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Human Nature - Are Humans Naturally Good or Evil?

Essay by review  •  February 17, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,473 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,768 Views

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What is thought of as immoral to one person can be seen as ethical to another, and vice versa. This is due to the difference in the way humans perceive things, which is part of the intricacy of mankind. "During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man." (Hobbes) Hobbes states that Humans are naturally evil and need a powerful government to control them. Is it true? Rousseau thinks otherwise. "In reasoning on the principles he (Thomas Hobbes) lays down, he ought to have said that the state of nature, being that in which the care for our own preservation is the least prejudicial to that of others, was consequently the best calculated to promote peace, and the most suitable for mankind... man in the state of nature is both strong and dependent involves two contrary suppositions. Man is weak when he is dependent, and is his own master before he comes to be strong." (Rousseau) The issue of good and evil is brought up in "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding, when innocent boys find themselves on a deserted island attempting to create a society similar to ours. What circumstances occur to them? How do past influences affect them? Are their actions good or evil? The actions of the boys were not a matter of being good or evil, but were actions for survival. A person's environment does not draw him towards good or evil, nor is he or she born with it inside. Humans have instincts that are not affairs of good and evil, but of survival.

By natural instinct, humans will do what is best for them especially for their survival. Animals, much like people, kill when in need. For instance, if they feel they are cornered, they would attack. If they need food, they will kill to eat. In "Lord of the Flies", Ralph was being hunted by Jack's tribe, and in a desperate attempt in his defense, thrusts his spear through a crack at the inspecting savages. Ralph attacked someone of his own kind for his own survival. It can be believed that man is the derivative of others animals, and as such, they have certain instincts that were instilled from birth. The boys later began to simulate the behavior of animals. "At once the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws." (Golding 153) William Golding's description of this scene leads a reader to believe that these boys acquired animal like qualities. Do you know of any human who tears with teeth and claws? The boys mistake Simon for their beast and result in ruthlessly killing him. In their state of mind of savagery and hunting, they saw themselves in danger of this "beast" and their first instinct was to kill anything in sight that had the possibility of being it. Humans, like animals, have a natural instinct to protect themselves in case of danger, like attacking when cornered. Instincts are inherited, but indistinct characteristics such as good or evil are not. The significance of moral values do not apply to actions in situations for survival.

Instincts are not about being moral or immoral, because the issue of being good and evil is undefined. Whether an action or situation is good or bad depends on who it is and how it is being perceived. This makes this issue uncertain due to the way it is viewed from person to person. Since the way it is seen will differ, man cannot be exclusively evil or exclusively good. Consider the following example: A dog constantly jumps on the window of a door in an attempt to get the attention of the family inside. He is doing this in hopes to be let back inside the house. Someone inside the house could view this as being evil, which would be different from the view of an animal lover. They would not consider this evil and would claim that the dog had not caused physical harm and just didn't know any better. The dog doesn't believe that it is evil because he is only obeying environmental charge. He's been inside before and knows that it is much nicer than outside, and wants the attention that is inside. The dog has tried to jump on the door before, and had received the attention of someone who thus let him in. This leads the dog to believe that what he is doing is the "right" thing to do. After all, he just wants in, right? So the dog is evil because someone inside says he is, but then he is not evil because he doesn't think he is. The opinions on what is evil and what isn't disagree with each other because of how it was perceived by each side. In "Lord of the Flies" there is a situation that deals with Piggy's glasses, which is the key to fire on the island. The glasses were stolen in the middle of the night that leads to a fight in the dark among the boys. The fact that the glasses were stolen, and they were Piggy's only aid for sight, can be seen as evil, but what about Jack's

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