Why are all people sometimes mean?Robert (12 years old)

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Why are all people sometimes mean? Robert (12 years old)

My daughter Rachel, who is now 12, used to watch the Rugrats--she was, maybe, 6 at the time. Often she asked me, "Daddy, why is Angelica so mean?" All I could muster, back then, was something about how difficult a question that was to answer. But we went back to the question as she got older. I began with the distinction between reasons and causes, and suggested to her that we could ask "why?" in two different senses. Eventually I blamed Angelica's parents: a wimpy dad who gave her everything she asked for; a superaggressive, selfish, self-absorbed, absent mother. (I can hear Ray's mother, Marie Romano, exclaiming: "It's always the mother!") The genesis of evil (and of good) is a question philosophers and other scholars have grappled with for a very long time, going back at least to Socrates and Plato. Angelica has her share of Original Sin. Blame Eve. Due to Natural Selection, humans are by nature egoists--the selfish gene writ large. Bad people are really only ignorant; if they knew more, or knew what they knew more accurately, they wouldn't be (so) bad. Abuse breeds abuse. And so forth. I have a question: do we ever have a right to be mean? Or even: do we ever have a duty to be mean?

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