Homo Homini Lupus
While doing a reading for my animal behavior class, an introductory Biology course, I cam across this phrase in regards to Freud and human emotion- “homo homini lupus”, meaning “man is wolf to man”. The first though that came to mind after reading that phrase…Hobbes.
In my animal behavior course, we learn about how people have evolved to be selfish. Our inherent goals are to carry our own genes on to the next generation, and do all that we must to achieve this goal, even if it means fighting with our own species. This all reminded me so much of Hobbes’ state of nature, except Hobbes does not relate human selfishness to spreading one’s own genetics, but to one’s desire for power. It struck me how similar Hobbes’ state of nature and nature of man are so similar to the theories put forth by my animal behavior class, especially as I do not like Hobbes’ cynical view of man and do not wish to draw any comparisons.
I do not believe the phrase “homo homini lupus”, but, rather, I prefer to lean towards Rebecca Solnit’s argument in “The Uses of Disaster” that we tend to band together after times of crisis and help each other. Her article especially struck me from my own experiences. I did a service project in New Orleans post-Katrina, and I was struck by how giving and dedicated each New Orleans native I met was towards rebuilding their city. Everyone I met maintained a profound trust in the city and in their neighbors- there was no mention of looting, or selfish acts post-Katrina. Everyone banded together to rebuild and help. My particular project worked towards rebuilding a school that had been destroyed in the hurricane, and four of the volunteers I worked with were twenty-year-olds who had attended that school and had come back to do their part in helping. They had moved back home from New York City to help. I was in awe of the utter LACK of a Hobbesian state of nature, and I was so pleased with that outcome. I prefer to think the best of people (I prefer to believe that Hobbes’ state of nature is all wrong), and I loved Solnit’s article and how she refuted Hobbes’ argument. It’s a good feeling to experience or read about situations in which people do not act selfishly, or in competition for power or resources, but instead work together towards something greater and more universally beneficial.
Homo homini lupus? I think not.