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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Good or Evil?

Ok this is my first post, Messiah and Azazel have been messing me up, everytime I feel I am ready to type a story, they writes a masterpiece, bunch of party poopers. Anyways I hope my poor excuse for a post is satisfactory.

So I am minding my business in class when the TA asked if we thought whether humans where naturally evil or good. The question stemmed from Hobbes’s saying that man in his natural nature was ““nasty, brutish, and short,”. Of course everyone was like Hobbes was wrong so on and so forth. It could be because it seemed like the TA was almost daring us to say man was evil. Well I did not take the bait, I am trying to make an A in the class…lol I’ll argue on other minor points like if Napoleon was a good person. I just want to hear y’alls opinion.

I tend to side with Hobbes. In an ideal world, Man would be all peaceful and good. We would share everything and be kind. But as a lot of us have found out from experience, people find reasons to stab you, to take you for granted, to use you. You know the saying “Nice guys finish last”. I refused to believe that saying, until na only last I dey carry…lol It seems like we have to sometimes be cold to avoid being hurt. Even the bible self (please don’t turn this into a religious argument) says the flesh is evil. Think of it how did the first man gain property? Didn’t he just decide a random spot on the earth was his? How did he decide this? What made it more his than his neighbor? It had to be his innate selfish nature that made him start thinking the random piece of land was his and not “ours”. Even if some men were born “good”, that trait must have died out. Because they would have been poor with no land, and no female will want to lick their lollipop (you can guess what song is on my Ipod at this moment…lol) This takes me on another tangent… Socialism

In my opinion socialism is the best form of government in an ideal world. But we do not live in a ideal world, we live in a “Real” world. In the real world humans are not unselfish. In the real world someone will realize that if “I don’t work, I would still get as much as the person next to me” Or why should I share with Ekaete? When I can be living in 5 mansions and riding 26 cars. Like that Wu tang song goes “Money rules everything around me”.

Back to Hobbes… The people that think that humans are naturally good, are just setting themselves up for failure IMO. A sucker is born everyday. This whole life is a game and those who do not play are getting played. It is extremely sad but it is reality. The optimist says the glass is half full, the pessimist says it is half empty, the realist knows it is just half…Any ways, what are your opinions?


Suru said...

The word "good" for me as had a very different and long meaning ever since my philosophy professor one day talked about it. It's truly hard to explain but to really answer your question, you have to redefine what is good and how can you say this is good and this is not?

2cute4u said...

Nice to have you on the block.. saying hi.

El-Divine said...

its true that humans are basically selfish. however, i wouldnt categorise it as evil cos its natures way of ensurin only the best of a species survive. efficiency earns the best reward.

Anonymous said...

Define good. Define evil. Fundamentally, both ideas are human costructs that derive meaning only in a social context and have no basis in objective universal truths. Refering to Humans as good/evil is as meaningful as seeking a unique relationship between humans and a random number.

Ask yourself, is a cow good/evil?

Nothing is truly good or evil.

Chuk said...

i cant tell if u humans are naturally good or bad but i can tell u that they were born with a sinful nature..i hope that answer ur question

Realist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Realist said...

@ Suru...What i mean by good is unselfish, doesnt take advantage of other people so on and so forth. I dont want to get into nuances, we all know what is deemed as good or evil. I really was not trying to get "philosophical" because we would not get anywhere. Philosophy leaves more questions than

@ 2cute4u... thanks, hi to you too

@ El-Divine... i see what you are saying, but when people say good or evil, they do not think of efficiency or reward or darwinism, they think of Good and Bad actions. But would i be right in saying that from your comment, people are not evil or bad, they are what they need to be to survive?

@ Anonymous... i was talking in a social "context" not in universal truth. As we dont think Cows have the mental faculty to be regarded as equals i do not think we can say if a cow has the free will to be "good" or "evil".

@Chuk... isnt the sinful nature evil? so then humans are evil and need a supernatural force to be good?

Azazel said...

Lol @ Chuk..
U can't tell if humans were born with a good or evil nature
but u know they were born with a sinful nature??
Isn't something that is 'sinful' automatically evil??
Like seriously Chuk, do u see why am saying that sometimes discussing with u is torturous..
U need to mature in ur style of argument

Azazel said...

