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Humanity: Inherently good or evil?

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  #1    
Old May 23rd, 2012 (12:52 PM). Edited May 23rd, 2012 by Livewire.
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In the classic debate on human nature, do you think human nature is inherently good natured and altruistic, or inherently evil and selfish, or somewhere in between? Support your decisions with philosophy, history, Malthus/Hobbes/Locke/ <Insert prominent intellectual mind here> , etc.

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Old May 23rd, 2012 (1:03 PM).
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I think generalizing such a thing demeans the struggles that all of us go through. There are too many different kinds of people to lump all of humanity into one group or the other, or even a number of subcategories. Suffice it to say that I believe there are all sorts of people: good, bad, and plenty of shades of gray.
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Old May 23rd, 2012 (1:20 PM). Edited May 23rd, 2012 by CarcharOdin.
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I don't think humans are as black and white as this topic suggests. Far as I'm concerned, people are born with shades of grey and it's our choices and influences that make us who we are. I suppose it also depends on living environment, personal experiences, and desires. Some people want more while others want less. Some people want to hurt while others want to help.

Personality can be a rather fickle thing; the smallest things in life have a tendency to change it if you allow it.

On the other hand, human needs and feelings, both positive and negative have always existed. It reminds me of this philosophy I once heard where everyone has the desire and ability to inflict suffering upon others and our base instincts influence those compulsive feelings, but most people choose to ignore these feelings, while some embrace them. Like I said, I think humans are born with shades of grey and it's our choices that make us who we are.
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Old May 23rd, 2012 (1:26 PM).
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Ok, this is a huge generalization you're making, but I'll go along and say the latter. I think people are generally not inclined to do the "good" thing, if it won't benefit them in any way, etc etc. It's just not in people's nature to do that. Maybe I'll come back on this later but can't find the words atm.
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Old May 24th, 2012 (11:33 AM).
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For the sake of the topic I'm gonna generalize.

Personally, I think of "good" as meaning "not causing harm." In that sense I think people lean toward "good" because we are social creatures. Most people don't intend to cause harm and even if their actions obviously do cause some harm, they believe that it is for a "greater good" and don't act out of spite. For instance, people pushing their religious beliefs believe they are bringing a better lifestyle to others. Parents who physically discipline their kids (probably) believe they are teaching them to behave. Even if there are nastier feeling mixed into people's actions I think that our capacity for thinking and acting in a moral sense means most people do that.

I guess that is me just looking at the glass half full, judging people by their intentions and from how they see the world. I can just as easily see the glass half empty though.
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Old May 24th, 2012 (5:38 PM).
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I'm pretty sure that if people could solve world hunger at a snap of their fingers, make world peace happen, learn to love each other, and all that shiz, they would do it. The problem is, it is part of human's nature to be a little bit greedy and a little bit lazy. No one can deny that they've lied for their own personal gain, or never hurt another human being on purpose. We're vengeful, we're secretive, we're smart. But that doesn't mean we like being bad people...

I think people in general are kind beings, but eventually they're transformed into something else judging by the conditions they're put under. Some become criminals, some of them firefighters/doctors/police etc... and some are just happy to be, well, here. Categorizing people as black and white is a little silly. We're all just people.

I don't really have anything to support me. Just opinions, and what I've learned through socializing and learning things by myself. People really interest me... I actually got my username from this subject.
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Old May 30th, 2012 (10:05 PM).
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Humanity is inherantly humanity. What is "good" and "evil" depends entirely upon your personal perspective and the situation at hand; these aren't absolute concepts, at least not in my opinion. You can predict to a certain extent what people will do in most situations, and I suppose you could give the collective race a classification such as "good" or "evil" depending on that, although that would still be a shaky definition at best, and wouldn't really account for personal differences within people or, if it did, I doubt it would account for them outside of one's own culture. With as many different perspectives as there are people, and no standard to say who is correct and who isn't, how could there be one universal standard by which to judge a race? You can say that humanity's actions are self-serving or serve the needs of the collective rather than the individual in most cases, but you can interpret a single action in hundreds of different ways; how you do so depends on what you think about it. Say, for example, one person comforts another. One might think that they're doing it for the sake of that person, yet they could also get a great deal of satisfaction out of doing it, or might just be uncomfortable with the situation. What's their motivation? In generic terms, the first would be classified as "good" and yet the other two would be classified as "selfish" ("evil" is a bit too strong a word) and this is just for one act. Everyone is motivated by different things and, when you have the wonderful concept of rationalisation, anything and everything can be made out to be "good", so how does one tell what is and what isn't? You could argue that if everything could be perceived as "good", then surely nothing is, because no distinction is made, but that brings up a host of other problems.

The very act of thinking about something defies altruism, because altruism doesn't require thought. If you have to think about doing it, you're engaging in rational choice, which defies the notion of doing good for good's sake; it might still be considered good, but it could also be considered self-serving, because it doesn't serve any detriment to you. You could argue that the fact we have to ask this question at all proves that humanity is inherentely selfish, because if we were good there would be a certainty in that, or at least not a need to speak it. But if we were certain of our own nature, that could be interpreted as arrogance, which is inherently self-serving. Round and round it goes. For every good perspective, there is an equal and opposite evil perspective, and validity is determined solely by individual observation, defying the idea of an absolute collective standard beyond that created by a single individual.

One may argue that the standard of society should be used, but if history - or rather, what has been written of our history, whether that is true or not - indicates anything, it is that those standards are as prone to change as standards between individuals for these things are. Standards change with cultures as well as time as well: whilst I hate to use the standard example, homosexuality is perfectly fine in some places, but could get you killed in others. Providing an overall definition is difficult for that single thing alone, let alone the nature of an entire race, which is compiled of who knows how many such issues that people are going to be divided over.

I don't think human nature can be generalised in such simple terms; perhaps in the sphere of a small community, but certainly not in a global context. Humans are incapable of being anything other than what they are, and what they are can only be quantified on an individual level, and not as a generalisation. Of course, generalisations are the only way that we can relate to one another and thereby communicate properly, but I think, ultimately, how you perceive humanity based on what you see is the only real determining factor in this.

That was all horribly convoluted, but that's how I see it. I'm a cynic, and I have a very negative view of humanity, but I like to try and keep an open mind towards things~
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Old May 31st, 2012 (4:35 AM).
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoshikkko View Post
Ok, this is a huge generalization you're making, but I'll go along and say the latter. I think people are generally not inclined to do the "good" thing, if it won't benefit them in any way, etc etc. It's just not in people's nature to do that. Maybe I'll come back on this later but can't find the words atm.
I agree with this. It is why you have to teach children not to be so selfish/ to share or not to hit others etc. I'm generalizing too, but it's what I believe.
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Old May 31st, 2012 (2:17 PM).
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I think that human nature is inherently evil and selfish, but we are raised to be good and caring. I also think that certain motives in society that we see make us more good or more evil.
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Old June 1st, 2012 (11:38 AM).
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People are generally self-interested, and act accordingly. That's not necessarily good or evil, though.
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