Sense of Justice: Nature or Nurtured

by Katherine Chen (Mission San Jose High School, Fremont, CA) on 2014-05-29 18:16:08 PDT
group-of-babies_420w-420x0Are people born good, or are they innately bad? Philosophers and thinkers have been pondering this question for thousands of years,  continuing to modern society.  This question has plagued thinkers for centuries and will continue to do so, as there will never be a correct answer.

Now, addressing the issue of justice, if you search up "definition of justice" on Google, you will receive the explanation: "just behavior or treatment." Personally, my definition is that justice will be achieved if your perceived belief of what's right is accepted over what you think is wrong, but everyone probably has a different justification of right and wrong.  If governments are not just, the citizens will lose faith.  If rulers are not just, their subjects may revolt.  But this justice that everyone desires, where does it come from? The issue I will be addressing today is whether everyone is born with a clean slate, with the same belief of what is right, or does the environment they grow up in mold their sense of justice. The book Just Babies: the Origins of Good and Evil, published in 2013, by Yale University psychologist Paul Bloom elaborates on a series of experiments that Bloom performed to try to answer the question stated above.  Bloom's experiments were to test if people had "a rudimentary sense of justice- a desire to see good actions rewarded and bad actions punished."  In one of his experiments,  younger than 1-year-old children watched a puppet show where a ball was rolled to a "nice" puppet who passes the ball back.  Then the ball is rolled to the "mean" puppet who runs away, stealing the ball.  The child was then to decide whether to take a treat from the "nice" or "mean" puppet, and most of the babies chose to take the treat from the "mean" puppet.  One of the children even slapped the "mean" puppet on the head.  This experiment shows how the infants are mostly attracted to the "nice" puppet, but this experiment is an observational study, meaning that there may be correlation, but that doesn't prove that a human's sense of justice part of human nature. As an optimist, I really wish to be able to trust that people are born good, but I do not believe that whether or not there is an innate sense of justice in babies can be tested, unless they are observed from the day of their birth, so there is no definite answer. Further and more convincing data will be required before any conclusions can be made.  It is a widely accepted claim that people's morals are mainly impacted by their environment, the atmosphere of how they grew up, and the people they associate with.  I sincerely believe that it does not really matter whether or not someone is born "good," but rather, it is the decisions that one will make that will shape their image.  As for my question, whether a person's sense of justice is nature or is nurtured still has yet to be answered.

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