Sunday, August 25, 2013

“I, Me, Mine: Why Humans are Naturally Evil” (2010)


This essay was written as one of the requirements in my SocSci II class (best GE subject ever) during my sophomore year in the University of the Philippines. It is also my first year as an Economics student, in which I transferred from the Management program a few months prior. 

This was written in the time of disenchantment - which explains my adherence to Hobbes's state of nature. 


The question regarding the nature of human beings has been a topic for hot discussion and debate among scholars and philosophers alike. One side would claim that humans are naturally evil while others would argue otherwise. Two of the most prominent philosophers that have discussed the conditions of human beings in the “state of nature” are Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau - with Hobbes believing in the former, and Rousseau the latter. One driving force that leads to their perception of human nature is the state of affairs during their own respective times. Hobbes lived on an era where England (his home country) is in turmoil, with the frequent regime changes and wars ravaging the country. Rousseau on the other hand, lived on ..... less harsh times.

In my humblest opinion, I would say that Hobbes, despite my reluctance to his concept of the need of an absolute authority (the quote “Having absolute power, corrupts absolutely” quickly comes to mind), made more sense with respect to his description of man’s “state of nature” compared to Rousseau. According to Hobbes:

“… whatsoever is the object of any man’s appetite or desire, that is it which he for his part calleth good: and the object of his hate and aversion, evil; and of his contempt, vile and inconsiderable…there being nothing simply and absolutely so…” (Curtis 330).
Simply put, things are only considered “good” when they give man pleasure and “bad when it gives them pain. Furthermore, Hobbes also stated that:

“Nature hath made men so equal … From this equality of ability, ariseth equality of hope in the attaining of our ends. And therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies…” (332).

Hobbes somehow puts the state of nature in bad light, equating it with the "state of war", where people compete for resources and sometimes, resort to undesirable means – even murder. History has shown humankind's blunders. Wars are of common occurrences. Humans subjugate other humans through colonizations, conquests, slavery, and the intolerance of religion, race and customs, which (The Inquisition, and the Holocaust are infamous examples) breed more violence and the deprivation of life. It is no wonder why Hobbes would come to such a harsh conclusion. Humans are really creatures, which, despite the claim of “rationality”, are much prone to corruption.

On the flip side, Rousseau is optimistic about the nature of man. To him, it is in the state of nature where there is a “removal of all cultural clothes”. Complications in the state of nature (the increase in population, resulting to a larger of competition of limited resources) would result to the people resorting to form an association. Thus, surrendering their “physical liberty” (the liberty of being able to do whatever they please) and obtaining “civil liberty” and “moral liberty” in the process. The liberties that we acquire in the association place limitations of human reason and general will through laws, making the people “nobler” in a sense that commitment and accountability are practiced. Rousseau’s idea of the nature of human beings is in stark contrast with Hobbes in which he believed that naturally, man is good but is corrupted by “civilization” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

I believe that Rousseau’s model of man in the state of nature is flawed. His model implies that humans are no different from beasts, which rely solely on instinct. Furthermore, if animals only rely on instinct, then no faculty of reason can ever be present. It means that without the possession of such faculty, we can resort to taking away the life of someone should we desire for their properties. Therefore, we, like animals, are in a constant state of war thus making Hobbes’s concept of the individual in the state of nature fitting to the criteria more than of Rousseau’s. Our rationality has enabled us to think of the idea of setting up communities, and forming a social contract. My problem with Rousseau is that of his inconsistencies in some of his explanations. His acceptance of the family as the only “natural institution” and humans as a “solitary” being does not seem to blend since you can’t have a family and at the same time, live in solitude. Furthermore, not having a language in the state of nature sounds absurd since it is hard to imagine us not having some sort of verbal communication. And lastly, how will he explain that beasts still rely on their instincts, while we humans, have somehow “levelled up” through the development of communities, market systems, complex governments, idealisms, languages and most of all, the ability to “tame” our natural impulses?

To back up my belief of Hobbes’ theory, another example is the registration process (the ever-dreaded CRS) in the University. It is a clear example of Hobbes’ state of war where “every man is enemy to every man.” It was a solid display of the enlistment week to be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”, with “practicability” frequently used as a justification to such disgusting means. The scriptures keep saying that we are God’s best creations; that we are rational, that we are superior over His other creations. For me, we are no different from animals, where we “live in the wild”, an environment filled with mutual distrust amongst each other. The week-long experience in my admission to the University only reinforced my belief that indeed, we only look after our own-interest especially when in times of desperation.

