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Propensity to Evil


By Veronica Emilia Nuzzolo,  M.Ed., Ph.D.

good versus evilThe sixteenth century Puritan belief of original sin, the ideology that children are born evil and need to be civilized through harsh punishment and authoritative parental control,,

“Tabula Rasa” “blank slates,” Philosopher John Locke’s opposition to authoritarianism, the concept that human characteristics are attained through learning,,

Jean Jacques Rousseau, innate goodness, the rejection of Puritan belief, the rejection of Locke’s theories, the concept of inherent goodness. 

Innate goodness, the existence of evil, neither can be denied,, biblical concepts provide explanation for the existence of good and evil, but what secular concept can explain the existence of good and evil personalities.

Freudian theory, the unconscious, sex and aggression, attempts to explain but is not a predictor of behavior. Freud believed that all people are innately bad, the unconscious mind governs behavior and ones behavior is determined by the id, the ego, and the superego. The id (the pleasure principle), is dominant when we are born and the suppression by society of the animalistic instinct causes frustration and creates the  destructive, cruel, and selfish personality.

Refuting psychoanalytical theory, behavioral theorists suggest that innately good or bad is a learned characteristic. People are described in terms of the basic way they behave, behaviorists such as Watson and Skinner theorize that the first learned experiences in life are those that will shape the individual regardless of the unconscious mind or biological components. Behavioral theorists concur with the blank slate theory of development, and believe that one can be taught, molded, learn whatever one is introduced to, indicating that being innately good or bad is an outcome, a learned behavior.

The humanistic perspective, the “Third Force” unwilling to embrace Freudian or Behavioral theory, reject the theories of determinism, the unconscious instinctive forces, behaviorism, good behavior must be learned,  and believe in the innate goodness of humanity. In response to previous theories, humanistic theorists such as Rogers and Maslow contend that people are capable of and can increase self-understanding, good or bad, through the individual perception and interpretation of experience.The major premise of the Third Force is that people are basically good, people have an innate need to better themselves and the world, the premise of individual self-worth, the ability to overcome the negative aspects of life, and self-actualization.

Good versus Evil

Do we have a propensity to evil, are we born evil, or are we born inherently good?   Are personal beliefs of good versus evil just myths, or are we simply products of Darwinian theory and billions of years of evolution.

Humanistic theories reject the Christian belief that people are born evil.  Maslow stated “as far as I know we just don’t have any intrinsic instincts for evil.” (i) Carl Rogers stated, “For myself, though I am very well aware of the incredible amount of destructive, cruel, malevolent behavior in today’s world, from the threats of war to the senseless violence in the streets, I do not find that this evil is inherent in human nature (1982) (ii).”

The humanistic perspective continues to focus on the belief that development and innate good consist of elements comprised from the environment, the relationship between nature and nurture. Rogers (1982) “I see members of the human species, like members of other species, as essentially constructive in their fundamental nature, but damaged by their experience.” (i) This external factor, the environment, the world outside of the individual and all it entails.  This experience, this belief that social influence is a major contributing factor in development, the component that allows choice. The “Belief of Perfectibility of the Race” as Godwin suggested, that there are no innate principles, and therefore no original propensity to evil, he considered that “our virtues and our vices may be traced to the incidents which make the history of our lives, and if these incidents could be divested of every improper tendency, vice would be extirpated from the world.” (iii).

The theory of  choice the ability to possess free will.

And in the end… developmentalists will reject all religious, secular, and philosophic views of development, including the theory of free will.

Beginning with Baldwin the study of development is now pursued through new scientific methods. Baldwin suggested that traits are determinants of personality limiting one’s ability to have free will. This theory of determinism suggests that a person’s behavior is biological and that one genetically inherits traits, and that these biological traits will determine specific characteristic responses, personality.

Biological and trait theorists support the scientific process and contend that biology, genetics, hereditary traits, determine an individual’s development. From this perspective growth and development and your personality is genetically hard wired and determined for you. Biological and trait theorists continue to defend that innate good is a biological, inherent trait. Innate Good, predetermined, a biological trait that one may or may not possess.

Is this an affirmation that a propensity to evil exists within human nature?

(i) Welch, D., Tate, G.A., & Richards F. (1978). Humanistic Psychology (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1978), 11.
(ii) Rogers, C., (1982) “Notes on Rollo May,” Journal of Humanistic Psychology (Summer 1982): 8.
(iii) Godwin, W., (1793). Enquiry concerning political justice and its influence on modern morals and manners. London.

How to cite this article:
Nuzzolo, V. E. (2016).  Propensity to Evil.  Retrieved from, https://risetoshinetoday.org/2016/03/01/tabula-rasa/



  1. victorialuchi says:

    If we follow the most the most used theory, the evolutionary theory, people came from animals, monkeys. If we pay closer look to the animals they are not evil, most people like dogs and cats for their sweet behavior, besides most animals walk together with their groups and watch for each other. through this view point the humanistic view is more acceptable believing that we are all born good and any other evil behavior is learned or due to something traumatic from the past or biological traces. Humans could not be born evil as Freud believed as kids they only copy what they see and the environment someone grow up can make all the difference however it’s not the only factor that interfere with their behavior.


