To be a good person is to be kind, to have the ability to emphasize with others, show and feel compassion for them, to have the ability to be selfless in times of need and put other people’s needs before your own. Being good is being able to see beyond everything superficial and respect the differences of race, nationality, religious beliefs, and gender. To be a bad or “evil” person is to rebel against the greater good, choosing to only think of oneself, committing to a life of violence, lies and disrespect and not caring about the consequences of your actions or who those actions might hurt. But are humans inherently good or evil? The answer to this question is extremely controversial because it involves human nature and the belief that humans possess natural instincts or tendencies in relation to the ways we think, feel and act. Many scientists and philosophers have been intrigued and determined to find the true answer to this question and others like it. We all wonder whether humans possess the ability to be either good or evil.
One person who found an interest in the argument of good and evil is Greek philosopher, Plato. Plato believed that, “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.” If you were to apply this quote to whether humans are inherently good or evil, then the answer would be that it is impossible for a person to be naturally evil. The evil actions that a person performs would be a result of ignorance stemming from their environment or the values of their society rather than that of themselves. It would mean that 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.
Like Plato, I have always believed that humans are born good, innocent, and pure. Today, I still believe this to be true but, I also believe that we are all born with the ability to commit evil acts, but it is not until we lose sight of our inner self and our ability to control it that some choose to act upon that inner nature such as violence, killing, lying or breaking laws. Rather than blaming ignorance for one’s inability to refrain from evil I believe that it takes multiple factors to bring evil to the surface.
Factors such as childhood trauma or abuse can cause one to lose their inner self, making a person lose their respect for others, causing them to become selfish and lack empathy for others. Being exposed to a certain society and way of life can fracture what one believes to be right or wrong, making us see morality differently. These factors along with many others can cause our self-controlled to be compromised, allowing evil to take over and exposing the evil inside.
In the film, “Schindlers list,” Amon Goeth and Oskar Schindler are both greedy, egotistic, and selfish. They have zero regard for those who do not share the same nationality and beliefs as they do, both men are a part of a society that believes wealth and Nazi Germany reins above all. Being a part of this society made both men believe that nothing and no one else mattered except for “their own.” Most would consider both men as “bad” or “evil,” until they discover that Schindler has not lost his inner self, deep down he still has empathy and compassion for the Jews, Oskar helps the greater good by sacrificing a part of himself (his wealth) in order to save 1,200 Jewish people. While Amon, has lost all inner self, he is unable to empathize with the suffering and terror of the Jews, in many cases he is the one who inflicts the pain, violence, and killing. While both men share some similarities, but Oskar’s ability to see right from wrong and choose to show empathy shows me that he is truly good. Amon is unable to see right from wrong, and even if he did at any point in the film, he never truly was able to right them, this for me is an example of a person who is inherently evil.
For centuries many philosophers and scientists as well as everyday individuals have contemplated the meaning of “good” and “evil,” they have also pondered the answer to questions like “do humans have the ability to be inherently evil.” Today, there still is no definite answer but I find myself believing that there is both good and evil in this world. As humans we all capable of performing acts of violence, disrespect and selfishness, but it is not until we lose our inner self that evil takes over and we become inherently evil.