Remember Realist there was a time we used to have this convo about whether human nature was bad or evil and I use to agree that it was predominantly evil but mehn after somethings happened in my life I've changed that mindset. There are some exceptions trust me, there are always those lil rays of hope that defy all expectations

Fragilelooks said...

man is a selfish creature. u cnt generalize at men being evil or gud. a coin has two sides so does man.

Aradi said...

If there's one thing I love in these discussions it's conversations between Azazel and Chuk. lol, them two are like two extremities on a single scale whereby Chuk sides with extreme faith and unwavering belief and Azazel sides with complete dependencies on human reasoning. Personally, I am of the opinion that the real truths lay somewhere around the middle. It's interesting you mention rays of hope, Azazel. Please, do expatiate.

Anonymous mentions something about good and evil being a human construct. Is it really so? An examination of every culture at every period of time shows that each language has at least a word for Good and Bad. Language is the basic indicator of peoples and their nature so the need for all these peoples to attribute words for these concepts indicate that these are inherent in our perception of the world; we classify what we see around us as good or bad. This is part of our nature.

Whether we ourselves are naturally good or evil is more difficult to pin down. Somehow I think the biblical verse that Chuk referred to is a bit misinterpreted. Sure enough, in the Qur'an also there is a verse that goes "No,[But] indeed Man transgresses". However this verse is followed up by "Because he sees himself as self sufficient". My interpretation is that when we transgress, or sin, we merely do it out of error, ignorance. You cannot hang someone that wrongs due to his ignorance, or say that he sinned in his ignorance (attributing self sufficiency to himself). With proper knowledge and awareness, the sinful dimension to our character is diminished. Surely, the one that knows his environment and has knowledge, enough knowledge to grasp the fact that he is very fallible and is in no way self-sufficient, and puts his hope and faith in God, has a Good nature. This also brushes upon Azazel's other post about Infallibility; the great men all obliterated the sinful dimension to their character because they were wise and had complete faith in their message. This made them 'great' men.

As to Man being selfish. Think about it, self-ish. Survival. If Man hadn't being self-ish, he'd do a heck of a bad job ensuring his own existence and that of his offspring. Think about it, each and every one of us here has dreams... don't our dreams have to do with bettering ourselves and the society at large? Didn't people like Hitler make their followers believe that they were doing everyone a great favour- out of the followers ignorance?

I believe we all perceive ourselves to have a good nature, and our 'badness' is completely out of ignorance. We have a very good, beautiful and progressive nature, but ignorance, our main enemy, makes us do bad.

Azazel said...

Rays of hope as in the people who defy all human stereotypes..
I've seen people who have enough empathy/compassion that it would rival Jesus and any other great man or woman we've come to admire.

Human beings have a capacity to be selfish, but they also have a capacity to do extreme good, if one puts aside all things like religion, politics etc... @ the end of it all we are all human, no matter our affiliations and it is that common identity that we have, that brings out the best in somepeople from time to time.
I myself would never write off the entire human race as being selfish, granted there are some that are..

Aradi I would disagree with ur presumption that I am dependent totally on human reasoning.

Azazel said...

@ y interpretation is that when we transgress, or sin, we merely do it out of error, ignorance. You cannot hang someone that wrongs due to his ignorance, or say that he sinned in his ignorance (attributing self sufficiency to himself). With proper knowledge and awareness, the sinful dimension to our character is diminished.

I totally disagree with your interpretation, granted in some cases this might be the case but in most cases out there people are painfully aware of the sin they choose to commit yet they go ahead with it.
A rapist does not rape out of error.
Some rapists may, but not most.
A murderer does not kill out of error, some murderers may but not most etc

Azazel said...

@ I believe we all perceive ourselves to have a good nature, and our 'badness' is completely out of ignorance. We have a very good, beautiful and progressive nature, but ignorance, our main enemy, makes us do bad.