  2. Hannah Ramos says:

    I agree with John Locke’s Tabula Rasa theory. I believe that babies are born as blank slates, and start to built who they are, their beliefs throughout life with their experiences. We, as human beings, learn what is to be good and to be evil. From birth to death we are learning and doing judgments of what we think that is right or wrong. Only after we have some knowledge that we are capable to decide to be good or evil. Also, observational learning is another factor that I believe that influences a child, or even an adult. For example, if a child sees their parents screaming all the times, it has a big chance that they will start to talk loudly. The environment, the people with whom we are involved, and others, are always influencing our choices, our development. I strongly disagree with Baldwin and other theorists that we genetically inherit traits, that would determine how the person behave. A person can have the same eyes that his father, but have the same personality? He could learn from him, but not inherit it.


  3. Many religious people have explanations about why there is good and evil in people. Or why good people sometimes do acts of evil. However, trying to explain this from a secular point of view can be quite difficult, especially when there aren’t hard cold facts that were proved. Freud believed that people were all naturally evil with animalistic instincts. His view resembles the same view of Thomas Hobbes. During the Enlightenment Era, Hobbes was an English thinker who wrote about his views on government in his book, Leviathan. The experience of violence and the upheaval of the English civil war, persuaded him to believe that people were selfish and greedy. He wrote that in their natural state, people would lead lives that were, “poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” But this article also argues that biological traits are the big part of the growth process that shape a person’s personality, thus adding to the way they react to things in a negative or positive way.


  4. Vicki Đỗ says:

    To a greater or lesser degree, I think all humans are born with sexual instincts since our greatest priorities as a species are to reproduce and continue to grow the population. Besides that fact, I am a supporter of John Locke’s concept of “Tabula rasa,” the idea that all humans are born with a clean canvas. I disagree with the Puritan belief of original sin, and I believe that everyone possesses innocence when he or she is born. Babies understand nothing about the good and evils of the world, so how can they act with good or evil intentions? Like racism, being good or being evil is taught. Our environment shapes us into who we are—this is a common belief. In addition, I speculate that we also have characteristics and genes that influence our behavior, not just the environment. For example, I read somewhere that some individuals have a “happy gene.” For the majority of the time, these people are generally happier than others that don’t have it. The environment, coupled with gene expression, determines how we behave. We are not born with specific thoughts and intentions; we learn them.


  5. I do not agree Puritan beliefs of children were born as an evil. It doesn’t make sense to me because how babies would know the differences between “good” and “evil” while their brain is not developed and they cannot even communicate with us. We certainly learn evil things as we get older by watching others bad behaviors. I have seen someone did crime in his family known as a terrible person. As I look at his children that he left behind after doing this crime children behavior were different than their father because they were raised by their older siblings. If evil comes from birth all of these children would be evil instead of being angel. There are often times that we find ourselves doing evil stuff because other people influence our behavior. I believe evil is thought whether from our friends, parents, religion, or through our culture it is not that we inherit from our genes.


  6. Propensity to Evil
    I prefer the humanistic perspective, Rogers and Maslow: “people are capable of and can increase self-understanding, good or bad, through the individual perception and interpretation of experience”, than behaviorists, Watson and Skinner, that say:” the first learned experiences will shape the individual regardless of unconscious mind or biological components”.
    We are tested all the time in our life, we have decision to make between bad and good in every choice we make. I like the idea of Free will, but in part, I agree with Baldwin, with the study of development: “biological traits will determine specific characteristic responses, personality, limiting one’s ability to have free will”, and again, yes, we have limitations and we have to adapt ourselves to the circumstance that life present to us.
    People are expose to the same facts and have different reaction, siblings, that grown in the same environment, receives the same education and develop behaviors and personalities that differ from each other. Frequently, we see suicide cases or crimes that surprise us and we hear people saying: We didn’t see this coming or, I cannot believe that he/she did that, not him/her. As well, occasions where we get helped by people who we think is incapable of a good action, showing us that everybody can be good or bad, like Walt Kowalski, in Gran Torino, called a mean person, became a “good” neighbor in that moment of his life. He wasn’t in the war anymore, where, he could just to kill the bad guys. Instead, he adapts himself to the circumstance with his physical limitations to do whatever was his decision in that situation.
    It is part of the human composition, I believe, we have good and bad, and it will show up, depend on the experiences that we are going through, the capacity of understanding and physical ability we have at the moment.
    A Cherokee Indian once said, that we have two ‘wolves’ inside of us. One is evil and the other is good. When asked, Which wolf wins? The answer is simple ‘The one we feed.’


