ann_crittenden's picture
Journalist; Lecturer; Author, If You've Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything
Is human nature innately good or evil?

Another question that has fallen into the dustbin of history is this: Is human nature innately good or evil? This became a gripping topic in the late 17th century, as Enlightment thinkers began to challenge the Christian assumption that man was born a fallen creature. It was a great debate while it lasted: original sin vs. tabla rasa and the perfectability of man; Edmund Burke vs. Tom Paine; Dostoyevsky vs. the Russian reformers. But Darwin and Freud undermined the foundations of both sides, by discrediting the very possibility of discussing human nature in moral or teleological terms. Now the debate has been recast as "nature vs. nurture" and in secular scientific circles at least, man is the higher primate -- a beast with distinctly mixed potential.   

ANN CRITTENDEN is an award-winning journalist and author. She was a reporter for The New York Times from 1975 to 1983, where her work on a broad range of economic issues was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She is the author of several books inncluding The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued. Her articles have appeared in numerous magazines, including The Nation, Foreign Affairs, McCall's, Lear's, and Working Woman.