Edgewater Angels

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Summary of Howard Zinn’s “Violence and Human Nature”

In Howard Zinn’s article “Violence and Human Nature” Zinn investigates the belief that violence is an innate trait of human beings. In the end he comes to a conclusion that not all humans are born with a drive to be violent, but instead mainly influenced by that person’s natural surroundings and environments. In section one of Zinn’s article, he explains three events in which he has experienced which have ultimately shaped his perception of human violence. Two of the events he watched and one in which he participated. He claims that the violence he has participated in can be explained by the environment and it was influenced by his surroundings. Zinn believes it is wrong to make excuses beyond the environment one is raised in, or that it is the environment that one is brought up by that holds the reason why human beings are violent.

In the next section, Zinn is looking at the great minds to see what their views are and if violence is connected to Human Nature. Zinn looks into a philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, who believed that mankind had an everlasting desire for power that would only be finished in death. Zinn also examines the mind of Albert Einstein who wanted to seek answers for why humans make war. For this he writes to philosopher, Sigmund Freud, who responds by saying that he agrees with Einstein that, “Because man has within him a lust for hatred and destruction” (Zinn 34). However, Einstein then concludes that man is steered to “disastrous collective suggestions”. In the end Zinn discovers that even the most intelligent men cannot find evidence within their profession to prove that humans are driven to commit violent acts. In Howard Zinn’s third section, he focuses on the evidence in science to figure out if one has an innate drive of violence and if they are aggressive or not. At first Zinn talks about two scientists, Freud and E. O. Wilson who neither find evidence for the drive of violence...
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