Human ConductWhat would you say to someone who cited the existence of evil people like those that set up fake investment opportunities and then keep the money or serial killers, as an argument...

Human Conduct

What would you say to someone who cited the existence of evil people like those that set up fake investment opportunities and then keep the money or serial killers, as an argument against the idea that humans are naturally ethical?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Genesis 8:21 makes mention of "every inclination of man's heart is evil from childhood."  There does seem to be an innate evil in man that must be controlled--is not this subject of William Golding's allegory Lord of the Flies?  Without the controls of society, the character Roger in this novel unleashes his sadistic nature; another character Jack and the hunters regress to savagery in their behavior.

The Russians have a proverb, "Man is a wolf to man."  People must be taught to respect the rights of others and to be unselfish in their own desires.  Such behavior is not intrinsic to them; civilization and the microcosm of the family are what instill this in people.  Sociopaths are often people who were never taught to be unselfish.

While most people are not sociopaths, our modern society contains more and more unethical people because they have not received the instruction in behavior that they needed in childhood.  Why is it that colleges and universities in recent times have had to add ethics courses to their curriculum for business, finance, and managment majors? and installed methods for detecting and eliminating cheatin? If people are naturally ethical nowadays, would such courses and measures have become necessary?

Here are some interesting statistics: In 2006 about 1 of every 31 people in the U.S. was incarcerated.  The U.S. has less than 5% of the world population, but 23.4% of the prison population.  More than 8.75 million people are held in penal institutions throughout the world.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with so many of the above posts.  We only hear about the "bad" people of the world because committing crimes is news, and in today's world of high technology and advanced communications, the news is upon us before we can say, "scat!"   For every story of a crime or bad situation out there, there are at least three stories of heros and good samaritans.  It's a shame that these good stories aren't more of the norm for the media.   

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm with mwestwood on this one.  While I don't think everyone acts in an unethical manner, I do believe our hearts and minds turn too easily to evil because of our basic human nature.  The examples you give are outrageously evil, but what about the small things people do every day to "cheat" the system.  This does not preclude the good things people do, but it is a realistic view of our inherent nature.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with others - do not let focus on such cases distract from the large number of individuals who do manage to live ethically and do not take advantage of systems to feather their own nests. Certainly and thankfully it appears that when society does have a mature and structured ethical system to guide their citizens, the majority do manage to conduct their behaviour within those guidelines.

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I might also look in to the percentage of such criminals (convicted or otherwise) who are operating under abnormal circumstances, including abusive pasts and mental illnessess (and psychoses).

I mean, when you look at serial killers you just have to assume that there is something wrong inside their heads.  These are not "normal" humans to begin with.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would agree with the above posters that all of us are capable of doing things that are immoral or unethical, I hope though that the majority of us are able to make appropriate choices, I sometimes feel that in today's world our definitions of morally acceptable and ethical are undergoing a change.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Every man and woman has the potential to do evil inside. However, most seem to be able to make choices, that while best for them, still fall under acceptable social and moral norms. The examples you've given, while not uncommon, are exception not the rule.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say that person overlooks the the very high percentage of people who do live by ethical human standards. Thieves, embezzlers and murderers make up a very small number of the world's population: They are the exception and not the rule. 

epollock | Student

Those are probably extreme unusual examples and probably not really examples, more like exceptions. I would say that people act in their own best interests and that involves stealing if necessary. People may act as if it doesn't really hurt anyone, but people can involve themselves in all sorts of unethical behavior, that to them, really isn't.