Good and Evil

Discussions that deal with moral issues. Key questions in ethics include: How should one live? What is right (or wrong) to do? What is the best way for humans to live?

Good and Evil

Postby BadgerJelly on June 16th, 2017, 4:13 am 

If the good people succeed will the evil people praise them?

Please try and understand and reveal the dilemma within. Expand to your hearts content!
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Serpent on June 16th, 2017, 9:53 am 

It depends on who the factions are and what "the good people" succeed in doing.

It's quite usual for people with a selfish or destructive agenda to pay lip-service to altruism and good citizenship. In that instance, yes, a very bad president who starts illegal wars and has thousands of innocent people killed, may very well make a noble speech and hand out medals to people who saved children from drowning or pulled drivers out of burning cars.
It's not entirely unheard of for people who have faithfully served a corrupt and ruthless regime to swear the same fealty to whatever kind of regime replaces it. (see post-USSR conversion to capitalism) Of course, this is not necessarily the ascent of "good people" - but if the new government were good people, the spies and flunkies would just as readily praise it.
Praise comes easily to hypocrites, and hypocrisy comes easily to evil people.

This doesn't tell us much about the nature of good and evil.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby BadgerJelly on June 16th, 2017, 1:03 pm 

I was thinking of human course running the way it runs because of this. If we frame the "good" as that which best suits all (the Socratic idea of what it means to be 'wise'), then when this wise and goodness shows then the "evil" will necesarily gravitate toward it.

If "evil" is meant to rule the roost we're doomed to never become wise people over all.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby zetreque on June 16th, 2017, 1:05 pm 

This assumes there is such as thing as good and evil. The answer to that is dangerous if it gets out there.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Serpent on June 16th, 2017, 1:55 pm 

BadgerJelly » June 16th, 2017, 12:03 pm wrote:I was thinking of human course running the way it runs because of this. If we frame the "good" as that which best suits all (the Socratic idea of what it means to be 'wise'), then when this wise and goodness shows then the "evil" will necesarily gravitate toward it.

Nothing ever suits "all". In ever society, there are those who want more than their share of resources, more power, more land, more luxury; another man's wife, another woman's husband, a neighbour's ox or ass, more servants, more applause... and are willing to get what they want by illicit means.
In small, intimate groups, such proclivities are discovered early and dealt-with more or less effectively. In large, heterogeneous civilizations, the sociopath and psychopath find opportunity to develop their character, ambition and skill-set. If their skills include drawing out the same characteristics in fellow citizens, then the sociopath becomes a leader and influences how the society as a whole functions. All the worst elements in that society will gravitate toward that leader, allow their own suppressed evil a latitude they had been afraid to exercise; then license, then free rein. Once collected in proximity, they reinforce the evil of their fellows, gain power over the less aggressive elements, and eventually be in a position to set the tone and make the rules for the whole society.

If "evil" is meant to rule the roost we're doomed to never become wise people over all.

Nothing is "meant". But evil does tend to rule in human civilizations (though not avian roosts), for the simple reason that it is not hampered by scruples.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby BadgerJelly on June 16th, 2017, 4:18 pm 

zetreque » June 17th, 2017, 1:05 am wrote:This assumes there is such as thing as good and evil. The answer to that is dangerous if it gets out there.


That is one expansion of the OP I was thinking of too (one I generally hold to).

Serpent -

Nothing ever suits "all".


Of course not. I was referring to the Socratic idea of 'wise' at the best balance for all, not literally the best for all. This is a hypothetical question I am not looking for some ideal to apply to society only a ways to skirt alone the issue and see what use there is within.

I am more inclined to what Zet kind of pointed at.

Anyway, if there is the best "balance" would the "evil" oppose the good as strongly as the "good" oppose the "evil"? I am well aware that the "good" may consider the "evil" to be "evil" and the "evil" consider themselves "good" and the "good" "evil"!

If so we then take on the position of "good" and "evil" as purely relativistic. What problem does this show us about ethics and morals?
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Serpent on June 16th, 2017, 7:02 pm 

BadgerJelly » June 16th, 2017, 3:18 pm wrote:[This assumes there is such as thing as good and evil. The answer to that is dangerous if it gets out there.]

That is one expansion of the OP I was thinking of too (one I generally hold to).

Yes, of course there is. It's a concept, like love or hounour: a description of a complex of human behaviours and attitudes in which various societies include slightly different, but overlapping components, but which all people recognize.
We are already as dangerous as we can possibly be. A little more understanding of our own thought-processes won't make the dire situation any worse - and might improve it somewhat.


[S -- Nothing ever suits "all"]
Of course not. I was referring to the Socratic idea of 'wise' at the best balance for all, not literally the best for all.

Yes, I got that. Point is, no matter how nicely balanced a society is; no matter how wisely organized (and I've done my share of contriving utopian models!), there are always malcontents.
It's the failure of a society to deal with them, and the natural traits that brings them forward, early and smartly, that promotes the growth of evil. Once out of the box, it can't be stuffed back in.
I've thought about that, too, and recently had a rather dramatic insight, but it would take much too long to explain and I don't intend to monopolize the thread. So I'm trying to keep it simple.

Anyway, if there is the best "balance" would the "evil" oppose the good as strongly as the "good" oppose the "evil"?

No. Far more strongly. Good is restrained; evil breaks out, and keeps on breaking.
Therein lies the human tragedy.

I am well aware that the "good" may consider the "evil" to be "evil" and the "evil" consider themselves "good" and the "good" "evil"!

I don't think so. I think bad people are far more aware of their own nature than good people are of the nature of bad people. Good people always try to give the benefit of the doubt; are generous, fair and slow to condemn. Bad ones are quick to dismiss, belittle, take advantage and shove aside whatever is in their way. They're more confident, decisive, purposeful and aggressive.

If so we then take on the position of "good" and "evil" as purely relativistic. What problem does this show us about ethics and morals?

Yes, they are obviously relativistic, as people are a mix of characteristics and conflicted between their wild and domestic animal impulses; between the co-oprative and competitive; between self and kinship; short- and long-term benefits and dangers. We also have in abundance what most other species have only a little or none at all: imagination.
These conflicts make us crazy and then imaginative humans come up with conjectures and narratives and rules that are intended to sort out the conflicts - or at least contain them in some way - but often end up making us even crazier.
For the ethicist, I would recommend the KISS principle.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby BadgerJelly on June 17th, 2017, 3:41 am 

Serpent -

Good people always try to give the benefit of the doubt; are generous, fair and slow to condemn. Bad ones are quick to dismiss, belittle, take advantage and shove aside whatever is in their way. They're more confident, decisive, purposeful and aggressive.


Quite simplistically then we can take this and say "good" is empathy and "evil" is lack of empathy.

What is clear enough is that there must be a good balance achievable in which the vast majority benefit. The old adage of "for the greatest good". It seems necessary that for a fully functional society the "evil" (or selfish element) is helpful to achieving the "greater good"?

What strikes me in thinking about this is that neither the "goodest", nor the "evilest", folk will be able to create this environment of the "greater good". The most 'wise', the "best" of society will be those that can appreciate the value of each, in a negative and positive sense.

The question that this throws up fo rme is to do with viewing society today as the literal "ideal". In our current state we cannot be in any other way. We are just as we are. What we have difficulty in is seeing exactly how we are though.

Regardless of our ability to assess ourselves we most certainly seem in pursuit of the idea of our betterment. This is where people may talk about a "necessary evil". This to me seems like a complete contradiction though. If "evil", in some cases, is necessary, is it still "evil"?

In this light we tend to view society as being constructive or destructive. Here we find that we are maybe better off referring to the idea of "necessary evil" as a "necessary sacrifice", a payment made ffrom which the great good can flourish.

If we wish to try and ask questions about balance and force of action then we may decide, as you have above, that "evil" will resist "good" with more force than "good" resisting "evil". If the balance of number sis equal then "evil" will win out eventually. If this proposition is true then society is becoming more "evil" or if it is false the over all force of "good" outweighs the over all force of "evil" even if the force in the individual is more powerful (which kind of makes sense gif we equate "evil" with the selfish attitude rather than the selfless attitude). The "good" thrives in numbers and communication, where the "evil" thrives in isolation and single-mindedness.

It is from here we enter the further problem of knowing whether or not what are actions are. Am I doing "good" or doing "evil"? If I am considering my view and my self value in this way is that "evil"? How do I know if the focus on the "I" becomes a obsessive occupation rather than a self-assessment? In my self-absorbed worries about "good" and "evil" am I actually being "evil"; or at least planting the seed of "evil"?

I don't quite know how to express this, but I see the terms "good" and "evil" as depriving us of humanity in some way. It I sas if we are trying to mold ourselves in to behaviours rather than simply exploring the state of the "I" about the "other" and the "other" about the "I".

Zet -

This assumes there is such as thing as good and evil. The answer to that is dangerous if it gets out there.


I cannot disagree with this. The "answer" is "dangerous". I do think we present the term "evil" as existing even though what it represents is nothing much at all. "evil" is "danger" and "harm" and "pain", yet without these things we'd be inactive. I think if we referred to all these stressful things in one lump we'd call them "evil".

When we get down to the nitty gritty it seems to me that the difference between "good" and "evil" is simply a dichotomy of human limitation. What can cause great suffering in some may never reach the threshold and transform into pleasure. I am of course saying this in terms of general "hardship" and "achievement". If one person can push through and gain something from a hardship, they are somewhat the "better" for it. But many will toil in "hardship" and never attain any achievement, they suffer an "evil" be it through misdirection or the manner of their personal circumstances. It is here where the "wisdom", in the Socratic sense, is said to be employed to allow as many as possible to have the opportunity to reach toward some form of "achievement" rather than remain floundering in "hardship" and a life filled with nothing but "toil" (not due to laziness of mind, but rather as slave to circumstance.)

If we look at racism and such (all the -isms), we see that these stem from a genetic predisposition to "fear" the unknown. It is a safe-guard. But contrary to this we are also curious.