To sum it up, I am more inclined to agree on the pessimism of Hobbes than the positive perception of Rousseau. In spite of both theories being of no evidence, Rousseau’s idea of man being naturally good (or to be precise, amoral) is less realistic compared to Hobbes’s. Personal experiences and historical evidences have shown the deceitfulness, egoism, and self-centeredness of human beings. Even with the creation of the society, humans still tend to show tendencies of causing evil and harm in which I believe, is due to our natural tendencies rather than the influences of society. Besides the sophisticated structures of civilization, the intelligence, and the capability of forming other intricate systems, we are just like animals, who inevitably act upon impulse especially when nature calls for it. 

Such is life.

Curtis, Michael. The Great Political Theories, New York: Avon Books
Delaney, James J. “Rousseau, Jean-Jacques”. Internet Encyclopedia of 
               Philosophy, 18 Jan. 2010. Web. 03 Sept. 2010.

“Free-Market: Achieving Equilibrium” (2010)


This essay was written as one of the requirements in my SocSci II class (best GE subject ever) during my sophomore year in the University of the Philippines. It is also my first year as an Economics student, in which I transferred from the Management program a few months prior. My viewpoints have been tweaked since then (laissez-faire no longer) - but the core ideas remain. The market system, while imperfect, is the better alternative over the socialist central planning system in which the fear of the whip/bullet is the only incentive. 

“Reflect on the realities, advantages and/or perils, of capitalism and its attributes (e.g., free market/liberalization, globalization, privatization) as reflected in the current economic system.”

When you hear or read the word “capitalism”, what usually comes to your mind? Is it the oppression of the labor force? The materialism? The evil bourgeoisie? Have you also thought that capitalism breeds evil through private property and money? If you have said yes to these questions (or at least most of them), your affirmation could be attributed to famous philosopher and economist Karl Marx, who “demonized” the system.

But what is capitalism to start with? Capitalism is usually associated with terms like privatization, competition free market, free trade, and the supply and demand to name a few. The name obviously stems from the word “capital”, which is one of the triad of productive inputs (along with land and labor) consisting of durable produced goods that are in turn used in production. Furthermore, it is defined as “the economic system in which most property (land and capital) is privately owned.” (Samuelson)

It is hard to deny the positive effects that capitalism has brought to the table. It is under this system that the forces of supply and demand in the market determine investments, incomes, and production of the consumers and producers. First, it promotes economic growth by encouraging competition in markets, which results to innovation and better quality of products and services. A common example would be the competition between fast-food franchises. The constant rivalry among these establishments results to the addition of choices in the menu, the improvement of its services and with changes in prices. Without these driving forces in competition, the establishment is not pushed to improve its products hence, the products and services tend to be mediocre (or even worse) at best.

Second, capitalism motivates people to “work hard”. It gives the individual merits for hard work and is rewarded by profits, enabling him/her to gain access to leisure and luxury. In the process, people who are lazy and dependent on others will most likely suffer under this system. Adam Smith, one of the proponents of the free market and the founding father of economics, had stated that the person’s own interests are in line with those of the community. He argued that the person is led by an invisible hand in which “by pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.” (qtd. in Samuelson 30)

Third, the production output has increased exponentially in the capitalist system. The division of labor has paved way for the people to produce more, and consequently, consume more. The things that we enjoy today are all thanks to capitalism. International trade has also made both countries better off to an extent in which its citizens can consume a particular product more than it can produce due to specialization. Innovations in technology also enabled us to “live a better life” – by better life, I mean food surpluses, and the increasing variety of products to name a few.

But the advantages offered by Capitalism can be a double-edged sword. While competition may motivate people to innovate and provide better services, history has shown that competition has not been so kind towards the people who have been unable to keep up with the times such as the artisans, blacksmiths, and to some extent, the manual laborers of the old days. Critics have pointed out on how the ownership of private property had made people greedy and selfish. Such ideas can be traced to Karl Marx, a name most associated with the ideologies of “Socialism” and “Communism”. Marx also pointed out on how the system has exploited the masses by compelling them to work in factories with low wages. To remedy this, he proposed the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, abolition of private property and social classes as means to achieve “equality”. (Curtis)

Now, the abolition of private property, one of the distinguishing factors of Capitalism, might seem to be a good solution in achieving equality and happiness among us as the socialists suggest, but I beg to differ on the same reason Aristotle opposed Plato’s idea of abolishing of private property:

“For that which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it. Everyone thinks chiefly of his own, hardly at all of the common interest; and only when he is himself concerned as an individual. For besides other considerations, everybody is more inclined to neglect the duty which he expects another to fulfill; as in families many attendants are often less useful than a few.” (qtd. in Schmitt)

For one, it deprives people of any sort of motivation to work hard. Second, it puts progress into stagnation since people do not receive incentives in attempting to “improve” our quality of life. Third, as this is the most important, it is not private property that causes evil, but it is the wickedness of the nature of human beings (as what I have argued in the third paper).

