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Moral Nature of Human Beings: Born Good or Evil?

 
 
perception
 
  1  
Reply Tue 28 Oct, 2003 08:57 pm
I can't speak for anyone else but I was born loveable, compassionate, and kind----I stayed that way until I came to A2K-----now I'm ---twisted and evil Twisted Evil
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Locke-freeamerica
 
  1  
Reply Tue 28 Oct, 2003 09:00 pm
Humans are a threat to the rest of the galaxy. Dont think for a second that as soon as we find an alien civilization that we wont first think to blow it to bits. humans are warlike creatures, and personally, if we do find other aliens, id rather be a a living human than a dead alien
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Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Tue 28 Oct, 2003 09:01 pm
[email protected] wrote:
I thought it was assumed that my opinions are based on my knowledge, therefore on my definitions of words, i guess ill have to be more clear next time


I'm really not sure of what you are saying here.



But let me explain myself a bit more.

We are supposedly discussing "good" and "evil" here.

We are not supposedly discussing Locke's impressions of "good" and "evil."

That was the reason for so many comments about definitions earlier -- we are in a general discussion of good and evil.

In this kind of discussion you really cannot do what you are doing -- which is to define good and evil in terms of what you decide is good and evil.

There has to be an objective definition of "good" and "evil."

Since we do not know the Ultimate Reality -- since we do not know what in Hell is going on here -- what existence is and how existence came to be -- or if existence always has been...

...since we do not know any of that, it is very difficult to objectively define "good" and "evil."

The act of annihilating all of humanity -- or a goodly segment of it as some humans who have lived have actually done -- is not, in the grand scheme of things, for certain evil.

The god of the Bible, for instance, annihilated every human on the planet with the exception of Noah and his family -- and annihilated every animal on the planet with the exception of those Noah took on the ark with him -- and no believers in the Bible will call that an "evil" act.

Was the bombing of Dresden evil?

Was the bombing of Hiroshima evil?
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Locke-freeamerica
 
  1  
Reply Tue 28 Oct, 2003 09:07 pm
first of all, there is no such thing as an objective definition. all definitions have a different conotation to all that understand them.

But for arguments sake, lets use the first grade Non-Separation-Between-Church-And-State definitions

Good- Nice, Loving, Kind,Gentle, peaceful

Evil- Bad,Mean,Killing

we could use this question instead

Are humans born into this world warlike, or peaceful?
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Locke-freeamerica
 
  1  
Reply Tue 28 Oct, 2003 09:10 pm
I know what your trying to say, on the surface, many "evil" acts are actually very beneficial to the world, and therefore "good" but im talking about human nature, intincts and such, not about adults. im talking about Lord of the Flies, would kids untouched by society, when alone kill eachother? or make peace? would they lie and steal and cheat and backstab? or would they civilize and help and share and care for eachother?
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Tue 28 Oct, 2003 09:29 pm
Frank since you seem to be talkative tonight wouldn't it be a good idea to settle on a definition of evil first and then go on to it's opposite.

I tried the dictionary but to me that definition was not adequate so let me suggest one.

Evil is: Killing, maiming and any destruction of worldly creations, including all animal and vegetative life for sheer psychological satisfaction.

I believe any definition of evil must include psychological enjoyment as the end consequence. I realize that all definitions are subjective but don't we need a starting point?

Locke---you seemed to want some sincere feedback so this is my attempt---BTW welcome to A2K---hope you like it here but beware----there are some intellectual heavyweights here----me EXcluded.
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Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Tue 28 Oct, 2003 09:59 pm
I don't believe there is a "good" or "evil". It just is. What makes it "good" or "evil" is what each of us brings to the occasion that aids us in judgement or lack of judgement. The more of life's experiences you accumulate (via heredity, education, personal experience, tradition, religion, experimentation, etc.), the more you have in your arsenal to aid in your choices and judgements to help you understand what is personally "good" or "evil" to you.
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Tue 28 Oct, 2003 10:22 pm
[email protected] wrote:
first of all, there is no such thing as an objective definition. all definitions have a different conotation to all that understand them.

But for arguments sake, lets use the first grade Non-Separation-Between-Church-And-State definitions

Good- Nice, Loving, Kind,Gentle, peaceful

Evil- Bad,Mean,Killing

we could use this question instead

Are humans born into this world warlike, or peaceful?


Ah I see Locke---did you start this discussion because you were curious about good and evil or to further an agenda that says warfare is evil?
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Terry
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 01:31 am
The nature with which we are born is neither "good" nor "evil." We are born with needs/instincts that lead us to behave in certain ways, but we do not consider animals to be good/evil when acting according to instinct. People are judged "evil" when they cause harm to others (or things that they value) and "good" when they abide by the rules for living in society. (Every social group has its own set of written and/or unwritten rules, which may seem irrational or immoral to other groups.)

