Are We Born Good or Evil?

That moment, that instant we’re born: are we good? Or are we evil?

Do we arrive into the world with a predisposition for good deeds, good thoughts, and good intentions? Or are we innately bad, inclined for evil acts, evil notions, and evil desires?

Me, I don’t think it’s either case. I think we’re born selfish, (though selfishness is generally considered an “evil” trait). Allow me to posit:

As a newborn baby, your first instincts are of survival. Breathing, sleeping, pooping, and eating. All those actions help you to survive.

Most of those you can do yourself. Except for eating. You’ll need a guardian of some kind to provide you with food.

So what do you do? You cry. Since you’re not a self-sustaining person yet, you need to depend on others. On a very basic level, this is a form of selfishness.

Your view of the world is also very self-centered. As an infant, you’re unaware of the full scope of the world around you. All you know is you and your needs.

This changes as you learn about the external world. Through social interactions, you become aware of distinct personalities outside yours. You learn that your actions have consequences on others.

You could be taught to tailor some of your actions to minimize their negative effects on others, as long as your needs are still being met. This is the root of selflessness.

If you’re not taught this, you’ll continue to operate in a self-centered view, without care for the consequences of your behavior. This is selfishness.

In this context, maturity can be defined as a healthy balance of selflessness and an understanding of the external world in relation to one’s needs and wants.

To continue this line of analysis, good and evil can be seen as subjective values that human civilizations create and internalize into their cultures as a way to ensure societal order. That’s why stealing is seen as evil by so many cultures; it’s essentially a selfish act. Without these values, or morals, there would be no society.

Selfishness itself isn’t evil. As a newborn, it’s absolutely necessary. As a trait, it’s just a primal act of survival. If negatively effects another person however, then most societies will judge this as evil.

And that’s my answer to whether we’re born good or evil: it’s neither, we are born selfish.

. . .

Do you think we’re born good or evil?

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.

10 thoughts on “Are We Born Good or Evil?”

  1. *Argh* That was my answer, too.

    I only read right before “Allow me to posit:” and as I clicked on the link to view the rest of the post, I thought to myself, “Neither. We’re simply born selfish.” Then I read the rest of your post and you arrive at the same conclusion, rendering moot my entire anticipated comment. Now I’ve got nothing to say except, “Yup. I agree.”

  2. Let’s say I *had* to pick one or the other, and could not cop out by responding with “both” or “neither”– I would say the answer is not absolutely and uniformly applicable to all human beings. True, we’re born selfish, like all other living creatures; but there’s that other-factor we’ve developed through the course of evolution– trust.

    Through this evolution and becoming hardwired to trust one another (for the sake of furthering survival…think: society, civilization, institution-building), humans have come to be born inherently “good,” meaning we inherently want to trust each other and try hard not to violate that trust.

    It’s through nurture, however, that some of us realize that there are times when violating that trust will advance our selfish desires and personal standing, thus we learn to violate trust.

    I contend we’re born good.

  3. Sorry. I just realized the first paragraph of my above comment makes no sense. Cramming for the bar exam means I’ve lost the ability to do anything else in life. Sigh….

  4. well i think we are born self fish but we can learn to become mean or good it depends how you are being raise or how is teaching you to become a great person.

  5. when we r born we are born innocent. we have the chance of being good but because or surroundings could be a little hectic at stages, it could sink into us and as we slowly grow older our goodness could slowly wash away. leaving us with what? its called life.

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