And how does one combat this ignorance if certain religions frown @ u asking questions??
Aradi please I know u've told me that in Islam questions are not discouraged, but u know there are two kinds of questions in my opinion...
Lukewarm questions and persistent questions..
Are persistent questions encouraged? Afterall if I ask a question and an answer is provided that is not entirely satisfactory to me, can i persist to ask more questions without me being seen as a nuisance??
Because in Christianity this is mostly the case, and I've come to realise that people who frown at u for asking tomany questions usually do it out of fear that their ignorance of their cause will be found out

Aradi said...

I would love to continue our discussion but something I've seen has completely taken my attention away from everything else. The statement that some people have compassion that would rival that of Jesus and any great man.

I'm trying to think systematically here and leave all my emotions under the surface, but that sentence completely proves to me a previous statement you make that you do not rely on human reasoning alone. What is it that you rely on? If it certainly is not entirely reasoning, and it is not ordained codes of conduct, then what is it?

Please re-evaluate and tell me honestly if that statement you made about Jesus/compassion was wise?

You horribly underestimate just how great these people are. If it helps, please close your eyes and try to conceptualise the lives of Jesus, Muhammad et al. Over a thousand years ago. The brutish nature of their suffering, their love for their enemies (-real- enemies, not some people that just abuse them), their dedication to their cause, their suffering... they're suffering...

You know, before you compare anyone to these men let me tell you that there is absolutely no-one in this generation and several generations past along with the generations to follow that can even come close to Muhammad's companions. If the Faith of the whole world were to be put on one scale, and that of Abubakar As Siddiq (the Prophet's companion) was to be put on another, he would outweigh all of us.

Umar Al-Khattab, when he was the leader of the Islamic States, used to walk around the city of Madinah at night every night to ensure that the people were alright. He would carry food himself and take it to those who needed it. Now that is compassion! This man ruled the whole of Arabia and beyond at that time, if you want to see how big that is, please refer to an atlas. Abdur-Rahman ibn Awf, another companion, could not eat but rather wept after the battle of Badr because he kept thinking about the good men that had died. That is compassion!

You don't even have to go that far! People keep judging the people of the Middle East but have you seen the city of Makkah or Madinah in Saudi Arabia during the month of Ramadhan? People outside the mosques looking for people to come and eat with them after the fast? A little boy was actually pulling at my brother to go to his family and eat the iftar with him. That is compassion! Do you know several people in Nigeria actually go for pilgrimage without concern for food and things like that because they know they're sorted?

Aradi said...

We don't even have to go to Saudi Arabia; have you seen the Zakaat prayer (a 40th of a person's wealth) shared out annually in Nigeria? I have. Turns out a 40th of peoples' wealth feeds a lot of mouths, opens a lot of small businesses, and makes a lot of people happy. That is compassion!

We fast for a month every year to feel empathy, to have compassion, to know what it is like to go without food, to remember (turns out people do a lot of good things if they fast for some time), and by the end of every day you see people sharing out food for the beggars first, outside.

And that's just us. It was the Prophet Muhammad, after being stoned out of a town called Ta'if, completely humiliated along with his companions, who begged on his knees "Oh Allah, forgive them for they do not know!" That is compassion.

This is the man whose uncle, very dear to him, had his uncle killed in a battle and his liver cut up and chewed by an enemy at the time. And yet when the woman, her husband, and the slave who killed the uncle converted to Islam he accepted them all. The husband, Abu Sufyan, himself who opposed the Prophet for some time, became a great Muslim scholar. His sister married the Prophet, and his son and progeny ruled the Islamic Empire for a long time. That is compassion!

I cannot even begin to describe the compassion that these people had, but rest assured, no one -absolutely no one- comes even close! That is why over a thousand years later, they are still remembered and loved.

I'm sorry if I hijacked the discussions and asking questions is indeed a good thing, but that statement riled me up a little bit and I cannot comment on the other posts at the moment.

Azazel said...

@ If the Faith of the whole world were to be put on one scale, and that of Abubakar As Siddiq (the Prophet's companion) was to be put on another, he would outweigh all of us.

U asked what my earlier allegation was based on? Now I ask what urs is based on?
Your point is valid when u say the times where suffer, but it is my belief that men are great nomatter in what environment/time they live in.

