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good or evil?

kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,634 ✭✭✭✭
This is a discussion that my friends and myself have been having in recent days and i want all of your imput. I dont want to sway your opinions right off the bat so i will leave myself out of it to begin with. I may even play devil advocate and just go against what everyone says. hey, sometimes stiring the pot is fun.

the question is:

are people inherently good or inherently evil? ...and justify it.


discuss.
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Comments

  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,634 ✭✭✭✭
    p.s. this has nothing to do with the election or politics. leave it out of this.
  • madurofanmadurofan Posts: 6,219 ✭✭✭
    Well having been a philosophy minor in college, I've had to argue this a few times. I've actually argued both ways and can build a philosophically sound argument for either. However, people are inherently evil, if you want a sound argument let me know but I'll just give a reason for now. People generally expect their screw ups and their "sins"(for lack of a better word right now) to go unnoticed while they expect praise and admiration for performing good deeds.
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,634 ✭✭✭✭
    a mistake hardly makes one evil. so... yeah i need a better argument than that.
  • madurofan:
    Well having been a philosophy minor in college, I've had to argue this a few times. I've actually argued both ways and can build a philosophically sound argument for either. However, people are inherently evil, if you want a sound argument let me know but I'll just give a reason for now. People generally expect their screw ups and their "sins"(for lack of a better word right now) to go unnoticed while they expect praise and admiration for performing good deeds.
    I agree. Also, many people these days are looking for a free handout instead of working for what they want (i.e welfare). They would rather sit back and live off of our hard work instead of trying to make it themselves.
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,634 ✭✭✭✭
    but does that make them evil by nature or just animal?
  • kuzi16:
    but does that make them evil by nature or just animal?
    Good point. Please elaborate a little more.
  • BigDan.BigDan. Posts: 211
    i think people are neutral to begin with... they arent born with good intentions but they arent born evil..... i think that society and the persons souroundings play a huge role in this............ if you are constantly around stealing and other criminal acts from the day you are born and you are told that this is ok will be influenced by this and most likely do wrong things im not saying this is a 100% full proof method tho because there are always these exceptional people. and there are people who can grow up in very affluent areas that have little to no crime rate and they can turn out to be insane murderers and such. but i think that society has the most affect on people and how they act................................................. when you are born you dont really have the copacity to know right from wrong or good from evil you are tought these morals and values which is why children make so many mistakes and parents teach them or punish them or do nothing and look the other way....................... however there are these exceptions there are people who are born evil its in there blood possibly even genetics. people who start genocide and people who do radical hate crimes and commit brutal murders......... these people might have brain deficiances they may be mentally insane or sick or have a sort of depression that alters the way they think................... wow well im not really sure where i stand any more because im going back and forth on this topic but i think its a great discussion
  • dutyjedutyje Posts: 2,263
    This question makes the assumption that free will exists. I don't believe that it does. Therefore, I will say that people are neither good nor evil. They simply exist within the context of this world as we have defined it.

    If you're going to force me to play along, I will humor you and make the assumption that free will exists. In that case, I will cite a basic example to demonstrate that people are inherently good. Off the top of your head, what percentage of people in the world, are "bad"? Now, off the top of your head, what percentage of people in the world think of themselves as "bad"? OK.. now keep those two numbers in mind.

    Next, let me define "good" and "evil" as follows:
    Good: The act of electing to sacrifice something of benefit to oneself for the greater good of one's society, or the world.
    Evil: The act of knowingly forcing others to unwillingly endure a sacrifice in order to benefit oneself.

