Robert Greene’s five international bestsellers earned him descriptions like genius and master of human behavior. His newest book was just released. The Laws of Human Nature is the culmination of his life’s work to understand why. Why do humans behave the way we do?
As well as penning manifestos on subjects inherent to the human experience, Robert Greene has been a student of Stoic philosophy for over three decades. Daily Stoic sat down with Robert for what we think is our best interview to date. It was his first interview since suffering a stroke only weeks before The Laws of Human Nature’s release. The Stoic influence is obvious throughout, but perhaps no more than in his response to our question about empathy.
“Let’s start with the primary law of human nature. If I had to say what the primary law of human nature, the primary law of human nature is to deny that we have human nature…The truth is we all evolved from the same source, from the same small number of people. Our brains are basically the same. We are wired in a similar way. We experienced the world, emotionally, the same way that hunter-gatherers experienced the world. Very little has changed in that sense. So if we all come from the same source, why would it be that only a small number of people are aggressive or are irrational? We are all the same.”
This is what Marcus Aurelius meant when he wrote, “the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own—not the same blood or birth, but the same mind.” This is what Abraham Lincoln meant when he said, “Don’t criticize them, they are what we would be under similar circumstances.”
Aren’t we all just the sum of our circumstances? It’s not so much that we are unique individuals, but that our circumstances are uniquely individual. The family we happened to be born into, where that family happened to live, who else happened to live there. In a lot of ways–for the most part in fact–we can’t help it. We can’t help the circumstances that shaped us, our thinking, our interests, our beliefs, our attitudes, our responses.
So next time someone is driving you insane, or you just can’t believe the ignorance, you can’t fathom the stupidity–remind yourself, you are shockingly similar to them. We all share the same nature. We all have the same flaws. Try to understand them…while you work on improving yourself.