On evil

Does evil exist?  Why?

If like me, and most people, you have heard evil this or evil that but what is evil, what does it mean, does this evil even truly exist and why?

I am currently participating in a great dialogue on my fellow blogger friend’s page so I am inclined to bring some of the discussion over here, or at least throw down a few of my thoughts in attempt to initiate another dialogue here.  So here it goes:

Evil is bad, right?  Okay, evil is like REALLY bad, extra bad, worse than bad, you get the idea, but basically even is the ultimate “bad.”  Let’s just leave it at that for now.  A fellow blogger suggested, despite his dislike for definitions, that evil is the complete absence of love.  While this may have some validity to it, I do not hold it to be necessarily true, for I do not believe absolutely no love must mean there is evil.  In other words, one does not guarantee the other.  I think that one could be completely without love, but yet, still not be “evil,” whatever that may mean exactly, I am not altogether sure.  I support this thought by saying that I think one could likely become nihilistic or apathetic, something along those lines, but not evil.  Unless, a complete emptiness, which could mean to be completely without love, is evil?   That is the question I left for the fellow blogger just a moment ago.  I await his response eagerly, as I do yours.

But back to foremost question, does evil even exist and if so, why?  This is a tough question to answer, for I am inclined to say that evil does not exist, but then I consider such an act as murder, which I find to be inherently evil, to disrupt this notion.  When looking at murder, I cannot help but think the act is bad, if not completely evil.  So I will just say murder is an evil act for the sake of simplicity.

But then, why is this so?  Some human at some point in time declared the act of murder to be evil.  This idea has persisted through the test of time as murder is a criminal offense and has been a punishable one forever.  So then, the idea, the value judgment, has remained that murder is evil.  This idea originated from a human mind and is therefore a human construction.  In other words, a priori, the act of murder is not evil!  Right?  Because, saying something is good or bad, or evil, is an ethical, value judgement.  There is nothing that determines the badness of killing outside of the human mind, or is there?  That is the key question here.  And I would have to say I do not think killing is evil until it is processed by the human mind.

That is unless other animals have the capacity to make judgments!

Even so, an act – even murder – is not good or bad until it enters the mind, the conscious.  That is the conclusion I have made.  Whether you agree or disagree, please, drop a comment.




One thought on “On evil”

  1. I do think there is a universal good and evil and human beings lie on a linear scale going from good to evil. I also think that you need to provide context in order to determine the nature of an act. Good is simply benevolence, this can manifest as deliberately going out of your way to better the lives or others around you, and evil is malevolence, deliberately and unecessarily going out of your way to harm others. Whilst things are, of course, not as black and white as that, this provides a good marker of what is good and what is evil. Also, certain things can’t be catergorically good or evil, or somewhere in between, if there are no benevolent or manevolent intentions behind them. For instance, negligence and selfishness are things which aren’t directly evil (though may be a precursor) as they require a person to act deliberately. With regards to murder, whether its evil or not depends on the intention with which it is carried out. I personally believe that murder, whilst certainly deliberate, is not evil if the person carrying out the act felt that it was justifyably necessary.

    Though, of course, in Breivik’s case in Norway, he claims that his massacre of 77 innocent teenagers was necessary. Someone is a whole new level of evil, or perhaps very ill, to think that such an act is justifyable. Maybe he’s a utilitarian and believes that his actions will eventually have been for the greater good.

    Aside: Bringing ultilitarianism into the argument does often complicate matters and I will endeavor to write a blog post on the matter. I personally think that his actions were evil through and through and probably wouldn’t find many who would disagree, but my reasons are because I am not a utilitarian. I think it’s one of those things that work well in principle but not on practice.

    Is evil a social construct? From a scientific stand point*, I think it is but I don’t think it makes these acts any less evil. I think the only reason animals do not exhibit good, or evil, behaviors is because they lack the ability to be deliberate – though this is, of course, arguable.


    *I am a slight theist, so I do think it’s to do with human beings having a soul blah blah…etc, but I’m seperating that from this argument.

    P.S. Sorry that the response made little reference to what you actually said, I did read it! I agree with you half and half. Concious thought is certainly a requirement for evil but that doesn’t diminish the inherent evilness of evilness. Despite it being a human construct, it well and truly exists.


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