  7. Junior Belande says:

    Just like Jean-Jacques Rousseau states ” We are good by nature but corrupted by Society”. I believe that we are born good and that our lives are shaped by our experiences either good or evil. I stronly believe that our enviornment plays a big role in shaping our lives and our bahaviors.I also believe that we are a reflection for our environement. I also agree with the humanistic perspective that ” good behavior must be learned, and believe in the innate goodness of humanity”. However, I can’t deny that evil is a learned behavior. We choose to act good or evil. We have the freedom to decide our actions. However, there is always a gray area, I may be a good person to someone and also be a bad person for someone else; It all depends on how I treat each person and based on our interaction. This brings us back to the husband who had to steal to seek treatment for his wife. By stealing, he did something bad but with good intention.


  8. fausto Mora says:

    It is important to understand that everybody does not born good or bad, in my opinion every one learn how to be good or bad, and also it is important to know that does changes can be from the family or the people that is so rounding the person. For example in any family the parents show good qualities, but the environment can change the opinion and the way that the person behave, like a high school student that try to be pert of a group of students he will change to be part of the group and those changes can be good or bad, and also the environment takes place in that part too, like if the group of students is around then and what they do and how they behave. Sometime people are strong that they do not let those changes, change then and that way they defeat the demon that they have inside that is trying to control then to do bad things; however there is people that let the evil inside control then for many things that they want to get and that way they start to became selfish and that can hurt many people and it will change the environment around then and also the good people that is around then.


  9. Huong Lam says:

    In my opinion, every child was born with innocence. Each family has different educational ways. The environment around us is the place where the personality of a person is formed. For example, when a child was born in a good family, the child is likely to grow up with good qualities. Everyone has good sides and bad sides, but how do they control the evil inside them? It also depends on the context of each person’s life; for example, a poor man is too hungry, but he does not have money to buy food, he must rob someone else’s money. Perhaps, his conscience had to suffer a lot when he had to do it, but the situation forced him. In general, the context drives people crazy. No one wants to teach a child to become a bad person, but each person’s situation is different. Some people are strong, they defeat the demon inside them. Some people cannot resist their selfish desires, so they become lost.


  10. ashley hodgdon says:

    I believe that no-one is just born evil. I think every human being has the capacity to commit horrible acts. Depending on your environment and if it is negative or positive can definitely have an affect on peoples actions. However, I do believe that people develop mental illness over time whether it be at an early age or later in life that can also cause someone to do evil things. You are not just born and automatically have evil in you and will 100% commit evil acts. But if your surrounding factors are negative like mental illness, child abuse or bad upbringings can determine what kind of person you are going to be.


  11. YINGTING CHEN says:

    A friend of mine asked me whether I thought people were inherently good or evil a few months ago. She believed the former, largely under the influence of her religious beliefs and upbringing. I personally believe that we are born both good and evil, that both coexist within us. firmly believe that human beings are multidimensional, we contain both light and dark, and we decide who we are when we choose what to act upon. Determinism and free will are in a constant tug of war within my own mind. My spiritual beliefs support determinism a little more than it does free will, but I like to think that we get to choose who we are and that we are a final product of the choices we make everything, rather than damned from the start.



    I think it’s kind of weird that people would think that babies were born evil. I mean babies don’t really do anything once they come out of the womb you need to care for them not punish them when their birth wasn’t even their fault, the parents created them. I feel like when a person is born their just in between, they don’t know anything yet and that’s why they need their parents, or guardian to teach them what’s right or wrong and how their actions impact people because babies don’t actually know anything.


  13. I believe people are born neutral , how they behave is influenced by different things, environment, groups, society etc, so I believe no one is born evil, people change due to factors around them.


  14. N K says:

    I agree with the behaviorists such as Watson and Skinner. Their theory that the first learned experiences in life are those that will shape the individual regardless of the unconscious mind or biological components. I agree that humans are not born good or evil. They are born as a “blank” slate. Babies aren’t born with any other instinct than to breathe or cry. They aren’t like the wildebeest or others like it that are innately able to walk within a few hours and run like their parents within days. Human babies take a lot longer, and they have to learn one step at a time. There are usually alot of external influences that help mold the baby into a child and into an adult. I believe that good or bad personalities are the outcome of learned behavior. It could be the school the child went to, the household they grew up in, or the neighborhood. That is why when we see a child, we say he/she is still innocent, and as they grow up and LEARN about how the world around them works, they start to imitate and emulate good/bad behavior.

    Nam Kim


  15. Jack Mulrenan says:

    this is a very debatable topic. i personally think that while there might be some evil around everywhere, it is truly learned rather than being born with. more of the nurture vs nature side of things. people are surrounded by evil sometimes, and it is their choice to do the right things or to succumb to it. an example of this is tao in grand torino. he has the choice to look up to walt, or chose sides with his cousin and in the end, he makes the right decisions.


