Konrad Lorenz

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Konrad Lorenz : biography

November 7, 1903 – February 27, 1989

Lorenz does not see human independence from natural ecological processes as necessarily bad. Indeed, he states that:

"A completely new [ecology] which corresponds in every way to [humanity’s] desires… could, theoretically, prove as durable as that which would have existed without his intervention (36).

However, the principle of competition, typical of Western societies, destroys any chance of this:

"The competition between human beings destroys with cold and diabolic brutality… Under the pressure of this competitive fury we have not only forgotten what is useful to humanity as a whole, but even that which is good and advantageous to the individual. […] One asks, which is more damaging to modern humanity: the thirst for money or consuming haste… in either case, fear plays a very important role: the fear of being overtaken by one’s competitors, the fear of becoming poor, the fear of making wrong decisions or the fear of not being up to snuff…" pp45–47.

In this book, Lorenz proposes that the best hope for mankind lies in our looking for mates based on the kindness of their hearts rather than good looks or wealth. He illustrates this with a Jewish story, explicitly described as such.

Lorenz was one of the early scientists who recognised the significance of overpopulation. The number one deadly sin of civilized man in his book is overpopulation, which is what leads to aggression.

Philosophical speculations

In his 1973 book Behind the Mirror: A Search for a Natural History of Human Knowledge, Lorenz considers the old philosophical question of whether our senses correctly inform us about the world as it is, or provide us only with an illusion. His answer comes from evolutionary biology. Only traits that help us survive and reproduce are transmitted. If our senses gave us wrong information about our environment, we would soon be extinct. Therefore we can be sure that our senses give us correct information, for otherwise we would not be here to be deceived.

Works

Lorenz’s best-known books are King Solomon’s Ring and On Aggression, both written for a popular audience. His scientific work appeared mainly in journal articles, written in German; they became widely known to English-speaking scientists through the descriptions of it in Tinbergen’s 1951 book The Study of Instinct, though many of his papers were later published in English translation in the two volumes titled Studies in Animal and Human Behavior.

  • King Solomon’s Ring (1949) (Er redete mit dem Vieh, den Vögeln und den Fischen, 1949)
  • Man Meets Dog (1950) (So kam der Mensch auf den Hund, 1950)
  • Evolution and Modification of Behaviour (1965)
  • On Aggression (1966) (Das sogenannte Böse. Zur Naturgeschichte der Agression, 1963)
  • Studies in Animal and Human Behavior, Volume I (1970)
  • Studies in Animal and Human Behavior, Volume II (1971)
  • Motivation of Human and Animal Behavior: An Ethological View. With Paul Leyhausen (1973). New York: D. Van Nostrand Co. ISBN 0-442-24886-5
  • Behind the Mirror: A Search for a Natural History of Human Knowledge (1973) (Die Rückseite des Spiegels. Versuch einer Naturgeschichte menschlichen Erkennens, 1973)
  • Civilized Man’s Eight Deadly Sins (1974) (Die acht Todsünden der zivilisierten Menschheit, 1973)
  • The Year of the Greylag Goose (1979) (Das Jahr der Graugans, 1979)
  • The Foundations of Ethology (1982)
  • The Waning of Humaneness (1987) (Der Abbau des Menschlichen, 1983)
  • Here I Am – Where Are You? – A Lifetime’s Study of the Uncannily Human Behaviour of the Greylag Goose. (1988). Translated by Robert D. Martin from Hier bin ich – wo bist du?.
  • The Natural Science of the Human Species: An Introduction to Comparative Behavioral Research – The Russian Manuscript (1944–1948) (1995)