(1) Question: The question I chose deals with the nature of human behavior. Is human nature good or evil and what are the implications of the answer for ethics? In other words, does a natural tendency towards good mean that any human action can be considered good or does a natural tendency towards evil mean that any human action be considered bad?
(2) Conceptual Clarifications: Natural tendency is an important concept in this question that should be addressed. In this context, natural tendency is human nature. It is the predisposition of people to act in a certain way without any analytical thought process. Good and evil should be defined as well. Good is defined as acting in the interest of good or acting ethically. Evil is defined as acting with malevolence or acting morally incorrect. Implications can be defined as suggesting that something be naturally inferred or understood.
(3) Answer: Humans have a natural tendency to act in their own self-interest. I tend to agree with Thomas Hobbes with his assertion that people act out of self-preservation. There is no good or evil until we are discussing society (e.g. more than one person). With this assumption understood, humans are capable and willing depending on the circumstances to perform acts of good or evil. Labeling a person as inherently good or inherently evil would both be incorrect because these ideas have only arisen from our interactions with each other. If life consisted of one person all alone on earth acting out of self-preservation, how can the act be framed as good or evil? Labeling a person as inherently good or evil would seriously complicate our understanding of ethics because ethics is based on respect for persons and calling someone inherently good would allow them to be excused from their actions because they "meant well" whereas labeling someone as inherently evil would mean that no matter how a person acted they had an evil heart while they did it so their actions were disingenuous.
(4) Example: The best example I can give is one that demonstrates the duality of human nature. Take Jim Jones for example. Jim Jones started out as a young, charismatic, and well-liked preacher. People joined his church in flocks in the San Francisco area because he provided aid to the community and provided a safe haven for people to have as an extra resource on top of the stress in their lives. Everyone viewed him as a very good and benevolent man because he performed good acts for the community. Then he asked the congregation to move with him to Guyana to establish a "socialist paradise." Family members of the congregation became concerned over their well being so they asked a congressman to visit Jim Jones' settlement in Guyana. When Jim Jones feared that the congressman would report negatively on the well-being of the residents he ordered the congressman to be assassinated on his plane's tarmac, which he was. Then Jim Jones had his entire congregation drink poison and they all died in a mass suicide. This ending stands in stark contrast to the acts young Jim Jones performed. Calling him inherently good or inherently evil would both be incorrect. He performed good acts and evil acts for the sake of self-preservation. Although some of the evil acts contradicted the principle of self-preservation, he was at the very least acting out of self-interest. Once again, good and evil apply only once more than one person is involved.
(5) Word Count: 585 Words
Ruggiero. (2008). Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues. McGraw Hill.
"Implication". dictionary.com. April 22, 2009 .