Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Inherent Nature, Good or Evil?

In a comment here, a friend of mine wrote, "Though I do believe we are all capable of 'good,' I tend to think we are more evil than good and society forces us to sublimate it and/or different religions/spiritual praxes condition us otherwise."

What I find particularly interesting about this statement is that we really cannot know for certain if that's ture, or if we are inherently good. Maybe we're not inherently anything! And of course, what do we mean when we use the terms, "Evil" or "Good"? She noted, "I know it reflects a sad state of mind and heart." But I really don't think so. We are all making the best choices and drawing the best conclusions we can, given the evidence with which life presents us.

She quoted the book of Genesis: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood." (Genesis 8:21) I think it's accurate to say that this is a common Christian view presented in the Bible, that we are fallen and can only be made holy (whole?) again through Jesus. Obviously, other religions hold different views (i.e. Buddhism).

I truly do find it fascinating how we all view things so differently. You can say that we are more evil than good and we have to fight for altruism to shine forth in our lives. I can say that we are all ultimately perfect, but the defilements of anger, greed, and delusion obscure it—which is a product of our own making. The thing is that, from an observational standpoint, we see the same thing! People usually have to work at being altruistic and compassionate. You say that's because inherently, we're not nice. I say that's because our innate compassion and love are just veiled through our own doing.

She wrote, "You've got to fight to be good and do the right thing. It ain't easy. But it's worth it." You sure as h*ll hit the nail on the head with that one!

1-Minute Contemplation: What is the basis of our existence? Are we innately good or innately evil? Why? What do we even mean by "good" and "evil"? Are these arbitrary definitions? Or is there some ground upon which these terms are based?


Stiletto Tongue said...

Hi Mike. It's Y (under one of my many aliases). I just popped in for a random visit, a little cup of zen, and look what I found: Nietzche meets Buddha!

And I must say you always astound me with your pure--or rather purified--spirit..."I say that's because our innate compassion and love are just veiled through our own doing."

This from the man who quite literally could not hurt a fly (an anecdote I will NEVER forget).

I must say, you do help restore my faith in the kindness of strangers. And maybe, just maybe, after a one-minute contemplation, that it doesn't matter what we are "innately," but what we become.

Thanks for your compelling (as always) thoughts.


Mike said...

Hey Y! You are the sly one, with all those aliases. :)

I'm really glad you choose to drink your little cup of Zen tea from my blog-pot.

Speaking of a nice calming cup of tea, that reminds me—I need to get cracking on a poem for Katy's Ringing of the Bards!

SunShineBlue said...

I found you on google, :P but more to the point
i find your contemplation to be thrilling and often on my mind [and philosophy in general] but noteing on those tasty mind questions [ also becausei love it so much i tend to rant(sorry ^_^')]

i believe as the yin and yang can symbolize
where we are both evil and good where within the dark there is light and within the light there is dark

where this world is balanced even with its contrasting agony and joy
where realy we balancing beings
and ergo our perfection and the worlds perfection
we make perfections in our imperfections and make imperfections in perfections

circles lots and lots o' circles

round and round we go through contridictions. though this world is balanced to young eyes either they be wrinkled with age or smooth with youth may only see certain things for a phyiscal example the simple black and white are contrasting colors to "young eyes" or to "blind eyes" one may appear more dominate but are actually equal and not black or white but gray. i believe as part of the human complex the ego tends to seperate many a thing. like oil vinger

also another example
when an object is movin is such a speed it blurs and eventualy if the speed increases it can not be seen
because our physical eyes can not comprehend seeing something moving so fast

so rounding off or coming to a point its all the same thing
and we all like trillions of atoms fighting that make up black and white or gray but wether it be black white gray or the rainbow
i still go with the same lesson i follow and live simply by, learn from yesterday cherish today prepare for tomorrow and never fear livin' simply but never deny the complexity of this world

so theres my bit and i like your blog it dares to philoso-size and philosophy and life is my passion

so keep ur blog going its awesome. curiousity is the best inventor and the best explorer

Chaos out peace in

p.s would love to hear your beliefs/opinions

Anonymous said...

Personally, this 'unknowing mind' thinks that humans are inherently neutral. That may sound like the easiest way to go, but I really do think that. In fact, I ought to be working on my final speech on that topic, but through my internet perusals, I found this and got rather attached to it. I would by curious to know the version of the Bible that your friend got her quote from, simply to know. My Bible says it differently, as do all different translations, but I always find it interesting to see the differences.

I believe man to be neutral, that good and evil are relative to each person's perception, and that each person is only operating within their set of circumstances and has very little room tp judge another person's actions as good or evil.

That out of the way, I am a bit of a budding existentialist... thank you for the interesting read.


Mike said...

Hi Simmer,

Thanks for the comment. I'm not certain which translation she was using for that quote, so I can't help you there.

"Good" and "Evil" have a lot of moral connotations, with an absolutist bent that causes a lot of problems. Really, "good versus evil" is not the right question to ask. Perhaps "loving versus unloving" is the right phrasing, or "compassionate versus hateful."

I think you're right that each of us has very little room to judge another person's actions. Part of the difficulty is that we cannot see everything operating in that person's life. Regardless, even if we had that capability, who are we to judge somebody else?

Thanks for stopping by!