Monday, November 3, 2014

The Nonexistence of Evil

I've wondered for years how to define evil, especially how to define it so it couldn't be turned back against you. You know - "You're evil!" "No, you're evil, not me!" "No, you're wrong! It's you - not me!"

Around and around and around it goes, and where it stops - well, it ever stops.

I remember Reagan calling the Soviet Union "the Evil Empire" and how Shrub, Bush I's nitwit son, referred to the U.S. being attacked "for our goodness" yet some Muslims referred to the U.S. as "the Great Satan."

We considered them Satanic and they considered us Satanic. So who is "Satanic" and who isn't? Both? Neither? Partly? Is there a line somewhere, that once you cross it, you're evil? Where's that line?

By the way, in Milton's Paradise Lost, Satan's great sins were pride, envy and hate (for all the practical purposes, hate and envy are the same thing).

It was all just so tiresome.

Then some years ago I realized there was no Evil, which was why I couldn't define it. No one can. People have been trying since who knows when and gotten nowhere.

When you define someone as Evil, then it's always okay to blame all your problems on them and murder them if need be. Which has been the history of the world.

Then, of course, there will be no more Evil in the world. Har har! Pull my other leg!

Blaming all your problems on other people is called "projection." The older word used is "scapegoating," and it's based on "I am right and you are wrong. Not just wrong, but evillll!!!!" That's what Hubris/Pride is, which is why it tops the list of sins, is considered the absolute worst of all, and the basis of all the rest.

Now when I say there is no Evil, some people immediately have conniption fits, because they think it exists, even though they have never thought about. For them it's just an automatic, thoughtless reaction. "Of course there is evil...even though I can't exactly define it."

What there is instead of Evil are the Seven Deadly Sins - Pride (Hubris), Envy, Greed, Wrath, etc. When you take any of those things to an extreme, that's "evil." There is not any one "evil"; there are just those flaws and sins of humanity. That's why there is no "evil."

Of course, it is so easy to point fingers and howl, "Evil!" That's just cheap. Such finger-pointing causes nothing but problems.

People tell me, "But what about rapists and child murderers and serial killers and blah blah blah?" Such people have no conscience, and no guilt, and these days are called "psychopaths." In the past it was just Hubris, which was originally defined as having a sexual component to it. That is, sadism. Those Greeks were not stupid - they considered the worst of Hubris to be moral insanity..

Some researchers claim psychopaths "don't really exist," and I understand their point. In many ways the name is just a convenient fiction, because it's so hard to define. Some "psychopaths" are pretty much harmless and just an annoyance. Others, rape, murder, mutilate, cannibalize - over and over and over.

Hubris, envy, wrath...it's far more accurate to analyze human nature according to those "sins" ("sin" actually means "to miss the mark").

Everyone, is varying degrees, is prone to the Seven Deadly Sins. For some, they barely are familiar with them (I never felt envy until I was 27). Others are consumed by them. It's the people who are consumed by the worst of them - say, pride and envy and wrath - who cause about 99% of the problems in the world.

I used to think there was a bell curve from good to evil. I think it's more accurate to think there is a bell curve of each of the Seven Deadly Sins. Unfortunately there are a few people who are at the far end of that curve when it comes to the worst of those sins.

Those people are the ones considered monsters.

28 comments:

Glen Filthie said...

Evil does indeed walk the land and sometimes those monsters can induce weak, stupid and ignorant people to follow them. Look at the gays, the feminists and the liberals in general. They mass murder children, they pervert sex and the family, they advocate the legalization of theft and murder in various forms.
You can't tell me they are good folks Bob. I can so define evil even if you can't.

kurt9 said...

Actually, I think evil does exist, but is very rare.

kurt9 said...

I would define "evil" as the true intellectual sociopath. This is the individual who torments and kills others with a clear, untroubled mind for no reason at all. No childhood trauma, organic brain problem, or any other psychological or physiological cause is involved. Yes, I believe such people exist. But fortunately they are quite rare.