@ This is the man whose uncle, very dear to him, had his uncle killed in a battle and his liver cut up and chewed by an enemy at the time. And yet when the woman, her husband, and the slave who killed the uncle converted to Islam he accepted them all. The husband, Abu Sufyan, himself who opposed the Prophet for some time, became a great Muslim scholar. His sister married the Prophet, and his son and progeny ruled the Islamic Empire for a long time. That is compassion!

U talk like Mohammed was the first man to ever forgive a person who killed somebody they loved??
Aradi u claimed to have put ur emotions aside, but i doubt the sincerity of your statement. Your obvious bias is seriously clouding your judgement bro, and it behooves u to recognise it.
And u know that I am not lying, like forreal though? Compassion is compassion, I've seen people do a lot of things that have WOWED me so please do not diminish it just because u want to cast your own hero as the greatest..

There are a lot of small heroes everyday in the world, who go around without being recognised. U think if Socrates were alive today, that he would be recognised? Socrates believed in private speaking and he would go around the city speaking to people privately, not like people like Mohammed, Jesus, Mlk who preferred to make grand speeches and teach to a multitude of people.
There are different styles by different people, and just because the awesomest people out there are not recognised does not mean that they do not exist.

Myne Whitman said...

Interesting discussion between Aradi and Azazel. I don't know about Muhammed and his followers but yes, I agree with Azazel that some people in these times have had compassion comparable to Christ. Some of the missionaries like Mary Slessor, or Mother Theresa, who didn't have to but did what they did for their fellow less privileged humanity. Jesus said, Greater things than these YOU will do. I am trying my own little best.

Azazel said...

Exactly Myne, exactly my point...

Aradi said...

Look, I admire a lot of people in these times. I know that people have done great things and still are. But... *exhale*

I do not understand this staunch opposition to organised religion or even belief or vision for that sake. Yeah, the hipster mentality seems glamorous. Yeah, we all like to think we're free thinkers. We like to think we're making breakthroughs or la di da. Cyberpunks, Y Geners, New Age... whatever. Let's throw History aside and never learn from it.

We're immune from decadence, are we? We should all go around with separate ideologies in this utopia in which there shall be a diverse ways of living and thinking and each of us shall be free and we shall eat, drink and be merry. Liberals, care-free... the snooze button...

Let's face it, politics and religion are intrinsic parts of human nature. The need for a state is written lengthily by scholars like Ibn Taymiyyah... you know, people that actually had a say in states and get imprisoned for it yet still remain strong? Without organisation, without discipline, without boundaries what shall we be? Whatsisname said something like stupidity is making the same mistake over and over. Let's not be fooled into thinking we've got this all figured out, we haven't. We haven't. Heck, are we even doing what is true with ourselves or are we going with the fashionable? A phase. Every marijuana smoker in the 60s might have thought he was the first to be liberated, right?

That's all not even my point. You think people like Muhammad and Jesus were going for glory? Do you think MLK enjoyed being shot?

Malik Al-Shabbaz was a staunch racist before performing the Hajj pilgrimage (you know, one of the messages of Islam Muhammad delivered). He returned a change man. What changed him? I'm not going to explain the whole process of Hajj here but Al-Shabbaz shared a tent with the blondest of blondes with the bluest of eyes. He lived with Arabs, Turks, and people of all races. Ate with them, lived with them, worshipped with them. Nothing separated a man from his neighbour, each only wore two layers of similar white clothing. Do you think Al-Shabbaz, aka Malcolm X, remained a racist?

Aradi said...

I do not know where to even begin to describe the compassion of these men. Listen to yourself, look at how you casually dismissed his forgiveness of his former opponents for murdering his beloved uncle, Hamza ibn Abdul-Mutallib. If you think this man got himself driven out of his hometown, got his whole family and clan starved, his loved ones alienated, the city of those who gave him refuge attacked all for personal glory, then... I don't know what to say.

Can you imagine Barrack Obama being so poor he has to sew his suits himself and then go to the date-vines to get some fruit and then work for some barley which he shall then give his wife to prepare? That's what the leader of a great empire did! Did he enjoy seeing his uncle, cousin, adopted son, and several other loved ones killed in war?

The last words of this beautiful soul when he died were "Ummaty... ummaty..." "My people... my people.." I don't remember his possessions when he died but there were accounts of them. And they were all shared out to charity as was the legacy of prophets.