    Now -- remember your numbers from before? Most people (even the really evil ones) genuinely view themselves as "good" people. Every man acts as is his own best judge, because only he has exposure to the complete perspective of his situation and experiences. When somebody does something "bad," they generally don't perceive it as "bad." This perception, under the assumption of free will, is the most valid metric of reality with respect to an individual being labeled as "good" or "bad." Therefore, people are inherently good. Except that they aren't, because free will is an illusion created by the our minds as a means of satisfying the need to further our existence.
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,634 ✭✭✭✭
    you give your dog food every day. GIVE him food. he has become used to just getting it. your dog doesnt hunt anymore. its getting a handout. is your dog eveil?
    no
    your dog has just moved up the ladder a bit. its concerns dont include getting food. people are the same way.

    i dont worry every day where my next meal will come from because i know. If its being handed to me and ive gotten used to that then im not worried. that doenst make me evil, it makes me animal.
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,634 ✭✭✭✭
    dutyje:
    If you're going to force me to play along...
    im not gunna force you to do anything.

    and who said that those are the definitions of good or evil? what if noboby sacrifices anything? what happens to your deffinitions then?
    ... and im not asking you to ask me what my opinion is. im looking for your opinion. it doesnt matter what percentage of people i think are good or evil. im asking what the "absolute" number is, in your opinion (if there can be one) what you are talking about is moral relativism. Im assuming that this will gome into the argument. does that matter or not?


    you dont think that free will exists? hmmmm sounds like another thread.
  • Rob1110Rob1110 Posts: 1,455 ✭✭
    kuzi16:
    but does that make them evil by nature or just animal?

    Good question Kuz. I was a biology major / psychology minor in college and by no means am an expert, but here's my two cents:

    People are not inherently "good" or "evil." People are simply people. The terms good and evil only exist to people, as do the concepts of good vs evil. By nature/instinct, people as well as other animals, are greedy, selfish, competitive, etc. It's self preservation and prolongation of the species that elicits these behaviors. Again, these concepts only exist to humankind.

    Furthermore, behaviors associated with good and evil are learned behaviors, therefore tossing out the question of them being "inherent." We learn at a young age how to behave - "be a good boy/girl and you'll be rewarded. If you're bad (evil), you'll be punished."

    There's a lot that goes into the psychological development of a child. The nature vs nurture question/debate. When it comes down to it, you cannot separate the two. Nature being genes/biology and nurture being environment. Without genes, the environment is meaningless, however you cannot have a being without an environment. That being said, every creature, every person, regardless of genes (even identical twins can sometimes end up very different people), will react differently to every situation around them. It is how we react and learn from a situation and how we see the situation that shapes us into who we are.

    Sorry to get so into this, but I'm big into intellectual debates, especially those concerning human nature and psychology. Mention sports (other than MMA) or politics and I'm lost.

    So the short answer to the initial question is "neither."
  • dutyjedutyje Posts: 2,263
    kuzi16:
    dutyje:
    If you're going to force me to play along...
    im not gunna force you to do anything.

    and who said that those are the definitions of good or evil? what if noboby sacrifices anything? what happens to your deffinitions then?


    you dont think that free will exists? hmmmm sounds like another thread.
    I put the definitions in to provide context, since definitions weren't provided for us. As far as "forcing," I was able to forecast that I would get comments about a lame cop-out answer if I had just quit after my first paragraph... since you have no free will, this was an easy thing for me to predict ;)
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,634 ✭✭✭✭
    i said in the first post that i wasnt on any side here. just stiring the pot... therefore you can read and you could predict this. that isnt lack of free will that is me saying something and following through. plus i edited after... you may have missed it. it was before you responded though. sorry.
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,634 ✭✭✭✭
    dutyje:
    since you have no free will, this was an easy thing for me to predict ;)
    since you have no free will you were gunna argue with me as well... that too was easy to predict.


    monday morning quarterbacking?
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,634 ✭✭✭✭
    Rob1110:
    Sorry to get so into this, but I'm big into intellectual debates, especially those concerning human nature and psychology.
    dont be sorry, ITS FUN. thats why i posted it. i just like to see what others have to say and argue. i may even walk into it knowing im wrong but making people think is fun.

    im actually gunna step toatlly out of this for a bit just to see where it goes. please discuss. it makes me think too. thats a good thing.
  • madurofanmadurofan Posts: 6,219 ✭✭✭
    kuzi16:
    a mistake hardly makes one evil. so... yeah i need a better argument than that.
    Take the "screw ups" out of the equation. A person expects their evil deeds to go unnoticed, while expecting their good deeds to be praised. The human need for praise shows that the good deed is not necessary. If something is necessary we do not need praise for the action. Walking is not a necessary human trait it is something we learn to do, it has been shown in studies that praising a child while they are learning to walk helps them learn to walk. In much the same way we are praised to for doing good and giving to others despite our instinct to look after ourself first, at the expense of others.