  16. Andres Leon says:

    I agree with Maslow because I believe that people are not born evil, it is learned by our experiences and the environment. In the world there is evil everywhere and you experience it all the time. In these days, there is so many competition that evil has become more present around us. I also agree with the biological term because personalities can be similar by “biology, genetics and hereditary traits”. For example, I have a twin brother and our personalities are very similar; we like the same things, we agree and disagree on the same things, etc.


  17. I do not believe that people are born evil. I think a lot of they way people are how they are, is based on biological factors and their environment. I believe that some are born with more negative traits than others, however I think the way people handle themselves and deal with their inner demons is something they are born with. People learn evil behavior from those around them, unfortunately in this day and age there is a lot of evil in this world. In my opinion, back when life was more simple, people were happier and more apt to do good.


  18. Jasmine Gray says:

    The concept of good and personality and behavior seems to stem from the idea of nature versus nurture. Some theorists believe that they come from biological means and some believe that they come from early experiences that shape us. I agree with the words of Maslow in that people are not born with a sense of evil. They start off with a clean slate or a good background and eventually they are tainted by evil around them. There are so many evils and cruelties in the world around us, so it must be nearly impossible to not be affected by our environment. We gather learned behaviors from responses to situations around us. And it would take something very strong, such as a “Third Force” of willingness and strength of individual perception to overlook that bad in the world and hold on to an initial good.


  19. People are not born evil, but also people are not born good. I believe in “tabula rasa” because really everyone is born with a fresh start. So where does evil come from? Who commits evil acts? It probably does come from human nature as unfortunate as it sounds. People are not born inherently evil, and born with no discrimination’s or prejudices. All of these things arise from probably bottom up processing. Someones disposition about life comes from personal experiences most likely. I am not sure if people are taught to be evil, or if they are even aware what they are doing could be classified as evil.


  20. Astha Lama says:

    Good and evil can mean different things for different people because of the things that they were taught growing up and the because of the influences around them. I agree with what Maslov said about how humans are not born with any “intrinsic instincts for evil.” I believe that the external factors come into play when talking about a person’s personality and attitude towards different things. Personality being biological also makes sense because of the story of the twins. Even though they were raised separately by different families, far away from each other, they had similar taste in stuff but I still firmly believe that they external environmental experiences makes a person’s personality.


  21. Cameron Selfridge says:

    I believe that people learn through their environment what is considered good or evil instead of just being born innately good or evil. Many factors, especially during our childhood are crucial in our development and our beliefs of what is good or bad. If an individual grows up to be considered “evil” we should immediately consider the fact that this person’s childhood influences played a large factor into what led him down this path. With the exception of being born with a certain type of chemical imbalance or disease, a person is taught to be evil rather than be born evil.


  22. I agree that to a certain extent there is a propensity to evil that can be biologically and genetically determined – after all, there are humans that can be classified as psychopaths or sociopaths, whose inclination to do evil things can be traced back to the way their brains have developed biologically – their brains have been shown to be different, and they cannot be rehabilitated. Many times of course their behavior is exacerbated by the environment (childhood trauma, etc) but sometimes there is no “nurture” cause that drives them to evil. However, aside from these specific genetic and biological “evil” traits, which I believe with future research can be isolated and addressed, I am inclined to mostly agree with the humanistic perspective (Rogers), that our species is essentially constructive in nature and thus does not have an inherent propensity for evil. It would not make sense from evolutionary point of view otherwise – an inherent desire to do evil things to our fellow humans would be destructive to our advance as species overall.


  23. Kayla A says:

    Kayla Akombi

    In my opinion, children are, as John Locke put it, a blank slate, susceptible to being molded by their environment. So yes, I agree with the behaviorist perspective that “innately good or bad is a learned characteristic”. However, I do think there is some truth rooted in both the idea of original sin and the idea of innate goodness. For me, the idea of the propensity in children for good vs. evil is not so much about good and evil but about innocence and animalistic instincts. I don’t think that children are born evil or born good, but it’s interesting to think about the possibility of instinct. That maybe the tendency of children for leaning one way or another is not rooted in learning, but in their brain’s most basic instincts.


  24. shakya723 says:

    Tenzin Shakya

    To begin with the argument Good vs Evil. I believe a human is not born evil unless they were born ill which is a birth defect. A baby is not born evil as a baby is not born racist. A human can only become evil due to the environment and surroundings of the human being. Comparing this article to the movie Gran Torino, Thao was surrounded by gangs violence but made a choice not to let that take part in his life. In life everyone had choices they can make which can either be positive or negative, so unless one choses to be evil it can’t be inherited, forced nor born with that character.


  25. FRITZA JEUDY says:

    Fritza Jeudy

    In my perspective, I agree with Maslow and how he didn’t believe that people just don’t inherit instincts for evil. Evil is simply taught, and isn’t inherited when people are born. The key role of evil can be caused by the environment. The people around us can teach us how to hate something. Babies obviously don’t know what they do. They are born innocent and don’t understand the complexity of their actions. A negative outside influence can also affect that evil characteristic.


