Liberal Theories of Human Nature

-By Thomas E. Brewton

If liberal theories are correct, humans are passive bundles of nerves at the mercy of intellectual tyrants.

If only what we can detect and measure with our physical senses is real, then a human being is no more than a mechanism for registering pleasure or pain. This is a fundamental premise of psychology, one of the social sciences created by the French Encyclopedists. Liberals don’t buy the idea that people might be self-governed by their consciences and their moral sense. They presume that people are motivated only by desires for sensual gratification, power, or money.

Hence the extraordinary importance attached to Sigmund Freud’s theories at the beginning of the 20th century.

Psychology reflected this materialism perfectly in its behaviorist school of thought later in the 20th century. J. B. Watson and B. F. Skinner went so far as to dismiss, not only the human soul, but even conscious thought as determinants of human behavior. The idea of consciousness, they said, was pre-scientific superstition and witchcraft. Taking materialism to the extreme, they theorized that the only determinants of behavior are external environmental factors, which completely outweigh inherited characteristics.

Watson wrote in his 1930 Behaviorism,

Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in, and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any kind of specialist I might select – doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and yes even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.

Professor Leslie Stevenson in his Seven Theories of Human Nature says of B. F. Skinner:

And recently he has produced Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971) in which he claims again that a technology of behavior can solve the problems of human life and society, if only we will give up our illusions about individual freedom, responsibility, and dignity.

The behaviorist theory opens wide avenues and bright prospects for Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World created and controlled by intellectuals. It is nothing more than Karl Marx’s theory that human nature is shaped by the ways in which people earn their livings and Lenin’s plan to produce the New Soviet Man. Forebodingly for the future of our nation, this is the radicalizing, amoral doctrine that generations of young students have been taught in our public schools and universities.

Liberals’ secular and materialistic theory of human nature also means that there is no such thing as right or wrong, just actions that work effectively or don’t work, things that are pleasant or unpleasant. This is what is called the philosophy of Pragmatism. It’s also known as moral relativism.

In the eyes of pragmatic liberals, there was nothing either right or wrong with Bill Clinton’s admittedly having lied to the people, while perjuring himself and obstructing justice before a Federal grand jury and a Federal District Court. The only important thing in the Pragmatic philosophy of socialism is to get what you want. Needless to say, dictators find this a highly convenient doctrine.

The philosophy of Pragmatism is the work of Professor John Dewey, arguably the most respected and widely heard American liberal theorist of the 20th century. In his 1908 lecture at Columbia University on Intelligence and Morals, he said:

……the abandonment by intelligence of a fixed and static moral end was the necessary precondition of a free and progressive science of both things and morals………The classical theories all agreed in one regard. They all alike assumed the existence of the end, the summum bonum, the final goal; and of the separate moral force that moves to that goal.……Knowledge of nature does not mean subjection to predestination, but insight into courses of change; and insight which is formulated in “laws,” that is, methods of subsequent procedure.……In the end, men do what they can do.……The effective control of their powers is not through precepts, but through the regulation of their conditions. (emphasis added)………

………The transformation in attitude, to which I referred, is the growing belief that the proper business of intelligence is discrimination of multiple present goods and of varied immediate means of their realization; not search for the one remote aim. The progress of biology has accustomed our minds to the notion that intelligence is not an outside power presiding supremely but statically over the desires and efforts of man, but is a method of adjustment of capacities and conditions within specific situations. History has discovered itself in the idea of process. The genetic standpoint makes us aware that the systems of the past are neither fraudulent impostures nor absolute revelations; but are the products of political, economic, and scientific conditions whose change caries with it change of theoretical formulations.

………From this point of view there is no separate body of moral rules; no separate system of motive powers; no separate subject-matter of moral knowledge, and hence no such thing as an isolated ethical science.

In other words, the whole of Western civilization, based on the belief that there are timeless moral virtues, is unscientific nonsense. Teaching children stories of patriotic, honest, loyal, courageous conduct is the wrong way to educate and control human society. What really does the job is regulations devised by intellectuals like Dewey to herd the masses into the pens designed to create the equal conditions of social justice. Concepts such as religion or moral codes are “value judgments,” and therefore unscientific.

But when Dewey and other liberals condemn the moral codes of individualism as unscientific value judgments, they are shooting themselves with their own weapon. The asserted superiority of liberal-socialism’s most fundamental objective – equality of income and wealth – is nothing if not a value judgment, because it rests on no scientific, real-world data or experience of any kind. It’s just an abstract theory.

Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.

His weblog is THE VIEW FROM 1776

Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions : EMAIL Thomas E. Brewton

Copyright Publius Forum 2001