I have found myself asking whether or not this idea of genetic predisposition to "evil" has any real meaning. If anything it seems the opposite to me. We are born, generally speaking, "curious" about the world and attempt to understand it. We may get confused by this or that, but over all the reward for discovery is thrilling not something driven by state of "fear". Fear seems to be born of the misfortunes of curiosity. Our investing in the world, which is a necessary thing for life and living, exposes us to both pain and pleasure. We don't seek pain, yet come to understand that a certain amount of suffering can lead to disproportionately "larger" (not wishing to conflate these thoughts with empirical measure yet frame the value of "worth" felt by an individual - which may vary quite drastically over time and in relation to X, Y or Z!) pleasures and thrills.

All of these things can be seen in the general political attitudes of the day. We have some quite clear distinctions in political theory. The self explanatory "Conservative" view, were caution is favoured over jumping in head-first. The idea of "Communism" where the idea of empathy and equality is embraced. The meritocracy where we honour the individual and somewhat debase the idea of the Communal attitude. I would frame myself in the Anarchist mold, so I am basically anti-authority, or rather eager to question any kind of authority thrust meaningfully in my direction.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Serpent on June 17th, 2017, 11:18 am 

BadgerJelly » June 17th, 2017, 2:41 am wrote:Quite simplistically then we can take this and say "good" is empathy and "evil" is lack of empathy.

That's too simplistic; lack of empathy won't necessarily turn evil - see all the autistic people who do quite well in society. Yes, children who lack empathy need extra instruction, but they can comprehend with the mind what the sensitive children grasp instinctively: that co-operation pays better dividends than opposition.
For evil, you need a confluence of traits and experiences and desires.
We tend to think of Good vs Evil as a pair of ever-contending forces. It isn't like that.
Most of us are not particularly good or bad and don't oppose much of anything that isn't directly threatening us; we just try to get by in whatever environment we find ourselves; we adapt; we ignore what we can't control; we seek small, immediate gratifications. The very good ones are busy trying to fix whoever and whatever is broken; they don't fight unless they feel their whole world under threat -- and even then, they will usually try peaceful means, and get pepper-sprayed or run over by tanks. The very bad ones direct the tanks, in full conscious knowledge of what and why.
The equation is more like: E+C&U,P,RsRt+Fs&Gn +/- Le+S&A&Ft>R&G
Have you ever seen a film called The Dark Crystal ? Bloody brilliant!

What is clear enough is that there must be a good balance achievable in which the vast majority benefit. The old adage of "for the greatest good". It seems necessary that for a fully functional society the "evil" (or selfish element) is helpful to achieving the "greater good"?

This is where the small clan or tribe has all the advantage over the vast, urban, polyglot society. It's easier to see and achieve balance; it's easier to understand why the balance is needed; it's easier to maintain balance, even in spite of a few members trying to disrupt it.
Also, when resources are scarce and the environment is hostile, manpower is at a premium. You can't afford to waste aggression or calories on internal strife. So the most primitive urges are directed outward, thus serving the community. To me, the single most important task of a healthy society is a sound mechanism for harnessing the wild and destructive traits in its youth.

What strikes me in thinking about this is that neither the "goodest", nor the "evilest", folk will be able to create this environment of the "greater good". The most 'wise', the "best" of society will be those that can appreciate the value of each, in a negative and positive sense.

It doesn't matter what elements are lost in a dysfunctional society - nobody creates the environment. It's a process of constant negotiation. What determines function or dysfunction is the style of that negotiation.

Regardless of our ability to assess ourselves we most certainly seem in pursuit of the idea of our betterment.

Why? And who's "we"?

This is where people may talk about a "necessary evil". This to me seems like a complete contradiction though. If "evil", in some cases, is necessary, is it still "evil"?

Don't waste time chasing that herring. It's a trivial application of the word "evil"; just means having to put up with something somebody doesn't like. It doesn't refer to what makes a Stalin act that way.

TBC
(I have to clear jetsam off the back porch to make room for the new lumber.)
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby mitchellmckain on June 17th, 2017, 1:54 pm 

BadgerJelly » June 16th, 2017, 3:13 am wrote:If the good people succeed will the evil people praise them?

Please try and understand and reveal the dilemma within. Expand to your hearts content!


In many ways, evil people are parasitic and then it would make sense for them to rejoice in the proliferation of lots of fat white sheep for them to fleece and feed upon. On the other hand, would't the ultimate success of the good people include the elimination of evil and thus there would be no evil people to do any praising in such a case? I suppose you could imagine all the irredeemable evil ones on the sidelines in some kind of prison or hell, but in that case I very much doubt they would have any attention for what the good people are doing.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby BadgerJelly on June 19th, 2017, 6:02 am 

Serpent -

This could get a little complicated which is nice. I think we're going to go down many meaningful dead ends.

That's too simplistic; lack of empathy won't necessarily turn evil - see all the autistic people who do quite well in society.


I was kind of just saying for the sake of investigation, not to simply equate X=Y only show reveal the trend of thought. All ideas of "evil" and "good" are simplistic and essentially down to personal convenience. It is an idea that flits from relativism to absolutism as deemed appropriate by the given topic at large (whatever that may be?)

We can even argue for and against the very terms in use! We can say that it is "good" to have a distinction between "good" and "evil", and we can say that it is "evil" to have a distinction between "good" and "evil". Much of the fascination around these ideas fall very easily into this area and are blind to it.

We most certainly cannot say that lack of empathy is "evil". We can at least relate lack of empathy as displaying something akin to "evil" (which in my mind is very much a tradition of thought rather than an actual existing thing in society, if anything "evil" exists because of society it is not revealed BY society but born from it.)

Yeah, I've seen The Dark Crystal several times ... it has been some years since I last watched it though. PLEEEEEASEEE explain your point?

Also, when resources are scarce and the environment is hostile, manpower is at a premium. You can't afford to waste aggression or calories on internal strife. So the most primitive urges are directed outward, thus serving the community. To me, the single most important task of a healthy society is a sound mechanism for harnessing the wild and destructive traits in its youth.


To be honest I am getting a little tired of evolutionary reductist tactics in dealing with general morality and ethics (not your fault, just spilling over from other forum here ... if you catch my drift? Not accusing you of such, but it is a slippery slope ...)

It doesn't matter what elements are lost in a dysfunctional society - nobody creates the environment. It's a process of constant negotiation. What determines function or dysfunction is the style of that negotiation.


Yes, this would point toward the "relativistic" approach to "good" and "evil". It is funny that I find myself thinking that to view "good" and "evil" as relative terms seems "better" in some circumstances and "worse" in others! haha!! I think this reveals the limitation of the concepts rather than elucidating any absolute meaning!

Regardless of our ability to assess ourselves we most certainly seem in pursuit of the idea of our betterment. - Badgerjelly

Why? And who's "we"? - Serpent


"We" as in the "I"'s among the other "I"'s? What other "we" is there? Take as "we" in a society, we as individual or we as, we being human beings. What is your qualm?

Maybe you work toward being "worse"? In which case your idea of being "better" requires that you punish yourself and understand the "worse" to become "better"? Or that you wish to "worse" and that in order to understand this you must become "better" before achieving the "worse"?

We can do this merry dance for a while, which I think is revealing about the contrary nature of relativism and reductionist techniques that do the upmost to avoid the experience of doing "good" or "evil". I find it quite bizarre for anyone to purposely do something "evil". I think generally we refer to something as "evil" when it is wholly unrecognized by the individual committing the act as "evil". If anything it seems more like the idea of absolute justification for an action is inherently an "evil" one. By this I mean if we cannot consider that our actions could be "wrong" in the grander scale of things then we are open to committing "evil" acts (purposefully is not something I regard as necessary for "evil".)

After that little ramble I think we all attempt to be "better", be that a better killer, a better mechanic, or a better "person" in general, as we personally deem we should be. What I was saying is regardless of how we assess ourselves (as murderer, killer, or saint) we try to "better" ourselves. Our advancement toward "betterment" may not necessarily be regarded by everyone else as "good" or "evil". What this tells me is that the terms "good" and "evil" are born through society and some extrapolation of individual justice into a group dynamic. From the "I am hungry, I require food." To my needs and wants are limited by the "environment" (inclusive of people as part of the "resource" pool.)

In summation, if we wish to kill people we pursue this goal. Once we've killed people we then assess what "betterment" we've gained. What have we learnt? Should we change course or continue in the killing of people to see what we can achieve through this line of inquiry? Of course you can replace "killing" with any other number of pursuits, the point was to show how some may conceive what is societally regarded as a negative action as being a possibly positive action. I think killing is not good btw! Although under certain circumstances I would hope I could kill someone rather than stand idle. This I would use as a means to refer to my other thread on ethics and the hypothetical.

There are circumstances under which "for the greater good" a person would be willing to commit an act otherwise regarded as "evil" and unforgivable. This is where I don't think we can pass of the term "necessary evil" as being one of mere colloquial use. The term "evil" possesses more weight here. IF a man is slitting the throats of children before your eyes and you can press a button to infect this man with a disease that will stop him and cause him agonizing pain and sorrow for a year before dying (which you have to witness) then you would still do it. Then the question is does this horrific ordeal make you evil? In quashing the evil do you suffer so much torment that you become "worse" than this man and spread a more diverse and infectious "evil" throughout society? If you could see into the future and see yourself committing more hideous acts yourself because of the action of stopping him kill the children would/could you stop him again? Rationally we can say here it makes sense to let him kill the children, but realistically could any person satnd by and watch this act without interfering?

The hypothetical does not encourage an answer only an investigation into your own "moral fibre". What we are inclined to do is add "if"s and "but"'s as get out clauses. My first thougth was to kill the man and then kill myself to prevent further harm. I can then disallow this escape and say if I was to commit suicide then I would exponentially increase the spread of "evil" deeds. Then I can just regard the whole hypothetical situation as ridiculous instead to avoid the difficulty of being faced with such an improbable (impossible!) real life situation. That is completely against the whole use of the hypothetical. To dismiss an investigation because it is "merely" hypothetical is to dismiss the ethical challenges in life. All we come to face in life is not measured and weighed out in such a manner as to be attended to us as and when we please.