  26. Jessica Strungis says:

    I beilive that in reguards to evil, we will never have a definative answer. There are so many donominators. I must say though, that when people talk demon possesed; I do do beilive that to be true in cases were innocent people are murdered etc. Such as the Chislom case at Danvers High School. I cant fathom any other way a human being could do such a thing to another human being. In short, I dont beilive any theorist or PH.D or anyone else will ever be able to explain evil definitely or scientifically.


  27. Alex huezo says:

    Good vs Evil and human nature is one the topics I find most interesting. Why people act the way they act is definitely different depending on who you ask. Personally I think most people are born with a blank slate and through learning they become good or evil. But even then it’s a very gray area, as to where the line is drawn. can someone be just good, can they be good while committing something evil?


  28. Jane says:

    Jane Idreda

    First, evil is the fact of suffering, misfortune, and wrongdoing or cosmic evil force. Evil can also be something that brings sorrow, distress, or calamity…..

    I do not believe how one can say that evil is inherent-ed, you can not inherent evil instead you learn how to do evil.
    Carl Rogers said, “I do not find that this evil is inherent in human nature”. For example, if a father was a rapist and he happens to have a son does this mean that this boy is automatically going to become a rapist? This boy will become evil only after he is learned what the father is doing and if he has not gotten a chance to be corrected.

    I don’t believe that evil is genetically inherited. Many personality traits can be inherited, but not evil. Evil can mean so many different things to different people.What i may call evil might not be evil to someone else.


  29. seeker1307 says:

    we are all born into this world with the same emotions, affection, and probably personalities. But it all depends on how you was able to unlock these things. you background, experience, culture, tradition, values all have a role to play in this.

    Being evil was something we all was born with and it only a matter of time for each and every one of us to open it at one point in our lives. NEing evil is not about learned or bad behavior. You can grow up to be evil or good all depends on you and what you’ve experienced or being taught.

    don’t want to get in too deep


  30. Mingxi Li says:

    I believe human beings are not born evil, As psychological perspective, all bad behaviors are learned, not born with. we are all go through the process of growing up from a baby, neither of us having bad behavior in the first place, it all depends on what environment we in, what we saw, absorb and leaned. On the other hand, if we are all born evil, then why we should get educated since we were born, that does make any sense. However, we have been educated since we were born doesn’t mean we won’t have or learn bad behavior, we might have bad behavior. But when we was born there is no good or bad, we don’t know and haven’t learn anything.


  31. Ezekial Francisco says:

    This specific idea of good vs. evil and child development has been one of my favorite psychological topics. In truth, I believe humans are inherently bad but are taught “good”. This is more of a belief but when I use the same logic I find that children can be inherently good but taught “bad”. It’s a discussion I have had with friends many times over and naturally, can never find an answer. So I find myself always accepting the behaviorist idea that everyone is a blank slate, and whatever learned behavior they have determines if they are “good” or “bad. It’s very interesting topic.


    • Cindy R. says:

      I agree this is an interesting topic to discuss about, though I don’t really agree with people being born “evil”and then taught to conform into good or that people are born “good”, though there maybe people more comfortable with that idea. We can be taught what is considered “bad” and “good” from almost any age, even though it does get harder to change our mindsets as we get older. My belief is that we are all born with needs even before we know what those needs are and why we need them. We are shown the positives and negatives of them from people before us, how there are ways that we act on those needs which it can satisfy or destroy us, others or both. I don’t know if there is anyone else that has thought this before.


  32. YU LIU says:

    I think when we was born, didn’t have any Good versus Evil, all the behavior were studying in the future, because of family, friends effect, in childhood, family are so important to effect kid’s behavior, more support will make kid more arrogant, more strict will make kids more introversion.so I think we can find a average point and make kids do anything by himself, but we still have more support to him, make him know to be a good person and how to know to be a good person.


  33. Gabby Berube says:

    I believe we are all born the same. I believe the only instincts we have are sexual ones. We are all born with capabilities of being evil, committing crimes, and violent acts upon others or one self. We are also born with kind and loving capabilities the same as Ghandi and Mother Theresa. However, Gandhi and Mother Teresa were not born with the natural instinct to change and impact the world. They too, were also born blank, like every one else. They learned how to act in the world, and how to deal with evil instead of learn from it, and how to be themselves instead of caring what other thinks.

    Evil comes from the ideas of others. No one knew how to make a bomb out of nothing until it was on the news, or how to hijack a plane until someone else figured out how to do it. Behaviors are learned. As soon as the news and media stops explaining how others commit their crimes, and instead the media shares how others promote good and kindness, I truly believe there will be less evil.


  34. Mamadou Balde says:

    I do not believe the concept that human beings are born evil although Christianity teaches it. I truly believe that humans are born as blank slates and that evil is learned by being in contact with someone or something that is evil. Or the environment teaches us how to be evil. When a baby is born, it is like a blank paper. Anything the baby comes across with, it absorbs it and it sticks and becomes a characteristics of the baby. That’s why we always have to put babies in environment where they are not going to learn bad behavior, to teach them the correct/right way to do things in order for them to be good people. I’m not saying if we teach them good values at an early age that they are not going to be evil people, but they become more likely to be good than evil.