    Breathing on the other hand is necessary for existance and never at any point in our lives are we taught to breathe nor are we praised for doing so. However we continue to do so and never expect praise for it. The same can be said of evil, for the most part we are not taught to do evil but we do perform evil deeds and continue to do so rarely if ever receiving or seeking praise.

    I understand some individuals are taught to do certain evil acts but they aren't taught to do every evil act they preform and even more rarily are they praised for doing so. It can also be argued that we observe evil and learn from that, we also observe breathing but that doesn't mean we learned how to do it by observing.
  • dutyjedutyje Posts: 2,263
    Since we're both in the mood to be smart-****, allow me to take a mathematical interpretation of your question:

    Are people inherently good or evil?

    (this answer assumes the existence of free will, because it's more entertaining that way)

    First, I will re-phrase your question with a mathematically equivalent question:
    Q: Are some people inherently good or evil?

    Next, I will provide the mathematically correct answer to your question: A: Yes, some people are inherently good or evil.
  • BigDan.BigDan. Posts: 211
    Rob1110:
    kuzi16:
    but does that make them evil by nature or just animal?

    Good question Kuz. I was a biology major / psychology minor in college and by no means am an expert, but here's my two cents:

    People are not inherently "good" or "evil." People are simply people. The terms good and evil only exist to people, as do the concepts of good vs evil. By nature/instinct, people as well as other animals, are greedy, selfish, competitive, etc. It's self preservation and prolongation of the species that elicits these behaviors. Again, these concepts only exist to humankind.

    Furthermore, behaviors associated with good and evil are learned behaviors, therefore tossing out the question of them being "inherent." We learn at a young age how to behave - "be a good boy/girl and you'll be rewarded. If you're bad (evil), you'll be punished."

    There's a lot that goes into the psychological development of a child. The nature vs nurture question/debate. When it comes down to it, you cannot separate the two. Nature being genes/biology and nurture being environment. Without genes, the environment is meaningless, however you cannot have a being without an environment. That being said, every creature, every person, regardless of genes (even identical twins can sometimes end up very different people), will react differently to every situation around them. It is how we react and learn from a situation and how we see the situation that shapes us into who we are.

    Sorry to get so into this, but I'm big into intellectual debates, especially those concerning human nature and psychology. Mention sports (other than MMA) or politics and I'm lost.

    So the short answer to the initial question is "neither."


    this is exactly what i was trying to explain however you just summed it up in a more thurough and educational matter which is good because we can all learn a thing or two from that. im not sure how much our genetics play a role in this though.................................... i know this is not possible but its something im going to throw out there for people to think about and who knows science and its theories are always changing so i could be right. so here it goes,

    well what if our genes can change by our environment and by our surroundings like you said about self preservation. so if we needed to act evil in order to survive but the generation before that was good does that now mean if we are persistant in staying evil that the generations to follow will become evil as well? i know that we can not just change who we are but by our though process changing the generations to follow will also have this change inbedded with in there genes. if this is correct then....

    we would have to go through history to see where evil first started maybe that was adam and eve..... wait a minute if the first people were evil than maybe we are all evil.

    its something to think about
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,634 ✭✭✭✭
    you are a smart ass, and it is fun, and funny. let me state the question again in a more matmatical form:

    are the majority of people good or evil? does that make you feel better? or less evil? or more evil?

    or should the question be:

    do people tend to be good or evil?


    i seem to remember someone saying that they would step out of this.


    d'oh!
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,634 ✭✭✭✭
    BigDan.:
    Rob1110:
    kuzi16:
    but does that make them evil by nature or just animal?

    Good question Kuz. I was a biology major / psychology minor in college and by no means am an expert, but here's my two cents:

    People are not inherently "good" or "evil." People are simply people. The terms good and evil only exist to people, as do the concepts of good vs evil. By nature/instinct, people as well as other animals, are greedy, selfish, competitive, etc. It's self preservation and prolongation of the species that elicits these behaviors. Again, these concepts only exist to humankind.

