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.  

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