  35. I believe the “we are all born evil” claim would make more sense if it were tweaked. I think that evil in this sense is being misconstrued with self interest. The evil being certain actions that revolve around self interest that may harm/inconvenience others.


    • Heather Monks says:

      I understand where you’re coming from but I find it hard to believe that we are born with the mindset of our own self-interest and hurt anyone in my path. Yes Maslow’s hierarchy of needs would say that our innate needs, we can be selfish about until its been obtained, but a baby crying cause it’s hungry doesn’t know it’s evil; it’s not in their mindset.
      But when that baby grows up, and they develop morals, I think that’s when they learn what evil and good are. Once they have morals and understand it, when they consciously go against those morals, then they’re “bad.” But they know that. I don’t think you can pin a child as being bad, if they don’t know they are. Unless they lack self-awareness and may have a mental problem, most children know what they’re doing is not good, and they’re up to no good. But the entire scenario is up to personal interpretation.


  36. SteveMc says:

    I respect the life work of Maslow and Rogers, however…. How can one make a scientific statement to how humanity is created? Perhaps I’ve already lost you. Christians believe that we are born inherently evil because it supports the precepts of the faith. Maslow and Rogers believe evil is taught because it supports the precepts of their teachings.

    Let’s be objective and ask a simple question. If evil can only be taught then where did it originate? That begs the question, what is “evil”? Is it evil to be selfish? If not then, give me your money I want it. If it is then, that sort of disproves the standing theory doesn’t it?


  37. Marie Bernier says:

    Rousseau’s ideology seems too idealistic in the sense that although it is plausible to believe inherit goodness, it can be quickly denied as it is seen that goodness is not a permanent stance. I believe children could be taught evil through environmental factors due to the human tendency to be greedy. Children are all at first innocent, being evil is learned. Sometimes children don’t know what they are doing is bad, it’s either that they saw someone do or they heard someone say it, “monkey see, monkey do”.
    I also believe that we have instincts that make us seem selfish. For example I was watching a video and it was about if babies are bad or good, to show if they were either good or bad they had 2 piles of food on the table, one had more than the other, they asked each baby which pile do they want and most of them chose the one with the most food. I don’t believe that means the baby is bad or selfish, I think it means the baby is hungry.


  38. I believe that evil is learned just as evil actions are learned by enviromental factors. If you’re raised in an enviroment where you are taught that killing is good if it benefits you , innocent or not such as the bloodline episode then you see nothing bad of it. Even back then people were taught to be racist and eventually many of them became racist but not all. Some people are born with the instincts and are able to overcome their environmental factors. It all depends on how you define evil because some may agree that killing is evil no matter what but then others might say no unless you kill someone who was killing and torturing others. However, there are some people who grew up in a normal childhood, but still commit evil acts. Others think it’s based on the upbringing but then how come someone who is raised the exact same way as their sibling can commit evil acts while others don’t. Outside of the household has a major impact as well which proves it’s not genetics.


    • LuzAnne,
      I totally agree with you. I also believe that evil has a lot to do with environmental factors. Often, people who are “evil” have experienced something majorly traumatic in their childhoods. If not, then they have some type of mental disorder or extreme jealousy and anger that brings one to kill someone else. No one really kills people for “fun”, unless they have a major mental disorder. Usually murder is out of anger and simply a cold hearted person. So I agree with you in the fact that what determines ones “evilness” is all based in the environment where they grew up in.


  39. Ronald Desumas says:

    No body was born evil. Everybody depends of the society which they live in (entourage). Living with good people, you happen to do the right things; living with bad people, their influence will make you do wrong things. Sometimes for some reason, in order to fit in, you go with their ideas.


  40. In my opinion,”evil,” which could be defined in a broad number of ways to different individuals, is not something we inherit. A child who is raised to think they are evil, for religious reasons, may or may not proceed to perform unjust and malicious acts in life. Even raised in the worst circumstances, evil is more likely to be temporary instilled, and re-evaluated later in life. For humans, our environment is one of main reasons for who we become.

    Biologically, someone may have some chemical or hormonal imbalance. However, someone around them most likely would notice odd behaviors and get them checked. There are probably cases where there was nobody who cared or accepted that this said child may need to get help. Nonetheless, as humans, we do have free will- and at a certain age “evil” actions are learned from media, society, peers, poor upbringing, etc., which brings this back to….environment. Was the child born “evil?” No. Did the child notice negative behaviors from someone else or commit a negative act and not get the “right” reaction/ repercussion after? Most likely.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Herol Z says:

    I am siding with rogers, i don’t think we are born either evil or good, but rather the environment that we are brought up in dictates the out come of who we become.

