I haven’t done much research on this topic; I’m only relating to you what I learned in history last year. This mysterious topic that I’m speaking of is that of the philosophers’ view of human nature. Thomas Hobbes believed that humans are evil by nature, and Jean Jacques Rousseau believed that humans are good by nature. We also spoke of this when we were reading Lord of the Flies by William Golding: are people good by nature and corrupted by society, or is it society that is good but corrupted by people??
I cannot answer this question without bringing faith into the question. It’s impossible not to. My faith tells me that humanity was sinless before the Fall, but because of the Fall, we are all born into sin. Another literary allusion I can make is to “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor. Read it, and tell me what you think of the baby’s significance. But that really isn’t the point. The point is that because of my faith, I believe that human nature is flawed, even from birth. That would point more to Hobbes’ idea of humanity, but Hobbes is widely thought to have medieval philosophies that are cast aside and only good as a way to see what our inferior minds thought before the Enlightenment.
The answer, therefore, is much more sophisticated. Well, maybe I can’t say “therefore”, but my mind isn’t satisfied with “people are sinful by nature and that’s that”. I mean, I believe it’s true, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that people are evil. I’m doing work for AP psychology next year, and they’re talking about where we get our personality from: our genes, or our experiences? It’s a legitimate question. I haven’t finished the reading, so I don’t actually know which one is “more correct”, but I do believe that both are correct. In a reference to human morality, it’s even more difficult. Are people bad because it’s in their genes or are they bad because of their experiences?? I’m a science nerd, don’t get me wrong, I believe in the power of genes, but I would say experiences is more prevalent. People may be born into sin, but that doesn’t mean that people are born with evil personalities.
Sorry, I believe I’ve digressed. I’ve been thinking about a line in the movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Sirius Black says to Harry, “The world isn’t split up between good people and Death Eaters. We all have both light and dark in us.” I think that is the best answer to the question I posed above (the one with the philosophers). We all have characteristics of good and evil in our hearts. We all may be born into sin, flawed beyond any hope of perfection, but just because we cannot be perfect does not mean we are so bad.
I side with Rousseau on the matter, because I believe that even in the hearts of the wickedest of people, there is a scrap of goodness in them. It may be hard to imagine that little piece of hope in Sauron, or where a serial killer might have good intentions, but I believe that they’re there. Now, this may not be true in all cases, but I believe that most of the people who wreak havoc and harm around the world are the ones who are the most broken. They are the ones in pain. Something in their past broke them beyond repair, like Roscuro in The Tale of Despereaux. Roscuro was said to have his heart broken, and when your heart breaks, it doesn’t come back quite right, to paraphrase the book. I believe that this is the case with the world’s villains. They’re just broken inside, and they hid the little light of goodness in them. And I pity them, because most of them don’t have the opportunities to find those little lights again.