U.S. CitiesCity-Data Forum Index
Go Back   City-Data Forum > General Forums > Great Debates
Please register to participate in our discussions with 1.5 million other members - it's free and quick! Some forums can only be seen by registered members. After you create your account, you'll be able to customize options and access all our 15,000 new posts/day with fewer ads.
View detailed profile (Advanced) or search
site with Google Custom Search

Search Forums  (Advanced)
Old 06-12-2012, 10:41 PM
Location: Gettysburg
898 posts, read 931,030 times
Reputation: 970


Originally Posted by zman0 View Post
My position was that humans are inherently self-serving and immoral. As products of evolution, our instincts are guided towards self-preservation rather than what is best for our society (society being of various sizes: family, neighborhood, state, country).

because morality teaches at least some behavior which is beneficial to survival of society (non-inherent) and not the individual (inherent), human morality must be something that is taught.


I agree for the most part with your position, however I do not consider survival of society to be totally non-inherent. Someone I consider a trustworthy source has told me that humans are pack animals by nature (which my experience in life tells me there is truth in that), therefore survival of the group is something which would be inherent in such a creature. However self-survival would in my opinion be a stronger instinct over survival of the group.

It is my impression that morals are for the most part formed by society, so that would make them something which would be learned.

Those are my initial thoughts after a long day at work on a subject that is of interest to me.
Quick reply to this message

Old 06-13-2012, 06:42 AM
Location: Columbus, OH
857 posts, read 1,048,422 times
Reputation: 547
Of course morality is taught, how else can you explain the plethora of different societal norms throughout human history? 500 years ago the Aztecs and Mayans were sacrificing people to their gods and it was not seen as immoral to them, only to the Spanish who had been taught a slightly different set of morals. I say slightly because they seemed to have no qualms about killing these indigenous people themselves because the locals were worshiping a false god(s).

Plus morality is relative. I may live my life in peace without ever harming anyone, but is it really moral if I live without helping anyone while I have the power to do so? How can I justify spending money on myself when I could use it to help someone in need who needs vaccinations, mosquito nets, food, water, or any number of other things I could be helping them get. Voltaire once said, every man is guilty of all the good he did not do, if I am guilty of that, can I still be moral?
Quick reply to this message
Old 06-13-2012, 09:13 AM
Location: USA
1,590 posts, read 1,189,081 times
Reputation: 1579
Originally Posted by zman0 View Post
I was having a debate recently with a friend about human morality. The question is, are humans inherently good, or do they have to be taught to be good?

His position was that humans are inherently good, and any teaching we receive that runs counter to our inherent morality is inappropriate and immoral. Basically it comes down to the "natural = right" position.

My position was that humans are inherently self-serving and immoral. As products of evolution, our instincts are guided towards self-preservation rather than what is best for our society (society being of various sizes: family, neighborhood, state, country).

By way of example, the Jewish bible (Tanakh or Old Testament) ennumerates certain behaviors it labels as "moral" which run counter to human instinct. But these "moral" behaviors have intrinsic benefits beyond the moral idea, examples include:
prohibitions against promiscuity - reduce STD incidence
prohibition against eating pork - reduce a known risk of disease
honor your father and mother - encourage familial harmony and recognizes the benefits of age and wisdom
prohibition against eating blood - a known carrier of many pathogens
ritual cleansing after using the bathroom - again, reduce disease
prohibition against homosexuality - encourage reproduction

While there are a good number of rules and laws that serve little benefit outside the context of religion, the existence of the beneficial rules evidences a human predaliction against these ideas.

Therefore, because morality teaches at least some behavior which is beneficial to survival of society (non-inherent) and not the individual (inherent), human morality must be something that is taught.

I think that we could see humans as robots who come with default settings: to survive and to take care of SELF.

But people (society, culture, parents, friends) have the power to reprogramm us to fit the current culture.

A child does not know right from wrong because it's relative and only applies to the current culture (current planet, current universe)

The people around this child teach the child what they believe is right and wrong...

As someone already said: what is right and wrong is different in different times, zones and cultures. Yes, we do have similarities, common things like "killing is wrong". But in some places people believe that to kill during war is ok, or to kill a Christian is ok (if there is persecution) or to kill your fetus is ok (if you were raped and it's an unwanted fetus) or to kill a slave is ok... The rules change, what is considered moral and immoral also changes between cultures and also in different times. What is considered respectful towards others also changes as society changes and so on...

