Is human nature good (pro) or evil (con)?
Debate Rounds (5)
You may quote famous philosophers, but no sourcing: I trust my opponent to be truthful, and I hope he'll believe me too. This is however a debate where I'd like to see what my opponent thinks of my idea, a theory I have created rather than a summary of philosopher's ideas on this subject. I kindly ask him/her to find all flaws in my theory first, only to create his own/use an existing theory afterwards.
This will make it much more interesting as we will use reason and examples to try and counter each other's statements. However, this is no debate to be won, this is simply a debate from which I want to learn and from which we can draw a concluding theory we both could agree on.
Hopefully, someone will accept the challenge!
I am ready to accept the challenge!
So, here's my theory.
First of all, I must make the difference clear to what I understand under "human nature". This is the actual thing all humans are equally born with, the certain set of mind. According to me, this is the part of humans that will drive us to do things out of self-interest. We will do things that benefit ourselves, like animals. Wolves, if I may use the comparison earlier philosophers have made.
But in daily life we can see what people do: some are to a certain degree good, others bad. Both have a mix of these elements. My theory starts here: with humans, our reason sometimes contradicts our nature and we make decisions based on those.
This will be complicated at first, but I'll clarify it for you. People use their reason to find out what a "good", if not "perfect" person would do in a similar situation. For example, when we see an old lady having trouble to cross the street, we'll think that a good person would help her cross. The next phase is wheree we identify ourselves with that "perfect", imaginary person. We try to be like him, and decide to help the old lady.
But then where does the human nature matter in this case? Well, say that you were on your way to your crush and you are very eager to see her. It's the thing you want most and you're in a hurry.
Then, you will have to make a decision: listen to your reason, or to your inner desire? Listening to your inner desire would mean following your nature, following your own befenefits and therefore being "evil" because you're not helping the old lady. To choice reason or nature, ofcourse, depends from person to person.
In many cases I have found this model to work, perhaps you could give me a situation where it isn't so?
Then another thing is when we follow our reason, because we know that's what a good person to do, isn't that out of self-interest and vanity as well? Don't we do it for ourselves, and not for the old lady from my example?
About this last thing I'm not entirely sure, please share your opinion about that too!
I hope you understand what I'm trying to say, and I look forward to your response & opinion!
You're absolutely right that there are good people who listen to their reason constantly and therefore do only good things.
You then said 2 things that are very interesting: "what we are taught that we should do" and " Almost everyone has a conscience, it is just our responsibility to act on it."
On the first sentence, we must now consider to which degree we're taught what a good person should do, and even to which degree we are taught to have reason and listen to it. I think it's only to a small extent, as the very first people on earth felt the need to live in societies as well, where they respected one another. Those people weren't taught anything! But it is true, young children will learn to share with their friends and so good things will become a habit to them.
The second sentence is something very complicated: conscience. Why would we feel bad about following our natural need? My explanation would not be the same as yours. You say that we develop it as we live, we develop it naturally and this is a good part about humans, am I right?
You are very right that it is developed during life as children never show regret unless they are directly punished. But again, some adults will feel more conscience than others. Why is that? I'd like to bring up my old model here, where their conscience exists because they have the reasoning to know that what they did, is NOT what the "perfect person" would do. However, my model doesn't entirely work here. Even my cat, who clearly has no reasoning at all, will show regret when he sits on the kitchen table while he knows he's not allowed to do that. He then makes very guilty noises. I've asked around, and with other cats it appears to be exactly the same.
Then where does conscience come from? I'd like to hear your explanation about it!
My main proof for this will be that children do not have such inner feelings as conscience, and morality unless when they're taught these things. Children will follow their own desires, and as Lacan, Freud and so many others have said it, all their actions reflect their own desire.
What you are saying is that somehow it would be their desire to do good things - I believe that they'd indeed do good things, but only when not doing the good thing leaves them neutral. If a child could choose between having a dollar himself, or give a dollar to a homeless man, most children would keep the dollar. However, if a child gets the option to give the man a dollar but no alternative, the child will ofcourse give the man a dollar.
As children grow older, they will indeed grow a conscience that forces them to give the man a dollar or to regret it if they don't. But I believe that this conscience comes from reasoning - as soon as we stop thinking about it, we won't feel bad about it at all.
This ofcourse doesn't prove your explanation wrong. Your explanation still is equally as strong as mine, but I'd like you to answer this one question: how come children don't show any of these inner desires which result in conscience? If this really was the human nature, partly desiring good things as well, then why don't children show these desires?
So you would like to state that as children grow older, it is their natural need to do good things. However, they are only capable of following this natural need when they are older while their natural selfish needs are already being chased as children.
That is the only problem I have with your explanation, how can a child only follow one side of his nature?
I still believe that it is through reason they know what's good and they'll try to be the good person as much as they can/are aware of. Children are not aware of it at all, and have no idea what good is. To them, "good" is whatever benefits them.
"Becoming more aware" is exactly the right explanation as you gave it: earlier, they were not smart enough to figure out what a "good person" should do.
I'd like to conclude (from my side at least) that my model has held up (the bad nature vs good reasoning- model) in even this situation. My opponent did make me aware that children do not follow this model as they have no reasoning, and made me aware of the "conscience"part in us, which we have when we are aware we made the bad choice. For that last example, my quick explanation would be simply that within those people with conscience, their reasoning has got the better of them.
I enjoyed this debate alot and hope to meet my opponent again!
I also enjoyed the debate and hope to meet you again someday.
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