Evil

Source: Wikipedia.

In another thread I happened to say, “It is not realistic to be nice to evil.” Those words inspired some pushback.

To me, the most surprising pushback involved a notion that it is wrong to identify evil in the world. The underlying assumption seemed to be that citing evil is polarizing or destabilizing of social order and — in any case — the ability to recognize evil is purely subjective.

I am not convinced. I say of evil the same thing I say of God: You can prove to yourself that evil exists through personal experience, even if you cannot convince others of its objective reality.

Also, it is not necessary to couch the concept of evil in religious or spiritual terms. I don’t recommend secularism in any of its forms for the simple reason that it cuts away the major part of humanity’s heritage. That would be like trying to operate an ISO 9000-based quality system without any record of lessons learned.

But if you are determined to be secular or scientific on the nature of evil, you can be, as Wikipedia shows. My guess is that modern relativism on the nature of evil won’t last long, because the denial of actual human experience always runs out of gas.

32 thoughts on “Evil

  1. To define evil I think you must start with basic principles.

    The basic principle of libertarians is self-ownership. No one has a greater claim on your life, and the proceeds of how you use your life then you do. Thus, anything that asserts a greater claim on your life then your own is evil.

    If on the other hand, you believe your life belongs to God, then religion, not reason, defines evil as what is offensive to God..

    If you believe the collective has a greater claim or your life then you do, then government defines evil as anything contrary to the good of the collective. That government could be a king, an elite, or worst of all, democracy.

    So, to define evil, who owns your life?

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    1. Would that it was so simple.

      You own your life. You have 1,000 loaves of bread. In front of you is a starving child. You decide to keep all the bread and let the child die. Are you evil? You own your life. He owns his life. So, no problem. Right?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would be within my rights to let the child starve, but it would be against my long term interests even were it not contrary to my own sense of compassion.

        But consider, You have 1000 loaves of bread, am I entitled to rob you at gunpoint to feed the child?

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        1. If it is “evil” at all, robbing you at gunpoint to feed that child would be less “evil” than your choosing not to feed her IF your moral system puts ANY value on human life.

          Two points. . .

          1. The world is not as black and white as your philosophy imagines.

          2. “It would be against my long-term interests” as is most of your opposition to the reforms that we “leftists” advocate. IMHO. The society that makes your wealth and comfort possible cannot continue as it is now in our country without dire consequences for everyone. Trumpism, militias, January 6th are the first signs of that.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. That hungry child may contribute something of value to society some day.

            But in any case, there are better ways to get that child a loaf of bread than for you or government to seize it and give it to him.

            First, it is the responsibility of his parents to feed him. I have lot of small willows that need clearing from around my pond that they could take care of to earn it. At worst, if the parents are not available, I could exchange that loaf of bread for a promise of such labor at a later date when he is old enough.

            There is always some arrangement that can be made that does not make him a beggar.

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          2. “There is always some arrangement that can be made that does not make him a beggar.”

            That is a dodge to escape the fact that your Libertarian moral system based very simply on owning your own life breaks down very quickly in a real society that has more than one person in it. You know that arbitrarily denying a child the basics of life is “evil,” but your system does not explain why.

            Liked by 1 person

    2. RE: “The basic principle of libertarians is self-ownership.”

      That would be consistent with the etymology of the word evil as Wikipedia describes it. That is, evil might be viewed as a transgression against self-ownership.

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  2. “Those words inspired some pushback.”

    Because the context made it clear that you believe that people who view things differently than you do are evil. That is a classic Trump way of thinking which you people exhibit all the time. For example, you do not like President Biden’s policies, so he is “corrupt.” You think the FDA made the wrong call on this or that, so they are deliberately killing people. Terrorists manage to kill four Americans in Benghazi, just has Hillary Clinton wanted. I could go on and on.

    What is particularly galling about your attitude is that you offer unconditional support for someone, who by all past norms of decent, non-evil behavior, fails BIGLY. Leave aside all the manifestations of the seven deadly sins, the corrupt business practices and a lifetime of sexual perversity and just focus on the ongoing attempts to undermine democracy culminating in violence against our representatives. Now tell us how support for Medicare-for-all, affordable higher education and living wages is “evil.”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Psychoanalysis? I think the comment was about describing actions perpetuated by the last president as manifestations of evil regardless of his mindset.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I am referring to Mr. Murphy claiming to know my beliefs and motives, even though I never stated any of the things he catalogs.

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          2. Anyone with an 8th grade reading comprehension level can identify your beliefs and motives based on what you post, what you share, and the ways you attempt to deny them.

