Personal struggles with one’s own tendencies, desires, lusts, and self-interest have placed people in conflict with other people and their own communities farther back than any of us can read. We read about the struggles of others in history – what about ourselves? Yes, us! What about our experiences of being ourselves? When we look back in history, we find people who are not so different from us – struggling with their human nature – and trying to live ethical lives in whatever way they can do so. They aspire to live ethical lives and find themselves failing again and again.
St. Augustine in the 5th Century held that although we feel free to make choices in life, our true nature as human beings includes a persistent disregard for what is good. On this view, we are sinners whose only hope for redemption lies in the gracious love of a merciful deity. Whatever I do on my own, Augustine would argue, is bound to be wrong; whatever I do right, must be performed by God through me.
St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th Century brought Aristotle’s theories back into vogue, soon after St. Augustine’s death (if 800 years is soon, that is.) He allowed humanity to have a bit of secularity along with faith, and his ethics allows for a Natural Law, which can be found in the heart of man. Be sure to listen to the audio simulation in this week’s lesson before posting in this discussion.
Initial Post Instructions
For the initial post, consider the sophistication and technology of the 21st century. Examine how the medieval account of human nature aligns with your own experience of human action. That is, do you observe (in yourself and others) an inclination toward evil instead of toward good? Explain and analyze your observations. Bring in examples of scenarios that bolster your view or that tend to bring your view (or others) into question.
Along with your textbook reading for the week, here are some additional readings to consider about natural evil, natural law, and Augustine.
Please review the Permalinks below to assist you with this week’s discussion posts.
Article 1: Thomas Aquinas, Natural Evil, and “Outside the Church, No Salvation”: https://chamberlainuniversity.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=99840448&site=ehost-live&scope=site (Links to an external site.)
Article 2: Natural Law, the Understanding of Principles, and Universal Good: https://chamberlainuniversity.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=65048556&site=ehost-live&scope=site (Links to an external site.)
Article 3: Augustine on the Origin and Progress of Evil: https://chamberlainuniversity.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=5754703&site=ehost-live&scope=site
Ruggiero, V. R. (2012). Thinking critically about ethical issues (8th ed.). New York: Mc-Graw Hill.
The question of human nature with regards to good or evil is complicated and interesting at the same time. It plays within the same lines as the throwback of theological controversies revolving around original sin. It is not easy to unequivocally conclude on whether humans are either inclined towards doing good or evil. This is because people are [cmppp_restricted] complex creatures that are capable of both evil and good (Greene, 2018). Coming down on one side might be naïve to some extent since it shows a failure to grasp the messy reality that is associated with the human condition.
Ruggiero (2012) asserts that preferences, desires and feelings can be used as excellent guides since they are admirable. These are among the aspects that tend to guide human nature. They can be both beneficial or harmful, depending on how they are exhibited. A good example is how a mother who is generally regarded as being good in the society by the way she carries herself is in a situation where she cannot feed her children. In case a situation arises where this mother has the ability to steal the food, and feed her children, she will likely indulge in that. Another situation is where a “good” police officer finds his friend or family member having breached the law and works towards helping them get away with it. This is someone that involves himself with admirable behavior normally, but now he is indulging in something evil.
In my opinion, humans inclination towards doing evil or good is dependent on the current preferences, desires or feelings. I think that people will always strive to do things that improve their wellbeing at any given time.
Greene, R. (2018). The laws of human nature. Penguin Publishing Group.
Ruggiero, V. R. (2012). Thinking critically about ethical issues (8th ed.). New York: Mc-Graw Hill. [/cmppp_restricted]