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Moral Nature of Human Beings: Born Good or Evil?

 
 
Locke-freeamerica
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 05:10 pm
i have been reading the posts, and in all civilized cultures evil and good have pretty mucht he same basic meaning, and just because you have the capability to do something doesnt mean you are. we all have the capablity to kill someone, so are we all murderers?
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Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 05:40 pm
[email protected] wrote:
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,

[...]

i have been reading the posts, and in all civilized cultures evil and good have pretty mucht he same basic meaning,

Maybe so, but the trouble is that cultures -- civilized or not -- have different ideas about what constitutes a valid justification for hurting others.

That said, my answer to your question continues to hold if I use your definition of "good" and "bad" instead of mine. I won't change a word.
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Locke-freeamerica
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 05:54 pm
well Hitler had a very different idfea about good an evil that most, thre are always exceptions, but for 90% of the world, their definitions are pretty much the same
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 09:07 pm
Locke wrote:

"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".

You admit you're a newbie, we welcome you and respond to your question which you also admit is murky at best, and now you want to treat us to your snippy tongue. Thank you but no thanks, I'm outa here and will not respond to any more of your poorly thought out threads and even worse typing.
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Locke-freeamerica
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 09:11 pm
when i get attitude, i give attitude
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kuvasz
 
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Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 09:25 pm
siding with terry

good or evil are social constructs.

"Born" into animal nature until socialized and it's only when the forbidden fruit of free will descends upon one and the recognition of the consequences of one's actions occurs is the hardware booted up with the software of the ethical systems of society.

just like jesus was "born" again, dying to his animal nature, one is borne by sentience to a world that contains good and evil.
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cavfancier
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 10:09 pm
perception, I post to provoke thought, not to be dogmatic...if you can't figure it out, I probably can't either Laughing
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Terry
 
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Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 03:11 am
Frank Apisa wrote:
For whatever reasons -- some people simply get kicks out of hurting others.


Yes, and while I understand that some people lack the capacity for empathy (or perhaps empathy requires nurturing to develop properly), I simply cannot understand why anyone would take pleasure in causing pain. It seems that torturing animals as a child is a good predictor for later violence.

Frank Apisa wrote:
...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.


Isn't "peaceful extermination" an oxymoron? Very Happy

I suspct that warfare is the primary impetus for developing the technology required for space travel, and peaceful species are not likely to be ruling the galaxy.

But if a peaceful species rules and they perceive us as a serious threat (space colonization would not be pratical without a new interpretation of the laws of physics), it would be more ethical to eliminate the small percentage of human beings who instigate violence and leave the rest of us to live in peace.
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Terry
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 03:30 am
perception wrote:
Evil is definitely a human concept---other animals only exhibit what we might call evil to survive or to satisfy hunger.


Chimps wage war, ambush and brutally kill other chimps, lions kill the cubs of defeated males, housecats kill for sport. If they have no knowledge of good and evil and cannot to judge their own actions, can they be considered evil?

perception wrote:
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.


People are born with a range of propensities and abilities to learn. Their environment may or may not instill the ability to control their "evil" thoughts. While we may all have the occasional urge to hit or kill someone who really deserves it :wink:, truly evil thoughts are probably the result of mental illness or defects. Or religious training.
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Terry
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 03:49 am
perception wrote:
is society becoming more evil or less evil as time moves on.


Less evil, IMO. We have made great progress in the last few hundred years. In most countries:

- slavery has been outlawed
- women are seen as human beings with rights, not mindless chatel
- humane treatment of children, animlas, and the elderly is mandated
- justice is dispensed by courts of law instead of force
- peaceful resolution of conflicts is preferred over warfare
- social programs aid the disadvantaged
- international relief is provided to victims of famine and disaster
- the environment is to be shared, not raped
- there is more tolerance of other religions/lifestyles
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Terry
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 04:03 am
Re: Moral Nature of Human Beings: Born Good or Evil?
Thomas wrote:
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.


Good points. In my experience, very few people are untrustworthy and many will go out of their way to help a stranger. I don't know whether this kind of society comes from a preference for trustworthy mates, eliminating evildoers, or cultural conditioning.
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Terry
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 04:20 am
kuvasz wrote:
"Born" into animal nature until socialized and it's only when the forbidden fruit of free will descends upon one and the recognition of the consequences of one's actions occurs is the hardware booted up with the software of the ethical systems of society.

just like jesus was "born" again, dying to his animal nature, one is borne by sentience to a world that contains good and evil.


Sentience gives us the ability to look at nature, judge aspects of it as "good" or "evil" and choose actions which will lead to the betterment of mankind (or at least our preferred faction). We can now - with moral certainty - eliminate the evil scourge of smallpox, poison pests, decimate forests, raise and slaughter animals, and proclaim an axis of evil so we can wreak destruction on our enemies.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 04:23 am
To belabour that point (cultural conditioning), benevolence towards others is benevolence towards oneself.

On my way into a nightclub into Brazil I saw the example that best illustrates this point to me.

A group of teenagers were leaning against a parked car, which is common in Brazil. A friend of mine commented that he hates when people do that to his car. I told him to go over and tell the group to get off the car they were leaning on.

He responded that it wasn't his car and he didn't want to interfere. I told him that the only way for him to protect his car is if the society's culture is to protect the cars of others when parked. If his car is parked, and people leaning on it, it is safe to assume that he is not nearby. So he depends of the collective consciousness of society to prevent it from happening.

