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Are Human Beings Inherently Good or Evil?

Updated on November 23, 2011

In my opinion, the question of humans being inherently good or evil is one that must be answered using the life experience of the person responding.  When asked, many people look at their own motives for being a “good” citizen (I know I did). Some people may say that they are a good person because they want to get into heaven, while others may say that they are afraid of the consequences that would follow a belligerent action. Both of the reasons provided above are based off of the selfishness of human nature. The man/woman behaving because of their wanting to go to heaven is a prime example of how a little incentive can drive a whole part of society toward striving to be their best. The second example provides a contrast to the first example. It does this by having no incentive other than punishment. Behaving due to fear is probably the most common reasoning for law abiding citizens to be, well, law abiding.

Many of us, most of the time, work to help others. The little things we do like: holding open a door, showing compassion for someone in pain, or helping an elder women put her groceries in her car prove this. These things are so common, they become and ordinary part of life.

We are delighted, but we ultimately, are not surprised when people commonly care for sick relatives, give money to help food crisis victims, or volunteer to aid at rest homes. But do we do it because we are inherently good, or is it because we get something out of it?

My personal belief is a bit of a pessimistic one. I would like to believe that humans act because we are programmed to be good. I would like to believe that all people do things just to be a good person, but the truth of it is nobody, anywhere in the world, does something unless he or she gets something out of it. I can say this with such authority because after seventeen years here on earth, I have never seen an action that is done solely based on the “goodness of a person’s heart”. For example, a child helps his mother with the dishes. You may think, “he isn’t getting anything from that.” But the truth is, he is. He is gaining the respect of his mother, and therefore, creating happiness in his own mind. Being human means that we do things to satisfy our own little mind-cravings. Being happy is the primary craving us humans have. The reason we do things is so that we can be happy. We work long, boring, and sometimes dangerous jobs. When asked why, many people claim it is the money. And to them, the money leads to happiness and content. Another example is the anonymous money donator at the hospital. What this person receives from his/her actions is self content, and happiness in his/her own heart.  The truth is, although we think that we’ve evolved, and that we are superior to our ancestors in every way, it has been proven that we have not changed physiologically for the past 50,000 years. Our minds, our instincts, our gut feelings, our selfishness, are all the same as they were 50,000 years ago. To put it bluntly, we’re cave people.

To answer the question on which this paper was written, I would have to say that I do not believe that humans are born good, or born evil. I would say that humans are born selfish.

Selfish: concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being.


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    • ESP1983 profile image

      ESP1983 5 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      People believe that children, because of their innocence are inherently good, but I'd like to look for an explanation as to why there is school bullying among toddlers and young children. I am not sure that people "become" evil as life situations happen. I believe something deeper happens.

    • tamarawilhite profile image

      Tamara Wilhite 5 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

      Humans can be trusted to live down to their lowest impulses and use their brains to try to achieve base goals unless trained up to morality. We aren't inherently evil - just wild, nasty and brutish. Animals aren't evil. It takes direct, applied intellect to be evil, and only humans have that.

    • Leave of Wisdom profile image

      Leave of Wisdom 6 years ago from Sydney

      Check out the some of the hubs on good and evil here: I think you'll be interested.

      I'm so relieved you started your hub with saying humans are inherently good - i can't believe i'm reading hubs with people saying we are born evil! One thing surely is the most obvious on Earth is that children are innocent!