The Age-Old Question of Good versus Evil Essays

The Age-Old Question of Good versus Evil Essays

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Virtually ever since humans began roaming the Earth, there has existed an ongoing debate about whether humans are inherently good or evil. In this paper, I will first summarize and analyze three arguments from philosophers far before our time. In the first discussion, Mencius conveys that humans are fundamentally good. In the following discussions, Xunzi and Plato contend that humans are inherently evil. I will conclude the paper with the argument that the views expressed by Xunzi provide are the strongest of those examined in this paper.
Mencius argues that humans are fundamentally good by establishing that every person has within himself or herself a sense of sympathy and compassion for others. Mencius directly states that “no man is devoid of a heart sensitive to the suffering of others” (“Introducing Philosophy,” page 462). He then provides a hypothetical example of a man sighting a child about to fall into a well. Mencius argues that this man would “certainly be moved to compassion” (“Introducing Philosophy,” page 463) and would save the child. In that split-second decision, the man saved the child on accord of his own sympathy without thought of positive praise from his parents, villagers, or friends, or because he disliked the sound of the child’s cry. The man’s actions were not malicious or selfish, but were instead driven by a sense of concern and consideration rooted in the human race.
Mencius then contends that every human has four ‘germs:’ benevolence, dutifulness, observance of the rites, and wisdom. He maintains that any person devoid of any one of these germs is not human. A person who denies these germs within themselves is only crippling his or her own potential. These germs can be found in a person’s occupatio...


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...humans depart from their original nature of evil in order to be good. While walking through a department store, it is not uncommon to see young children running away from their parents or making a scene, a behavior not found in older folk. From personal experience, it is much rarer to see a group of fifty-year olds fighting over a television on ‘Black Friday’ than a group of teenagers. As is demonstrated here, people are born evil but learn correct manners as they grow and can realize goodness.
In this paper, I examined the argument by Mencius that humans are fundamentally good and the arguments by Xunzi and Plato that humans are fundamentally evil. Of the arguments discussed in this paper, I found that the one presented by Mencius was the strongest. But while I may have found that humans are inherently evil, the debate will surely rage on for centuries to come.


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