Critics would point out that the current financial crisis had proved Capitalism to be a failure. However, there are too many factors to consider on why the crisis occurred in the first place. Government policies, “the war on terror”, and the “real estate boom” are just some (but sort of the primary) of the reasons that caused the financial crisis. The latter, with the matter being too complicated to be explained in this paper, can be simplified by saying that too many people invested in the real-estate business but a few only wants to buy it, and since the banks are the ones lending these investors, this lead to bankruptcies and the rest is history. Therefore, it was not really Capitalism that is the failure here, but poor US government policies that caused a chain reaction to the rest of the world.

Socialism, on the other hand, abhors competition and private property. But while eradicating competition and private property might be “pleasing” since competition allegedly makes people’s lives worse off and private ownership of property breeding greed, the fall of the USSR and the Iron Curtain reinforces the notion that Socialism only looks good on paper, and is never feasible to be implemented. After the fall of the Soviet Union, former Communist countries then scrapped the concept of a centralized economy, switched to a market economy and have since enjoyed economic prosperity (Samuelson 25). What’s more, the failure of Chairman Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” policy eventually allowed foreign companies and enterprises to operate and invest within China. Again, this just goes to show that a state in which government have too much power in meddling with economic affairs, tend to worsen the situation rather than fix it. There are numerous “rags to riches” stories to know about that shows Capitalism has been a successful economic system. Even my grandfather (on my father’s side) escaped “Communist China” and started a family here in the islands. Doesn’t that tell you something? History have shown us that Socialism is a failure no matter how socialist theorists say that it has never been done right by the ones practicing it. The idea itself is never compatible with human beings; we are too “selfish” to achieve such utopian concept. Russia has tried it, China has tried it, some countries in Latin America have tried it, but look at them now. Even North Korea’s “Juche” ideology is a failure.

Since humans have this tendency to be selfish (admit it), it is of no doubt that Capitalism, while not a perfect system, has been a successful economic system. Why? Because besides being compatible with the “wicked” nature of human beings, it also values production and output by giving incentives. These incentives have paved way for modernization, improvement, and originality through human motivation and wit. From cars, ipods, and even this laptop that I am using to encode this essay can be attributed to Capitalism. While it may be true that Capitalism has its cons, there is no such thing as a free lunch, for there will always be trade-offs not just in the economic sense but life in general. You cannot eat your cake, and have it too.


Curtis, Michael. The Great Political Theories, New York: Avon Books
Samuelson, Paul A., and William D. Norhaus. Economics. 18th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill,
2007. Print.
Schmitt, Gavin C., “Plato and Aristotle on Private Property.” The Framing Business, 12 Jan. 2010. Web. 08 Oct. 2010.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

His Story

I don't know why, but I've always considered myself to be a history-buff (this was a time when I thought of Economics as the one where a lot of weaving and farming is involved... don't blame me, I was young!"). When I was "younger," I've always thought of having a career in History when I get older. It's not even because I like to read those dry and dreadful textbooks in elementary. It had a lot to do with video games and movies - mostly on warfare and civ management. Playing Age of Empires, Civilization, and Call of Duty (the early ones) and watching those war movies and historical documentaries made me love the subject even more.

Many of my friends have asked me, "WHY?" and I don't even know the answer (or at least, the exact reason behind it). Maybe it's because when they think of History, they think of those useless dates and places and names that you have to memorize in elementary and high school.

Then again, "why?"

When I think of history, I don't think of useless facts; I think of those old pictures and artifacts I see in museums. I think of those castles, catapaults, towers and ships that I build in video games. I like to imagine myself being there and observe how these "primitive peoples" live their lives ignorant of the convenient ways of the internet. I dream of excavating artifacts, travelling around the world and uncovering ancient cities (see Pompeii). Those actual neolithic hunting tools that our ancestors used, fossils of species that are extinct today - and those guns used in the "good ol' days" are just few of the things that amaze me.

Of course, this was before the day I realized that most probably, possible careers related to History only covers teaching and research. Still, I was very much eager to have a degree in History. Why? Because paychecks aside, I just f*cking love the subject. And besides, I don't mind teaching and doing a bit of research ("not bad for an 'Indio', don't you think?").

The last time I had a superb experience in History was on my third year in college, when our class went to Camp Aguinaldo to get ourselves oriented with the history of the Philippine military. It was supposed be about the military during the Marcos and Aquino administrations, but the speaker was not able to come due to bad weather. Nevertheless, we get to see military hardware and related-memorabilia ranging from the katipuneros and the guardia civil, the resistance against Japanese occupation, the volunteers in Korea (a section dedicated to former president Ramos), to its role in the Marcos-Aquino years.