            You don’t need a degree in Psychology to read words. You should try that sometime.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Your beliefs and motives inform what you write. You pull this lame dodge all the time. No mind-reading or psychiatry required.

            In this case you accused those who disagree with your point of view of being “evil.” That is the CLEAR implication of what you wrote and the context in which you wrote it.

            Maybe you got carried away with the “cuteness” of “It is not realistic to be nice to evil” and really meant no such accusation. Fine. Then apologize.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Evil, a loaded word today, is strictly a human construct.

    If my neighbor were a single mother with two young children and I killed them in order to have the woman bear and raise my children, is that evil? Of course.

    It is not uncommon in many other species of animals. Male bears are the biggest danger to a female with cubs. Is that evil?
    Of course not. Just procreation “Darwin style”.

    Are puppy mills more or less evil than sexual slavery? Why? Or, why not?

    We find sexual slavery more evil by the punishment meted out.

    Yet, both crimes brutalize sensate mammals.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. RE: “Evil, a loaded word today, is strictly a human construct.”

      That would be hard to prove, your examples not withstanding.

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        1. One comes to mind. I once watched a video of a lioness that enslaved an antelope. The lioness didn’t harm the antelope, but wouldn’t let it return to the herd, either. Eventually, the antelope died of starvation, and the lioness just walked away from the body.

          A rampaging elephant in must might be described as evil, too. Similar psychologies occur in other large mammals.

          In any case, to say that evil is a “human construct” doesn’t prove that evil has no objective reality.

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          1. By your observation, I suppose earthquakes, tornadoes, floods are evil too. COVID?

            Did the lion know the antelope would starve? Or was it protecting him with unintended consequences? Of course the lion walked away. What would you expect? A funeral?

            Liked by 1 person

          2. RE: “By your observation, I suppose earthquakes, tornadoes, floods are evil too. COVID?”

            The Wikipedia makes exactly that point in its survey of common concepts of evil.

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          3. Is a tornado touching down in uninhabited areas evil?

            To me evil needs intent not just a bad outcome. If you dropped a large stone on me from a cliff that would be an evil act.

            If the stone was just loose and dislodged then falling on me that is just bad luck.

            IMHANEO

            Liked by 1 person

  4. …”the most surprising pushback involved a notion that it is wrong to identify evil in the world”

    The pushback I saw had more to do with labeling political rivals or policy differences as “evil”. Calling one’s you disagree with evil is a perfect way to shut down debates you don’t like. It is not a healthy way to address the real issues in the world, and particularly this country.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. RE: “Calling one’s you disagree with evil is a perfect way to shut down debates you don’t like.”

    I agree. In fact, I posted the Wikipedia article to show that evil is a valid concept. I don’t think I have ever accused any person of being evil, but if evil is a valid concept it would be fair to do so, so long as I could back it up.

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    1. “I don’t think I have ever accused any person of being evil”

      Uh, think again.

      You admitted to frequent incivility but then rationalized that behavior saying, “It is not realistic to be nice to evil.” That is a de facto accusation, and it is that accusation that triggered “pushback.”

      Liked by 1 person

        1. No, it is not my imagination. It is simple comprehension of what YOU write. No mind-reading. No psychiatry. No imagination required.

          Too bad that you are writing things so frequently that you then want to weasel out of with bullshit like this.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. RE: “It is simple comprehension of what YOU write.”

          What is your evidence of comprehension? You do know that a “de facto accusation” is an accusation in fact, don’t you? That means an accusation actually made, not one that you have inferred or interpreted.

          I challenge you to search every word I have ever written in the Forum to find ANY instance of my calling another person evil. If you can’t, then my accusation exists only in your imagination.

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        3. “… my accusation exists only in your imagination.”

          Nonsense.

          The accusation of “evil” was clear. I was not the only one who understood your comment to be directed at those you are routinely uncivil towards. You know you really should be more civil, but, gee, it is difficult because “It is not realistic to be nice to evil.”

          Here are your exact words in a thread about incivility on this forum. . .

          “I have certainly posted insults and bickered, so I am part of the problem. I wish I weren’t but I don’t know what else to do. It is not realistic to be nice to evil.”

          Your continuing to deny the very clear accusation directed at your political opponents is either stupidity, dishonesty, and/or sheer bloody-minded stubbornness. Take your pick.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. RE: “Your continuing to deny the very clear accusation directed at your political opponents…”

          Who do you think my political opponents are? I didn’t name them or identify them in any way. They are just imaginary or hypothetical persons, which is the point.

          If YOU took offense, you only imagined yourself accused of evil.

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