/ Philosophy

Humanity is Fundamentally Good

In our day and age, it is easy to lose faith in humanity. It is easy to learn of the latest atrocity or injustice and decide that humanity's moral worth doesn't amount to much. And it is easy, once you find yourself in a mindset like this, to become alienated from your fellow humans.

But that would be folly.

Humanity is fundamentally good. That this is true comes down to a simple observation: despite all of the evil which we have perpetrated against one another, the human condition keeps getting better.

For millennia, our instinct to build things up has overcome our instinct to tear them down. There have been missteps along the way, and there is much work left to be done, but the overall trend is unmistakeable: throughout the world, life is getting better. Every single kind of violence is in retreat. People live longer. They have more economic opportunities and a greater say in how they are governed. And more people than ever before are now free to pursue that ultimate luxury: a life of purpose and contentment.

The good in us is so powerful that it has done more than just balance out our destructive tendencies. It has advanced our species from hunter-gatherers to a global civilization which has largely put down its swords and picked up the mantle of human rights. A civilization whose technological progress has made the necessities of life—food, water, shelter, and safety—abundantly available for vast swathes of humanity. And the good within us has accomplished this in the midst of all of our evil.

I cannot think of a higher testament to our worth.


Additional Reading:

  1. A History of Violence, by Steven Pinker. Based on his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, this lecture outlines the incredible decline in violence since the beginning of recorded history. Includes video + text transcript.

  2. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations. I think it says a lot about us that almost every country on Earth — collectively representing most of humanity — acknowledges and agrees with the fundamental human rights laid out in this document.


Thanks to Guru Khalsa for reading early drafts and providing feedback.