Sunday, August 22, 2010

Human Nature

I remember a long time ago in a Texas far far away, the Ayn Rand devotees used to corner me and demand that I confess if I thought that "...man was basically good or basically evil!" They seemed convinced that humankind was basically good.

Jean Jacques Rousseau seemed to believe that humanity in its natural state was fundamentally good. It was civilization that corrupted humankind by alienating it from nature's inherent benevolence and harmony. Voltaire famously made fun of this idea, and volunteered to walk on all fours.

The Marquis de Sade believed that human beings were basically predatory. In response to Rousseau's declaration that nature was averse to crime, he said, "Nature averse to crime?! I tell you that nature in all her pores yearns for bloodshed!"

John Calvin believed that humanity was evil and depraved, a craven bunch of sinners ready to sell out their better part at the drop of a hat for a bargain price. The gulf between God's glory and humanity's wickedness was immense. Only God could cross it. That God had any love for humanity at all was a mystery and a miracle.

I don't think we are basically good or basically evil.

If we are basically anything, then we are selfish and easily frightened, like all other animals. We labor under the prime directive of all life, self preservation.

Things get complicated, and interesting, when we try to move beyond that perimeter.

5 comments:

PseudoPiskie said...

Questions like this make me wonder about karma, previous life experience, etc. Some kids seem to be born nasty and others nice. I agree that most of us are born relatively selfish - self preservation instinct - and many are easily frightened resulting in flight or fight. Wonder if we will learn more on the other side when we get there.

IT said...

Yes. I just look at animals. When I was in high school I worked for a veterinarian for 2 years (I wanted to be a vet at that time). There are some animals that are just bad, and some that are not. The human animal is no different. What matters is whether we are capable of imposing our intellect and sense of morality on our morally neutral sense of self preservation.

Ciss B said...

Almost everyone lies to protect who they are if cornered and feeling the heat. In the wild it is to preserve life, but often here in our human realm it is to preserve lies we've created about ourselves. Lies that sometimes are the only reality we know.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Lies that sometimes are the only reality we know.¨ Ciss

Sometimes I´ve been sooo good at telling lies, I believe them myself...thus, it´s best to keep my eye on me, wishful, hopeful (sometimes overly), codependent (I hate that) me...the illusion is quicker than the truth especially projecting good character, mine or others, that doesn´t exist! DAMN!

So what do you think about that? Illusions for good or simply the fear and covering, or the shame, of not-so-hot/bad?

It´s kinda tricky when one knows what good character represents...let´s represent it!

Ciss B said...

I agree, Leonardo. I just wish I didn't think we're the only ones who feel that way these days.