In light of all this my question was about "evil" people encouraging the "greater good". It is a silly question if regarded as anything other than a hypothetical one. As Zet pointed out, we are assuming there is "good" and "evil". My argument against this is we have, albeit an unclear one, an idea of what we mean by "good" and "evil". I say the ideas are sprung from society and don't exist beforehand at all (that is more a matter of language and community rather than the 'feeling' of right and wrong in general. I see this as being a confluence of many things including ideas of justice and pleasure and pain etc ..)

Socrates refers to 'wisdom' as being that force in society as being able to judge the best over all balance so that the largest majority of people in the society are "happy". It is not under the delusion that a society can be utopian only that there is a "better" possible situation, a way to progress more "happiness". The 'wise' man in this sense possesses the means to create/adapt the environment as need be to achieve this "betterment".

In this hypothetical society do we assume that those who are "unhappy" are the "evil" people in the society? For if the society is the best possible, or as near as, then why are they not happy? I do not think this over all, but at the same time I would have to argue that the "evil" people would be the selfish people, and I would expect the "evil" people to be the ones less "happy" (regardless of social standing! They may be rich and unhappy because they cannot kill or manipulate people so easily, or they may be happy because they like the challenge of finding new wasy to manipulate people?) Who knows, the point is simply that if people are unhappy in the best possible, or as near as, society, then they are for the most part "evil".

If you except this as a general principle you can then, I hope, see the reverse flaw in this argument. This is that we assume that the "happy" people are mostly "good" people? Do we have any foundation to say such a thing or are we merely equating "happy" with "good" and "unhappy" with "evil" (accepting a grain of each in other of course).

It seems that is precisely what this line of thinking does. Above is nothing more than saying happiness is good and unhappiness is evil.

Mich -

In many ways, evil people are parasitic and then it would make sense for them to rejoice in the proliferation of lots of fat white sheep for them to fleece and feed upon
.

That honestly looks like a convenience of language to drive home a sweeping statement. "Parasitic"? If I look for help is that "parasitic"? What does parasitic mean? I am guessing this must mean non-mutual benefits (I know what it means I am just digging past the politic meaning to the core).)

I think you rightly touch on the idea of "hell". I do personally argue that the very term "evil" has too much religious weight to it to be taken on without some bias! If so, then it may be more fruitful to view the term "evil" as meaning simply the opposite of what we deem "good", let us say "ungood" to strip away the religious connotations if we must!

The ultimate success of the "good" is to eliminate the "ungood". Yes, but no! I guess. This pursuit of eradicating the "ungood" is purposefully unachievable because there will always remain a shadow of the "ungood" and this is necessary for the "good"! The idea of "ultimate success" is probably, in my mind at least, the most "ungood" of ideas.

Not exactly considered the most savoury figure of humanity, but I think Crowley said:

"The biggest mistake is to set an attainable ideal"

I think this says all there is to say about the use of idealism. What is "evil"/"ungood" in my mind is the achieving a goal and believing a kind of godhood has been achieved from which no wrong can be done in the shade of the magnificent and unsurpassable achievement. This, more than anywhere, is where I see both unhappiness, despair, hate and deprivation breed.

And for a brief aside in regards to idea of "self" listen to Zizek at about 42:00 (I think I am in love with this guy! haha!):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9FjsGMhAuI
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Serpent on June 19th, 2017, 11:11 am 

BadgerJelly » June 19th, 2017, 5:02 am wrote:All ideas of "evil" and "good" are simplistic and essentially down to personal convenience.

Mine is neither simplistic nor convenient. If that's a requirement for participating, I must respectfully withdraw.
We can even argue for and against the very terms in use!

I won't do that, either. Have stated my position.
Yeah, I've seen The Dark Crystal several times ... it has been some years since I last watched it though. PLEEEEEASEEE explain your point?

It was a nice illustration of evil being energetic, pro-active, always looking for someone to consume, something to wreck, while good is slow, withdrawn and passive until stirred to action by some catastrophic danger.

To be honest I am getting a little tired of evolutionary reductist tactics in dealing with general morality and ethics

They had to come from someplace; really did not leap, fully armoured from a god's forehead.
But, never mind, there are lots of peoples, right now, at subsistence level: you can watch how they cope with their rebels and miscreants.
[S -- environment... constant negotiation. What determines function or dysfunction is the style of that negotiation. ]

Yes, this would point toward the "relativistic" approach to "good" and "evil".

That is not what I war referring to. This was not about good or evil but the social environment in which they both, necessarily and always, exist.
[ we most certainly seem in pursuit of the idea of our betterment. - Badgerjelly]
[Why? And who's "we"? - Serpent]

"We" as in the "I"'s among the other "I"'s?

You, certainly. Various study, support and meditation groups, yes, most of the time. Many other individuals, as a self-imposed quest, I'm sure. Most humans, some of the time. Societies, sometimes, in some particular, probably. "We" as a collective for all humanity, I very much doubt it.
What is your qualm?

I think most people, most of the time, are looking to survive, or to improve their status, their material circumstances, or their physical health; are not preoccupied by their ethical well-being. Most of the time, unfortunately, most people are oblivious to the ethical, economic and social health of the nation they live in. They are likely to be aware, at least some of the time, of how their immediate family and community is doing, and may try to affect improvement. But these improvements are more often - by a factor of 50 - aimed at an improvement in infrastructure, law enforcement or industry, rather than social conscience.

Maybe you work toward being "worse"?... etc.

I, like most people, most places, most of the time, react. If there is a tornado warning, I take the cover off the crawl-space. When a mealtime approaches, I cook food. When the dust-bunny start biting my ankles, i sweep the floor. When my 'boss' asks me to proofread a manuscript, i do that. I rarely think of betterment. As for making me worse, age takes care of that.

I find it quite bizarre for anyone to purposely do something "evil".

It is bizarre. That's why videos of chicken factories and interrogation rooms so rarely reach the general public,
I think generally we refer to something as "evil" when it is wholly unrecognized by the individual committing the act as "evil".

Unrecognized or unadmitted?

What I was saying is regardless of how we assess ourselves (as murderer, killer, or saint) we try to "better" ourselves.

Oh, you mean more efficient performance, like practicing on a musical instrument. It may be true that most people try to keep doing better, though you can't prove it by most of the job performance I've seen, but not the same as being better.
Good needs to be differentiated into that which benefits, and that which is morally superior. Otherwise, anything you say about it will get muddled.
Evil, on the other hand, is already differentiated from the generic bad, which can refer to harm, detriment, action or thought on a mundane level.
I don't know that lifts a particular brand of goodness out of the mundane. All the words that describe social virtues are components, not the whole. We seem to lack a generally understood concept of a Good that can square up to Evil.
What this tells me is that the terms "good" and "evil" are born through society and some extrapolation of individual justice into a group dynamic. From the "I am hungry, I require food." To my needs and wants are limited by the "environment" (inclusive of people as part of the "resource" pool.)

Okay.
In summation, if we wish to kill people we pursue this goal.

I think that's the rarest of mental illness. Most killing of people is a means to some other goal - sexual pleasure, personal enrichment, power, revenge; the eradication of obstacles, rivals and enemies; the triumph of a political or religious regime, etc.

There are circumstances under which "for the greater good" a person would be willing to commit an act otherwise regarded as "evil" and unforgivable.

I wonder. I suppose, in most cases of sacrifice, or moral compromise, the one who commits it does expect to be forgiven. Sometimes it turns out that they can't forgive themselves. But, I suspect, most bad actions committed by good people is done in the heat of the moment, under the influence of intoxicants (which very much include mob enthusiasm), or in some unreflective state - rather than as a result of deliberate weighing of options.
IF a man is slitting the throats of children before your eyes and you can press a button to infect this man with a disease that will stop him and cause him agonizing pain and sorrow for a year before dying (which you have to witness) then you would still do it.

Why? Very probably as a reflex - to escape having to watch any more carnage. Sometiomes people just run and hide. If you give them an easy escape, they'll take it, without thinking about the long-term consequences.
Then the question is does this horrific ordeal make you evil?

Not all by itself, but yes: it raises the level in the reservoir of evil you already contain. It makes the next bad act easier, maybe even anticipated. It nudges toward the dark side - yes, absolutely.

[quote] My first thougth was to kill the man and then kill myself to prevent further harm.[quote]
Perfectly valid choice.

TBC - must run.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby mitchellmckain on June 19th, 2017, 11:46 pm 

BadgerJelly » June 17th, 2017, 2:41 am wrote:Serpent -

Good people always try to give the benefit of the doubt; are generous, fair and slow to condemn. Bad ones are quick to dismiss, belittle, take advantage and shove aside whatever is in their way. They're more confident, decisive, purposeful and aggressive.


Quite simplistically then we can take this and say "good" is empathy and "evil" is lack of empathy.

From this I see that I before I respond to the more recent post I need to backtrack and provide my own definition of evil, without which I have dived into the discussion.

I define evil as the pursuit of desires knowingly at the expense to the well being of others like yourself. This means that from the moment of birth there is a competition between two facets of our development. One is the increase of power to achieve our desires, and the other is learning to regard others like ourselves. Thus it is nearly inevitable that a child with too much power will be a monster. Though I suppose this depends on the nature of the power involved, for a child that simply develops with extreme rapidity may develop regard for others commensurate with power to achieve his desires. Likewise you can say that it is very like that one who is simply given power over others is also very likely to be a monster if they are given no time to develop a comparable regard for others before this.

Thus I reject the ideas that a child is evil by nature because of his extreme selfishness and lack of empathy. In the powerless child this selfishness and lack of empathy is perfectly natural and good. Likewise the case of the autistic the lack of empathy is accompanied by a very comparable lack of power over other and thus evil as I have defined it is equally inapplicable in their case as well.

