human nature: Selfish or Empathetic?

I have often wondered if it was human nature to be evil, flawed, and self centered.  There are whole schools of thought based around the idea that people are selfish.  There is a lot of evidence that says we are, by nature.  What if that’s not true?  What if we are only selfish as a product of our environment?  Does this mean that we have created our own misery and that our natural evolution would have us be so much more peaceful and caring?  What do you think?

See what the scientist has to say about Empathy.

I’m of the opinion that the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is all too true.  It’s easy to lose empathy for a guy you just fired if that means your family gets a little more food to eat.  There is a fine line between empathy for a stranger and self benefit for yourself and your family.  I think there is a lot of hope and truth in the video, but I still think that hundreds of years of human actions would prove that we are MOSTLY self/immediate family concerned when making decisions and less universally empathetic.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could expand our self centered view point and care about everyone enough to repress our selfishness though?

Imagine if we cared about the starving children in Africa as much as we did about our hungry son or daughter – I imagine that would be and immediate cure for world hunger, disease, and war.  It’s a great thought.

4 thoughts on “human nature: Selfish or Empathetic?

  1. mattsmithis

    I think we’re definitely selfish by nature. The Bible clearly teaches that, but it’s also pretty apparent when raising a kid. I definitely spend way more time telling my kids to be nice than I do telling them to stand up for themselves.

    It’s natural to put one’s own NEEDS ahead of others. It’s survival at its core. I think we run into problems when our wants are put ahead of other’s needs.

    Good thoughts on thinking outside of our little circle. Most of us can do better in that department.

    1. Atticus Finch

      Yeah, I would have to agree with you. I think we are mostly selfish and some of us VERY selfish. Reflected in a lot of my political and economic beliefs.

      No doubt we are ingrained with natural empathy, but overall when push comes to shove our personal self is more important than the well being of others – that is unless we make a conscious effort to put others first…

  2. jon

    I imagine that we have both the selfish impulse and the altruistic one (the one emphasized in that interesting video). I think the altruistic impulse is one of the reasons that Jesus’ message resonated (resonates) the way it does – if ‘love your neighbor, and even your enemy’ were completely foreign to our nature I don’t think it would have had such an impact. And as this video suggests, it’s nice to think that we can embrace the altruistic sentiment and at the same time maintain our rationality (rather than delving into supernatural thinking in order to have empathy).

  3. Pingback: Lessons learned in hard times « BlogTruth

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