Anonymous said...

Evil is the corruption of the good.

Bob Wallace said...

Every country considers itself "good" so the ones who disagree with it are "evil." So we're back to the same problem.

Glen Filthie said...

Really.

Does the USA consider itself "good" Bob? Elderly pacifists, gay hipsters and hairy chested feminists will line up ten deep to call Bush a mass murderer. The childish libertarian tea partiers will line up 100 deep. Conservatives will point to the current baboon in the Whitehouse and how he is undermining the constitution and the potential evils of that. Guys like you can have your say too.

In the middle east those animals decapitate toddlers, shoot their fathers without trials, and consider terror to be a political tool. Those moslem monkeys don't care one whit about good and evil - it's all about power, and who you have to betray or kill to control it. They need their stupid religion to justify their actions or those morons wouldn't be able to live with themselves or sleep at night.

Moral relativism is the hallmark of the idiot and the liberal, Bob. You are far too smart a man to indulge in it, IMO.

Anonymous said...

St. Augustine- certainly no relativist- would agree. Evil is not a thing in and of itself; rather, it is a disharmony or disordered relation between good things, in which one thing which is fundamentally good in itself is prized to the detriment of another good thing, even though the first good thing ought by rights be subordinate to the second. For example, when one worships oneself, to the detriment of one's obedience to and reverence of God, you have the sin of Pride, the most fundamental of sins- in this sense, just a fancy word for "selfishness" (Aquinas distinguished several different meanings of the word "Pride", so it's important to be clear).

Likewise, in disordered lust, urges good and noble in themselves- the urge to reproduce, the urge for physical pleasure, the need to feel attractive and desirable- are placed over and above the higher good of Chastity in oneself and in others. The lustful person fulfills his or her desires, not fundamentally evil in themselves, by ignoring the damage that he or she risks to self and to partner- the ruin of another's reputation, feelings of guilt and shame, growing fondly attached to someone one has no intention of marrying, risking STDs, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, etc. All the rest of the 7 deadly sins have the same fundamental character (Envy is a little weird compared to the others, but Bob has covered this before).

The extreme cases that we like to refer to as "Evil" are simply those in which an extremely trivial or unimportant good thing has been raised up over a deep and fundamental good. The protagonist in "Folsom Prison Blues" took a desire for a very trivial kind of knowledge (his curiosity about what it looks like when a man dies), and made that more important than the sanctity of human life. We would rightly call it "Evil", but that doesn't mean that desire for knowledge is in itself wrong- quite the contrary.

Bob Wallace said...

Yes - lack of harmony, of balance, of wholeness (the word "whole" comes from the same root as "holy" and "health" and "hale").

outsider said...

I think computer programmers are evil. Because the programs they write are so bad the people who wrote them are evil.

Bob Wallace said...

In that case, Bill Gates is evil. ;-)

earl said...

Satan and his demon followers exist. Don't be tricked into thinking they don't.

Robert What? said...

Well that's an interesting perspective.

Axe Head said...

"...and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the psychopathic one."

Amen.

on2something said...

You most certainly are deluded if you can't define evil. It seems pretty self evident to me.

There is an absolutely evil being called Satan, whether you wish you to accept it or not. There is a spiritual realm where demons do exist. To deny such a thing is absolute folly.

Evil spills over and manifests itself in many, many different ways. Take it to the bank.

Mindstorm said...

If you have a problem with defining 'evil', then imagine problems that some people face trying to define 'causality'....

Well, to quote a fictional character from a XIX century book:
"the difference between good and evil is this: Kali steal cow -- that good; someone steal Kali's cow -- that bad".

Mindstorm said...

OK, no more jokes from me. The problem with evil is that it does not exist outside the minds that perceive it. Any system of morality requires sentience.

Mindstorm said...

Is Ebola intrinsically evil? Or any other plague that targets some animal species in the wild? If first is evil and second is not, then why?

