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Human Nature: Good Or Evil?

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For centuries many philosophers, as well as most individuals, have pondered on the question what is good and what is evil. More-so philosophers of all ages have also stumbled upon a more in depth question which is if the intuitive knowledge of man's nature is good, or if it is evil. Many have claimed to have an answer to these puzzling questions yet most of their answers were found to be incomplete and inadequate at a later date. Religion also tried to provide a solution but to my understanding only caused more of an entanglement if anything.

According to the current definition from Webster, good is defined as morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious; where as evil is defined as morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked. One could argue that good and evil according to modern definitions are based on morals and if so then what can possibly be perceived as a moral or immoral act? What other being has the right to tell another what may be morally correct when morals should lye within ones own self? For instance, most people in present day society could agree that cannibalism is immoral or is wrong however what about those few tribes, such as the Asmat, that still practice it today? Yes, to society as a whole it is wrong to kill and eat other humans but to this tribe it is perfectly acceptable to do so. Thusly, this proves that the perception of morals varies between individuals and therefore in return means that good and evil are different for everyone as well.

According to one of the great Chinese philosophers Mensius, human nature is perceived as good when an individual is born. He believes that "All men have a mind which cannot bear to see the sufferings of others" or that we cannot stand to see others hurting. Now, if we went on this basis then we could use an example of a young child about to crawl and fall in some kind of well or deep hole. I guarantee almost everyone would venture over and attempt to save this child before he/she fell and possibly killed him/her self. However, what about those few people who would not attempt this heroic act perhaps out of fear or maybe a hidden selfish behavior. Would these people be considered evil and if so how did they become this way? Were they born this was or was it some sort of external forces that led them to become evil? Well according to Hsun Tao, another Chinese philosopher, humans were born of an evil nature and with some sort of guidance from a teacher could learn to become good. He believed that what is natural to human beings is desire and desire inevitably leads to conflict; since this is evil then so is the nature the results within. Yet referring back to the young child and well example, why would most people do the right thing? Is it because they are taught to be good again is it something that is deeper? However, another Chinese philosopher, Kao Tzu, beleived that human nature is neither inherently good nor inherently evil but rather a "blank slate" that could be conditioned in both directions. When an individual is born he/she has no ideas or preexisting behaviors but that through life experiences and external forces, such as family and friends, that influence ones human nature. Or according to John Locke "the mind at birth is a blank white sheet of paper on which experience writes."

Religion also claims to provide a solution for whether human nature is initially good or evil but this of course varies upon the religion. According to Catholicism everyone who has been born is tainted with original sin which according to the bible is an inclination to evil caused



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