BadgerJelly » June 17th, 2017, 2:41 am wrote:What is clear enough is that there must be a good balance achievable in which the vast majority benefit. The old adage of "for the greatest good". It seems necessary that for a fully functional society the "evil" (or selfish element) is helpful to achieving the "greater good"?

What strikes me in thinking about this is that neither the "goodest", nor the "evilest", folk will be able to create this environment of the "greater good". The most 'wise', the "best" of society will be those that can appreciate the value of each, in a negative and positive sense.

This may be the case for Serpent's definition but not for mine. Perhaps like myself, Serpent's definition reminded you of the Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk is split into two people with only fragments of his original personality - one being timid and ineffectual and the other being aggressive and destructive.

BadgerJelly » June 17th, 2017, 2:41 am wrote:Regardless of our ability to assess ourselves we most certainly seem in pursuit of the idea of our betterment. This is where people may talk about a "necessary evil". This to me seems like a complete contradiction though. If "evil", in some cases, is necessary, is it still "evil"?

No, it is not -- not according to my definition of "evil." As another example, we can agree that in general, it is an evil thing to go around slicing people open and yet this is what a surgeon does for a living. From this comes a simple fact that what are good actions does in some degree depend somewhat on the person's expertise and responsibility. Thus we not only give some people a license to cut people open but we even give some the license to shoot and kill. These are necessitated by a number of different ills in the world such as disease, crime, and military aggression.

BadgerJelly » June 17th, 2017, 2:41 am wrote:If we wish to try and ask questions about balance and force of action then we may decide, as you have above, that "evil" will resist "good" with more force than "good" resisting "evil". If the balance of number sis equal then "evil" will win out eventually. If this proposition is true then society is becoming more "evil" or if it is false the over all force of "good" outweighs the over all force of "evil" even if the force in the individual is more powerful (which kind of makes sense gif we equate "evil" with the selfish attitude rather than the selfless attitude). The "good" thrives in numbers and communication, where the "evil" thrives in isolation and single-mindedness.

What is clear to me is that this path of reasoning is pointing us towards a flaw in the presumed definitions of good and evil.

BadgerJelly » June 17th, 2017, 2:41 am wrote:It is from here we enter the further problem of knowing whether or not what are actions are. Am I doing "good" or doing "evil"? If I am considering my view and my self value in this way is that "evil"? How do I know if the focus on the "I" becomes a obsessive occupation rather than a self-assessment? In my self-absorbed worries about "good" and "evil" am I actually being "evil"; or at least planting the seed of "evil"?

Which just goes to show that the real question of good versus evil is NOT, which am I, but RATHER what actions do I pursue now? It hard to see how the labeling of oneself as good or evil can lead to a positive result. Labeling oneself either as good or evil can easily become a license to do evil either way. As living beings we are constantly learning, growing, and defining ourselves by our choices. Thus if we do evil then it makes sense to see that as a mistake we can learn from. We can only hope it hasn't become a habit at this point of realization, since those can be very difficult to change.


BadgerJelly » June 17th, 2017, 2:41 am wrote:I don't quite know how to express this, but I see the terms "good" and "evil" as depriving us of humanity in some way. It I sas if we are trying to mold ourselves in to behaviours rather than simply exploring the state of the "I" about the "other" and the "other" about the "I".

Whereas I see much more lost of humanity in making this something which has no implications for behavior. If humanity means anything of significance and value then there must be a consistency of action which goes along with it. You cannot diminish the humanity of others without diminishing your own -- by cutting yourself off from them you devalue everything you have in common with them.

BadgerJelly » June 17th, 2017, 2:41 am wrote:If we look at racism and such (all the -isms), we see that these stem from a genetic predisposition to "fear" the unknown. It is a safe-guard. But contrary to this we are also curious.

Which means we don't have any such genetic predisposition. Studies of primate behavior find this largely arising from differences in parenting attitudes -- whether the caretaker clings to their offspring or gives them free reign. The genetic predisposition is thus to give us this adaptability to circumstance -- to either caution in times of danger for the species or bold exploration in times of safety.

But putting down racism to fear is frankly absurd. Was the slavery of Africans due to fear? Seriously? NO! If you are looking for a cause for racism then it is a failure to see and value the commonalities we have with others. It is quite a sad state of affairs when we diminish our humanity down to nothing more than the color of our skin or the minuscule section of DNA which distinguishes one ethnicity from another. To be sure it very likely had far more to differences in behavior and way of life -- calling Native Americans and Africans savages because they didn't wear what we considered the fashion of civilized society. But then Europeans had been judging between the classes of its own society by such things for centuries.

BadgerJelly » June 19th, 2017, 5:02 am wrote:Yeah, I've seen The Dark Crystal several times ... it has been some years since I last watched it though. PLEEEEEASEEE explain your point?

Indeed. I quite loved the film when I first saw it. I imitated the whine of that one skeksis, the Chamberlain, for weeks. LOL But that doesn't mean that I completely buy into the philosophical premise of the film that good and evil are necessary components of a whole person. I would say it is true however that evil is quite a possible result from an unbalanced personality.

Power is not evil in its own right. Dangerous? Yes of course. But it is only evil when it is used without regard for the well being of others. But the dangerous nature of power does mean that when it is pursued for its own sake, then evil is a likely result.

Yes, this would point toward the "relativistic" approach to "good" and "evil". It is funny that I find myself thinking that to view "good" and "evil" as relative terms seems "better" in some circumstances and "worse" in others! haha!! I think this reveals the limitation of the concepts rather than elucidating any absolute meaning!

I think this goes back to the fact that we are living beings who develop by growth and learning not only as individuals but also as communities. Experience tells us that improvements come by gradual reforms rather than by revolution which is too likely to do more harm than good. This leads us likewise to the observation that there really are no means to an end in human behavior for the means and the end are invariably one and the same thing. Thus the destruction of revolution only destroys what you have and if you would truly improve society then it must be by a creative process of building upon what you already have. This, of course, recognizes the fact that the so called "American Revolution" was not a revolution at all but an effort to preserve what we already had from British interference.

BadgerJelly » June 19th, 2017, 5:02 am wrote:There are circumstances under which "for the greater good" a person would be willing to commit an act otherwise regarded as "evil" and unforgivable. This is where I don't think we can pass of the term "necessary evil" as being one of mere colloquial use. The term "evil" possesses more weight here. IF a man is slitting the throats of children before your eyes and you can press a button to infect this man with a disease that will stop him and cause him agonizing pain and sorrow for a year before dying (which you have to witness) then you would still do it. Then the question is does this horrific ordeal make you evil?

Yes I would do so without hesitation. No, it would not make me evil. Not by my definition at all.

BadgerJelly » June 19th, 2017, 5:02 am wrote: In quashing the evil do you suffer so much torment that you become "worse" than this man and spread a more diverse and infectious "evil" throughout society?

No. I would experience no torment whatsoever.

BadgerJelly » June 19th, 2017, 5:02 am wrote: If you could see into the future and see yourself committing more hideous acts yourself because of the action of stopping him kill the children would/could you stop him again?

To see such a future is to only see a possibility and I would reject such a connection between saving children and doing hideous acts myself. If there are such flaws in my character then these should be addressed quite separately and NEVER by sacrificing children to avoid a challenge for that is what I would consider truly evil.

BadgerJelly » June 19th, 2017, 5:02 am wrote: Rationally we can say here it makes sense to let him kill the children, but realistically could any person satnd by and watch this act without interfering?

Ahh! Well I am hardly going to deny that there are difficult ethical dilemmas, the answers to which must take into account our own particular situation and limitations.

BadgerJelly » June 19th, 2017, 5:02 am wrote:
In many ways, evil people are parasitic and then it would make sense for them to rejoice in the proliferation of lots of fat white sheep for them to fleece and feed upon
.

That honestly looks like a convenience of language to drive home a sweeping statement. "Parasitic"? If I look for help is that "parasitic"? What does parasitic mean? I am guessing this must mean non-mutual benefits (I know what it means I am just digging past the politic meaning to the core).)

It is a basic fact that a world with only muggers, robbers, thieves and pirates is unsustainable. It is only because there are people who create (farmers, herders, craftsmen, artists), that such obviously parasitic people can even exist. Of course the reality is that most human cultures are founded by marauders who have taken land and wealth from others only to settle down and become peaceful creators themselves in a few generations.

BadgerJelly » June 19th, 2017, 5:02 am wrote:The ultimate success of the "good" is to eliminate the "ungood". Yes, but no! I guess. This pursuit of eradicating the "ungood" is purposefully unachievable because there will always remain a shadow of the "ungood" and this is necessary for the "good"! The idea of "ultimate success" is probably, in my mind at least, the most "ungood" of ideas.

That is quite a silly idea. Shall we say that the ultimate success of cancer research in eliminating cancer is a "most ungood idea." LOL PLEASE! Say rather that when we think of eradicating something we suppose to be evil then we must recommend considerable caution both regarding method and our presumption about what it is that makes something evil. It is however a rather common idea that good can eradicate evil simply by its own good example, and that is a methodology which is rather hard to find fault in.

BadgerJelly » June 19th, 2017, 5:02 am wrote:Not exactly considered the most savoury figure of humanity, but I think Crowley said:

"The biggest mistake is to set an attainable ideal"

I think this says all there is to say about the use of idealism.

Whereas I think this is as silly as the man who said it. Say rather that we must not assume that ideals are only good if they are attainable, for some of the very best ideals have value in that we strive for them as best we are able, and if we ever imagine we have obtained them, then the most likely reality is that we have abandoned them to self-deception instead.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Serpent on June 20th, 2017, 1:38 am 

Continued -- with a slight amendment.
BadgerJelly » June 19th, 2017, 5:02 am wrote: IF a man is slitting the throats of children before your eyes ....

