we would strive to promote equality and a life style that burdens people to the least amount possible. Nurture then, is simply a restraint that does not allow us to live simply by our human nature.
Human nature when not restrained was very important to the construction of the society in Looking Backward. Bellamy wrote the novel when there were certain environmental restraints as to what could be accomplished. When these restraints are removed in his future, we see that handicap people are no longer deemed useless and that women should have equal rights and equal pay as men. We also see that the work day is not as long because we have the means to be more efficient. This idea in particular hints at human nature since there are very few people who actually would prefer to work more. We see in Bellamy’s society no need for crime. Human nature does not include doing things that are illegal which hurt others, but it does include the will for survival which is why people do commit crimes.
I personally do not know if human nature remains the same after over a hundred years. However, this book points out that at least one human’s nature that long ago sought to create equality and eliminate crime. Are these things not still in our nature now? I believe that they are. Bellamy believed that our human nature was good, and given the right conditions could be allowed to be the main determinant in our life’s choices. If this were ever to occur, it very well could be a utopian society. But, there is always the chance we may find out that human nature is not as good as we hoped and that nurture is not as much to blame as we thought.