Re: the Bible. Some people say that morality comes from the Bible. However, in the first part of the Bible (the ancient times) it was ok to kill and to divorce and to avenge self. But in the second part of the Bible (the times of Jesus Christ being on earth) some rules have changed and now you can't avenge, you can't kill, you can't divorce.... So is morality universal? No. Even the Bible shows that.
Quick reply to this message
Old 06-13-2012, 04:51 PM
Location: N of citrus, S of decent corn
23,823 posts, read 29,628,694 times
Reputation: 37613
I think some people are born to be good, and some are born to be bad. Those born to be good are still able to be good, even when they have many hardships. Some, who are born to be bad, are bad even when they are given all the advantages and have been raised in a good environment.
I do not think that nurture can overcome nature, but sometimes a good person can be ruined by their environment and upbringing.
Quick reply to this message
Old 06-14-2012, 07:29 AM
Location: NJ
10,973 posts, read 7,034,536 times
Reputation: 7055
Depends on what your definition of good is.
'Good' could mean killing every memebr of a competing tribe.

Good is a mother nursing a child.

first we have an individual desire to survive, 2ndly we desire those we band with to survive and sometimes we put those others above our survival.

human posses a spectrum of innate and in some instances, dormant behaviors that may flourish or be suppressed depending on how we are raised by other humans.

the joke is replacing secular law with religious teaching, muslims aside. If we rely soley on the law, we may sue a dry cleaner for 7million $$$ for losing our pants, put themn out of business and lose the case.

We can cause an accident, be given a ticket, lose arbitration, continue the lawsuit until the victims insurance company settles to avoid a court battle it will win but a greater caost than a settlement to the person who caused the crash.

A human might find an orphan and raise it as their own.

A human will throw a newborn baby in the trash.

The secular laws, filled with feel good laws, obscure laws subjectively enforced do more harm than good and can never replace simple social pressure and religious guides of do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Laws are too specific and interpretive to cover all situations. As reference points for behavior we must wait for our actions to be charged, prosecuted, appealed and interpeted at a real cost in legal defense over what may be years. This is no way to guide the behavior of society when rules are so interpretive.
Quick reply to this message
Old 06-14-2012, 10:22 PM
48,527 posts, read 64,705,249 times
Reputation: 17615
I thnihaving lived 65 years that human fro one to anther even raltted and close in age are born with different trits. I have seen kids raised I knew i terrbile circumstances within two eyar of eqach other. One is introuble fom whhen a kid and ends in prison ;a alcoholic or dead befor his time. the other goes o to college or success ebyonf what one would expect. I raqd where estimated 505 of our personality we are born with and the othe 505 learned thru life experince and often the 50% born with.They say that either seems to be able to dominate overall.
Quick reply to this message
Old 06-26-2012, 04:03 PM
Location: Plattsburgh NY
1,790 posts, read 1,212,043 times
Reputation: 2190
No. People are not inherently good. That doesn't necessarily mean we're inherently bad, either. We are creatures of learning. Enter... most two year olds and you'll find a person that thinks everything is for their taking. If we were inherently good, this type of behavior would not be present. Good example of where the saying, "You're acting like a child", comes from.

My next comment just reiterates my belief (that changed just a few years back) that people are not inherently good. I'm helping raise, for over a year now, a boy that became two in April of this year. He his (can be) a good boy. But, nonetheless, has usual tendencies of any of us at two.

NNCC Ages & Stages - Two-year Old

I do know this... we are all inherently subjected to life's mystery.
Quick reply to this message
Please register to post and access all features of our very popular forum. It is free and quick. Over $68,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum. Additional giveaways are planned.

Detailed information about all U.S. cities, counties, and zip codes on our site: City-data.com.

Please update this thread with any new information or opinions. This open thread is still read by thousands of people, so we encourage all additional points of view.

Quick Reply
Over $99,000 in prizes was already given out to active posters on our forum and additional giveaways are planned!

Go Back   City-Data Forum > General Forums > Great Debates
Similar Threads

All times are GMT -6.

2005-2016, Advameg, Inc.

City-Data.com - Archive 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 - Top