Put this in context. If the man is an Aztec high priest, and the children are sacrificial victims and I'm a good Aztec citizen, I do nothing but stand and witness. If the man is a father who knows that enemy soldiers are about to break down the door and drag his children away to be used in unspeakable experiments, I might help him. (Not really; i'd stand and do nothing again. Very bad killer, me.)
It's all about context.
Evil isn't in the action; it is in the purpose.

In quashing the evil do you suffer so much torment that you become "worse" than this man and spread a more diverse and infectious "evil" throughout society? If you could see into the future and see yourself committing more hideous acts yourself because of the action of stopping him kill the children would/could you stop him again? Rationally we can say here it makes sense to let him kill the children, but realistically could any person satnd by and watch this act without interfering?

Rationally, there are several perspectives on this. Preventing a dangerous person from doing more harm doesn't make you evil. The disease and suffering part was added into the button without my consent (I am content with ending the threat; I don't require revenge or punishment.) If I had a choice of that button and a gun, i would use the gun. If i had a choice of that button and a knife, i would use the button, because I would probably lose a knife-fight.
My first thougth was to kill the man and then kill myself to prevent further harm.

If you feel that you would slide down that slope, suicide is a reasonable option. Though, I think, if you had the compassion to put the perp out of his misery first, you're not that likely to become evil yourself. Just killing him quickly goes some considerable way toward your redemption; a few months therapy will make you functional again, so don't do the suicide.
I can then disallow this escape and say if I was to commit suicide then I would exponentially increase the spread of "evil" deeds.

I don't see the logic in this.
I also don't think you need to take on the whole burden. There was enough evil before you came on the scene; there will be some left after you're gone. You've stopped one bad thing. If there are ripples, you need not take responsibility for them all. Your role is finite; so is your importance.

we are assuming there is "good" and "evil".

"That depends on what your definition of "is" is."
I mean, those are not entities with independent, disembodied existence; they qualities or traits of human beings - exclusively human concepts.
I say the ideas are sprung from society and don't exist beforehand at all (that is more a matter of language and community rather than the 'feeling' of right and wrong in general.

Right!
All social animals have codes of behaviour; what they consider right and wrong action; what the group tolerates and what it rejects. But only humans, with language and social theories, have designated whole areas of being, feeling, thinking, wanting or doing as good and bad.
Evil is one level up from that: a compound of badness: and, not or.

I see this as being a confluence of many things including ideas of justice and pleasure and pain etc

Ideas are the social aspect. The more immediate personal aspect are largely emotional. The impulses, resentments, jealousies, fears, hates, lusts, aggressions, frustrations and guilts that drive bad behaviour compound under some circumstances, fester, become impacted... add a particular kind of imagination and reasoning, formulate a plan... It's far more complex than ordinary bad behaviour.

Socrates refers to 'wisdom' as being that force in society as being able to judge the best over all balance so that the largest majority of people in the society are "happy". It is not under the delusion that a society can be utopian only that there is a "better" possible situation, a way to progress more "happiness". The 'wise' man in this sense possesses the means to create/adapt the environment as need be to achieve this "betterment".

Sounds nice. How many societies, in human history, have put the wisest people in charge of organizing them? We don't know, because if there were any, they operate outside of the civilizations that record history.
Civilization itself fosters human evil.

In this hypothetical society do we assume that those who are "unhappy" are the "evil" people in the society?

Why would we assume that? There are plenty of practical and personal reasons to be unhappy. There are many ways for the other people in a society to respond to the unhappy member.
There are malcontents, who chafe under the constraints of polite, orderly society; they do mischief or rebel. They can be dealt-with in a number of different ways.
There are those who attack their society; who prey upon their fellow citizens. These are criminals and what they do is bad; they can be stopped and usually corrected.
It's the next level - wanton torture, long-term damage, corruption of the system - that is evil.

.... the point is simply that if people are unhappy in the best possible, or as near as, society, then they are for the most part "evil".
If you except this as a general principle

No, I can't accept it. I don't believe that's how it works at all.
Of course, I have not seen any civilized society function at anything close to maximum fairness or wellness or efficiency - nor even make the attempts at betterment that any reasonably intelligent person (not just the wisest sages) could see needed to be made. I've heard that the Scandinavian countries made good progress, but have not witnessed it first-hand. I understand that crime and mischief are quite low there. Japan, too. So I'd have to guess social welfare does reduce both unhappiness and evil.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby BadgerJelly on June 20th, 2017, 3:07 am 

Serpent -

I don't see the logic in this.
I also don't think you need to take on the whole burden. There was enough evil before you came on the scene; there will be some left after you're gone. You've stopped one bad thing. If there are ripples, you need not take responsibility for them all. Your role is finite; so is your importance.


Well, this is something I touch on in other thread. We try to escape responsibility through application of logic. You have already added in your own "if"'s. The point was not to evade the moral problem with presenting different contexts or anything else. The unreality of the hypothetical allows us to limit our options are think about rigid choices and how we emotionally cope with them.

As an example of what we do as humans. Let us say you can save either your mother or your father from death. You have to choose one. You obviously won't answer this question publicly for fear of harming your parents feelings. If you do not dismiss the question as ridiculous and actually really think to yourself what you would do in such a predicament you will no doubt find yourself pandering to rationality. You will try and weigh the value of each option like some physical weight, you will do anything you can to emotionally distance yourself from such a brutal question by applying cold hard logic. I am not saying that rationality is wholly unemotional, but there is something very interesting for me here. The shift in responsibility appears to me to be a key part in all decision making.

Also, I was not look for a public answer (I don't think they are particularly helpful). My point was about allowing an "evil" act to be carried out to prevent further "evil". I could have said brutally murdering an innocent man to save a million innocent people from more severe and brutal murder, or some such scenario.

I was also trying to suggest that the "unhappy" are more likely to be "evil" in the context of a "better" society. This is simply because in the "better" society almost everyone is divvied out some happiness. The ones that are more difficult to apply happiness to are those that are against a fair and just society, they are the seeds of evil. Of course there will be some happy evil people that slip through the net we are not pretending some utopian ideal is feasible only that a "better" society is a possibility. Also, there will be well meaning citizens who are unhappy too so not all the unhappy people will be evil people.

From here it seems quite reasonable to say that the most evil people in such a "better" society would be unhappy because they cannot so easily employ their evil in this society. I am assuming here that evil people are as intelligent and capable as non-evil people, but that simply the system is against them.

Equally in a society where the wise man is evil then the good will be most unhappy. If you can accept that good people living in an evil society will mostly be unhappy, then you should also be able to accept that evil people living in a good society will be mostly unhappy?
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Serpent on June 20th, 2017, 9:29 pm 

BadgerJelly » June 20th, 2017, 2:07 am wrote:[Your role is finite; so is your importance.]
We try to escape responsibility through application of logic. You have already added in your own "if"'s. The point was not to evade the moral problem with presenting different contexts or anything else.

We cannot act or live without a context. We decide within our belief-system, and within our power. That's not evading responsibility, that's having a realistic basis for one's moral precepts.
Yes, I suppose realizing how insignificant we are does diminish our responsibility. But if we each went around taking the blame for everything that goes wrong in our whole civilization, we would be catatonic by age 12. You can have both responsibility and perspective.

The unreality of the hypothetical allows us to limit our options are think about rigid choices and how we emotionally cope with them.

Making up stories and imagining. In fact, her have no frickin idea how we would cope with such extreme events, or even how we would act. That's why soldiers get PTSD. I don't do rigid very well.

Let us say you can save either your mother or your father from death.

If you knew how often I wished my father dead, you wouldn't ask me that - too easy.
But let's make the choice between two people I like.
You will try and weigh the value of each option like some physical weight, you will do anything you can to emotionally distance yourself from such a brutal question by applying cold hard logic.

You mean, as opposed to just admitting which one I prefer? Well, look: you're the one putting me between a rock and hard place. What happens if I refuse to choose? Presumably you do something even worse.
If i have to choose, the choice has to be based on something - emotion, logic or chance. So what's this about "evading" and "distancing"? I'm stuck with the consequences, no matter how I arrive at the decision; it's still my decision; I still bear the responsibility.
Sophie never did cope with her choice.

Te shift in responsibility appears to me to be a key part in all decision making.

What shift? When things just happen and you react, you use instinct. When you can have some things you want, but not all the things you want, you use emotion. When you have to decide over matters that affect other people, you use the most evolved of your faculties - reason. That's taking responsibility seriously. An irresponsible person would just go with his gut.

My point was about allowing an "evil" act to be carried out to prevent further "evil". I could have said brutally murdering an innocent man to save a million innocent people from more severe and brutal murder, or some such scenario.

Yes, I get that. But we do not operate in a hypothetical, two-dimensional world. Every situation in which a real person has to decide is concrete, with details, sights, sounds, smells. You say that applying reason is distancing oneself from responsibility, yet you strip the example of immediacy and ask for a purely cerebral black-or-white answer.
There isn't one. We each have our capabilities and limits; we don't know exactly what they are until they're tested, but we have a pretty good idea. It would be dishonest not to take self-knowledge into consideration when pondering a hypothetical.
Sure, sacrificing one person is the rational choice in that example - unless one believes that there are too many people in the world, and getting rid of a featureless, anonymous million is a good thing - or the million to be killed are one's deadly enemies. thing is, I can't even kill an injured blackbird in cold blood, so it's no use asking me to brutally murder anybody.

I was also trying to suggest that the "unhappy" are more likely to be "evil" in the context of a "better" society. This is simply because in the "better" society almost everyone is divvied out some happiness.

This is why there is less evil in good societies, as well as less crime and rebellion.
In the best possible society, evil could not exist at all: it would be prevented from developing.

The ones that are more difficult to apply happiness to are those that are against a fair and just society, they are the seeds of evil.

