“The majority of men are evil” - One of the most earth-shattering statements in the history of philosophy. It was coined by a man called Bias, the most famous of the Seven Sages.
So acutely aware was he of its implications that he was actually reluctant even to express this judgment. It’s easy to see why, if we just think about it.
Can you imagine what would happen if we took it seriously to heart? It has the power to devastate the foundations of relationships, families and whole societies.
Relationships are based on trust – but how can we reach out to our fellow man, if we harbour in our hearts the suspicion that he is, more likely than not, evil? We wouldn’t even be able to get started.
Businesses are built on contracts – but who would join in a venture if he didn’t trust his associates? The meaning of even money itself is based on a promise to ‘pay the bearer’. Would it be possible for such mass cooperation to take place without faith in our neighbour to act fairly?
Societies are built on law – but how can the law function in an environment where most people are evil? Sooner or later it would have to disintegrate.
But surely with the advantage of hindsight we can see he was mistaken… wasn’t he?
But then again, how do we account for the holocaust, the transatlantic slave trade, the genocidal wars that have marked human history across the globe into ages past? How do we account for the greed and selfishness that surrounds us every day?
Is there any hope for humanity?
Is it rational, or even sane to have any hope at all in human nature?
I would welcome any thoughts any of you may have on this.
This post has been written by a guest writer called Alex, who I know personally and have invited to contribute this week. He'll respond to any comments.