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  • There are three types of people in the world, those who don't know what's happening, those who wonder what's happening and those on the streets that make things happen.

Why do people do bad things?

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on December 23, 2012

I have often wondered how people do things that seem “bad” and do not even recognize it as something not virtuous. Why do people not hesitate even slightly before doing something that I find “wrong”? I truly believe in the goodness of our original being. Then why does a Virtuous creation do “bad” things? Here’s an attempt to answer that question.

“The effort for self preservation is the first and only foundation of virtue. For prior to this principle nothing can be conceived, and without it no virtue can be conceived…..

….No virtue can be conceived as prior to this endeavor to preserve one’s own being”—–Spinoza, Ethica

If we believe in self preservation being the most important virtue, then it is not difficult to see how “bad” can be virtuous. What allows this contradiction to exist is the way in which we human beings have expanded the definition of “Self”. In an ideal world “Self” would mean the collection of body,mind and soul. In the real world “Self” includes another parameter which we shall label as “Ego”.

Proposition 1: People only do Virtuous things. We are innately Virtuous.

Proposition 2: Virtuous actions are Good

Enquiry: Why do People do Bad Things?

Investigation:

Virtue= Self Preservation

In Ideal World, True Self = Body+Mind+Soul (All factors are independent of what lies outside an individual)

In Real World, False Self = Body+Mind+Soul+Ego

Ego adds a 4th Dimension that introduces the influence of the external world into the “Self”. Self-preservation is no longer the survival of only the body, mind and soul but it is now the survival of a false image of the self which is a reflection of how the world around us views us.When we untertake actions that work towards the preservation of this “False Self”, we lose sight and understanding of Virtue.

Nature has trained our minds to instinctly recognize that whatever we do to preserve ourselves is Virtuous. Hence what we do to preserve ourselves must necessarily be good. Hence preservation of the self is a virtue and hence any action undertaken to ensure this is good. But this applies only when Self = True Self.

When Self=False Self, we are tricked into believing that what we our doing to preserve this “False Self” is virtuous. And hence we do not question the nature of our actions that preserve this “False Self”. We continue doing bad things without any guilt because we are tricked into believing that since they are preserving our “Self” they must be virtuous and hence good.

Therefore, in the real world, virtuous actions can be bad, because self preservation is actually the preservation of the “False Self”. People do not regard a bad action as evil because that action of theirs is preserving their “False Self” and hence they do not hesitate before doing such things. Their brains are tricked into thinking that the preservation of this “False Self” is a Virtue.

To rid our world of this “Bad”, we will have to be able to differentiate the “True Self” from the “False Self”. Once this is achieved, we will only be concerned with preserving the “True Self” and since this is a real virtue, all actions emanating from it will be good.

As always, comments welcomed.

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7 Responses to “Why do people do bad things?”

  1. This reminds me of “impression management.” I think you have this exactly right. Traveling today, I’ll write more later.
    Hope you’re well!
    Lisa

  2. I agree – and would go further by suggesting that ‘I’ is not just mind, body, soul, ego – but the false self is also made up of ‘possessions’ and ‘power’ and ‘esteem’. We define ourselves with offices and positions, wealth and possessions – and defend physical things (our car) as if defending our ‘true self’.
    Even the president is just a man. He is not made up of x, y, z and *presidency* – because you can remove his presidency and he would remain the same man. But we conflate so much into ‘self’ which is in fact not part of us at all.

    • Raunak said

      so true…the false self is made up of so many things…and these thigs are really difficult to get rid of.
      I do not think that we need to rid ourselves of this “false self” but if we learn to identify its existence we have insulated ourselves from its effects.

  3. I fully agree.

  4. Glad to see you back. I hope you enjoyed the Holidays and all is going well!

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