Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Depravity of Man

This is a submission I made to an essay contest. It is 326 words long, but since the essay contest's word limit is only 250 pages (I don't know why it's so short, so don't ask me), I submitted an abridged version. Here is the complete, unabridged version of the essay:

The Depravity of Man

We like to think that we’re good and decent people. After all, it just sounds so rude and politically incorrect to suggest that we’re something less than this, that we’re actually malevolent, that we’re just trying to fool ourselves into thinking that we’re virtuous beings, that this sickness is really a part of our nature as human beings. But are we really being completely honest with ourselves? Do we not all have that inner tendency to, like the stranded boys in William Golding’s fictional island, devolve into utter savagery?

When Thomas Hobbes formulated his social contract theory, he worked on the assumption that man in a state of nature is despicable, nasty and brutish.[1] As a Philosopher and Ethicist, Hobbes knew that trying to formulate a social contract theory on the presupposition that mankind is naturally noble and virtuous is pure folly, since one would have to take into account the inevitability of crime, corruption and chaos. The string of wars, corrupt dictators that are laid bare when one goes through the history of mankind testifies to the truth of our nature. Case in point: Pol Pot, that psychotic late dictator of Cambodia, after he had murdered millions of his own countrymen, declared “my conscience is clear.”[2]

Even when we do those things that we esteem to be good, it is only because we have baser motives for doing so, such as hope for rewards and praise, or fear of being punished by the powers that be. Without this sort of restraint, we shall become as the savages of old; slaves to our own nature, even while labouring behind the illusory curtain of liberty from restraint. It is indisputable, and no matter how we try to deny it, in the end we will have to face that inconvenient truth: our nature is depraved. It is as the Good Book declared long before: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?[3]

End Notes
  1. Ayson, Florentino and Dolores Aligada-Reyes. Fundamentals of Political Science: Second Edition, 2005. Mandaluyong City: National Book Store, 2005. p. 37.
  2. 'My conscience is clear' says Killing Fields leader Pol Pot. BBC News. [].
  3. Jeremiah 17:9, English Standard Version.

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