    Furthermore, behaviors associated with good and evil are learned behaviors, therefore tossing out the question of them being "inherent." We learn at a young age how to behave - "be a good boy/girl and you'll be rewarded. If you're bad (evil), you'll be punished."

    There's a lot that goes into the psychological development of a child. The nature vs nurture question/debate. When it comes down to it, you cannot separate the two. Nature being genes/biology and nurture being environment. Without genes, the environment is meaningless, however you cannot have a being without an environment. That being said, every creature, every person, regardless of genes (even identical twins can sometimes end up very different people), will react differently to every situation around them. It is how we react and learn from a situation and how we see the situation that shapes us into who we are.

    Sorry to get so into this, but I'm big into intellectual debates, especially those concerning human nature and psychology. Mention sports (other than MMA) or politics and I'm lost.

    So the short answer to the initial question is "neither."


    this is exactly what i was trying to explain however you just summed it up in a more thurough and educational matter which is good because we can all learn a thing or two from that. im not sure how much our genetics play a role in this though.................................... i know this is not possible but its something im going to throw out there for people to think about and who knows science and its theories are always changing so i could be right. so here it goes,

    well what if our genes can change by our environment and by our surroundings like you said about self preservation. so if we needed to act evil in order to survive but the generation before that was good does that now mean if we are persistant in staying evil that the generations to follow will become evil as well? i know that we can not just change who we are but by our though process changing the generations to follow will also have this change inbedded with in there genes. if this is correct then....

    we would have to go through history to see where evil first started maybe that was adam and eve..... wait a minute if the first people were evil than maybe we are all evil.

    its something to think about
    mmmmm nature vs nurture....


    damnit im out



    for real this time.
  • dutyjedutyje Posts: 2,263
    OK... So I've provided my philosophical and mathematical arguments. I will wrap up my argument-trifecta with a scientific argument that people are inherently good. Please review to this article regarding a study that discovered inherent altruistic behaviors exhibited in infants.
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,634 ✭✭✭✭
    dutyje:
    OK... So I've provided my philosophical and mathematical arguments. I will wrap up my argument-trifecta with a scientific argument that people are inherently good. Please review to this article regarding a study that discovered inherent altruistic behaviors exhibited in infants.
    people may be good but YOU are evil.


    ... and i love it.
  • dutyjedutyje Posts: 2,263
    kuzi16:
    are the majority of people good or evil?
    yes :)

    I believe the mathematically correct way to phrase your question would be as follows:

    Are the majority of people inherently good, or are the majority of people inherently evil?

    While you could argue that this is still somewhat ambiguous, you would need two questions to remove all doubt:

    Are more people inherently good than are inherently evil?
    (second question only needed in the case of a "no" answer)
    Are more people inherently evil than are inherently good?
  • madurofanmadurofan Posts: 6,219 ✭✭✭
    dutyje:
    kuzi16:
    are the majority of people good or evil?
    yes :)

    I believe the mathematically correct way to phrase your question would be as follows:

    Are the majority of people inherently good, or are the majority of people inherently evil?

    While you could argue that this is still somewhat ambiguous, you would need two questions to remove all doubt:

    Are more people inherently good than are inherently evil?
    (second question only needed in the case of a "no" answer)
    Are more people inherently evil than are inherently good?
    Philosophically though you can't have a sound argument if the question starts with "Are more ...?". You need to discuss everyone or no one.
  • Maddy's use of 'sin' is actually a good arguement. Biblically we are wired to sin. It's Adam and Eve's fault, they were the first to sin. Although I think most people are 'good natured'. If there were no consequences legally, religiously or even consciencely a lot of people would do 'bad things' and the others would just watch. It takes a strong will to standup against such negativity and you can't avoid all of it, no one is without sin.
  • Rob1110Rob1110 Posts: 1,455 ✭✭
    Wow, I'm gone for a few minutes and there's tons of stuff going on here. Thanks Kuz for bringing this discussion to light.

