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What is "evil"

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A question, long debated and in no way will this post EVER stop it nor will it define it, nevertheless it is a good question. How can we, human beings, define evil? Is anything that purposefully causes pain and suffering "evil"? In that case we are all evil. We hurt ourselves, in a way, through challenges, bad decisions, and purposefully doing things that directly cause pain to us. What I mean by this is that if we are to define "evil" so loosely it is too broad to be really applicable to anything. If we say this is evil then every single politician ever has been evil since all actions have the butterfly effect on personal levels. All politicians have purposefully hurt someone in the sense that they have passed, voted on, struck down, etc. a law/interpretation/whatever that has in some way hurt someone. Are the courts that upheld child labor in the United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries evil? Are the lawmakers who opposed slavery evil? Are all soldiers evil? Of course not, not all these people are evil, at least for there times. During the 19th and 20th centuries child labor was considered perfectly fine and many who opposed child labor were seen as "too soft" does this mean that we need to think of every father or mother that put Little Billy to work is evil? What about slavery? Was slavery evil? In the practice that existed and ever has existed: yes, most people who are alive today consider slavery evil. Does that mean that the slave owners are evil? Does this mean that using animals as slaves is evil? By this I mean mostly work animals such and dogs, mules, camels, horses, etc. but the idea is the same. What is evil? At what point do we say, "this is evil and this isn't" a natural assumption is to say that, "it's a lot of grey area and it depends on case to case." and I can totally see that point of view, however I personally believe that internally we apply certain rules that go something like this:

 

Personal effect: a person who kills a robber isn't considered evil, a person who kills merely for pleasure is usually considered evil. a person robbing a story for medicine money is considered far less evil that a person robbing a store for kicks. In essence: what does that evil-doer get in return? Why is this act committed? What led the person to commit such actions?

 

Severity: A person shot in the head or who is killed via euthanasia is usually considered far less evil than say: chopping someone to bids or drawing out their death for hours or days. To what extent was this action carried out? Did it last for a long time? Does the person who suffers from the action recover from it or does it scar them in more ways than one?

 

Frequency: How often was this evil committed? Spying on your neighbor once because you think he slept with your wife usually isn't considered evil (just creepy as fuck) but if you were to spy on the entire neighborhood for years, people would probably call that evil. How often does this evil occur? If often how many people did it effect?

 

Attitude: Take a mother who smothered her baby because it kept crying and she didn't want her and her entire family killed/raped (and this does happen a lot with modern civil wars) she's probably scared, panicked, and deeply apologetic after the fact. A mother how smothers her child because they wouldn't eat their vegetables would be considered evil. How does one feel during the act and after the act? What emotions are coursing through them at the time.

 

Intentionality: A politician passes a bill that raises the price of wheat in a certain region of the country. Because of this food prices are raised and many many people are forced to go hungry or be unable to make ends meet, is that evil? What about a politician who passes a bill that allows the police to execute civilians and then sets up a quota system? A person who causes suffering through intentional acts, but end up hurting people from unexpected consequences are generally not considered evil. Those who intentionally do an action knowing full well it will hurt someone makes it seems far more evil.

 

Viewpoints: A women beats her child for talking back to her, she beats the child so hard that leaves large bruises on the child's arm. Evil? What if I told you this was during the Great Depression? What if I told you that this happened last night in San Fransisco? How society views actions in any given place/time/scenario greatly determines if something is considered evil or not.

 

This is just scratching the surface of the problem, let me know what you think about evil, what is considered evil, and how to define it. I'm always looking for intellectual debate or discussion.

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It's awfully relative as you said. Nazis thought erasing ''inferior'' ''races'' off the map was good and the allies were evil from trying to stop them. I think a hunter may be evil for hunting animals, the hunter may think he's saved us all the oxygen the animal was about to breathe and thus, he isn't evil.

 

Now, what I consider as evil is any premeditated action that will directly or indirectly harm a living being unnecessarily. I would accept hunting if it were for survival, but ending the lifes of other beings... for a sport? I wouldn't consider it THAT evil if the hunter isn't conscious that he's killing another living being (no, I'm not talking about some blind hunter or anything like that).

