Born This Way

Some say we are born with natural, violence stan instincts; they are a part of our creation. Some believe that we learn to be bad, essentially, we become bad.For thousands of years, philosophers have debated whether we have a basically good nature that is corrupted by society, or a basically bad nature that is kept in check by society. Hobbes describes humans as ‘nasty’ and ‘brutish’, needing society and rules to reign in their instincts in order to thrive; later Rousseau openly criticised him, arguing instead that man would be gentle and pure without the corruption of greed and inequality caused by the class system imposed by our society.

While this debate goes on, it is nearly impossible to reach to an answer, whether we are born good or bad.

One way of asking about our most fundamental characteristics is to look at babies. Babies’ minds are a wonderful showcase for human nature. Babies are humans with the absolute minimum of cultural influence – their minds are as close to innocent as a human mind can get. A few experiments were made with babies, as young as 7 months old, to determine whether human nature is good or evil. Babies were made to watch a kind of puppet show; the stage a scene featuring a bright green hill, and the puppets were cut-out shapes ; a triangle, a square and a circle, each in their own bright colours. What happened next was a short play, as one of the shapes tried to climb the hill, struggling up and falling back down again. Next, the other two shapes got involved, with either one helping the climber up the hill, by pushing up from behind, or the other hindering the climber, by pushing back from above.What happened next tells us even more about human nature. After the show, infants were given the choice of reaching for either the helping or the hindering shape, and it turned out they were much more likely to reach for the helper.

The way to make sense of this result is if infants, with their pre-cultural brains had expectations about how people should act. Not only do they interpret the movement of the shapes as resulting from motivations, but they prefer helping motivations over hindering ones.

These results give us a clue about human nature yet, they are far away from a solid conclusion. It is definite that peoples morals are affected by culture and society, but  it doesn’t mean that humans aren’t born with a sense of morality. While parents and society help develop a belief system, they don’t start from a blank slate.

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