Guns, guns, I just freakin' love guns!
Flags and banners said to be captured by the military during raids.

"Good ol' days"
Circa 2,000,000 B.C.E
Even if I did not end up pursuing History, our trip to the AFP museum reignited my interest in the subject. It was just unfortunate that it didn't end up the way I had planned. Reality (breaking dreams since puberty) had forced me to choose a different path. It's a very long story, so I need not bore you with the "history" behind it. The bottom line is that I ended up taking a course that is not called "history" (not saying that I hate my current course... but it does have elements of history on it so I don't mind really)

When all you do in a particular subject is to memorize dates, places, and names of dead people, it is no surprise that many people look down on History. The measly pay that always is associated with the field makes it seem worse. I always wanted to ask my classmates, who are majoring in History, why they choose to pursue it, but haven't found courage to do so. I assumed that they pursue it because they love it, and assuming that it's true, I really envy them.

C'est la vie!

HIGHWAY TO HELL: A Freshman's First Sem (with updated notes and comments)

Taken from "The Gainers," the Joint Official Publication of the Management Circle and Junior Finance Executives at the University of the Philippines Visayas Cebu College (Management Division [now Management Cluster]) Academic Year 2009-2010. Volume II


by Leo Jaymar G. Uy, freshman

UP Cebu, BS Management, 2009-4****

When I learned that I passed the UPCAT, I knew from that moment that I would be spending the next 4 years of my academic life as an “Isko”. My parents did not really care about the other entrance exams that I’ve taken. Expectations boiled down to the much talked-about UPCAT. Forget Ateneo, Santo Tomas, and Xavier, regardless of which campus, UP without any doubt occupies the top spot on their list.

From then on, I spent a lot of time thinking about what to expect in college. I thought of ways to cope with the transition that I’d soon undergo. I would be thrown into an open sea of indefinite possibilities. Having to spend my college life outside of my comfort zone I call “home” and having to deal with a new bunch of people, I’m well aware it’s not going to be a walk in the park. Going there would mean giving up my habit of spending much time on the computer and on playing video games. [1] It would also mean that I would have to leave my best buds and family behind. Of course, I tried not to be too much of an optimist since screw-ups from the early get-going are to be expected from a freshman. My expectations proved to be true when I went there for pre-enrolment and enrolment processes. It was so frustrating that I began having second thoughts whether I made the right decision in taking the risk of leaving my comfort zone. That has got to be the most frustrating, infuriating, hair-pulling, *expletive*, *expletive*, and *expletive* experience I’ve had to date. [2]

Putting aside doubts and expectations on the enrolment process, I pushed myself to embrace life as a “UPian.”[3] However, sometime during the adjustment process, homesickness kicks in. Not that I’m not expecting it to happen, but it was still a very dreadful experience. I was left clueless on howto deal with these situations since it was my first time to face them by myself.I would often talk to my parents or my best buds from high school for advice or just for the sake of company. I could still talk to them through SMS and make calls through my cellphone, but I seldom communicate with them since I know they’re also busy with their own lives. Now for most of the time, I’m left on this new milieu all by myself, besieged by the pressure and confusions of first-year college hysteria. It was then that I realized that college was way different from my happy go-lucky days in high school where you can just dimwittedly act around with your friends… and still get good grades. It took me a few weeks to finally get over the hump and resumed doing my things as an Isko. From what I’ve learned in the university, every exam counts – your life depends on it. Also, you must have the energy to read lengthy materials in a short time and know its point. Most teachers no longer care about class attendance and they would no longer give follow-ups if you’re lacking requirements. One failed exam and that could spell disaster on your part. Bringing that in mind, I decided to spend most of my time doing paper works and lesson reviews no matter how it sounds “geeky”to others and still have an adequate time to leisure myself. [4]

I’ve been hearing stories about the Management course being as hard as hell. One time, I asked one senior about the course and said that the “fun” starts upon reaching the third year of our college life (if I make it). [5] So far, the first semester has been an up and down experience. I get to meet new friends, live semi-independently,and experience almost sleepless nights just to finish writing my reports and term papers. [6] Things might get draggy as a college student but as a Chinese proverb once said, “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials." [7]

Welcome to college! [8]


[1] Not quite, but no high-end video games for me. I’m stuck with playing “dated” ones.
[2] There are worse experiences at this point, though as a “freshie,” it was still discouraging.
[3] Sue me! 
[4] I miss writing reaction papers.
[5] I didn’t. I transferred to Diliman the next year.
[6] One of the biggest problems a freshie could experience. I miss that.
[7] Still applicable, just because of the fact that it’s a Chinese proverb!
[8] I’ll miss the academic stress.