Are humans inherently good?

Arianna Huffington
Health Education

"To say that people have a moral sense,” James Q. Wilson wrote in The Moral Sense, "is not the same thing as saying that they are innately good. A moral sense must compete with other senses that are natural to humans -- the desire to survive, acquire possessions, indulge in sex, or accumulate power -- in short, with self-interest narrowly defined. How that struggle is resolved will differ depending on our character, our circumstances, and the cultural and political tendencies of the day. But saying that a moral sense exists is the same thing as saying that humans, by their nature, are potentially good." We build up our moral muscle by exercising it. We become virtuous by the practice of virtue, responsible by the practice of responsibility, generous by the practice of generosity, and compassionate by the practice of compassion. Yet without the authority inherent in the Fourth Instinct, our moral sense becomes nothing more than a fear that there may be something or someone watching. A hundred values and a thousand laws disconnected from the absolutes inherent in the Fourth Instinct are powerless to prevent the explosions of cruelty that have dominated our modern world and are still dominating our culture. Ultimately, only the Fourth Instinct can redeem the aggression inherent in our instinct for power.  

Continue Learning about Mental Health Basics

The One Exercise That Can Lift Your Spirits
The One Exercise That Can Lift Your Spirits
Humans have set some wacky—but impressive—weightlifting records: Most weight lifted using teeth? 620 pounds. Most weight lifted with the little finger...
Read More
How common are mental disorders?
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)
Mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An estimated 26.2 percent of A...
More Answers
What is counseling?
Raychelle C. Lohmann, MS, LPCRaychelle C. Lohmann, MS, LPC
Whether life’s thrown you a curve ball and you’re at your wits end, or your past is haunting you, on...
More Answers
Do Young Adults Understand Risk?
Do Young Adults Understand Risk?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.