the individual vs. society, and the collective unconscious

Are human beings social animals? We live in large collective groups and have complex rules for our social interactions. Also, our close biological relatives seem to frequently organised themselves into social groups. It would certainly seem so.

However, our entire experience of life is limited to our own headspace. Every human being is limited to their own, fundamentally ego-centric point of view. We can try to imagine what others are feeling, but only by imagining what we ourselves would experience in a similar situation. What's more, it is far easier to simply ignore what other people are feeling. We are conditioned by societies rules to not do this, but we all do it, and we do it frequently. It is an effort to put ourselves in someone else's shoes.

It is easier to be selfish than it is to be altruistic.

Indeed, biologically speaking, this makes sense. If we look ourselves over others we are more likely to survive and pass on our genes. Law of the jungle and all that. (This argument is of course more complex, for example there may be situations in which helping others helps us survive, but I would still point that our theoretical ancestor is only helping others here in order to help him-/herself).

So, again, I would state: it is easier to be selfish than it is to be altruistic.

This, to me, does not seem like the nature of a social animal. Now, maybe my definition of social is unnecessarily harsh but when I look at the world around me I believe that almost all the evil in it comes from people being selfish, from people ignoring the negative consequences of their actions on others.

Often, of course, we can't help but hurt some in order to help others but I would argue that the moral position here would be to ensure that the majority benefit, and the minority is hurt. A truly social animal would even hurt themselves if the majority benefited.

This rarely happens.

So, by my argument so far: We are selfish by nature and it is from this that "evil" originates in the world.

I seem to have wandered dangerously close to something akin to original sin. At the very least, this line of argument seems to state that all people are integrally evil. And I'm not sure I believe that. It may be true, but I want to try to convince myself that it is not. After all, the majority of people do not seem to be comporting themselves in an evil manner. As I stated at the opening of this ramble we live in large collective groups (sometimes numbering in the millions) and we tend to survive. Evil happens, but it is the minority. There is a social instinct.

Where does it come from?

Before I enter tenuous territory, there are some obvious places that should be mentioned. Most importantly: we are more likely to survive if we all agree to certain social rules. If we load certain actions with a moral aspect, that society punishes, then they are less likely to happen, and the majority more likely to survive.

However, existence is possible in a fractured anarchistic, everyone out for themselves, environment, so, again, where does this social urge come from? If it is easier to see from our own point of view, why do we look from others? What makes us want to do as we are done by?

Here is the tenuous territory: the collective unconscious. I, personally, have significant doubts about the collective unconscious. It doesn't fit with my hard-won preconceptions about the world at all. However, the evidence is there. There are undeniably universal themes and archetypes, not only in world mythology, but in how we construct our own lives. These themes and archetypes are still important today. They have been transmogrified certainly, but they are still here.

Of particular interest, I think, is the hero archetype - the archetype that stands at the centre of the story, the archetype that we aspire to. The hero is defined by sacrifice. He sacrifices himself, an individual, in order that society benefits. That is why we call people like firemen and policemen heroes: they put themselves in danger so that society benefits.

So, I would suggest that the collective unconscious is, at least partly, responsible for the social urge in humans. What this answers, however... I don't know. The collective unconscious seems to be a symptom rather than a cause. Or maybe it is just a more fundamental expression of the social urge. Whatever... there must be a cause for the collective unconcious. I don't know what this is. Maybe it is something similar in the make-up of our brains. Or maybe it is a creation of society itself, a story made up by one randomly occuring collective that allowed it to survive and propagate. I don't know.

But it is there, and maybe by exploring it, it will be possible to find out a little bit more about that terminal case we call the human condition.

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