Are All Humans Born Good And Then Some Become Bad? or Vice Versa?

Categories Meditation

“Good” is defined as: “to be desired or approved of; having the qualities required for a particular role; possessing or displaying moral virtue; and, giving pleasure, enjoyable or satisfying”; while “Bad” is defined as: “of poor quality, of a low standard, unpleasant, unwelcome, and not to be hoped for or desired.”

So now, ‘are all humans born good and then some become bad?; or are all humans born bad and then some become good?’

This perennial question regarding human nature continues to intrigue, just like it did fascinate many famous philosophers of ancient times.

Philosophers like the Englishman Thomas Hobbes who believed that humans are by nature born bad and evil because humans are nasty, greedy, egoistic, beast-like, war-like and tend to achieve their ends through evil means, such as harming others for the limited resources. According to Hobbes, humans needed to be totally controlled by a government and as a result he supported civilization or human culture, which he credited for stepping in and rescuing humanity from immorality and wickedness.

In contrast, some other philosophers argued that humans are inherently born good and that it is society’s influence, education and pressure that corrupted them to acquire a bad moral character. The education came to humans from nature, men, or things. They believed that humans only needed a government for guidance and protection but not for total control. These philosophers included the Frenchman Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the English-man John Locke, the German Immanuel Kant, the British-man John Stuart Mill, the Chinese thinker Mencius (Mengzi), and the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato. They believed that people were good until instances of social injustice, material inequality, wars, jealousy, murders, horrors, misfortunes and unjust distribution of resources reared their ugly head. The outcome was corruption of humans’ goodness; resulting in humans who are full of trickery, cheating, and adoption of a criminal mind, among others. “People are good until life changes them”, they said. The opening of Rousseau’s ‘Emile’ states that: “God makes everything good; man meddles with them and they become evil.”

Theologians, however, argue that both beliefs are incorrect. They believe that God made man in His image to be virtuous; possessing and displaying high moral standards. The fall of man, however, through the ‘original sin’ doctrine of St. Augustine, changed the previously perfectly good human nature to have the tendency to sin, which is innate in all humans. They believe that since humans are sinners, civilization cannot save them from themselves because civilization is themselves; only God can.

So which school of thought is right? And are the different views reconcilable? The decision is yours to make.

Most philosophers believed that humans are born, not with the natural instinct of “morality”, but with that of “needs” such as food, water, shelter, sex, and sleep. As they grow older, and because of the influence of society, civilization and education, they develop “wants” for fame, recreation, and aspirations to become stronger, see further, and acquire more knowledge. These needs and wants are neither good nor bad; it is rather what choices humans make to fulfill these needs and wants that defines whether they become good or evil.

The most common belief, and which I have been convinced to ascribe to, is that people are basically and inherently nice, all factors, including the societal, political and religious influences, considered. Hobbes might have thought that humans are born evil because bad traits, just like good ones, emerge so early in our lives that they appear to be innate. Hobbes opinion may also have stemmed from the fact that many of those who dominate public life, though comprising a small minority, are fixated on fame, honor, money and power; but because they are seen everywhere, it is incorrectly assumed that they are a majority and that they represent humanity.

Let us strive to make the world a better place for humanity by looking for, protecting, nurturing and fostering the basic, inherent goodness and moral norms in people. The innate goodness that is sensitive, compassionate, empathetic, selfless, helpful, honest, forgiving and just. , than to be more interested in money, fame, status and power.

My literature sources:

  1. Experimental Theology
  1. Emile, or On Education by Jean Jacques Rousseau
  2. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury
I am an epic introvert, who quickly becomes an open book when I pen what’s in my significantly fertile mind; fertile as a result of bombardment by realities that are continuously captured by my inquisitive eyes, ears which are constantly rubbing the ground, through constant reading, and through dreaming too.

Writing provides an opportunity to ‘say’ what my unapologetic quiet mouth will not say; which not only soothes me, but also bequeaths to me a relief, a release, and a hope that the written words will change the world, even if only one person at a time.

And so should you seek, that’s where to find me; deeply tucked inside the blankets of reading, seeing, listening, dreaming, and then writing.

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