Most people are born with the capacity for empathy and can learn to override urges to gratify self at the expense of others. They are deemed "good." Some are amoral due to abnormal brain structure, injury, or mental illness. Are they evil if they have no control over their thoughts/actions? Callousness/ruthlessness may be due to upbringing, experiences or trauma, but IMO it is evil to cause unnecessary pain to others if you have the ability to choose not to.
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Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 09:08 am
perception wrote:
Frank since you seem to be talkative tonight wouldn't it be a good idea to settle on a definition of evil first and then go on to it's opposite.

I tried the dictionary but to me that definition was not adequate so let me suggest one.

Evil is: Killing, maiming and any destruction of worldly creations, including all animal and vegetative life for sheer psychological satisfaction.

I believe any definition of evil must include psychological enjoyment as the end consequence. I realize that all definitions are subjective but don't we need a starting point?

Locke---you seemed to want some sincere feedback so this is my attempt---BTW welcome to A2K---hope you like it here but beware----there are some intellectual heavyweights here----me EXcluded.



First of all, Locke, you would do well to INCLUDE Perception in your list of intellectual heavyweights -- despite his protestations to the contrary.


Perception

I certainly know and appreciate where you are coming from on this -- as I appreciate where Terry (who posted after you) is coming from.

I want to assure everyone that I am as revolted by the conduct of people like Hitler, Stalin, Caligula and John Wayne Gacy as either of you.

I was trying to deal with this question on a different level -- discussing it from the perspective of "Is there an objective 'good' or 'evil?'"

I suspect there isn't.

But since Locke now seems to be heading in a different direction, I will change my focus.

I'm going to suppose that Locke is actually asking something along the lines of: Would kids raised without guidance or direction from adults do things people might consider evil -- or would most of their choices be what people might consider good?




I think we'd be surprised at how much "nature" over "nurture" effects (or affects) conduct. There truly seems to be "bad seeds" out there.



My guess: If we define evil as doing avoidable harm to others (and I agree that avoidable harm to others is a part of most subjective definitions of evil) -- even if the "need to survive" is eliminated from the equation -- there would be some who would indulge in evil.

FOR EVIL'S SAKE!

For whatever reasons -- some people simply get kicks out of hurting others.






ASIDE (on the objective questions):

Wiping out all of humanity might seem evil by ANY definition -- but I would argue otherwise.

Suppose...

...many inhabited worlds...

...a history of some species causing chaos for the universe...

...predictable criteria for determining which developing civilizations are headed toward that kind of conduct...

...a decision by a federation of peaceful species that have had to deal with rogue species -- to eliminate them or confine them during early development when noticed...

...and a decision by that federation to eliminate homo sapiens -- a civilization developing on the third rock from a particular star -- that seems particularly noxious.


A move to wipe out all of what we know as "humanity" might be considered evil -- but under other circumstances might be considered "good" -- as in getting rid of a virus or cancer -- or better yet, considering my fanciful suppositions, a pre-cancer.




Just sharing a few random thoughts I may develop here.
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 10:15 am
Frank Apisa

First of all thanks for the kind words----it's gratifying to know there is mutual respect.

I agree with you and Terry in many ways but I'm truly interested in exploring the nature of the beast----are we born good or evil?

Terry is willing to minimize brain deformities as an unfortuante quirk of nature but I'm not so willing to dismiss that. Evil is definitely a human concept---other animals only exhibit what we might call evil to survive or to satisfy hunger. Humans have the capacity to actually create evil by their actions AND as I said earlier----to satisfy some twisted psychological requirement.

Frank
Your thoughts on a space federation which could ultimately exterminate earthings because we are too evil certainly expands the limits of thought here----way beyond what I am prepared to consider.

Your thoughts on nature versus nurture and the "bad seed " concept are what I would like to explore.

I believe it likely that each human is born with the same propensity to behave any way his particular tribe, group/society will consider as acceptabable.
Each child soon "learns" what is acceptable in a general way and then goes on to refine her/his behavior in accordance with what his/her particular intellect determines as really good behavior or bad behavior.
If one accepts this premise then it is easy to say that the vast majority of humans are able to constrain the limits of any evil thoughts and to stay within the bounds of acceptable behavior. Harboring evil thoughts is human nature-----acting on those evil thoughts is evil reality.

Then you have the "Bad Seeds". The one that dominates my thoughts on this subject is---Jeffrey Dahmer the cannibalistic serial killer. The "switch" that turns off truly evil tendencies in most humans did not exist in Dahmer-----he instead derived great mental gratification in torturing and then finally murdering his victims----dismembering their bodies----keeping the heads and parts on display in his refrigerator etc. This in my mind is true evil.