    My reasoning can be tied back to the experiment with the bobo doll. In the experiment children were brought in to observe how adults acted with the bobo doll. On the first try the first group of children observed the adults being violent with the doll and when the children were allowed to be in the room with the doll, they acted in a very violent manner towards the bobo doll as well. Now for the second try the second group of children observed the adults being loving towards the bobo doll, and once they were let in to play with the doll they treated the doll with loving care as well.

    On both occasions what affected the nature of the children’s reactions and how they were going to treat the doll, was based on how they had previously observed the adults before them treating the doll. So with that being said if you surround a new born with either a good or bad environment, then that new born will grown into reflecting the environment they were born in.

    As far as the sixteenth century Puritan belief of original sin, the ideology that children are born evil and need to be civilized through harsh punishment and authoritative parental control, i think that the harsh punishment can sometimes have adverse affects, and leave the child rebellious against their environment.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Michelle DiPhillipo says:

    To me, evil is something that humans learn, not something that they are born with. I feel like evil is a broad term for different people, but to me means causing harm to someone else or committing immoral acts.
    When a child is told to do something from their parents, they do it. Kids see their parents as right always and look up to them. If a parent taught their child good morals at a young age, then most likely they will grow up with that mentality. There are some other cases where kids have great parents who taught them everything they need to know about being good people, but they learned their bad behavior from their friends or other people sometimes at school.
    I believe that all human characteristics are learned by their environment and by their parents most importantly.

    Theorists Watson and Skinner in my opinion have the right idea by saying that all behavior good or bad, is learned and that everyone has a clean slate when they are first born. I do not think that anyone is born evil.

    I also believe that Maslow and Rogers have the right idea about saying that we are not born evil. No person is born with a drive to do evil things. People are aware of what evil things are and that we are all brought up by our experiences and we learn from them and are able to make ourselves better people by it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michelle,
      I really like how you said that we are all brought up by our experiences and we learn from them and are able to make ourselves better people by it.
      Last week in class, Professor Nuzzolo told us that babies are born with no instincts at all and that we don’t know how to do anything, but cry. This lead to my conclusion that we are not born evil and that John Locke might possibly be correct about his clean of a “tabula rasa”.
      I do agree that evil actions and thoughts are results of environmental factors and our drive to succeed.


      • Michelle DiPhillipo says:


        Its funny to me because I sometime hear people say “he/she was born evil” when referring to anyone who they found out just murdered someone or something awful like that. But as you and Professor Nuzzolo said, Babies are born with no instinct at all except knowing how to cry. I honestly feel like it would be funny to think that a baby is evil when they do not know how to even walk or talk. The baby has to grow up some more and experience actual life and deal with family at home or society to commit evil acts.


    • I agree with you because since we tend to learn our morals at a young age from our parents we obey by what they believe is right or wrong. Until later if we somehow disagree depending on what it may be then we decide otherwise. Behavior is associated with learning because they depend on each other good or bad. Kids may follow their friends or what’s on tv, the environment has a great impact on what exactly is good or bad. Evil isn’t inherited because it’s not even a gene or a trait, it’s the way you interpret things based on what you believe or was firced to believe. It’s not something you can’t change because someone who was born good can turn evil if they experience something deep enough to bring it out.


      • Heather Monks says:

        I very much agree with you. There is no gene that is passed down with heredity that will make a child bad. That isn’t a trait they can develop, and I think a behavior from a child is a learned action from those around them. At a very young age they are so impressionable to all behaviors, and there have been numerous experiments on this, that a child with bad behavior may have just learned it from watching.
        Now to say that serial killers learned to kill from watchers others would be a stretch. There is definitely something inside of their heads that is switched on. Are they born evil? Or is it such an outlier of mental illness that it can’t be seen within this case.
        I also think your opinion on this depends on what morals you have and how you were raised, they is no clear cut right or wrong answer.


  43. @Lisandra

    I absolutely agree with you that “evil” or, bad behavior is learned. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that some people are simply born “evil,” destined to be a plague on their families and the rest of the world with no end in sight. For example, I graduated from Danvers High School, the same school where 14 year-old Philip Chism murdered his teacher, which has been all over the news. I hear the term “born bad” tossed around from people in Danvers, and even the more religious folks convinced he’s possessed by “demons.” A horrific tragedy, to be sure. But what really was going on with the kid? Or anyone else that becomes a serial killer or murderous dictator? I’m sure many psychologists have had a field day trying to study this, but the notion that this or that person was simply “evil” at birth seems like a cop-out to me. Mental illness in conjunction with outside factors in a person’s upbringing can cause people to become destructive, diabolical people. Maybe some folks like to believe in the original sin or “born bad” theology because it’s easier and less painful than to contemplate what really might have caused an unsavory character to do what they did. The same goes for racism. No one comes out of their mother’s womb hating other races, but as they grow up it’s most definitely a learned mentality, usually one where a child has little room to think for his/herself about how they REALLY feel. Like the song from the classic (and one of my favorite!) Broadway shows, “South Pacific” goes:

    “You’ve got to be taught, before you are six, or seven, or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • SteveMc says:


      Finally we disagree. I am truly excited by this because I respect your thoughts and have enjoyed your intelligent contributions thus far. I agree that “most” of the behaviorsimilarity that are labeled as “evil” are learned. However, and that is a BIG however where do you suppose those outliers in history come from? By outliers I mean of course the individuals who fall drastically outside of the normal statistical data. I can personally attest to the reality of bad sprouting from good and there is plenty of anecdotal information to support good sprouting from bad.


