论人性(On Human Nature)

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论人性(On Human Nature)

Philosophers have initiated a debate about the human nature since the mankind got to probe into itself. The term "state of nature" is used to refer to the hypothetical condition of humans before social factors are imposed, thus attempting to describe the "natural essence" of human nature. Most views of it fall in three typical groups.

Views in the first group see humans as inherently good. The most famous theory in this group is John Locke's social contract theory. According to Locke, humans in the state of nature have absolute freedom to make their orders and take their actions, without having to ask permission from anyone else. People are born equal, and willing to treat each other as they would like to be treated. This will is known as sympathy, the source of justice and kindness and eventually all virtues. In ancient China a widely known philosopher, the most notable disciple of Confucius, Mencius, held similar points, declaring that humans are naturally moral beings but are corrupted by society.

The second group includes views that see humans as inherently bad. According to original sin, humans in the state of nature are tarnished by the sin of Adam. Later the group had a more rational speaker, Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes believed that humans in the state of nature would behave "badly" towards one another, but he argued that people had every right to defend themselves by whatever means. Famously, he believed that such a condition would lead to a "war of every man against every man" and make life "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Similar theories also can be found in ancient China. Xuncius, another follower of Confucius as Mencius, simply rejected Mencius' claim. Instead he asserted that "Human Dispositions are Detestable".

The rest views that form the last group stand a neutral point in the debate. They generally believe that human behavior is determined by biological and social factors, so there is no clear boundary between “good” and “evil” and nothing is to be blamed but the gene as well as the environment. And of the two factors which one decides more? Also known as “nature versus nurture”, this question compels enormous studies.

Being a constant stranger to philosophy, I’ve got nothing to do but just skim over all of the theories mentioned above, keep thinking about human nature in my own way associated with familiar examples in my own surroundings, and undoubtedly end up all these without explicit conclusions. Because whenever I try to figure in my mind what human nature is like, I could not help recalling so many stories about it, each of which conflicts with one another. They mess me up and keep me from a clear image about it. Therefore I have to hold a moderate opinion until I find new key evidence to prove whether human nature is good or evil. Before that, I choose to believe that human nature is indeed like a coin and neither side can easily dominate.