There also reports that Saddam actually laughed as he observed people---his people ---being tortured to death-----this is evil.

Any thoughts to go along with what I've written or to the contrary?
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 10:38 am
Locke, As Butrfly has requested, we need definitions for "good" and "evil," because they are human descriptions of what is all part of human/animal nature. "Steal and kill" aren't necessarily good or evil. It would depend in what environment we address these verbs. Did Robin Hood steal? Was it good or evil? Is killing in self-defense good or evil? There are too many conditions that needs to be addressed to determine whether the act is good or evil. I think Terry addresses the topic very well, but we need to also include genetics and environment in the mix to really understand the "Nature of Humans."
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Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 10:54 am
Perception,

Here are a couple of random thoughts on your post.


With regard to your comments about brain deformities -- my opinion is that physiological abnormalities may play a part in what we call "psychopathic behavior" -- and may even be at the crux of MOST such behavior.

I think I am agreeing more with you than with your characterization of Terry's position -- although I suspect Terry will probably take issue with some of your characterization.

In any case, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, I think it prudent to suppose that SOME psychopathic behavior is not congenital -- and can more easily be ascribed to "nurture" ingredients.

Don't know for sure -- just a guess.

I certainly know people whom I consider inconsiderate, rude, even cruel -- and know enough about the individuals to see that their actions and behavior, while possibly being the result of a physiological abnormality, are more easily understood in terms of how they were brought up. (I know the parents of some!)


I disagree with your "belief" that "...it likely that each human is born with the same propensity to behave any way his particular tribe, group/society will consider as acceptabable."

I suspect -- purely out of thin air -- that some people are born without that propensity. I just think a John Wayne Gacy or a Jeffrey Dahmer (who I was originally going to use in my earlier post but was not sure of the name spelling) came into existence with bad wiring.

They both did things so aberrant that I cannot imagine a human properly wired -- could do.

But -- it is all speculation.

You wrote:

"If one accepts this premise then it is easy to say that the vast majority of humans are able to constrain the limits of any evil thoughts and to stay within the bounds of acceptable behavior. Harboring evil thoughts is human nature-----acting on those evil thoughts is evil reality. "

COMMENT: Well, whether one accepts the premise (as I mentioned above, I don't) -- I still think it is easy to say "...that the vast majority of humans are able to constrain the limits of any evil thoughts and to stay within the bounds of acceptable behavior."

And frankly, the vast majority of humans do!

It is the few we have to deal with.

You wrote:

"Then you have the "Bad Seeds". The one that dominates my thoughts on this subject is---Jeffrey Dahmer the cannibalistic serial killer. The "switch" that turns off truly evil tendencies in most humans did not exist in Dahmer-----he instead derived great mental gratification in torturing and then finally murdering his victims----dismembering their bodies----keeping the heads and parts on display in his refrigerator etc. This in my mind is true evil. "

COMMENT:

Well -- I have no trouble in a discussion over a beer with a friend in considering this horrible, horrible human to be evil -- and to consider what he did to be evil incarnate.

But on the level of serious Internet debate, I want to at least voice a counter opinion.

And if I may, I will use the story of Adam and Eve to make my point.

As I have pointed out to theists on many, many occasions -- the story of Adam and Eve certainly does not speak well for the god of the Bible - (albeit, not less well than so many other things the god does.)

Essentially, the god punishes Adam and Eve (and all the rest of humanity) for "evil" that I argue should not have been considered evil at all.

Adam and Eve did not know right from wrong. They did not know good from evil. They did not know obedience was "good" and "disobedience" was bad.

That information was withheld from them by the god.

For the god to consider their actions evil -- and punish them for disobedience when he (the god) was the instrument that withheld the information from them that might have made the difference in whether or not they chose to obey or disobey -- was wrong.

In fact, the actions of the god of the Bible in this story - is arguably more evil than what Adam and Eve did.

So too -- if the information to see "right" from "wrong" is withheld from a human like Jeffery Dahmer by nature or some god - if such an individual is wired wrong -- I just don't know that their actions can justifiably be called evil -- even if the same actions by someone who can differentiate between good and evil -- WOULD RIGHTLY be called evil.

I'll leave that for now.

I'll wait for a few responses before developing it further.
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cavfancier
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 11:11 am
All human beings are born hard-wired with a survival instinct. We also share a collective consciousness, including a primitive sense of what is 'right' and what is 'wrong', without any religion involved. Some people may be born 'disturbed', but environmental factors also come into play there. So....given that one is born relatively normal:

Good = follow your heart
Evil = follow the voices

Laughing
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 11:48 am
Frank

I completely agree with your example of Adam and Eve----they didn't have the information required for an intelligent decision.