Nobody is born being against a fair and just society - or against anything much, except restraint of their freedom and desires. You can see that as early as six or seven months of age, and do something about it. You don't "apply" happiness to people. What you do is make sure no infant is untended, unwanted or unloved; no child gets physically abused or psychologically damaged; no person is left to suffer, or rewarded for hurting or depriving others.
Evil doesn't just spring up out nowhere: malignancy takes time to grow.
No people are evil by nature. They may be predisposed, but they still have to conceive and incubate the seeds of evil, long before they express it. It is like the syphilis spirochete, that, once it finds a hospitable environment, and favourable conditions, multiply and take over and destroy the organism.
The more dysfunctional a society, the more people in it will develop various kinds and degrees of evil.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby BadgerJelly on June 21st, 2017, 4:04 am 

Serpent -

Yes, I suppose realizing how insignificant we are does diminish our responsibility. But if we each went around taking the blame for everything that goes wrong in our whole civilization, we would be catatonic by age 12. You can have both responsibility and perspective.


Yes, and we have to decide where and when to take responsibility, rightly or wrongly.

Making up stories and imagining. In fact, her have no frickin idea how we would cope with such extreme events, or even how we would act. That's why soldiers get PTSD. I don't do rigid very well.


Of course we all know the reality of situations and the contexts can vary enormously. I really think it is helpful to break down a situation to rigid do or don't decisions and from there see where the difficulty of the dilemma becomes more emotionally manageable.

If we regard the two people you love going to be killed if you choose either we can say they both die, or even that you have to make the choice (the viability of this is reality is ridiculous, but it allows you to consider the inner struggle you'd have and assess your own way of dealing with the problem.) And of course if such a thing was to happen in reality (even though it appears impossible to us) then you may react very differently to what you presume.

I guess it is not "evading" exactly. It is more about justifying your decision to yourself as being the "best" decision.

What shift? When things just happen and you react, you use instinct. When you can have some things you want, but not all the things you want, you use emotion


I mean that when it comes to the choice between X and Y we assess our ability to influence X and Y prior and post decision. That to look upon something with cold hard logic is to distance ourselves from it personally and, obviously, emotionally. You bear the responsibility if you choose to. The reality of how responsible you are is not the topic up for debate here. My view of "evil" in general terms, is refusal to take responsibility and let others needlessly suffer because of your own needs.

Anyway, we're digressing here! I cover this better in another thread.

The question here is about the "evil" people praising the "good" for creating a "better" society. Would they praise them if the "good" (the 'wise') have made everyone proportionally happier? If not then the "evil" would likely be the least happy in this society and in an "evil" society the "good" would be the least happy. This is a paradox pointing at the relativism of "good" and "evil" as a starting point to develop from.

If society is "evil" then evil people will be happy and call their "evil" a "good". The people in society who are the least happy are mostly "evil". This is of course under the rule of a 'wise' man looking for the "best" over all happiness for all in society, rather than trying to make society adhere to the "good" (this being a term relative to the proportions of people n the society).

Now if we look at reality we can ask a simple question. Is society more "evil" or more "good"? Who are the 'wise', or in our real world, who are the rulers?

Then there are further problems for we may ask that those in positions of power are "evil" by necessity? But here we are moving too fast and still need to apply some rigidity before drawing vague conclusions.

If the majority of people in society are "good" then does this really mean that the rulers are "good"? It would seem more likely than if the majority of people were "evil", that at least seems a reasonable conclusion.

Nobody is born being against a fair and just society - or against anything much, except restraint of their freedom and desires. You can see that as early as six or seven months of age, and do something about it. You don't "apply" happiness to people. What you do is make sure no infant is untended, unwanted or unloved; no child gets physically abused or psychologically damaged; no person is left to suffer, or rewarded for hurting or depriving others.
Evil doesn't just spring up out nowhere: malignancy takes time to grow.
No people are evil by nature. They may be predisposed, but they still have to conceive and incubate the seeds of evil, long before they express it. It is like the syphilis spirochete, that, once it finds a hospitable environment, and favourable conditions, multiply and take over and destroy the organism.
The more dysfunctional a society, the more people in it will develop various kinds and degrees of evil.


I agree with al of this which is kind of boring :(

I could perhaps expand and ask if "society" is necessarily "dysfunctional". I mean this in comparison to the view that no one is born "evil" and merely we act against restraints on personal freedom. It is clear enough to me that society sets out restraints upon us that we have no or little say in.

I watched Eddie Izzard recently in a silly interview. He said he believed in humanity because we once used to sacrifice people and today we have stopped doing this. Small progress, yet I cannot help feel that we may have stopped sacrificing people to Gods (if we ever did? anthropologists may shy from drawing such conclusions from pre-history!), yet I don't think we can say we've abolished human sacrifice completely only shifted the reason for sacrifice to other ideological ideas and material gains.

I have mentioned before, perhaps several times on this forum, that I think the biggest problem we have at the moment (humanity) is that we've had little to no time to adjust to living in huge populations.

This is why I talk about hypotheticals and believe they are important for developing a means to deal with the ever growing complexity of human societies machinations. I see something similar in what Zizek says here too. We all know that most of the products we buy and luxuries we have are at the expense of others. Yet somewhere down the line this has been conveniently hidden/distanced from the individual. Here we find a moral dilemma of "intention" being used to justify something we know to be evil. From here we, myself at least, often just admit hypocrisy and continue. Zizek talks about weighing the good and the bad. If I do X bad here then I do Y good here, then I am morally justified ... this is a nonsense we seem readily, and addictively, unable to break away from (or is it just me?) It seems quite inescapable too because everything I do in life, the food I eat, the fuel I use and the clothes I buy, seem attached to something I deem "evil". It makes the situation seem hopeless and here a kind of enforced apathy is given over from the society I live in. The blame is pointed elsewhere and if I take the responsibility there is seemingly little impact, but in ways I must strive to fight against it.

There is a really nice chat between Will Self and Zizek, and Will Self asks him if everyone in the UK should feel guilty because the UK sells arms to the Saudi's? This has merit because anyone who pays taxes can easily assume that they have helped, in part, sell arms.

Going back to the murderer of children ... let us say that his knife cost him $1000 and that your representative in your community collected money from everyone and then contributed $1 of this pool to the murderer to buy his knife in return for some beer or artwork (whatever), are you responsible? I would say no you are not responsible, yet once the transaction has taken place are you responsible if you don't at least protest about what happened?

If I was to go to the government in the UK and say I want my taxes back because you used my money to fund the war in Iraq which I am against what use would it do? Yet am I not a hypocrite for not doing so? Why don't I demand that my taxes be used for non-violent means only, why don't I have a choice where my money goes? Is it not just for me to have some say? This is where I see a failure in societies. What has happened is the restraints on my moral views have been enforced without me having any say in the matter. I can "refuse" to pay taxes, yet I will go to prison if I do not pay up eventually. I can say I will pay as long as the money goes where I want it to, but this is out of my hands, the choices made are so far removed from the individual person that their voices are as good as unheard.

This is society. Is society "evil"? If so, are we living in an "evil" world or a "good" world with "evil" rulers? I assume people are "good" like you. What it comes to in society is a bizarre question in my mind ... Are people "good" enough or too "good"?

The peace makers want peace. The war makers want war. Both "fight" for their means.

Beyond the constraints of society people are "good". I have not found anyone yet who says anything "evil" one-on-one. In groups, or in the shadow of group mentality people say and do the most outrageous things to save face, or pander to popular opinon, or look "strong".

I realise I am rambling on a bit here. I feel comfortable rambling with you though. I see you as a person not one among people.

To mention Eddie Izzard again, he said something that struck home with me, albeit it is a bit apocalyptical! He said he thinks the 21st century is the most important for humanity. It is this century that will define our survival. For him it is a case of creating more equally for 7 billion people asap. I cannot do anything but agree with this sentiment.

I guess when it comes down to personal choices it is a simple case of weighing responsibility against happiness. What apparent happiness am I willing to sacrifice for what I believe in? It is understanding this through exploration and intrincation of hypotheticals that I hope to guide me to the "best" path.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Athena on June 21st, 2017, 11:16 am 

There is so much I want to comment on. At the moment our rents are skyrocketing and I see a lot of evil in this, but I am quite sure no one is intending any evil. Likewise, I see much evil in what is happening to medical care and our ability to access medicine and supplies. I see evil in failing to treat the internet as a utility intentionally made the best it can be and affordable for everyone.

I like Turchin's book "War, Peace, and War". He explains why good times lead to bad times and bad times lead to good times. That which we call evil could be a failure to be aware of cause and effect and therefore, our failure to avoid the bad with knowledge of its cause and therefore a failure to make decisions to avoid it.

Of course, I spoke of our shared consciousness which is very lacking in adequate information, and this can be corrected through education and the media. There is also the individual who disturbs our peace and I want to ask you to be very careful in judging this person.

If an elderly woman in the throws of grief shoplifts, is she an evil person? Research and her behavior in court, leads to judging her as suffering from grief and in no way evil.

How about the teenager who makes a bad choice, is this individual evil? Again, we can turn to research and find causes that not in this individuals control. Usually, it is a combination of problems that leads to a teenager getting into trouble. Number one is hormones, and this cause of the problem will pass, just as the troublesome twos and terrible threes pass. I hate the change in our criminal justice that reacts to the bad of a crime instead of the individual who made a mistake. Number two is growing up with some form of abuse. Society can prevent some this problem and there are constructive ways to react to a troubled youth, avoiding serious problems, but in the US we are failing to take the steps that could be taken. Rarely, the individual is experiencing an organic mental dysfunction and these individuals can be identified and receive special attention.

For me, the greatest evil is our ignorance and that is something we can resolve.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Athena on June 21st, 2017, 11:51 am 

What shift? When things just happen and you react, you use instinct. When you can have some things you want, but not all the things you want, you use emotion


Mark Twain wrote some personalities will become the mayor or a criminal. He said something to effect, we do what we are programmed to do. If we react to a drowning person by calling for help or running away, or diving in the river to save the person, depends on how we are programmed to react, and it is very hard for us to go against our programming. Being the mayor or criminal strikes me as a matter of one's social position. There are some who are in a much better social position than others. We can also observe this in other animals, with those in higher social positions, behaving as is appropriate for their position and this is enforced by the group, and they rear their young according to their social position.

