“Are humans inherently good or evil”. This argument is controversial because it involves our own species and the nature of us being good or evil and is also very subjective. Human nature is the belief that humans have natural instincts or tendencies in relation to the way they think, feel or act. According to Plato, “Evil acts are committed only out of ignorance. As a result it is inherently against human nature to be evil. Therefore evil cannot live in the hearts of people.” (Bates, C. 1986.) Applying this quote to whether humans are inherently good or evil, it is proven that it is impossible that a person is naturally evil. The evil actions that a person would perform would be a result of ignorance of their environment or of values of their society. Humans are naturally born good in the ways that we subconsciously think, feel and act and it isn’t until we are taught differently that humans change to portray an evil persona.
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According to the Pragmatic Theory of Truth, the Divine Command Theory, and the Correspondence Theory of Truth, humans are seen as naturally good creatures . The pragmatic theory of truth states that humans make their own truths by experience, similar to the way humans accumulate muscle and money. The pragmatic theory states that truths aren’t necessarily fixed or absolute, but truths are created by humans through personal experiences. In addition, the pragmatic theory suggests that if something is useful, successful or works than it is true. Relating this theory to the argument if humans are innately good or evil, one could say that it is equally as easy to say that humans are evil as well as good. This notion is refuted because William James, a pragmatic philosopher said that “If an idea or judgment makes a positive, practical difference in people’s lives than it is true. The opposite is the contrary.” (Paquette, P. & Gini-Newman, 2003) Therefore a person can be just as easily evil as well as good. In his quote he states that if something creates a positive difference in someone’s life then it is true. If something creates a positive differences it would have to be good not evil. We can relate this to the argument humans are inherently good because by saying they are naturally good creates a positive and practical effect on the lives of many humans. It is positive because by believing that humans, which are your species of origin, are good would create a clean conscious for yourself as well as others. Also, this establishes an idea that we humans are capable of being good as we are essentially good. Stephen Stich takes the theory a step further by suggesting that people shouldn’t care whether their beliefs are held to be true to the general public, but should care whether or not the beliefs a person has helps them achieve their goals their ultimate happiness. Therefore if a person were to believe humans are evil, that would probably not be the best belief because believing that a race you’re apart of is evil would not give you the happiness that Stich talks about. Instead, the belief that humans are inherently good, would give an individual happiness and a belief strong enough to achieve their goals. Another theory as why humans are innately good is the Divine Command theory.
The divine command theory is based on the belief of a supreme being and that a supreme defines right from wrong. Cultures around the world have traditionally linked right and wrong with what they believe their supreme being would define as right and wrong, good and bad. The argument with the Divine Command Theory and whether or not humans are inherently good or evil is that if a supreme being is naturally and historically good, why would it create something inherently bad? Therefore, voiding the view that humans are inherently evil and supporting that they are naturally good. Thomas Aquinas supported the view that a supreme being is naturally good: “God commands people to do only things that are good and right and that god knows what is good and right through the natural law of reason.” (Paquette, P. & Gini-Newman, 2003.) Therefore, Aquinas explains that God is and knows what is right through the natural law of reason, thus, creating and advising humans to do the “good” thing in life. In addition, the Divine Command theory also states that being inherently good does not necessarily mean to be good according to what society says is good, but what a supreme being defines as good. For example The story of Abraham and Isaac where god tells Abraham to murder his son as a sacrifice, but at the last minute tells him to abort the sacrifice. (Paquette, P. & Gini-Newman L. 2003) This can be seen as something god would define as good; listening to him rather than listening to what society is telling you. Therefore, a supreme being’s definition of good is the ultimate good, and is what makes us inherently good according to the Divine Command Theory. This example could also relate to the Correspondence Theory of Truth.
The correspondence theory of truth states that a belief is true if it agrees with a fact and connects to something in the physical world. It was advocated by Moore in the 20th Century . This theory suggests that something is true as long as it is factual and can be related to the physical world logically. For example God is perceived as good, therefore he created good human beings. (Hume,D. 2009.) If a belief coincides with reality it is true because the Divine Command theory also supports that God created inherently good humans as does the correspondence theory states as well. The other side to the Correspondence theory is very subjective because it applies to certain emotions of an individual. For example if someone believes that people are good based on experiences they have had within their environment then they will believe people are inherently good. The opposite could happen to someone who has experiences perceived evil in the world as a result of the environment they are in, therefore creating the truth for them that humans are inherently evil. Even though people perceive “evil” in the world they will eventually be exposed to evil in the world, and will have to make a choice on whether to agree with the fact that humans are inherently good or evil. At the end of day, individual humans will perceive good and bad differently thus, the argument of are humans inherently good or evil will always be biased and based on an individual’s experiences and beliefs.
Humans are naturally good in the ways they think, feel and act according to the Pragmatic Theory of Truth, the Divine Command Theory, and the Correspondence Theory of Truth because of the view that truths are true if they impact a person’s life positively, a supreme being defines “good” thus, creating inherently good humans and the experiences a person goes through shapes their belief in whether or not humans are inherently good or evil. Without living life and experiencing every situation possible, there is no chance for anybody to justify themselves as being naturally evil. Evil is not something that you are born with, it is attained throughout the journey of life, therefore proving hat goodliness is inherit. The human race is proven to be inherently good because of the examples and content of these theories. Contrary to this, some experts say that humans are inherently evil, but what they fail to see is that with every group there are always the bad apples. Lastly, as a whole, humans are inherently good according to the latter philosophical theories, their examples and the ideas they represent.
Bates, C. M. (1986). The Human Body – Good or Evil. Buenos Aires: Vantage Pr.
Hume, D. (2009). Dignity or Meanness of Human Nature. New York: Cybraria Llc.
Kemerling, G. (2006, August 9). Plato. Philosophy Pages. Retrieved May 31, 2010, from http://www.philosophypages.com/ph/plat.htm
Mead, G. H. (1969). A pragmatic theory of truth (University of California publications in philosophy). New York: Johnson Reprint Corp.
Paquette, P. (2002). Philosophy : Questions and Theories (First Edition ed.). Toronto: Mcgraw-Hill Ryerson, Limited.
Perry, J. (2006, February 9). Pragmatics (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved May 31, 2010, from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pragmatics/
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