Bob Wallace said...

"The problem with evil is that it does not exist outside the minds that perceive it. Any system of morality requires sentience."

That's one of the lessons of the story of the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve don't know good and evil until they gain self-awareness. That story may just be a "myth," but myths don't last for thousands of years unless there is great truth to them.

Glen Filthie said...

HAR HAR HAR!

And because our philosopher-kings cannot perceive evil - it therefore cannot exist!

You guys think like women! Okay fellas...maybe the devil didn't make ya do it.

Those of us with triple digit IQ's will have no problem acknowledging that stupidity and evil are old friends.

Mindstorm said...

@Anonymous above.

So, in other words, 'evil', according to St. Augustine, is just a fancy word for priorities out of whack?

I disagree, because it ignores cases of exceptionally weak conscience (regardless of the cause or more often a knot of causes). As with almost anything else, there is a spectrum with clustering in the middle.

Mindstorm said...

Har har har some more, Glen. What your purportedly high IQ has to say about qualia? A similar problem, at least from my point of view. Are you sure that my idea of redness is exactly the same as yours? What about people unable to distinguish it from gray?

Bob Wallace said...

Mindstorm,


These days, people with weak consciences are known as narcissists/psychopaths/borderline. Sometimes, as in the case of psychopaths, they have no conscience at all. All of them fall under the description of Pride/Hubris, because they ultimately put themselves above everything else. You could they worship themselves. So with them, everything is out of balance - them above everything else.

Anonymous said...

"You most certainly are deluded if you can't define evil. It seems pretty self evident to me.

There is an absolutely evil being called Satan, whether you wish you to accept it or not. There is a spiritual realm where demons do exist. To deny such a thing is absolute folly.
"

Satan, you will recall, was originally created good by God- indeed, he was perhaps the highest, wisest, and noblest of the angels, or at least amongst their order. It was only when he attempted to put himself above God and usurp God's throne that he became "Evil". With free will, he chose to upset the Divinely-ordained hierarchy, but his God-given nature included the capacity for good, as well as sinfulness. Satan is not the wicked demiurge of Gnosticism. Evil was not created as an independent "thing" by God; it enters the world through misuse of free will.

Unlike humans, Satan is incapable of repentance because he has been in God's direct presence, and has perfect knowledge of Heaven and Hell; his rejection of Heaven is one he can never be persuaded to alter. Humans can waffle and change their minds, at least before death, because we don't really understand what either place is like, no matter how vividly Dante may have described them.

Mindstorm said...

A great method of winning any argument is declaring oneself as the mouthpiece of some indisputable authority.

Is there any higher authority possible than 'The God Almighty'?

I'm not playing the game with someone declaring disagreement as 'absolute folly'.

Glen Filthie said...

Take your ball and go home then, Mindstorm. But take this as well:

If there is no evil - it follows that there are no evil acts or intentions. Are you good with that?

It also follows that we should not punish evil doers because they are only conforming to their own moral and ethical code. Are you good with that too?

One trait I have noticed in all truly evil people is that they all claim to be victims of others...and that they were FORCED to do the shameful things they've done.

I don't speak for God, I don't have a high IQ. I am a critical thinker and would recommend that you boys give it a whirl. You are capable of it, I know that for a fact.

Regardless, I know there is good and evil in all of us and that with the exception of the severely mentally ill - we can choose to act on good or evil impulses.

Mindstorm said...

Glen, it takes a mind to perceive evil, as it takes eyes to perceive color. Neither evil nor color are intrinsic qualities of acts or objects. A gun killing innocents isn't evil, but the gunman providing the intent is. No evil intent - no evil.

Are you obtuse, or just pulling my leg?

Mindstorm said...

Heh, maybe I should write 'gunperson' just for giggles. For equality, LOL.

Mindstorm said...

Qualities? Attributes?

It's difficult to explain properly when English isn't my mother tongue.