Is Man Inherently Good

Published: 2021-10-09 15:30:13
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Is man inherently good or evil? To answer that question we will examine humanity’s past and present acts. We will discuss the causation of man through their natural acts, through wars, conflicts and common acts of violence. We will show that humanity is neither inherently evil nor good. However, we often settle our personal disagreements through common violent acts. Wars are fought because we want to establish our dominance or have some kind of agenda. Briefly mentioned are some common theories suggesting the reasoning behind such wicked behaviors.
Also discussed is the examination of each team member’s personal values, which is an idea, accepted by individuals or a group; beliefs are any cognitive content held as true; morals are principles of right and wrong or, conforming to standards of behavior and character based on those principles. These are based in cultural and social constructs which vary from culture to culture. Thomas Hobbes, a 17th century philosopher viewed human beings as naturally egoistic creatures who seek their own welfare, even if this leads to aggression against others.
Hobbes argued that people join into society to gain security from others. A century later Jean-Jacques Rousseau disputed Hobbes’ theory, and in 1762 Rousseau wrote humans are natural compassionate loners. But, unlike animals, human behavior is not determined by instinct; human behavior is acquiescent; it changes in the societies within which humans live. Rousseau argues that the violent traits that Hobbes attributes to human nature are actually caused by the type of society in which people live and not essential human nature (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2007).
The principles that determine the character of man are morals, values and beliefs. It is within these principles that will decide whether humanity is inherently good or evil. In our team, we have individuals whose beliefs, morals and values have some faith-based influence and others whose beliefs, morals and values are a product of their surroundings such as family and friends or people of influence. Rupert and Danielle’s beliefs, morals and values have a foundation based in faith: treat others as we want to be treated, the importance of honesty and putting education first from childhood was instilled.
Family and church shaped the foundational teachings that are a part of their everyday lives as adults. These foundational tenets are what forms and shapes their core beliefs. Stacey, Heidi, and Pamela’s core beliefs are a direct result of family upbringing, which has become a part of their personal philosophy. Education is of value to our team as well and it is because of that core value that Danielle, Pamela, Rupert, Stacey and Heidi returned to school. Further, throughout history decisions and acts based on values, morals and beliefs have sometimes led to evil acts, costing millions of lives.
In an editorial titled, “Who will deliver Darfur from Evil? ” the author described reports of people thrown into fires, partially skinned and injured (2005). So, why do people commit evil acts? According to Yaakov Astor, the answer includes “avoiding the negative clears the path of our inherent goodness” (2003). Thus, we can avoid the negative to bring out our goodness. Is this possible? Adolf Hitler chose to prey on people’s fears, and “terror [was] his principal means to achieve his ends; and he became in the eyes of virtually the whole world an incarnation of absolute evil” (2005).
Let us give a definition to evil and then draw some connections to why this behavior occurs on an individual level. Accepted by most, the definition of evil is a wicked behavior or inflicting some form of harm to another. Thus, based on the definition we have concluded that there is a correlation between evil and crime. Therefore, from this information we will safely say that any crime that includes malice is an evil act because it is with deliberate intent to cause harm to another by infringing on their basic human rights.
If criminal acts and evil may be linked, it is important to further investigate why humans commit such evil acts on one another. To explain this, there are biological, environmental and free will based theories. Pier and Levitt (2008) have paid much attention to the biological aspect of evil. Their studies have shown that genes can depict the personality of an individual. Additionally, Cesare Lombroso’s most popular work The Criminal Man in 1911 mentioned the idea of being biologically predisposed to evil. Lombroso’s theory does not outwardly discuss genes but thoroughly discusses its foundation of atavism.
Atavism is the idea that people of an evil or criminal nature have not fully evolved. His earlier writings suggest that atavism can be seen because of the physical features of those individuals which is the result of their biological make up. To know that a person can be predisposed biologically to be evil, we will also look at the other main theories. Sociologists would argue that the environment is the cause of evil behavior, and theorize that our negative and wicked acts are a direct product of our environment.
One of the most acknowledged in this theory is Edwin Sutherland. The Differential Association theory states “Individuals become predisposed toward criminality because of an excess of contacts that advocate criminal behavior” (Hagan, 2008, p. 158). Sutherland and his Differential Association theory are vital to understanding why people can be influenced into following through with such negative acts. There are nine propositions to support Sutherland’s theory. “1. Criminal behavior is learned; 2.
Criminal behavior is learned in interaction with other persons in a process of communication; 3. The principal part of the learning of criminal behavior occurs within intimate personal groups; 4. When criminal behavior is learned, it includes: (a) techniques of committing crime, which are sometimes very simple; and (b) the specific direction of motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes” (Hagen, 2008, p. 159). This theory clearly shows how individuals are easily coursed into committing evil acts. The final theory is free will.
The idea of free will is most associated with Cesare Beccaria, who argues that individuals choose to be wicked and commit terrible acts on each other to gain something for selfish reasons. This gives rise to the theory that humanity is, in fact, evil. Beccaria’s insight into punishment is extensively documented; he believed it should be swift and certain. None of these theories stand alone. When combined, they document that a person is more likely to commit an evil act if he or she chooses to if they have the gene and are taught the behavior.
Often these criteria make a person a high-risk candidate to commit criminal or evil behavior. Thus, it is arguable that it may be harder for humans to commit good acts and much easier to commit evil ones. As youth and adolescents, individuals often commit crimes. These crimes, though small, do however inflict pain on others whether emotional or physical. For example, repeated vandalism can cause massive amounts of stress to a victim or even physically harm them. A child or children do not fully understand the kind of damage he or she is causing; it is just harmless fun.
These types of acts don’t necessarily graduate into more serious acts but the seed and inclination is there. Either the bad ingrained behavior is instinctive because of environmental programming, because of conditioning or because of predisposition; it is there nonetheless. For example, a child at age three breaks a vase, their parent tries to discover who did it and the toddler lies to his or her parents. The capacity for self-preservation is instinctive and one the child manifests through lying.
These simple acts explain the true nature of humanity and that is to be evil. Though evil is within our nature, we do have the ability to make choices and develop morals, values and beliefs that have a positive foundation that enables us to make the best choices. Thus, whether humanity is inherently good or evil is more complex than these two binaries can answer. It is a combination of factors that include environment, society, and culture as well as inborn genetic traits that coalesce into specific behaviors, whether they are criminal or evil in nature.
It’s not as simple as black and white, and as many theories attest, there are shades of gray that combine to lead to what we may call “evil” behavior. At best, humans are a myriad of choices they make, experiences they have, and the environment in which they live. It is no doubt, however, that whatever our morals, values and beliefs develop into influence our behavior and whether we categorize it as “good” or “evil.

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