Inherently Evil or Inherently Good?
A popular question that is posed is, “Was man born inherently good or inherently evil?” To answer that question, you must define what “inherently good” and “inherently evil” is.
Some people say that evil is defined by God and is taught by the Christian bible. I have always entertained the philosophy that I will not simply accept anything without questioning first and allowing it to answer to reason. Therefore, I cannot accept this definition.
Others say that evil is the doing of the devil. The issue I have with this is that it takes the human being out of the equation. It offloads the responsibility onto some creature that we can’t see and primarily one that can’t defend themselves. It’s a classic case of “blame it on the guy that isn’t here.” A persons actions are their responsibility and are under their control, not some supernatural being.
Other people say evil is what happens when something bad happens to someone. If I were to adopt this philosophy, I must ask the question: Which is evil? Allowing a single person to die for millions or allowing millions to die for a single person? In both scenarios, something bad has happened to someone. Are they both evil? Is it a lose/lose situation? It depends on who you ask. The ones that are alive say it isn’t evil, but I think that the ones that are dead would have a different opinion. In this view, evil is very subjective to the individual, so how can we possibly say that everyone is inherently evil at birth? How can we say that anything is evil at all since the definition varies from person to person? Also, what about instances where chance seems to allow something bad to happen to a person? Who or what is responsible? Accidents happen in which no person is the cause. What is evil in that situation?
There is a simple and universal definition: evil is selfishness. If you look at any event in history that one would consider “evil”, you will see that, in some capacity, the antagonist was acting out of a selfish desire for power, out of a selfish fear for themselves or their families, or out of their personal beliefs or ideals that they try to impose on others.
In my post, Root of Evil, I explained that evil was defined as “morally right or wrong” in which morality was based on an attempt to suppress societies fears, giving them a way of predicting other peoples behavior. Since fear is a result of self-preservation, it only follows that selfishness is the direct effect of that fear. Therefore, by saying that evil is selfishness, I do not contradict myself, but further prove my observation.
Now that we have a basic understanding of where evil comes from, we can attempt to answer the question of “Are people inherently evil?” Some say that people are not inherently evil and that evil is something learned by our society. A society is built by setting up the infrastructure of how we are to react to changing and difficult situations. A set of rules, whether explicit or inferred, are imposed on the citizens of that society. In the same way that a society might have a government to help facilitate order and react to issues, a society might have a way to react to their own evil. It is this reaction to evil that people learn from society, not the evil itself. How a person deals with their selfishness and self-preservation is categorically different than whether a person is inherently evil or not. If a being understands self-preservation, then it is selfish and has the potential for evil. This concept is that which makes them inherently evil. The real question is, “How do we react to our own selfishness?” Are we to indulge ourselves and not think of others? This would be the natural tendency of doing things. Good is the antonym of evil and the definition is likewise opposite: to not be selfish. Good is not hurting your fellow man, but lifting them up and helping them. It is because of selfishness that man even knows evil.