Natural Instincts; Nature vs. Nurture
According to Freud, humans act on instinct at the most basic level. This means that when society does not exist and man is on his own, he will act purely on natural instinct; the desire for reproduction, food, safety. When society enters the picture individual behavior begins to be developed by culture and those around them. But Plato says when necessity arises and society cannot supply that necessity, one must revert to instinctual fit behavior driven by selfish desires to survive.
Instinct still exists it is what draws society together, but when not relying on instinct for survival because society is providing all necessities in some form or fashion, usually through an economy or market, human beings rely on the self, the conscious mind that functions on influence from nature and nurture. Emerson says that the problem is that all we do is learn the past, we don’t look at nature face-to-face, he says we should wake up and experience the nature, forget the past, because it is the present that matters.
He says that there is natural instinct in human beings that connects us to nature, without reason or community all we would think about is how to feed, and protect ourselves like animals. “Nature is the outer covering, the cloak of the Eternal Universe” (Emerson). Idealists like Emerson believe that the reason for any behavior is because of the natural influence around us and in us, not just the history of the past or society. On the other side of the coin are scholars such as Freud who believed that humans are sexual beasts, and if we didn’t have to fit in with society to survive we would do whatever we wanted.
We behave the way we do because we think we should in order to be accepted in our community or family. We are a product our environment not an animal of instinct. Society is the dominating influence in human behavior, where we were nurtured determines the way we will behave. People in North Korea think and act completely differently than a Caucasian male living in Toronto, Canada. Freud also says that you can only learn about true human behavior while observing the interactions of a community and individuals in that community.
It seems that human instinct still exists but is not always used because man will choose to give up a necessity in order to remain excepted and part of society because while society exists it takes the place of instinct as the tool for survival. Human relationships shape human behavior and vice versa, an example that people do not think of a mate as a means of reproduction, feelings and emotions such as love, a feeling created by society, and literature.