 

Let me see if I can explain myself better with an example:

 

Someone murders another person to take it's belongings from them: For me this is evil, even in survivalist cases. But it's way more understandable than someone murdering someone just to feel good because of it. Also, people may be aware that someone dies when they murder them. What they usually don't acknowledge is the meaning of their action. Killing a person is ending it's life, everything that was, will and would have been, making their family and friends suffer the loss of a possible life mate, erasing someone off physical existence.. Taking the opportunity to live from someone and acknowledging what you're doing and still doing it seems to me like pure evil. Specially when it's done without being necessary. I appreciate life more than almost anything and in case that someone threatens my life, I'd be willing to kill them in order to save my life. I'd consider that action evil but not as evil as the guy trying to kill me just to feel good about himself or get a big adrenaline rush, he'd be like x10^3 evil.

 

You explained well what evil is considered generally so I won't paraphrase that. :P

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On purely theoretical basis I decided long ago that evil is what leads to an increase in entropy and good is what deminishes it.

 

The trouble is that with such complicated systems as the biosphere and our human society it is awfully difficult to foresee what would do what after you take into consideration the possible consequences.

 

Therefore, personally we look only at the immediate effects of an action and may consider it good or evil, yet, others, perhaps in the future and with the benefit of hindsight or better informed and having the luxury of seeing a bigger picture - they may judge the same actions differently.

 

Just my 2 cents...

 

Regards

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The idea of Justice has the same problem. The way I see it, people are like books that are all the same story but from different views. If you don't read them all, then the next in the series is bound to confuse you. If you read them in the wrong order, you're ethical and protagonist view towards other story's characters won't be seen the same way as others. You could read from the bad guy's story before the good guy's and think the wrong man was prosecuted. Only the author really knows what is Just in this series.

 

In those sitcoms where the character does something and when another character walks in on and thinks "WTF" and the first guy says "You don't understand let me explain," But the other character thinks badly of the first guy forever while you know what was really going on, share the point I try to make.

 

So all I can conclude, there is no evil or good. Just what is or isn't going our way.

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So all I can conclude, there is no evil or good. Just what is or isn't going our way.

 

 

I can definitely understand where you're coming from on this: every situation is different and every prospective is different. I can see that BUT what you're describing seems more good vs. bad, right and wrong, that kind of thing. For me evil is far more than simple conflicting ideals or a crime. There is a big difference, for me at least, between robbing a store (bad but not evil) and breaking into an orphanage and shooting all the children in the face.

 

This is an extreme example I know but I just wanted to demonstrate what i meant.

 

So I do get what you're saying but it seems to me that falls more under right and wrong.

 

And while I'm on this topic I've been talking with some people on the outernet (that scary place that is also referred to as "outside") and one of them brought up a very good point. For them evil is the corruption of love in order to gain something. When you have someone love and idea, place, or person and use that love to trick a person into doing a bad thing: that is evil. While I can see that point I still think that evil can be done without corruption of love.

 

Sorry, not relevant to what you were saying but it was such a good point I HAD to share it.

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There is a very thin line between "bad" and "evil"...

 

From your description your "evil" seems to be "quite bad" + "immoral". And for me immorality basically equates to breach of trust, so, your friend's definition of "corruption of love for a gain" is quite close, except I would still use "trust".

 

As a very simplistic example, one soldier shooting another during a war is not immoral, because there is no trust relationship between the soldiers of the opposing sides. On the other hand, an adult shooting a child is immoral because children trust adults not to harm them and the shooting breaches that trust.

 

But then there is still the underlying question of where do the trust relationships come from and we have to go back to the fundamental or absolute good and bad (and I mean absolute as somethings that exists in the Universe regardless whether humans are there or not).

 

Regards

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So all I can conclude, there is no evil or good. Just what is or isn't going our way.
Unless you're talking on a super-meta level, I have to disagree with this. I mean in the big picture, we're a speck of life the universe probably doesn't care about, so yeah, anything that happens, isn't good or evil in any sense that matters. On the planet Earth however, there's plenty of things that can be defined as good or evil in almost any context. For example, if I go around kidnapping people and chopping their hands off because I want to decorate my fence with them and I don't care about their pain, well, there's not really any defense of an action like that. I tend to get defensive when people say there is NO good or evil because that moral ambiguity is the sort of thing sociopaths purposefully exploit. For their purposes, it only benefits them for people to believe there is no evil as that provides more of a tolerance for actions that are clearly evil. There are grey areas to be sure, but to deny it entirely I think only works in a cosmic sense. A rock doesn't have good or evil, but people do.

