The controversy of historical philosophers about war and human nature… Will human violence decrease?

In a book titled “The Darker Angels of Our Nature”, 17 historians published a response to “The Better Angels of Our Human Nature” which argues that global violence is declining, and in their book they attack what they describe as “fake history.” .

A decade after Canadian psychologist Stephen Pinker declared that violence was declining, historians see no indications that this is true so far.

Pinker’s book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, argues that violence in all its forms – including war – is in decline, and reviews data and statistics that simply document the decline of violence across time and geography, he estimates.

The book, issued 10 years ago, highlights factors it sees as potential causes of this global decline in violence, chief among them the nation-state’s monopoly on power, trade (keeping others alive is more valuable than dead), increased literacy and communication (promoting empathy), and a culture of human rights. human being, as well as the emergence of a rational approach to solving problems.

Ironically, Pinker notes, our impression of violence did not follow this decline, possibly due to increased communication, and that further decline is not inevitable.

The book was received warmly in many circles, before many responses were issued to it, the intensity of which has not abated so far.

The myth of nonviolent modernity

Last September, 17 historians published in response to Pinker’s book, The Darker Angels of Our Nature, attacking what they described as “false history”, stating that their response aimed to “expose the myth of devoid of modernity.” violence.”

The book “The Best Angels in Our Human Nature” (left) and next to it is the book “The Dark Angels in Our Human Nature” (Al Jazeera)

Studying the history of violence from Japan and Russia to Native America, medieval England, and the imperial Middle East, these experts debunk the myth of nonviolent modernity, asserting that the true story of human violence is incomparably richer, more interesting, and more complex than Pinker’s simplified narrative.

Some may see this debate as just “a whirlwind in the teacup of a group of thinkers”, but this debate raises a very important question, “Can we know the future of war affairs from the study of the ancient past?”

Pinker believes that we can infer the future of war and peace from the events of history, and this was inferred by data stretching back thousands of years to prehistoric times showing the decline of wars, according to a report The British newspaper “The Guardian”.

But some of his critics say that the wars waged by modern states, which are only a few hundred years old – or less – have nothing in common with the conflicts that preceded them; Therefore, it is too early to tell whether the supposed “long peace” we have enjoyed since the end of World War II is just a passing peace or a sustainable state.

War.. what is the use of it?

According to historian and archaeologist Ian Morris of “Stanford University” – author of the book “War… What is it for?” (? War! What Is it Good For) 2014- That the nature of mass violence has not changed much in thousands of years, and that what has changed is that human societies were smaller in the past.

He also argues that the massacre of dozens of fishermen in Sudan about 13,000 years ago is the oldest known example of mass violence, and is important to understanding modern warfare.

Morris argues – in his book – that war is fundamental to history, and only through war has humanity been able to meet in larger societies, and thus enjoy security and wealth.

Thanks in large part to the wars of the past, our modern lives are 20 times safer than those of our Stone Age ancestors. an offer The book was published by the British Guardian newspaper.

To make his case, Morris reviews the history of war, moving the reader from bows and arrows to ballistic missiles, and draws lines in the parallel evolution of social forms, from hunting and primitive groups to the European Union.

Morris agrees with what archaeologist Detlev Groenenborn of the Romano-Germanic Museum in Mainz, Germany, said. In 2015, he and others described a massacre that occurred among the first farmers in Europe in an area of ​​Germany, about 7,000 years ago, in which more than 20 people were killed with sharp fighting tools. Or with arrows, they were buried in a mass grave, and their lower legs were systematically broken either shortly before they were killed or immediately after they were killed.

The absence of young girls among the dead indicates that they may have been abducted by the attackers.

Groenenborn says that massacres in which entire communities were massacred were a frequent occurrence in Europe at the time, and that one of the distinguishing features of those massacres was the desire to erase the identity of the victims. He believes that the only difference between the wars of the past and the present is the size of those wars.

However, although some scholars agree with Pinker that prehistoric and modern wars represent the same phenomenon, they do not necessarily agree with Pinker’s claim that there is evidence of a long-term decline in war.

Pinker based his claim that prehistoric times were very violent on the study of about 20 archaeological sites dating back over 14,000 years.

Historian Dag Lindstrom of Sweden’s Uppsala University says that these sites conclusively bear witness to ancient violence, “but they cannot be relied upon to draw conclusions regarding a quantitative comparison” between yesterday’s and future wars.

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