Human nature is fundamentally good...Fact or opinion?Human nature is fundamentally good...Fact or opinion?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is completely a matter of opinion.  There is no way to determine what is fundamentally our human nature and it is also pretty hard to objectively determine what is bad or good.

For example, let us say that it is human nature to want to get more power or control over our own lives.  This can mean wanting more money and things.  Now, do we want this because we're human or are we somehow influenced by society?  What if we lived outside of society -- would we still want this?  How can we know?

But let's assume it is human nature.  Is it good?  It can lead to bad things.  We can cheat and steal and kill to get this.  But isn't it possibly good too?  Isn't it good to want to control our lives and keep ourselves and those we love secure?

That's why I don't think this can possibly be a matter of fact.  It's too hard to know what is human nature and too hard to tell objectively if it's good or bad.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is wishful thinking, it seems to me, rather than either fact or opinion.  I come from a traditional Christian perspective regarding the inherent sin nature of mankind.  Man is not inherently good, I think, and I look at young children as the best evidence of this fact--though certainly it gets more true as we grow and mature.  Who has to teach a toddler to lie (which they often instinctively do to protect themselves from punishment), to cheat (which they often do in order to win), to be selfish (as demonstrated by an unwillingness to share), or so many other flaws we all succumb to regularly?  No one had to teach them those things--it's just human nature to put self over others much of the time.  Conversely, having a sin nature doesn't make us all evil; it does, however, make us all sinners by nature, in need of a Redeemer. 

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is a question that many people have tried to answer, but according to Sigmund Freud's theory of the Basic Id, we are actually inherently savages with instinctive tendencies that, when put under pressure, can make us do just about anything from killing to self-mutilating, to much worse.

As for myself, I believe that nobody is inherently good because goodness implies making choices, and that is a learned behavior. Notice how simple it is for people to fall in the bad side of the road when they are not well-guided, well-bred, or at least raised up in a healthy home. There are exceptions to this, but I do not know of people who have NOT ended up making massive stupid and evil acts instinctively but they would never sacrifice for others altruistically with the same vigor.

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a topic that was much debated by some of the founders of America.  The Puritans, who were basically the first people to come to this new world, believed humans were naturally evil (born this way) and needed God's mercy and forgiveness.

The thinkers of the Enlightenment immediately challenged this idea with their thought that humans were born naturally good, and could perfect this goodness through thinking and reasoning.  While Puritan belief stressed acts of goodness as a measure of avoiding hell, rationalists during the Enlightenment stressed goodness as an act of worship to God, almost in celebration of what was already natural.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Look at this from a different perspective.  In order to judge mankind as inherently good or evil, we have to agree on our definition of "good" don't we?  Usually such a definition is based on either religious or societal values, which are not universally agreed upon. 

I believe mankind is not born either good or evil.  People are socialized to believe what they believe, and in some part, to act as they do.  The goodness or evil nature of society is merely society's mirror.

Human nature is not good or bad. in my opinion human nature is all about survival and allowing loved ones to survive. hence sometimes people do bad things to save the ones they love. they love which is good but they kill or harm others, which is bad. 

frostfire827 | Student

Humans are also fundamentally good because, as children, we are pure. Jesus stated (in Matthew 19:14) “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. The kingdom of heaven belongs to these children due to the fact that the young children are pure, and are completely dependent on their parents. In the same way, Jesus wants us to be just like these children, depending solely on God. You may think that after Adam and Eve’s sin, children are born guilty, but children are born innocent, but are born in sin. This is saying that all humanity is sinful, but as children who were just born are not able to think for themselves, they are considered innocent. All people were once children, so everyone was once innocent and good.


sorry i had to continue as another post.. couldnt fit it all in :)

frostfire827 | Student

Humans are fundamentally good. We are fundamentally good because, as the Bible states, we are created by God, who is good.  When Jesus met the rich young ruler (in Luke 18:19), who addressed him as ‘Good Master’, Jesus rebuked him by asking, ‘Why do you call me good? There is none good but God.’ If God is good, then what he has created is good. Good comes only from good, just as a grape vine only produces grapes, and a mango tree only bears mangoes.

We do not claim that humans are perfect, but that we were originally good. Paul states (in Romans 3:23) that “all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God”. If we are not originally good, when we sin, we are not able to “fall” short of the glory of God. To fall, you must first be up higher than where you fall to. To fall short of the glory of God, we must first be good, and worthy of his Glory.


brogia | Student

It is just an opinion.

It's true that not anyone acts always bad, but there is a fundamental difference between acting good and being good.

Literary seen consider "The Lord of the Flies" by William Golding, or 1984 by George Orwell, but there are many examples.

The mankind described in these books can let you clearly understand that humanity do not act good and is, therefore, not good.

Think about things you do or you have done during your life and I am sure you can give an answer by yourself.

Remember what Thomas Hobbes said:"Homo homini lupus"!!!

krishna-agrawala | Student

The very concept of good and bad a valued judgement, which are all kinds of opinion. There are no objective definition of what constitutes good and what constitutes bad. Even for physical product what is considered to be good in one situation may be bad in another. What may be considered as wine that has gone sour or become rotten, and hence bad in one situation, may be considered very good vinegar in another situation.

Thus, strictly speaking a statement like "human nature is fundamentally good" is very much an opinion rather than a fact. But sometimes words can be deceptive.  "Not being a fact" should not be interpreted to mean "not being true". In my own opinion the statement described in the question is very true.