Is Man Good or Bad?
Sigmund Freud was a psychologist who believed that the unconscious stores our instinctual desires, needs, and psychic actions. He believed that the unconscious hides one’s socially unacceptable ideas, wishes or desires. These unconscious thoughts can only be exposed to the person when they are “tapped” by special methods, such as psychoanalysis. You may be confused, thinking that I have accidently handed in my Psychology paper, but the truth is that my own personal theory of whether human nature is inherently good or evil is based on Freud’s theory of the unconscious.
I believe that man’s nature is inherently both good and bad; man is born thinking only ‘good’ thoughts, but have the ‘bad’ in their unconscious, and with external forces the ‘bad’ can be brought out. We learn of the evil in us from our environment and after that consider both good and bad in making our decisions. After all, how did man learn of greed without being taught the use of the secondary reinforce of money? The works done by Mencius, Gandhi, C. S. Lewis, and Hardin support my theory that we are instinctually good, but our environment can influence us to act upon our evil thinking.
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Mencius, a famous Confucian Chinese philosopher, believed in a theory much similar to mine, that human nature was inheritably good and by only external influences in their lives do they turn evil. Mencius’ thinking is exemplified in the reactions of others when they watch a child fall: they all feel alarm and distress, neither to win a friendship with the child’s parents nor to win praise from those who see them, but because they have an innate tendency towards goodness.
He argued that if people just followed their original feelings, like the alarm and distress they feel when seeing a child in danger, they could continue to be good. However, with the bad influence of our environment, people could ignore their original feeling of distress because they have learned of the evil of narcissism, and may disregard the well-being of anyone but themselves. Similarly, the Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi states in his speech called “Economic and Moral Progress” that external factors can affect one’s ability to be a moral person.
He believed that greed hurts the moral well-being of an individual, and therefore greed is sinful. It is more important to be moral than it is to be financially stable. If people are greedy, selfish, and not willing to help others, then it will be much easier for those people to have more money because they only spend it on themselves. Because of this and his various observations, Gandhi considers the poor to be morally superior to the rich.
Gandhi’s views on the ties between economics and ethics support my thesis because people learn to exhibit their greed through external influences and can negatively affect one’s ability to act on their morals. In a similar way, C. S. Lewis recognizes in his text The Law of Human Nature that people have an instinctual urge in carrying out their actions but have the choice to ignore it by doing something else. He stated that we as “human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. [and] that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. ” All of humanity feels the weight of some Law of Human Nature, which dictates to everyone’s conscience a common sense of Right and Wrong, yet all of us fail to live up to it. If you were to define “The Law of Nature” as the instinctual good in our hearts, then it could be said that our external influences that has taught us evil prompts us human beings to break it.
Garrett Hardin’s essay called Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor helps us illustrate how one can ignore their instinctual want to be good to others but through Hardin’s teaching, can ignore what is considered a good deed. According to Hardin’s theory, it is impossible to help all the unfortunate, or poor countries, without taking the rich countries down with them. Garrett Hardin stated that we simply should not provide aid to people in poor countries he believes that the net result of doing so would be courting large-scale disaster.
This theory can be considered flawed because these poor countries would most likely be unable to learn how to help themselves, thus demise and have all the richer countries be surrounded by ruins, a large-scale disaster. Additionally, his theory dismisses the good intentions of human beings, because we instinctually want to give compassion. If one were to argue from the critic’s perspective, Hardin is trying to discourage people to rely on their empathy and pity for others that humans instinctually feel and teach them of the bad in them so that they can ignore these good intentions.
In conclusion, man’s nature is inherently both good and bad because man is born to instantly feel the need to do good, while having the ‘bad’ hidden in their unconscious, and with only the environment can this ‘bad’ be another option in carrying out their daily decisions. Many men of importance have helped support this thesis, such as Mencius believed human nature was inheritably good and by only external influences in their lives do they turn evil; Gandhi, who thought that greed, in this case an inborn sin that one learns of, hurts the moral well-being of an individual; C. S. Lewis, a man who had the idea that we as humans are a mysterious Law of Nature that dictates how we ought to behave through our conscious, and are able to ignore it; and Hardin support my theory by acting as the external factor that brings out the evil from one’s unconscious and influences some to ignore their previous notion of what is good.