idealism and human nature

How do you describe human nature to be? Is man intrinsically good or evil?

Or is man a thinking capable of so much wonder and idealistic virtue...but also a creature of flawed thinking and vices?

I ask this since the political debates that plague the blogosphere and society all boil down to what is is the true nature of man. In studying history, there are those you read about who have an idealistic - almost utopian - vision of society. With their theories on a given economic/political/ethical philosophy, these dreamers and thinkers have the plan and solution to lift man up to something new and better.

Traditionally, the term "liberal" was used to describe this lot; those who believe that the creation or modification of institutions can be use to change the condition of man. But the term has the obvious connotation of lumping all idealists into the center-left of the political spectrum, when this is clearly not the case.

When we talk of idealists in the political context, this include disparate groups ranging from the Moral Majority of the 1980s to the Anarchists of the 1890s; from the Progressive activists in the turn to the 20th century to the Tea Party activists of the turn of the 21st century. Idealism knows no boundaries and knows no political party - idealism is a common part of every ideological faction we know of.

Idealism is not universal, and there are those "realists" who have the view that human nature is unchanging and eternal. To Realists, the way man behaves is hardened over generations and generations - to the point where the action of most people is predictable and repetitive.

Whether you consider yourself an Idealist or Realist depends heavily on your take of human nature - is man a flawed and defected creature? Or can man be bettered and reformed?

Can the ills plaguing the world - whatever you think they are - be ended if those problems stem from the innate nature of man?

For most of my life, I had the view that someone can change the world; I hoped to change the world. But in reading history and current events over the years, my idealism has been tempered and my cynicism sharpened. What's that saying from Socrates? "The more one learns, the less one knows"? I don't know of an adequate way to change the world without changing human nature itself. And can that be done?

I think it boils down to the scope of "changing the world": can world peace be achieved, or hunger be eliminated? I don't think so, at least, not yet. But can I do something to help another person and change their life for the better? Absolutely.

While I still fee some hopelessness for our future, I still think doing something is better than nothing; at least we can say we tried. Right?