hate crimes :: hate is a global issue
|Is hate learned or instinctual?|
For more than 2,400 hundred years, Western philosophers and psychologists have sought to understand the origins of hate.
Are humans benign, content creatures with a voluntary ability to express discontent? Or are we slaves to an uncontrollable boiling point, beyond which our behavior can no longer be contained?
Earliest Western thinkers believed hate is learned
Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle believed a person could choose whether to like or dislike a person: "We can prove people to be friends or enemies," he wrote in Rhetoric:
"If they are not, we can make them out to be so; if they claim to be so, we can refute their claim; and if it is disputed whether an action was due to anger or to hatred, we can attribute it to whichever of these we prefer."
Aristotle believed that moral virtues are prepared by our nature as human beings, but believed that our social environment and upbringing can influence how these virtues are used in life.
Founders of modern psychology believe aggression is instinctual
Sigmund Freud, one of the most influential men in modern Western psychology, leaned toward the opposite field of thought. He believed aggression stems from redirected energy from a human's primitive death urge. Instinctually, this aggressive energy builds up until it can be released by a stimulus.
While other psychologists such as Thomas Hobbes and Konrad Lorenz also believed in the inevitability of aggression, Freud's theory was largely discredited when psychology began to call hundreds of emotions "instinctual."
Social psychologists point out another fault of Freud's theory - it fails to account for variations in aggressiveness. Different cultures tend to be more aggressive than others, as do different individuals within the same culture.
Social psychology today: Back to the learning theory
Today, most social psychologists agree that, at least in part, learning teaches us how to handle aggression.
In 1997, Albert Bandura argued that humans learn aggression by observing pay offs from aggressive actions. Often, people see that aggression helps them obtain what they are seeking, creates submissiveness and gets attention. Whether or not humans act on their aggressiveness depends on their anticipated consequences, he proposed.
If Bandura and Aristotle are right, and aggression can be controlled and hate learned, then can we stop hate crimes before they start?