    Maddy, you bring up some interesting points. The whole reward, or positive reinforcement issue of behavioral psychology. Pavlovian conditioning supports the theory: the whole ringing of a bell before feeding a dog - eventually, the dog will salivate at the sound of the bell. With reward, comes good behavior. However, reward is in the eye of the beholder. Someone doing wrong or evil may seek negative attention and confuse it with positive attention. Others enjoy the rush of getting away with it and knowing they didn't get caught.

    So while we might not seek praise for wrong doings, motivators can come in different shapes and forms. There is some reward there for the person doing wrong if they know it's wrong and have been taught wrong from right. I agree that we may observe evil and repeat the actions ourselves - "monkey see monkey do," and we're all monkeys, right? In all seriousness, we learn from those around us and if those around us have no regard for praise, reward or doing right or good, than neither will we if we interpret it that way.
  • Rob1110Rob1110 Posts: 1,455 ✭✭
    Sorry, if I'm getting carried away here, but this is a good discussion.

    To big dan:
    Genetics plays a role in everything. It's part of who we are. Our genes themselves wouldn't necessarily change due to our environment, aside from genetic mutations caused by environmental reagents (mainly carcinogens - funny to mention this on a smoking forum - yes, smoke produces carcinogens - reagents that can introduce free radicals into the blood and eventually result in mutations in our cells causing certain proteins to either be produced/activated when they're not supposed to or not be produced/activated when they are).

    As to your question of whether or not we would "need to act evil in order to survive," I think it may need more elaboration, but genes do not change generation to generation in that sense. Yes, offspring are a variant of the two parents, but actual evolution takes hundreds, possibly thousands of years to take place, not a single generation. As for the need to be evil or commit evil deeds, that is purely a product of environment. I think I understand your point, but if a particular group needs to kill in order to survive and the generations to follow can simply go to the market and purchase meat for food, then it's a question of survival, not good vs evil. In short, this would not alter the genetic makeup of future generations any more than if we were all good. It would be the environmental aspect of their behavior just as we see in different cultures around the world today.

    You wouldn't be able to look back into history far enough to find the origin of evil because according to our definition, it has always been there, only it was considered instinct in the beginning. As for the Adam and Eve debate, that's one for another board. I'm an evolutionist and believe in the hard facts that science has provided us. With that being said, hominids (even before **** sapiens) have been killing one another for various reasons throughout time. Unfortunately, that will never change. The question of that making us inherently evil, again I say no. People become evil. People are not born evil.
  • sanesane Posts: 151
    You have to define what good and evil are. Evil and Good are defined differently for every person. Take for example the Holocaust. There are people today that still don't think that it was evil. The War in Iraq is another example, there are people that see it as good and there are people that see it as evil. So you can not ask a question "are people inherently good or evil?" without defining what "Good" is and what "Evil" is.

    With that stated, people are nether good nor evil they are inherently selfish. Your genetic makeup is designed to be selfish so that you do whatever it is you need to do to survive in the best way possible and to reproduce. Animal nature is all based around reproduction it is not based around values. Values such as "what is good" and "what is evil" are learned over time not inherently in are make up from birth.
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,634 ✭✭✭✭
    sane:
    You have to define what good and evil are.
    true.

    you are starting to bring up moral relativism. ...what is evil for some may not be for others. but is there an absolute evil and an absolute good? what defines them? where do humans as a species stand in relation to that deffinition?
  • dep691dep691 Posts: 311

    kuzi16:
    sane:
    You have to define what good and evil are.
    true.

    you are starting to bring up moral relativism. ...what is evil for some may not be for others. but is there an absolute evil and an absolute good? what defines them? where do humans as a species stand in relation to that deffinition?

    Kuzi, just seen this thread. With my line of work, I have seen some truley evil people and some that are I guess you could say salt of the earth. These are people that come from the same background same neighborhoods some with great families and some from broken homes. I do not by choice tell war stories but I see it this way. It is by choice pure and simple to be good or evil. The line seperating good from evil is very thin. The weaker man will always step on the side of evil, its the easiest and fastest way to self gratification

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