 

A politician passes a bill that raises the price of wheat in a certain region of the country. Because of this food prices are raised and many many people are forced to go hungry or be unable to make ends meet, is that evil?
I like this example. I think besides how intentional something is, responsibility is also an issue. Taken at face value, assuming the politician couldn't have predicted these consequences, the politician is not immediately evil, even if the consequences of his actions ARE. The "test of evil" in this scenario is what the politician does AFTER learning the outcome of his actions. Politicians are in a position of power, which carries responsibility behind it. If the politician later realizes what he has done is harming people and tries to rectify it, then he's not evil, he's just flawed / ignorant. If he realizes what he's done, feels bad about it, does nothing to remedy it, but will never pursue action like that again without more careful research, then I'd say he's still not evil, but not good either. If he ignores the negative consequences and feels no remorse about his actions and / or CONTINUES to do further actions like that, then yeah, I'd say evil. Unintentionally committing an act that causes evil doesn't make the person evil, but not caring about the consequences of those actions does.

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A politician passes a bill that raises the price of wheat in a certain region of the country. Because of this food prices are raised and many many people are forced to go hungry or be unable to make ends meet, is that evil?
I like this example. I think besides how intentional something is, responsibility is also an issue. Taken at face value, assuming the politician couldn't have predicted these consequences, the politician is not immediately evil, even if the consequences of his actions ARE. The "test of evil" in this scenario is what the politician does AFTER learning the outcome of his actions. Politicians are in a position of power, which carries responsibility behind it. If the politician later realizes what he has done is harming people and tries to rectify it, then he's not evil, he's just flawed / ignorant. If he realizes what he's done, feels bad about it, does nothing to remedy it, but will never pursue action like that again without more careful research, then I'd say he's still not evil, but not good either. If he ignores the negative consequences and feels no remorse about his actions and / or CONTINUES to do further actions like that, then yeah, I'd say evil. Unintentionally committing an act that causes evil doesn't make the person evil, but not caring about the consequences of those actions does.

So you would consider Obama to be evil then right? He forced through the healthcare bill, and ignored all the people who said it would be destructive... Now that is has proven it's destructiveness, (there have been lots of job losses connected to it, insurance costs are way up, forcing people who don't need it to pay for it, forcing people who don't even use it to pay for other people's healthcare, etc.) he still isn't doing anything about it.

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So you would consider Obama to be evil then right? He forced through the healthcare bill, and ignored all the people who said it would be destructive... Now that is has proven it's destructiveness, (there have been lots of job losses connected to it, insurance costs are way up, forcing people who don't need it to pay for it, forcing people who don't even use it to pay for other people's healthcare, etc.) he still isn't doing anything about it.

 

Are you sitting under a rock? Read this page:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obamacare. Anyway, my two cents on the matter is that evil cannot really be defined, but evil people can, in particular pedophiles, dictators, and especially fundamentalists of any group or people.

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With the sort of "death of Christianity" looming over western societies, we will likely see more "evil" occur since there will be no easily available, relatively simple morality to guide a lot of people.

 

This century will be vital in the history of western nations: Basically, we need to establish some type of "new morality" and the appropriate justifications. In the meantime, there will be a quite good deal of chaos in western societies.

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So you would consider Obama to be evil then right? He forced through the healthcare bill, and ignored all the people who said it would be destructive... Now that is has proven it's destructiveness, (there have been lots of job losses connected to it, insurance costs are way up, forcing people who don't need it to pay for it, forcing people who don't even use it to pay for other people's healthcare, etc.) he still isn't doing anything about it.
That example I think is more grey. I see Obamacare as both helpful AND harmful to people, depending on what bracket a person is in. What I see as clear-cut evil is our system that rewards health insurance companies for denying coverage to people that need it at the same time they take in massive profits. That's literally profiting on the misery and death of people who need their help. Collectively, they spent about 500 million on lobbying in 2012. With Obamacare, Obama clearly compromised heavily with these forces, so that makes him "not good" at least. As for him being evil, his actions seem to deviate from what he says a lot. I can't really say if he's evil or not, his intentions seem totally unclear to me. I mostly see him as a conduit for larger forces at work.

 

With the sort of "death of Christianity" looming over western societies, we will likely see more "evil" occur since there will be no easily available, relatively simple morality to guide a lot of people.

 

This century will be vital in the history of western nations: Basically, we need to establish some type of "new morality" and the appropriate justifications. In the meantime, there will be a quite good deal of chaos in western societies.

