Theorist, along with many other individuals, have hypothesized for hundreds of years the natural state of humans and the reasons for why people act in the specific ways that they do. Some of the most popular theories have completely contrasting ideals, while others take a little bit from both and end up somewhere in the middle. Frequently, people simplify these views by placing them into one of two categories; pessimists and optimists. Pessimists are notorious for believing the worst in people, while optimists are known to see the best in people which often leads them to be criticised as naive. Typically the theories that reside towards the middle of the spectrum are often ignored due to their general lack of extremity. However, it’s often these theories that people usually agree with due to their relatability.
Two theorists that had very contrasting views were Hobbes and Rousseau. Hobbes regards the human race as being naturally fearful and selfish. He argues that anything we do is a result of us hoping to get a personal benefit or gain out of the situation.
Therefore, we won’t do anything willingly unless there’s some sort of reward for the action to improve or better our own life. Rousseau, on the other hand, calls the human race irrational. He speculates that all humans begin happy, but we have a natural tendency to compare ourselves to everyone around us which leads to our downfall. The habit to compare ourselves to others causes us to be dependent on their opinions of us. Although both of these theories make sense in different ways, I think a combination of the two would be a far more accurate depiction of the natural state of humans than choosing one or the other.
Shortly after discussing Hobbes’ views on the state of nature, I was walking back to the dorm alone with my headphones in. I was shuffling my phone around in my pocket when my Mcard must have fallen out without me noticing. Another student, who I had never seen before, saw it fall and picked it up and then ran it back to me. This person went out of his way to do something for a total stranger, an action that he knew in the end would give him no sort of personal gain. It was just one stranger doing something nice for another. It’s instances like these that make it really hard for me to agree with Hobbes and how he views people and their intentions. Sure, sometimes people do terrible things, or things
just so the other person owes them something. But people also do a lot of good, which often gets forgotten in the wake of the bad. I think a more reasonable way to rephrase the idea of doing things for personal gain would be to refer to it as “good karma” or the idea we get engraved in our brains since preschool, to treat others how you want to be treated. We don’t necessarily do all things for the hope of building up a long list of “I owe yous”, but rather in the hope that others would do the same thing for you, if they saw you drop your Mcard. Additionally, I agree a lot with Rousseau and his argument that as humans we care too much about how we compare to others and what others think about us. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing to be cautious of what other’s think, but when we do it in excess it infringes on the way we really want to live our lives. And, often we let the potential thoughts of complete strangers dictate our actions.
I believe that everyone is born good, and through personal experiences, people begin to differentiate themselves from others through the way they act. I don’t think it’s fair to label the human race as completely fearful and selfish, when people do good things for each other all the time. I’m not saying there’s no bad or corruption in the world, because there definitely is. I just think people have the tendency to forget good things, and remember the bad.