      • @ Steve,

        But wouldn’t people who do evil, corrupt, and damaging things be classified as having some sort of mental disorder? In my opinion, and I believe most others outside of some sort of religious context, anyone from Hitler to the guys who sets people’s garbage on fire clearly have something wrong with them. Does that excuse their behavior? Absolutely not. Should they pay the consequences? Hell, yes! But I believe that anyone who is a threat to anyone else or society in general had unaddressed mental health issues on various levels. The term “evil,” can of course, be very subjective. But to pronounce someone born inherently evil, with no other options or regardless of upbringing or influence seems a bit of a stretch to me.


      • SteveMc says:


        I suppose it only makes sense to establish the context in which we are discussing “evil”. If we don’t then we could possibly miss the value of each other’s thoughts. For example “outside of some sort of religious context” seems to be a limitation. As I understand it the word evil is defined as “profoundly immoral and malevolent”. Under that definition we have to think are people born automatically moral? Do we spend more time teaching babies and children what NOT to do or what to do? I know all 3 of my children learned the meaning of “No” long before “yes”. So is immoral/moral (evil/good) behavior taught, absolutely. However, what is the default setting? My thought is we are born naturally immoral almost animalistic. We are exposed to environment that quickly establishes “norms” for us. Is the child cannibal evil? For purpose of argument is the adult cannibal (that has never been exposed to anything different) evil? My thoughts are heavily weighted with religion. I understand that may narrow my view. That is why I enjoy outside perspectives such as yours.

        I do not think that anyone is born evil to such an extent that they are beyond recourse. After rereading your comment I think that is possibly what you thought I meant. I propose that everyone is born equally evil and that we must be taught to be good. I hope that clears up my position somewhat.


  44. I believe that we are born with instincts. So technically, I agree with with the philosopher John Locke’s idea of the “Tabula Rasa”, but only with the evil aspect. I also believe in Darwinism and his idea of survival of the fittest. I believe that we often can come out as selfish, and “evil” because our ancestors had to act this way in order for them to survive. For example, they might have been selfish or “evil” in order to protect their food from being stolen by others. In fact, we are animals.

    I believe that evil is taught. One of my teacher’s actually told me something in class that really made me think when I was reading this blog. Racism is taught. If you had two little kids and let you them play with each other, they will play with each other no matter what race each other is. Until someone comes along and tells them that this is wrong. Basically, evil is caused by environmental causes and external forces. Like Carl Rogers said, “I do not find that this evil is inherent in human nature”. We learn how to hate and we learn how to do evil.

    I don’t believe that evil is genetically inherited. Many personality traits can be inherited, but not evil. I feel like evil is just an idea and evil can mean many different things to different people. So for example, if a father his “evil”, his son or daughter does not necessarily have to come out “evil”. It’s learned.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Herol Z says:

      I agreed with what both you and Darren had to say. You stated that evil can mean different things to different people which got me to think, could’t the children of these sixteen century Puritan’s think that their parents are evil? I mean at least once Puritan parents would have to come across a child who is unwilling to conform because the punishments had the adverse affects on them, and in turn the parents would continue to believe that child is born evil because they are unwilling to conform.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey Lisandra, I like how you brought up survival of the fittest and our ancestors. It’s interesting to think about “good” and “evil” when humans were in survival mode. While there’s not much history on their thought patterns, thinking about evil in terms of survival reminded me of Genie, the girl that was isolated from 20 months old to 13 years old. Apparently, her dad had her locked to a chair and left her in a bedroom. Every time she made a noise, he would beat her. I would think she would be in survival mode, and would do something “evil” to him at least, but I don’t think she did. Of course, she was and is (if still alive) deprived of developing normally due to the extreme isolation, but even when she was found I believe she didn’t repeat the actions done to her in her past environment. This further proves to me that you aren’t born evil, and a horrible environment doesn’t mean you will commit “evil” acts either.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I completely agree. I believe that evil is taught just as racism is taught because those we are racist don’t necessarily have kids who are racists unless they are influenced and manipulated into thinking its okay. Just like in bloodline the little boy was taught that killing the girl’s family for her to become his wife was okay but others may see it as evil. He wasn’t born to think that it was evil though, he thought it was completely normal. His mom who’s parents were killed by his father knew deep down that it wasn’t right but because she was influenced to believe otherwise she started to. It all depends how you interpret evil based on your experience because what you find evil many may not.


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