Cogito Patris

Random Thoughts for Random People

People are bad…probably

Recently I have been trying to figure out of people are generally good, generally bad or downright evil.  My original thesis was this:

First, “Good” can be defined as what everybody thinks is acceptable.

Second, Most people define “Good” in a way that fits their own activities.

Therefore, most people are good.

This may be a logical answer, but the argument falls short as an actual argument.  So I am going to try to have a better answer.  I would like to apologise if I seem to be arguing with myself during this post as that is exactly what I am doing.

Why are people good (as they define it)?  Is it because they fear retribution?  Is it a moral imperative?  If the former, then I would say that is an indication that, given the chance, most people would be bad (if not evil).  If the latter, then there may be hope for the human race after all.

How can we determine a single person’s internal reasons for taking actions, much less everyone’s?  The best way is to evaluate those people who think they are above retribution by means of personal wealth or because they think they are too stupid or crazy to know better.  Now in the second case, I am not talking about the people who steal to feed their family (they are being pushed in to violating societal mores).  I am talking about true lunatics here.

The evidence here gets hard to gather.  Many people are financially well-to-do and stick to their morality.  These people never make the news.  Then there are cases such as Bernie Madoff.  So, Are there more “good” guys than “Bernie” guys that fit this “above the law” criteria?  Probably.  Does that prove that most people are good?  Probably not.  I would rather use the term “adequate” for people that only do no harm.  What about actually doing good?  Again, the people who do good rarely make the news.  It can also be argued that the harm that one Bernie can do is not mitigated by the good that a single goodie-two-shoes does.  And what about the good guy?  If he has $20M in money that can be spent on anything, and buys himself a $19.9M car and give $100k to charity…is that good?  The car was built by someone and therefore he is helping the economy.  But that is not a selfless act…and therefore not really good.

Then there are other cases that do not conform to the case study from above.  I was renting a house until I got a job.  My landlord knew that we were strapped for cash.  He and his wife were both employed.  He chose to sell the house we were living in rather than take a financial stalemate (which was the situation with my lease).  This put a lot of pressure on me and my family.  He was a decent guy otherwise, but did something uncomfortable to me so that he and his family could be more comfortable.  Is that a good act?  I will leave it up to the reader to decide since I am too close to this example.

This is a small sample size.  But can we make a tentative conclusion?  I am going to say that people are not good.  People who consistently do good deeds are far outnumbered by the truly evil and just plain unconscientious.  Are people evil?  There is evil in the world, but the mere presence of the Mother Theresas in the world would seem to disapprove the “people are evil” hypothesis.

I think, by and large, people are inconsiderate.  Not really evil, but definitely not good.  So, if I have to put people in to one of the categories I outlined at the beginning, then I am forced to put the human race in the “bad” range.

October 2, 2009 Posted by | Thoughts on Politics, Thoughts on Religion, Wild Theory | Leave a comment