I also agree with your assessment that Dahmer should possibly not be considered truely evil because if someone has a mental defect we should probably not condemn them as being evil if they cannot help themselves. However they must be removed from society and preferably executed (in order to preclude the possility of escape) I very nearly added a caveat to that effect in my last post.

You didn't comment on my belief that society determines what is acceptable behavior and what is not------perhaps we should ask-----is society becoming more evil or less evil as time moves on.
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Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 11:54 am
perception wrote:
Frank

I completely agree with your example of Adam and Eve----they didn't have the information required for an intelligent decision.

I also agree with your assessment that Dahmer should possibly not be considered truely evil because if someone has a mental defect we should probably not condemn them as being evil if they cannot help themselves. However they must be removed from society and preferably executed (in order to preclude the possility of escape) I very nearly added a caveat to that effect in my last post.



I agree. Doesn't matter to me if a monster threatens society because he chooses to be a monster or because he is wired in a way that makes him a monster.

Get rid of him.

And since I always choose the humane alternative, I agree that execution -- which I consider more humane than endless incarceration -- should be the means.



Quote:
You didn't comment on my belief that society determines what is acceptable behavior and what is not-


Didn't mean to short shrift it -- but I probably overlooked it because I consider it virtually self-evident.



I'm gonna leave the "is society becoming more evil or less evil as time moves on" alone for now.
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Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 11:55 am
Re: Moral Nature of Human Beings: Born Good or Evil?
I am writing this in response to the initial post, before having read the whole thread, so I might say things that have been said before. Apologies in advance.

[email protected] wrote:
Are humans naturally good or evil?

This is to a large degree a matter of definitions. For example, if you were a Christian fundamentalist and thought that sex is evil under all circumstances, the very fact that humanity exists would prove, in your fundamentalist Christian judgment, that humans are evil. While this argument would be logically consistent, most people would find it absurd. So let me start by explaining how I think about ethics.

I'm a utilitarian. I believe that an action is good if it has the consequence of making as many people as possible as well off as possible, as judged by the preferences of each individual. Converseley, I think an action is bad if it has the consequence of making people worse off, as they judge it. There's lots of 'technical' discussions among utilitarians about how to compare an action that makes few people very happy with an action that makes many people a little happy, but you don't want to know about these discussions for now.

On these terms, my position would be that humans are, on average, naturally good, while acknowledging that there is a lot of variation between individuals. The first reason I think so is that it corresponds with my personal observation. Considering how often people have an opportunity to do me harm without a lot of risk to themselves, very few people take that opportunity. The second reason I think so -- and the stronger one in my opinion -- has to do with the dynamics of natural evolution. A species whose individual members, on net, harm each other predictably, has an obvious selective disadvantage to a species whose individual members benefit each other. That makes "goodness" a stable strategy, and "evilness" an unstable strategy, under the dynamics of Darwinian evolution.

[email protected] wrote:
How do social codes streatch this nature?

I believe that social codes extend this nature, but the general direction is similar in terms of "good" and "bad". The logic is the same for social evolution as for genetic evolution: Social codes under which people harm each other are unstable in the long run. To take an extreme example, a society that considers murder a virtue won't be around for very long.

[email protected] wrote:
Does environment have any effect on this?

Obviously, because what's good for you depends on what your environment is.
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 12:01 pm
Cav

I certainly agree with your statement that all humans are hardwired for survival but damn ----I believe you did not give enough thought to the rest of your statement.

Do you mean by collective consciousness---society itself? Also what is your definition of primitive sense of right and wrong-----relative to what. I agree religion need not be relevant here. Born disturbed? What environmental factors? Born relatively normal???

OK----jerk my chain somemore Laughing

Following one's heart is definitely hazardous to one's wallet and I don't hear voices so I hope I don't qualify for evil except in my postings Twisted Evil
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Locke-freeamerica
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 03:02 pm
everyone knows the most basic definitions of good and evil, if we stopped trying to find flaws in my definitions, then aybe e could get somewhere, but since we cant, i define evil as doing something to hurt others with no justification, or a very poor one, good is not-evil, people who help out others are good, and people who dont help other, but dont hurt them are also good, so its you choice whether to post another definition or try to use a fairly basic basic and fairly objective definition, if you can find a better one, please tell, but if all you can find are exceptions in my rule, well there exceptions and then they belong in the other category right?
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 05:02 pm
Locke, If you've been reading the posts, you would understand that definitions for good and evil can change from culture to culture, and from one time period to the next, and from one incident to the next. When you say, "everyone knows the most basic definitions," you presume to be talking within the same culture and time period, but even then many of us will have a different idea of what good and evil are. You define evil as "doing something to hurt others with no justification." Since we are all capable of "hurting others with no justification," are we all evil?
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