DEBATE: Is Human Nature Good Or Bad?

in philosophy •  2 years ago 

Fundamentally speaking, are we naturally good or bad? Have you ever asked yourself that question, or look at you for an answer?

I took a communication class in college because it was part of my curriculum. I was very skeptical about it...here I am, paying thousands of dollars for college, and I have to take a class on something as basic as communicating. Yet it was by far the most rewarding class in that it made me and fellow students look at things in a different way.

The teachers were a duet, husband and wife, so the chemistry between them was so enjoyable that it made me as a student want to pay attention and not miss a thing. It challenged me, it made me want to contribute not for the grade, but for the knowledge, which I wish would've been the case for all the classes.

During one of the lectures, they asked this question, is human nature good or bad? Are we naturally good or bad? The consensus seemed to be that we are fundamentally good. Even a bully, a criminal, a terrorist became the way s/he was because of varying circumstances: upbringing, environment, influences etc. But even they, in the very beginning, were an innocent, good person that was moulded into all this evil by external factors that had nothing to do with their fundamentally good nature.

That all made sense until the teachers zoomed out a bit, instead of focusing on a terrorist or a criminal, to focus on a day to day 'regular joe' in a normal situation. They asked us something that we connected with on a more daily basis, where we were the actor rather than the viewer.
"When you go to a gas station, a convenience store, a book store, and the man or woman behind the cashier doesn't make eye contact with you, doesn't smile, talks very bluntly, doesn't say please or thank you, what do you think of him or her?"

Having been in that situation myself many many times, I realized I would always assume the negatives, that he is an ahole, she is a bi*, they are bad people who don't like people and that's just who they are. Sadly, so did the rest of the class.

Then the teachers asked, "do you ever think maybe he or she is just having a bad day? Maybe they got a phone call that their dad is in the hospital, they don't have money to pay the rent and the bills this month, that they physically don't feel well?"

Needless to say, I felt very embarrassed about my jumping to such negative conclusions under similar situations. I felt that maybe I wasn't as naturally good as I thought. And so did the rest of the class.

It is an open ended question, are we naturally good or bad? What I can say is that I am a better person thanks to that communication class I had to take in college, that lecture I did not dare miss because of such lovely teachers. I always ask myself those questions when I deal with a difficult person. Maybe that maniac driving so fast is just rushing to an emergency, maybe that a**hole pushing me on the street couldn't sleep last night because of his baby and is now rushing to work, maybe that cashier finds it hard to keep smiling after 8 hours of work and she still worries if she will make ends meet.

All in all, I think we shouldn't be so quick to jump to conclusions and I think our human nature is good. If not, I think that change starts with me and you.

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We are both.

Fair enough

Perhaps, we are none... If thinking about nature itself.

the only thing that is bad for us humans is money. It drives us crazy. Debating is of course a positive thing.

Money is not bad for humans; it is essential for humans.

Try to imagine a world in which there is no system of valuation:

I'm not saying money is a GREAT thing, and the current central banking system could use a shock (ahem blockchain). But without money how can we trade? exchange goods?

Money can be bad when humans themselves are corrupt in in their use of it- as is with everything. But money produces tangible good as well. How does debating help? (don't mean to demean debate, which can and is necessary for positive change, but once you decide on something, how do you achieve it? hint: $$$)

Yes, money is a medium of exchange and corruption for the central bankers.

Money can definitely corrupt us.

Morality, and as such good and bad, are a human construct. We define what is good, and naturally we define good as what benefits us. So humans are inherently good because we say so.

If I go kill someone who eats chicken, is that good or bad? Yes, I took the life of 1 human, but how many chickens did I save from being eaten? It's a negative for us, a benefit to chickens.

If I destroy someone's car, is that good or bad? Regardless of your take on climate change, at the very least that car (presuming gas powered) lets out mildly toxic fumes.

Good and bad are all a matter of perspective. No one does something THEY think is truly bad at the time, short of actions compelled by mental instability. As you allude to in your article, it's also circumstantial. Stealing is wrong, unless maybe if it's the only way to feed you and/or your family.

I find more often than not judgement is counter-productive. Stop what could hurt you or others, but maybe hold off when it comes to situations you're not fully knowledgeable of.

Why would stealing be good if its the only way to feed your family? Is rape also good if its the only way to have sex.

No, you don't need sex to live. If it's a matter of life or death, you do what you need to do. You disagree?

Keep in mind, I'm talking about a hypothetical where there is no other option.

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

You dont need to live to reproduce. You need sex to reproduce. If its a matter or reproducing you do what you need to do.

There is the option to starve. Dont forgot that.

You make some very good points @johnyliltoe ! Thanks for your insights!

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

Your relativist argument makes the concept of good or bad more subjective than it needs to be. Can't even argue the subject from the premise you're jumping off of.

We can quantify good as an action that alleviates suffering or at the very least doesn't generate more suffering. And we can quantify bad as something that generates suffering.
Everyone agrees that they do not enjoy suffering (I hope) so it's unanimous that suffering is a negative stimulus.

Yes, but many actions serve to alleviate the suffering of one while causing suffering for others. If you look at a serial killer, they're typically acting on an impulse that would cause them suffering if they ignored it. That's what makes good and bad extremely subjective, particularly the bad. No one does something in the interest of spreading only negativity. There is always some sense of alleviation behind it.

Interesting. i think the very idea of good and bad creates a superior versus inferior scenario. In order to label someone good you have to know what is bad. Which often means if you're good someone is bad. In a chain of events we'd need to have knowledge of the outcome of the events to determine bad and good.

According to Genesis, we are naturally bad in a sense of sin. But because of god's love and forgiveness, we can be cleansed and good.