Our reactions are shaped in childhood and also we can intentionally change our reactions. Meditation is one way of changing our reaction. Becoming a born again Christian is a life change for many people. Changing the people we associate with can result in changing our behaviors. Social pressure can be good or negative and that is why I am constantly mentioning the importance of good manners, good values, and my social rules. How we behave is influenced by how the people around us behave.

The point is, although Mark Twain was right, this is not the end of the story. Cicero would say, when we understand the better reasoning, we are compelled to follow it. It can be difficult to change and go against our impulsive behaviors, but we can retrain ourselves and change our reactions.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Serpent on June 21st, 2017, 12:00 pm 

I have to do this one first, because it's shorter and I may have to leave suddenly.
Badger commented on some of the issues below, so I'll return to those later. That includes the post directly above this one. You're quite right in the main, but you have misconstrued [one third of] my comment about decision-making. It was a response to Badger, earlier. All I meant was that we use the tool most appropriate to the task: we apply a different faculty to each kind of decision-making.
Athena » June 21st, 2017, 10:16 am wrote: At the moment our rents are skyrocketing and I see a lot of evil in this, but I am quite sure no one is intending any evil.

Not in itself, no. But the forces that push rent up and wages down are part of a larger mechanism which has a lot of bad intention in its very fabric. I don't designate all bad intention as evil: as pointed out a couple of times earlier, evil is the highest and most complex level of bad.
Likewise, I see much evil in what is happening to medical care and our ability to access medicine and supplies. I see evil in failing to treat the internet as a utility intentionally made the best it can be and affordable for everyone.

There is some evil intent behind that - but there is also discord, disorder, miscommunication and incompetence.
Of course, I spoke of our shared consciousness which is very lacking in adequate information, and this can be corrected through education and the media.

Only if the education and media are not directed by the same discordant forces that direct the economy and foreign affairs. Right now, it's all a muddle.

If an elderly woman in the throws of grief shoplifts, is she an evil person?

Of course not. Think of a hierarchy of bad behaviour. Start with a child sticking its tongue out at another child, through shoes on the coffee table, littering, graffiti, noise pollution, petty theft, rowdiness, scuffle in the parking lot, property damage, reckless driving, armed robbery, releasing toxic waste into a river, serial murder, fire-bombing strangers, capture and torture of civilians, 30-year reign of terror over and entire population.
At what point doe the escalation become malignant? The point you choose is your evil-guage. Mine comes in at the river.
Society can prevent some this problem and there are constructive ways to react to a troubled youth, avoiding serious problems, but in the US we are failing to take the steps that could be taken.

It's not a failure. It's deliberate. The atmosphere shifts more and more toward the fostering of the most negative characteristics of the human animal. It starts with telling children how precious they are, while at the same time, making them feel unwelcome: sending them two or more mutually contradictory messages. Then compounding this crazy-making environment by depriving those children of a meaningful role in society, instilling suspicion and fear instead of confidence and trust.

For me, the greatest evil is our ignorance and that is something we can resolve.

For me, the greatest source of evil is organized theistic religions. After all, they invented the concept of Evil as an entity with its own independent existence.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Serpent on June 21st, 2017, 1:30 pm 

BadgerJelly » June 21st, 2017, 3:04 am wrote: I really think it is helpful to break down a situation to rigid do or don't decisions and from there see where the difficulty of the dilemma becomes more emotionally manageable.

I disagree. Making it an impossible, purely academic exercise removes the emotional component altogether, so that we don't ever have to deal with the complexity or the nuance or the long-term effects.

If we regard the two people you love going to be killed if you choose either we can say they both die, or even that you have to make the choice (the viability of this is reality is ridiculous, but it allows you to consider the inner struggle you'd have and assess your own way of dealing with the problem.)

In Styron's novel, Sophie's Choice, it wasn't at all ridiculous, and he dealt with it very well.

And of course if such a thing was to happen in reality (even though it appears impossible to us) then you may react very differently to what you presume.

Like I said: we have no frickin idea how you'll react, but you do have some idea of your abilities.

I guess it is not "evading" exactly. It is more about justifying your decision to yourself as being the "best" decision.

You do that after any emotional decision. You can't help it: the brain just works that way.

[S- When things just happen and you react, you use instinct. When you can have some things you want, but not all the things you want, you use emotion ]
I mean that when it comes to the choice between X and Y we assess our ability to influence X and Y prior and post decision. That to look upon something with cold hard logic is to distance ourselves from it personally and, obviously, emotionally.

That's not what I meant. I meant, you choose the right tool for the task. You use the appropriate faculty for the type of decision you're faced with. Caution, though: There is some compelling evidence that we make all decisions instinctively and emotionally; that we don't even know we've decided until a couple of seconds afterward; only then do we begin to apply reason.

My view of "evil" in general terms, is refusal to take responsibility and let others needlessly suffer because of your own needs.

That's one component. In an adult. A baby would naturally do this, as it has no power either to meet its own needs or to make decisions. So, an immature or undeveloped personality (like the one in that big house with the round top) might not take responsibility, even while exercising great power. That's not enough for my full definition of evil.

The question here is about the "evil" people praising the "good" for creating a "better" society.

That can't happen. The most they would do is grudgingly admit that .... well, just listen to whatever any American conservative says about Norway. They waffle about the low crime rate and then jump right to the only atrocityhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anders_Behring_Breivik that's been committed there in the past century... while glossing over both the antecedents of that crime and the number of similar and much worse crimes committed in that time-frame by their own law-enforcement agencies, let alone their criminal elements and military.

Would they praise them if the "good" (the 'wise') have made everyone proportionally happier? If not then the "evil" would likely be the least happy in this society and in an "evil" society the "good" would be the least happy.

Wrong! The evil are the most unhappy in every kind of society; the good are the most happy in every kind of society. Happiness predisposes one to good action, and a good environment promotes happiness: goodness and happiness support each other. Evil grows and festers in unhappiness; it perpetuates, exacerbates and spreads unhappiness.

No paradox at all.

Now if we look at reality we can ask a simple question. Is society more "evil" or more "good"?

Civilization is always more bad than good; while it does always contain evil (as does every individual) it is not usually the guiding influence.
Who are the 'wise', or in our real world, who are the rulers?

The wise are healers, teachers, chroniclers, scholars, discoverers, visionaries and builders. They don't seek power or privilege; they keep busy with constructive occupations and are content to let others do the same. They don't want to rule.
Evil desires power, privilege; wants to inflict vengeance, pain, humiliation and servitude on others.
Evil always rules if we let it.
You can even state that as an axiom:
The highest level of bad is the desire to dominate; evil is the drive to rule at any price.

If the majority of people in society are "good" then does this really mean that the rulers are "good"?

Neither. As I've explained before: we are animals with big brains: primal impulses and imagination. The capacity for good and bad are in every strand of DNA. What social organization dos with and to those potentials turns most people into more-or-less functional, good-enough citizens who react to what happens, adjust to their environment. They do what they must, to survive; what they can, to prosper.
The leaders they elevate are likewise products of that same environment - the most successful products, so, in a toxic environment, they're more bad, while in a benign environment, they're more good.
Evil is not necessary, any more than cancer is.

I could perhaps expand and ask if "society" is necessarily "dysfunctional". I mean this in comparison to the view that no one is born "evil" and merely we act against restraints on personal freedom. It is clear enough to me that society sets out restraints upon us that we have no or little say in.

Civilization is very difficult to keep functional, since it contains an alienation from the natural state which requires compensation.
All socialization places restraints and constraints on the individual, as well as obligations and burdens - but it rewards good behaviour with all the benefits of the co-operative. So, there is a balance.
Every child tests limits, asserts independence, shows aggression, rebels. It is society's job to teach the child how to control himself, to channel those impulses into constructive skill-sets and show how it's in his own interest, as well as the collective's, to take responsibility.
And to give him a say. Yes, that's one of the most important things that is neglected or deliberately abrogated in dysfunctional societies, and thus contributes to their dysfunction in an endless feedback spiral.

He said he believed in humanity because we once used to sacrifice people and today we have stopped doing this.

Yeah... as you say: like the drunk in the joke.
Drunk is urinating on the side of a building. Cop comes along and orders him to zip up. Drunk obeys, but starts laughing. Cop asks "What's so funny?" Drunk says "You think I've stopped?"
No, we keep on sacrificing people and animals, entire species and islands, forests and oceans on an ever-escalating scale, for ever less comprehensible heavenly gifts.

I have mentioned before, perhaps several times on this forum, that I think the biggest problem we have at the moment (humanity) is that we've had little to no time to adjust to living in huge populations.

That's a big problem, all right. Now ask why the populations are so huge - and don't say "medicine" or "technology". Those thing help keep people alive, but they could, at the same time, keep people from reproducing so far above replacement levels.
Religion, which is the manifest expression of the drive to control.
That's your major factor in creating the perfect environment for evil to fester and grow.

We all know that most of the products we buy and luxuries we have are at the expense of others.

Think about how we turned into "consumers"; why we need to feed ourselves all the time. What's missing that hurts so much we are compelled to keep filling and filling that hole with any junk shoved at us?

The blame is pointed elsewhere and if I take the responsibility there is seemingly little impact, but in ways I must strive to fight against it.

Yes, and those tiny battles do help to balance social interaction and retard the growth of evil. But we're generally too distracted to question the philosophical and economic bases on which our whole civilization is organized.

...everyone in the UK should feel guilty because the UK sells arms to the Saudi's? This has merit because anyone who pays taxes can easily assume that they have helped, in part, sell arms.

