Noble savage is a term which captures the idea that, in their natural or 'primitive' state, humans are essentially good. The term is often attributed to the Earl of Shaftesbury.
In his Inquiry Concerning Virtue (1699), he postulated that the moral sense in humans is natural and innate and based on feelings. Shaftesbury was reacting to Hobbes's famous formulation (in justification of royal absolutism), that in a state of nature men are depraved and their lives are "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short".
The notion of the natural state derives from the writings of Cicero and of Lucretius, both of whom were popular in eighteenth century, after having been revived in the optimistic atmosphere of Renaissance humanism.
Robert Spencer has argued in his book The Myth of Islamic Tolerance that the myth of the noble savage has distorted the perception of some westerners about Islam, leading to the strange phenomenon of non-Muslim Westerners “hastening to assure the public that the Islam of the terrorists is not the 'true Islam,' which is, they maintain, a benign and tolerant thing.”
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