Is War in Our Nature? What Is Right and What Is Wrong about the Seville Statement on Violence

Azar Gat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Seville Statement on Violence rejected the view that violence and war were in any way rooted in human nature and proclaimed that they were merely a cultural artifact. This paper points out both the valid and invalid parts of the statement. It concludes that the potential for both war and peace is embedded in us. The human behavioral toolkit comprises a number of major tools, respectively geared for violent conflict, peaceful competition, or cooperation, depending on people’s assessment of what will serve them best in any given circumstance. Conflict is only one tool—the hammer—in our diverse behavioral toolkit. However, all three behavioral strategies are not purely learned cultural forms. This naive nature/nurture dichotomy overlooks the heavy and complex biological machinery that is necessary for the working of each of them and the interplay between them. They are all very close under our skin and readily activated because they have all been very handy during our long evolutionary past. At the same time, they are variably calibrated to particular conditions through social learning, which means that their relative use may fluctuate widely. Thus, state authority has tilted the menu of human choices in the direction of the peaceful options in the domestic arena, and changing economic, social, and political conditions may be generating a similar effect in the international arena.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149–154
Number of pages6
JournalHuman Nature
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Conflict
  • Nature/nurture
  • Peace
  • The Seville statement
  • Warfare


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