I've thought many times that we should just rename the USA to "Crazyland" and it would make us far more consistent. You can point to Christianity as a source of morality, but in the USA, things get surreal. My favorite example of this was at the republican presidential candidate debates where Ron Paul was
for suggesting we abide by "the Golden Rule." So in other words, you have a demographic of people who are largely Christian booing somebody for quoting a central theme from Christianity.

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So you would consider Obama to be evil then right? He forced through the healthcare bill, and ignored all the people who said it would be destructive... Now that is has proven it's destructiveness, (there have been lots of job losses connected to it, insurance costs are way up, forcing people who don't need it to pay for it, forcing people who don't even use it to pay for other people's healthcare, etc.) he still isn't doing anything about it.
That example I think is more grey. I see Obamacare as both helpful AND harmful to people, depending on what bracket a person is in. What I see as clear-cut evil is our system that rewards health insurance companies for denying coverage to people that need it at the same time they take in massive profits. That's literally profiting on the misery and death of people who need their help. Collectively, they spent about 500 million on lobbying in 2012. With Obamacare, Obama clearly compromised heavily with these forces, so that makes him "not good" at least. As for him being evil, his actions seem to deviate from what he says a lot. I can't really say if he's evil or not, his intentions seem totally unclear to me. I mostly see him as a conduit for larger forces at work.

 

With the sort of "death of Christianity" looming over western societies, we will likely see more "evil" occur since there will be no easily available, relatively simple morality to guide a lot of people.

 

This century will be vital in the history of western nations: Basically, we need to establish some type of "new morality" and the appropriate justifications. In the meantime, there will be a quite good deal of chaos in western societies.

I've thought many times that we should just rename the USA to "Crazyland" and it would make us far more consistent. You can point to Christianity as a source of morality, but in the USA, things get surreal. My favorite example of this was at the republican presidential candidate debates where Ron Paul was https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGpXHYtkOS8 for suggesting we abide by "the Golden Rule." So in other words, you have a demographic of people who are largely Christian booing somebody for quoting a central theme from Christianity.

 

I certainly agree that American Evangelical Christianity can become very perverse at times. To me, the most horrifying thing is the "prosperity gospel" and "Christian Zionism."

 

In that same vein of craziness: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/old-testament-army/

 

I would point out though, that for a long time, most people were Christians, but not that radical or crazy in this nation. I think the fundamental truth stands about still needing a new morality. The end of the Cold War and the loss of desire to justify exactly who we Americans are, also creates new challenges.

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That example I think is more grey. I see Obamacare as both helpful AND harmful to people, depending on what bracket a person is in. What I see as clear-cut evil is our system that rewards health insurance companies for denying coverage to people that need it at the same time they take in massive profits. That's literally profiting on the misery and death of people who need their help. Collectively, they spent about 500 million on lobbying in 2012. With Obamacare, Obama clearly compromised heavily with these forces, so that makes him "not good" at least. As for him being evil, his actions seem to deviate from what he says a lot. I can't really say if he's evil or not, his intentions seem totally unclear to me. I mostly see him as a conduit for larger forces at work.

Might want to look at the rest of the stuff he lies about...

 

http://www.bizpacreview.com/2013/12/18/pinocchio-obamas-top-20-presidential-lies-89096

http://www.heraldonline.com/2014/01/11/5570513/here-are-obamas-top-10-lies.html

http://obamalies.net/

 

There are more, but I don't want to get too off topic...

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That example I think is more grey. I see Obamacare as both helpful AND harmful to people, depending on what bracket a person is in. What I see as clear-cut evil is our system that rewards health insurance companies for denying coverage to people that need it at the same time they take in massive profits. That's literally profiting on the misery and death of people who need their help. Collectively, they spent about 500 million on lobbying in 2012. With Obamacare, Obama clearly compromised heavily with these forces, so that makes him "not good" at least. As for him being evil, his actions seem to deviate from what he says a lot. I can't really say if he's evil or not, his intentions seem totally unclear to me. I mostly see him as a conduit for larger forces at work.

Might want to look at the rest of the stuff he lies about...

 

http://www.bizpacreview.com/2013/12/18/pinocchio-obamas-top-20-presidential-lies-89096

http://www.heraldonline.com/2014/01/11/5570513/here-are-obamas-top-10-lies.html

http://obamalies.net/

 

There are more, but I don't want to get too off topic...