Actually picking up some history books won't hurt. And if you think the accounts of their lives aren't legit, I would accuse you of dire double standards. On one hand there are hordes of volumes of the life of Muhammad, lived 1400 years ago. Chain of narrations still intact, dates still intact, accounts told in verbatim. On the other we have Socrates who we aren't sure of his fact-ness; we only have accounts of one man. You know there are fields of study that scholars of the faith mentor students who in turn mentor others up to this present day who still have their chain intact and strong that they could actually trace it all the way back to the Prophet Muhammad? And that the lists usually do not consist of more than 40 people? 40 people between 1400 years to date. You can do the Maths to validate.

I don't even know how to start explaining the compassion of this man but somehow I sense you willl flick it off with the "how many people got forced out of their home towns and fought two wars with their people yet returned and forgave them?" I want you to try and imagine what it is like to die for a cause, to live for others, to tutor a whole people -a whole world- on branches of knowledge that encompass History, Creed, Law, Daily Activities, and even behaviours. Polymath does not describe it.

You know... *exhale*...

Realist said...

@ Azazel, yea of course there are "rays of light". But by you using that term, you are saying they are the exception to the rule. As it is foolish to talk in absolutes, there will always be rays of light.

And i am one of those "rays of light"

Azazel said...

What I meant by throwing away politics and religion..
Is that I wanted u to throw away all the beliefs u had on the subject for a min, and recognise that there are other heroes out there in the world who are not recognised in religious or political terms.. That's what I meant by that.

Lmao why do i have to pick up a history book to understand compassion?
Please Aradi there are no levels of deep compassion, the same compassion exists today..
Just because u've not seen or heard it does not mean it's impossible to accomplish..
Bro it is clear to anybody reading ur comment that u are obviously biased..

Original Mgbeke said...

I don't have a rosy tinted view on human nature, but at the same time I don't think the worst. I guess I am a realist?

Aradi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aradi said...

Again I fail to understand this way of thinking Azazel. You were the one that compared the level of compassion of certain people you've seen to that of the prophets. How did you acquire this information? How can you just say something like that as if it is fact? That's what confused me on that sentence. On one hand you go around claiming you only follow fact, and then you make statements like that.

Statements like I've not seen people with compassion myself. What makes you think so? If I could quantify what I've experienced, it would be too voluminous. See, you might not believe me in this, but I don't actually live in a cold place where everyone does not have compassion and whenever we see an act of compassion we immediately grab history books and begin comparing the levels. All I'm saying is, if you're going to claim you stick to fact and have an objective view of things, desist from making statements that have no factual or quantifiable basis whatsoever.

If you'd like to believe that I don't accredit present day people for kindness or other acts then you believe something that is clearly not true. Likewise if you think that religion actually clouds my judgement (as I deduced from 'throw away your beliefs for a minute'). I appreciate all that is good in this world.

You don't have to study anything to recognise compassion but if you are to attempt to belittle the actions of people that fought to have the world we live in a better place and ultimately make life better for us, I suggest that you recognize their efforts instead.

Which brings me to this question; If organised religion and politics are negative concepts to you, what is your vision of an ideal world? What system would we live in?

Azazel said...

I never said organized religion and politics are negative concepts although they possess some negative characteristics..
Aradi all I am saying is this, no matter what MLK, Ghandi, Mohammed, etc did, there are people who still do the same today who go unnoticed..
So comparing their compassion to other people's compassion is a foolhardy mission..
Those people are all great men and women, but there are small unrecognised people are do things that are great also.
What is hard to grasp from that?

The Messiah said...

All arguments are right and wrong. Because man is good AND evil. We're all both. We all have the potential for both, what makes us do one more than the other is the motivation. Motivation could either be an outer stimuli or an internal emotion. So therefore man's ORIGINAL natural state is neither good nor evil. It's only the influence of environment mixed with the emotional intellect that makes our actions good or evil. And keep in mind what a man calls good another calls evil. Just like Hitler killing the Jews, but was ridiculously patriotic to his people and wanted his Aryan Germans to have the best the world has to offer.

Anonymous said...

We are good,bad and everything inbetween.