We were born into the cannibalistic system modified by the fallen angels. You are an angel trapped in a human body. If you don't discover this truth while you are alive, you likely will burn in the put as a locust. You must get turned right side up (saved) or this is your fate.

We get to know the true nature of a person while dealing with him in situations. His reaction in those situations determines his true self. It does not matter what he has been preaching all the time because actions speak louder than words. The other side of the story is to be least affected by what people say because as you said people have a tendency to easily jump to conclusions. It is difficult but advisable to remain unaffected from what others say.

Thank you for writing this.

Thoughts about being good or bad find me very often. We are selfish in different shapes and forms. I admire those who appear to remain pure and selfless. Who give without expecting something in return. I want to be good and selfless, but I have so much to learn about not expecting things from people. Expectations just bring disappointments. Is loving someone considered selfish? Or it just happens and it is pure?

Maybe people are just disappointed or hurt when they appear being bad. Maybe they are just messed up by circumstances, bad things have happened to them, they are lost and can't see their path. We all crave attention, love and to feel needed.

Thanks for sharing that! Some deep questions you ask, worth an article each!

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

Thanks for posting this, it's an interesting topic.

Let me break down my thoughts on this with a short essay.

Some would say that the human nature is corruptible, both mentally and physically.

The mind is vulnerable to verbal/non-verbal and subliminal attacks, as well as to exposure to violence or any dangerous context.

The body is vulnerable to diseases, viruses and limited to a certain amount of mechanical resistance.

Now both the mind and the body influence each other, imagine a good health of the mind certainly improves and/or keeps the health of the body, as well as the other way around.

Others would say that the human individual is like the earth, it grows what seed you give it. You feed him love, will give more love; you give him bad treatment, he responds accordingly. Even if you feed the individual mixed seeds, the result is still not favorable.

Now you can imagine what a fierce individual will become after being exposed to torture, or how obedient and ignorant masses have become after being exposed to lies for so many generations.

So now we can conclude the positive/negative side of the human nature is in fact a product of the society and not a characteristic the individual is born with.

Let me know what you think.

Humanity is a dualistic fight between good and evil interally.. with the evil trying to destroy the good in a Canibalistic system (Cain / Abel). It represents the struggle to realize who you are and hopefully, you come out making the right choice, or face the consequences.

Duality is everywhere in the Universe, including our nature. The only difference is that humans have consciousness, we have the posibility to bring light into dark or the opposite.

I think initially the human nature is determined by environment (people, their marality, rules). But later it is more the choice of the person - which side to choose.

"I'm just a human after all..." There's everything inside of each of us

Human like Hitler was.

Since there is evil and good inside you, a choice must be made.

We are both and neither depending if you look at it subjectively or objectively.

I think the bad / good approach makes little sense.

It's our actions that defines us :)

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thank you

You bring up some really thought provoking ideas here @daddyworld. I really like that you professor flipped the scenario and made you consider every day situations. BTW...

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Don't we first have to define what is good or what is bad? If all our activity is focused on getting what we want at the expense of other people that's called selfish. Parents and teachers try to get rid of this at an early age kids. Of course it doesn't usually work. The most common word in all languages is I.
Getting what we want seems a human desire hard to stop.

Of course people on Wall Street will be much different than those in a monastery in Tibet. So where you live makes a big difference. Don't assume that car coming down Wall Street is going to stop to let you cross the street. A study from The 1950s by Lewin found that Rats in crowded conditions were much less kind.

We are all a mix of good and bad. The same person might show road rage in traffic and later hold the door open for someone. Most religions try to get us to be more this way. Most fail. There are millions in prisons and few in monasteries. Better look both ways and cross that street quickly.

To quote a Nobel prize winning poet, "You don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows."

Well i do believe we are born with all knowledge, and have had this notion that there are people who are fundamentally very strong and those very weak in body and/or mind.

We have both qualities bad and good ,it depends on us whether we wants to become bad or good decision .

main-qimg-200d9143619cc91e7a1a18354fd57ecb-c.jpg

:D

Insofar as we remain "Human All Too Human", we are both. But once "we" overcome the limits of Humanism, we can in turn overcome the myth of good and evil ;-)

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

Human nature is good, but what what makes us bad is this worthless monetary system, I mean in this modern World we have enough food for everybody, but people are still dying of Famine in different parts of world just because they don't have that wortless piece of paper to pay for it, I don't think paper should be worth more than a human life, Imagine a world where everyone is fed, nobody is dying of hunger, World would be a slightly better place, thanks

The concepts of "good" and "bad" are themselves subjective.

What's good for me, may be bad for you. A bad forest fire may be clearing the way for new growth in an otherwise biologically un-diverse eco-system, thus making it good for the new life that will spring up there.

Starting wars in foreign lands may be bad for the poor schmucks who live there, but good for the military industrial complex.

when we perceive that resources are plentiful we behave better.

Human nature cannot be good or bad because nature doesn't care about good or bad.

If you are going to put this in philosophy first you should think what good and bad even mean. They are relative terms. There is no absolute good or bad. There are just things people like or dislike.

There is no point in asking if you dont even understand what the question is.

Once you understand who you are, where you are, and why you are here you will find that statement patently false.

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It depends on the person. Some are angels others are devils. Probably the same with all galactic races except for draco repitlians who are more devilish.

Great insight.
In my opinion, I believe we are fundamentally what we surround ourselves with. For instance, if you surround yourself with great people who motivate you, uplift you, and enjoy your presence, you will in turn become someone who others enjoy to be around. And vice-versa, if you surround yourself with people who are negative, not good for you, and have sociopathic tendencies, you're empathy towards others will dissipate, and so will your good spirit.