Many people follow the "Golden Rule" because it's a way to help ensure that they are treated that way.

The collective value of life increases the value of your life, every "evil" commited decreases the chances of being fairly treated for everyone in that society.

<rant over>
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 05:22 am
Hmmmmmmm - if we define "evil" as a lack of emapthy, acted out so as to hurt people or animals in a unusually strong way (given that we all perform acts against our empathy, in smaller ways), then I am inclined to plump more or less for nurture as creating such evil, or, at least, in failing to ameliorate it.

I say this because research on infant mental health and the sequelae of abuse, neglect, poor or non-existent (disorganized) attachment and other traumas are increasingly suggesting these as the progenitors of disorders of empathy - whether acted out or not - and especially of the kind that lead us to tend to want to call someone evil - (people who kill for gratification, people who abuse children in a systematic way, people who enjoy inflicting pain etc).

I speak of poor attachment and neglect as ssignificant trauma in and of themselves - minus more "active" abuse - since they seem to have many of the same neurological/emotional effects as active trauma - this is likely to be partly because children in these situations do not have the normal amelioration of daily upsets (eg - babies having their first bath show heart-rates indicative of extreme distress - imagine such daily encounters without a sympathetic and reassuring adult presence; eg, babies react with extreme distress when a parent or carer does not respond "normally" to their expressions of emotion) that a good relationship with a caring adult, to whom they are attached, is able to provide.


Craven - I am not sure that most of us follow the golden rule because we have rationally concluded that it logical so to do.

I suspect that we are enculturated to do so, as you also suggest, because collective wisdom HAS made that judgement - I think we mostly, as individuals, do it because it "feels" right - ie it fits our enculturation, without thinking it through so clearly.

I think there is also some reason to believe it is "hard-wired" in, to some extent, because of its overall evolutionary advantages.
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Terry
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 09:43 am
Craven, "tit for tat" broadly extended is a logical reason to look out for the interests of strangers in hopes that others will do the same for you.

Empathy impels us to help a stranger in need, since we can imagine ourselves in a similar situation and would wish to be helped.


Deb, I would not define evil as a "lack of empathy" but as a deliberate action which causes pain or suffering. I can see how empathy disorders would lead to withdrawing from social interactions and being distrustful of others, but why would these people take pleasure in causing pain?
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 10:34 am
Terry wrote:
Craven, "tit for tat" broadly extended is a logical reason to look out for the interests of strangers in hopes that others will do the same for you.

Empathy impels us to help a stranger in need, since we can imagine ourselves in a similar situation and would wish to be helped.


Terry,

Illustrating that something helps human survival is illustrating how it became hardwired. Empathy doesn't just exist for the sake of it, it has a reason. The reason is survival. You differentiate "tit for tat" from empathy but the larger point is that both exist throughout nature and help ensure survival.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 02:33 pm
Terry - my definition actually said " if we define "evil" as a lack of emapthy, acted out so as to hurt people or animals in a unusually strong way" - yes, lots of people may just isolate themselves - but I was not speaking of them.

I don't know why some like to cause pain - often, I think, this is more at the end where people have suffered physical and sexual abuse, as well as neglect etc.

Partly, I suspect, it is anger displaced - and one of the sequelae of neglect and abuse is problems with regulation of affect, (or emotion,) - so these are people likely to feel a lot of rage, with few skills to contain it, and little or no empathy.
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Locke-freeamerica
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 08:26 pm
ive known kids who have grown up in tough situations (physical abuse, sexual abuse, threatened suicide) and they are actually much much m ore mild mannered than most, they sem to be trained to keep their feelings not so much bottled up, but abosorbed like a sponge, and squeezed out slowly. They have more control over their feelings than anyon else i know
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 08:49 pm
Terry wrote:
perception wrote:
is society becoming more evil or less evil as time moves on.


Less evil, IMO. We have made great progress in the last few hundred years. In most countries:

- slavery has been outlawed
- women are seen as human beings with rights, not mindless chatel
- humane treatment of children, animlas, and the elderly is mandated
- justice is dispensed by courts of law instead of force
- peaceful resolution of conflicts is preferred over warfare
- social programs aid the disadvantaged
- international relief is provided to victims of famine and disaster
- the environment is to be shared, not raped
- there is more tolerance of other religions/lifestyles


I would agree if you said ---in some cultures we have made progress.

IN other cultures they still live in the sixth century----they still stone people to death----they still cut throuts----they cut off limbs---and they still cut off heads----FOR EFFECT. They want to use it as an example of what happens to collaborators.

I certainly don't see evil----as merely a lack of empathy------empathy is something to be associated with good and is a positive , not a negative as in "lack of". Evil to me is ilustrated thus: Someone who laughs as he watches just any person tortured, until they scream and scream in anguish then just as they are about to faint he cuts their throat just because he has the power to play god. Evil is not some benign malignancy----it is active in all it's ugliness-----I think most here are just dancing around it.

Until you come to grips with the true definition of evil how can you possibly answer your question?
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twyvel
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 10:36 pm
perception wrote:

Quote:
Until you come to grips with the true definition of evil how can you possibly answer your question?



What makes you think there is a "true definition of evil'?

Unfortunately as most things there is no true or absolute definition/understanding/agreement of evil or good. Any single definition employed is at best shared by a large group of people, but not all, and not in all circumstances. Hence, the continuous debates.
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