Are people inherently good or evil?What I mean is, are we, as human beings, born sinners or is it the outter society (like the media), that later on, after our birth, affects us into becoming what...

Are people inherently good or evil?

What I mean is, are we, as human beings, born sinners or is it the outter society (like the media), that later on, after our birth, affects us into becoming what we are?

Something with real life examples with evidence is what I need so that I could clearly picture it, as well...


Thanks a bunch ~^_^~!!!!


Expert Answers
scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Your question should probably be posted as a discussion post because it's opinion-based. The first answer refers to the old argument between nature versus nurture--that is, what actually causes a human to choose to do good or choose to do wrong? If you take Freud's point of view, you stress that man is born  inherently evi (this is the nature side of the argument)l. If you believe that society influences a person to do good or evil, then you side with nurture.

While this is an opinion question, one has to be careful to avoid illogical conclusions such as stating that society causes someone to do wrong. For what is society made up of? This argument played out in American courts several years ago.  A teenager who was passed from one home to another as a child felt that no loved him and turned to playing video games all day. Eventually, he put into practice some of the make-believe portions of the game and stole a car, killing police officers in the process. When the case went to trial, the teen's lawyer argued that he was influenced by the video game and a harsh life to commit murder (similar to the idea of society influencing humans to act). But the question remains: who influenced society to do wrong originally? Who influenced the makers of the video game to sell violence as entertainment? We must remember that society is simply made up individual humans.

From another perspective, if one practices one of the world's major religions, the answer to your question is that man is inherently evil and that he must believe or do something in order to become good.

sboeman eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This topic has been debated for many years.  There are actually three possible positions one can take: are humans born evil, born good, or born with no affiliation towards good or evil at all?

John Locke first termed the phrase "tabula rasa", which literally means "clean slate".  This theory suggests that babies come into the world neither good nor bad, they are simply "blank", ready to accept any outside influence.  If their nurturing is loving, supportive, etc., then the child will likely become such a person as he/she grows older; on the other hand, if the child is abused, neglected, malnourished, etc., he/she is more likely to become evil as he/she ages.  The child, then, is basically a "sponge".

There is evidence to support both sides of the argument.  Sigmund Freud is known for his psychoanalytic theory, which includes the assumption that babies are born all "id", or pleasure-seeking; in other words, they only seek to satisfy themselves.  Also, any parent would know that parents do not have to teach their children to lie, cheat, yell, etc. - it pretty much just comes naturally.  This could be an argument towards the "babies-are-born-evil" side.

This does not provide conclusive evidence, though.  Many children can become polite and caring despite unfavorable circumstances.  In fact, babies learn rather early in their development some basic concepts of sharing, empathy, and other "good" qualities of humans.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would not quality anyone as inherently good or evil. Certainly, I believe, that all people are capable of good and evil. With some of us it's a choice, but I think sometimes the life experiences of others develops the evil side or the good side more predominantly. Look the most notorious of society's offenders, and think about how many of them had evil experiences perpetrated upon them before they nurtured evil as their spawn.

krishna-agrawala | Student

I do not wish to qualify people as inherently good or bad. But one thing is certain that general behavior, beliefs, values, attitudes and other such determinants of an individuals personality and nature are very much determined by the nature of culture and other environment within which the individual grows up.

Calling all people sinners because of either their inherent traits or those acquired later in life is being rather unreasonable. I believe, That most of the people are just OK neither too good nor too bad. It is small minority of less than 10 percent that make come in the categories of exceptionally good or exceptionally bad people.