 

Alright, my last statement on the matter, so as not to derail the thread: several of these lies are either cherry picked or just inaccurate, in any case, when has a politician told the truth once in their lives? Ex: Reagan said trees cause pollution. They don't.

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when has a politician told the truth once in their lives?

Misinformed isn't the part I'm talking about... I'm also not talking about promises to do things that end up can't be done... I'm talking about when he says he's going to do something, and then doesn't even try, or says he won't, and then does anyways. (read those sites again, there's an awful lot of them)

 

Oh, and trees do produce CO2 at night, which is considered a greenhouse gas, therefore trees do cause pollution... Just sayin...

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Another thing to consider in this argument is this: what if a person does an "evil" action, such as a murder, without realizing it? This person probably isn't evil, just in a different reality, but at what point does "different reality" turn into "evil psychopath". The line between the two is very blurry and it (i'm sure) greatly depends on how the person reacts to the news. But the question remains: How much crazy does a person need to be in order to be considered crazy and (for the most part) excused from evil behavior?

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Ah, now I think we're getting in more interesting territories of the 'nature vs nurture' description.

 

Of course I agree that one should consider the mental and psychological health of a perpetrator before establishing them as simply "evil".

I would also agree that there are different "realities" of awareness or states in which a person can act on another. An easy example is one

who suffers from types of parasomnia. A woman in the states, or "crazyland", had to lock her husband in the upstairs bedroom every night

to stop him from strangling her in his sleep. He wakes up some mornings very apologetically, and with no memory of punching the holes in

the wall or cutting himself on the smashed window. This was all filmed, but nobody knows what causes the condition or how to stop it in these

cases. Point is, homicide is known to be committed by people who sleepwalk. This has to be taken into account if you are sentencing them.

 

On that topic, I always wondered if killing somebody in a dream is any indicator of your ability (under extreme substance or duress) to kill in real life?

Actually I've just started working on a short film project with my sister which explores this question. Don't know which of us will play the killer though.

 

 

But there are also lesser extreme forms of reality that a killer may inhibit; schizophrenia being the most common association. I argue/discuss

these things with my brother all the time, about what 'nature evil' or 'decisive evil' mean. We primarily disagree about the types of punishment

that should be allowed or what 'punishing' really means. So naturally, most of the time, we have to bring Free Will into the discussion.

 

Genetic disorders or environmental ones? Is anyone who murders in their right mind? Most extreme psychopaths would say so; that's the

behavior they were born with. Should disturbed killers be more excused for having a bad upbringing? Is there an age limit? Do they have any

control? Can everyone be rehabilitated? How much of their mind is making the act? How much are they their own victim? I think many of us are

capable of evil. Who knows how much of it is genetic or experience, some researchers say it's about half and half. Regardless, I must assume

that one has enough command or responsibility over himself for me to justifiably accuse him of being evil (or stupid).

 

Earlier today (coincidentally), I concluded that perhaps using the term "Evil" for even the most deranged, ignorant or unfortunate of perpetrators

(ones I may likely consider more 'victims') is still a fair use, either for them or for describing the utilitarian or intrinsically bad acts they commit.

And of course for the purposes of argument/sentencing. But like Ross said, this is unless you're talking on a super-meta level.

 

 

With the sort of "death of Christianity" looming over western societies, we will likely see more "evil" occur since there will be no easily available, relatively simple morality to guide a lot of people.

Hmm, I can't quite accept this statement entirely. I think that even abroad, many religious groups can cause more strife and evil than otherwise.

I think that parents and the overall family structure, secular or not, is a bigger influence on the likelihood of seeing "more or less evil occur".

So I don't think good morality necessarily comes from Christianity, and Christianity in many ways cannot penetrate or control bad morality,

or destructive family attitudes.

 

 

Wow, I usually go mad internalizing these things for too long. I'm surprised my post is this big, my apologies.

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The mere existence of religion can cause someone to kill for or against religion, so, to a certain degree, religion is evil. On the other hand, religion DOES provide a codified law system, and is all around good as long as someone simply minds their own business and sticks to the rules.

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The mere existence of religion can cause someone to kill for or against religion, so, to a certain degree, religion is evil. On the other hand, religion DOES provide a codified law system, and is all around good as long as someone simply minds their own business and sticks to the rules.

The thing is that if you're following Christianity, Judaism, or most others, it is breaking the law of the religion itself to kill... Therefore, if you come across someone who is "killing in the name of [religion]", they really are only killing for themselves.

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