And makes terrible wars and sets up terrible regimes and endorses terrible industrial practices and misallocates resources very among its own citizens... Yes, all that. But what happens to people who withhold their tax on principle?
The more a society is under the control of its evil elements, the higher becomes the price of opposing government policy and procedure.

Going back to the murderer of children ... let us say that his knife cost him $1000 and that your representative in your community collected money from everyone and then contributed $1 of this pool to the murderer to buy his knife in return for some beer or artwork (whatever), are you responsible? I would say no you are not responsible, yet once the transaction has taken place are you responsible if you don't at least protest about what happened?

First, it's done in the gravest secrecy; whistle-blowers are disappeared; data-leakers are imprisoned or shot for treason. Second, when i do find out, i'm already complicit; have already shared - or they tell me I have - in the profits. Third, protest is already problematic and costly; it will be made impossible soon.
(The flip-side is: the longer they bottle up protest and opposition, the more likely it is to erupt in a full-scale revolution or civil war. That's not the recommended cure, but is the usual result.)

I realise I am rambling on a bit here. I feel comfortable rambling with you though. I see you as a person not one among people.

Thank you. That matters.
These topics matter, too.

To mention Eddie Izzard again, he said something that struck home with me, albeit it is a bit apocalyptical! He said he thinks the 21st century is the most important for humanity. It is this century that will define our survival.

Sounds about right. I'll have to listen to this guy.

I guess when it comes down to personal choices it is a simple case of weighing responsibility against happiness. What apparent happiness am I willing to sacrifice for what I believe in? It is understanding this through exploration and intrincation of hypotheticals that I hope to guide me to the "best" path.
[/quote]
Absolutely. That's all an individual can do. I make my daily negotiations, compromises and rope-walks - like every other amoeba in the vast, mostly-dark universe.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Athena on June 21st, 2017, 1:49 pm 

Serpent » June 21st, 2017, 10:00 am wrote:

Not in itself, no. But the forces that push rent up and wages down are part of a larger mechanism which has a lot of bad intention in its very fabric. I don't designate all bad intention as evil: as pointed out a couple of times earlier, evil is the highest and most complex level of bad.


I think perhaps you have a negative point of view, like the person who sees the cup half empty instead of half full, but I will check your information. What are the bad intentions?

There is some evil intent behind that - but there is also discord, disorder, miscommunication, and incompetence.


What is the evil intent? Where is the discord, disorder, miscommunication, and incompetence?

Only if the education and media are not directed by the same discordant forces that direct the economy and foreign affairs. Right now, it's all a muddle.


In the past parents had control over their children's education, but now in the US the federal government has taken more control and this goes against our constitution. This is a subject that deserves its own thread, but it seems there is very little interest is education.

Think of a hierarchy of bad behaviour. Start with a child sticking its tongue out at another child, through shoes on the coffee table, littering, graffiti, noise pollution, petty theft, rowdiness, scuffle in the parking lot, property damage, reckless driving, armed robbery, releasing toxic waste into a river, serial murder, fire-bombing strangers, capture and torture of civilians, 30-year reign of terror over and entire population.
At what point does the escalation become malignant? The point you choose is your evil-gauge. Mine comes in at the river.


You are mixing individual behaviors with group and social behavior and this destroys our ability to have a coherent discussion. While individuals take the action on each level, is the cause of the behavior internal or external? Am I committing armed robbery because I am desperate or because I just don't want to work for a living? If I blow up a public building, am I fighting for the good, or just acting out of a personal anger? I do not like killing, but I do kill the bugs that destroy my garden, and when judging our evil, I think we need to be more specific about the cause. What is the cause of the behavior?

It's not a failure (failing to take the steps that could be taken) It's deliberate. The atmosphere shifts more and more toward the fostering of the most negative characteristics of the human animal. It starts with telling children how precious they are, while at the same time, making them feel unwelcome: sending them two or more mutually contradictory messages. Then compounding this crazy-making environment by depriving those children of a meaningful role in society, instilling suspicion and fear instead of confidence and trust.


I do not think things have always been as they are. But I do not know what is deliberate about the change? I think all things have been done with good intentions. Poor logic and good intentions. Back to Cicero, I don't think we deliberately do what gets bad results. Further back to Socrates, when we are not aware of our reason for action and the consciences, and don't think about what we think, our decisions may lead to consequences we do not want. In his argument about justice Socrates pointed out, if we exploit people, sooner or later they will become a problem to us. Bad results are most likely unintended, not deliberate.


For me, the greatest source of evil is organized theistic religions. After all, they invented the concept of Evil as an entity with its own independent existence.

How far back in history are you going? Do you include all mythology in this idea of "theistic religions"? I do not think it was part of Egyptian mythology, and surely not Sumerian mythology. It did emerge in Persian mythology, but that was not equal to the Hebrew understanding of good and evil, although Zorocasterianims and the worship of the God of Abraham shared enough common for the ruler of Persian to free the Hebrews from Babylon and even pay for the rebuilding of their temple. Later Christians adopted much more the Persian concept of supernation powers of good and evil and demons, and they gained power when Rome was so irritated with the Jews, it threw them out of Isreal and put Palestine in its place. We could debate what religion has to do with the present problem, but I prefer Greek philosophy for understanding the human condition.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Athena on June 21st, 2017, 2:22 pm 

BadgerJelly » June 21st, 2017, 3:04 am wrote:
I really think it is helpful to break down a situation to rigid do or don't decisions and from there see where the difficulty of the dilemma becomes more emotionally manageable.


Serpent » June 21st, 2017, 3:04 am wrote: I disagree. Making it an impossible, purely academic exercise removes the emotional component altogether, so that we don't ever have to deal with the complexity or the nuance or the long-term effects.


Rigid do's and don't's can not work because of the variety of circumstances.

It is foolish to base some decisions on emotions. Not all decisions are equal to do I want ice cream today, or do I like Tom better than Betty? If we are not clear about the differences, some decisions being emotional ones and others requiring logic, our talk will lack meaning and will not be effective for improving our thinking and the consequences of it.

I will repeat, it is important to break down and categorize moral decisions. Science could not happen without the language essential to categorizing things like bushes are different from trees. Perhaps the Greeks did so well because their language was far superior to the Sumerian language that lacked the ability to categorize objects and thoughts. The Greeks distinguished between private lives and public lives and many other things. If I choose to eat ice cream or go to bed with Tom instead of Betty that is private and as long as it stays private it does not have social consequences. However, if I choose to make money by being involved with the arms industry, that has consequences far beyond my private life, and perhaps arms decisions should be public ones, not private ones?

Communities have customs that can vary widely, but core moral values tend to be universal. We share many agreements but disagree about the best way to get desired results and until our use of language changes, we can not do better.

We might want to differentiate our concepts for the purpose of increasing our understanding of what we are talking about, and coming up with more useful ideas, as science has done. We need to use science and get away from the language of religion, to have meaning discussions that can make a difference.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Serpent on June 21st, 2017, 7:03 pm 

Athena » June 21st, 2017, 12:49 pm wrote:I think perhaps you have a negative point of view, like the person who sees the cup half empty instead of half full, but I will check your information. What are the bad intentions?

In escalating rent? On the most immediate and obvious level, just to make a profit on property. On the face of it, this is not even bad, let alone evil.
But if you examined the capitalist credo (get more than you give) which drives the profit imperative, you can trace the types of harm done and the means to inflict those harms, back to the organizing principle of the society, which infuses everything: culture, justice and education, community relations, business practice and military entanglements.
The underlying bad intention is to use other people for one's own enrichment.

What is the evil intent? Where is the discord, disorder, miscommunication, and incompetence?

As for evil intent: to keep the population insecure, anxious and paying through the nose.
As for the rest, I'm not about to analyze all that's messed-up about your health care system.

[ a hierarchy of bad behaviour...At what point does the escalation become malignant? ]

You are mixing individual behaviors with group and social behavior and this destroys our ability to have a coherent discussion.

I have no intention of discussing every kind of crime and misdemeanour. I just listed a random selection of bad actions in ascending order of severity and premeditation. For me, bad behaviour has to reach a certain degree of both before I call it evil. Your scale may be different.

is the cause of the behavior internal or external?

I think I covered that. It's always both.
Am I committing armed robbery because I am desperate or because I just don't want to work for a living?

Motive is one factor. But in either case, we need to consider why armed robbery, with high risk of injury or death to innocent bystanders, rather than, say, stealing an expensive car, and the degree of premeditation (intent) in getting the guns and planning the hold-up.
The causes of a behaviour are always long and complex, and I would certainly judge each crime on its own merits, but that doesn't get us closer to defining "evil".

I do not think things have always been as they are.

Things change all the time.
But I do not know what is deliberate about the change? I think all things have been done with good intentions.

I don't know what your reason for believing this is... unless you just believe what politicians say.

I don't think we deliberately do what gets bad results.

You don't think anyone deliberately takes resources out of the commonality for his own ambitions? Or attacked a rival with the simple intent of harming him? Or replaced a not-so-great health insurance scheme with a disastrously bad one?

[ organized theistic religions]
How far back in history are you going? Do you include all mythology in this idea of "theistic religions"?

Whenever animist religion gave way to a centrally-controlled system of anthropoid gods. (Egypt may be a good example of the transition.) My reasoning is that these religions introduce two very bad ideas: the external embodiment of human characteristics and the replacement of natural forces by kingly figures. They also introduce a very bad mechanism: the priestly intermediary, and a very bad concept: man's fall from or failure to attain a desired state of being; therefore unearned guilt.

I prefer Greek philosophy for understanding the human condition.

Oh yes, very poetically, too. The condition of humans in a highly evolved state of civilization. That condition, though, already includes much of the mal-ease that we have now. Artists usually understand it, but nobody in power acts on the recommendation of artists or scholars.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Athena on June 22nd, 2017, 1:54 pm 

Serpent » June 21st, 2017, 5:03 pm wrote:
Athena » June 21st, 2017, 12:49 pm wrote:I think perhaps you have a negative point of view, like the person who sees the cup half empty instead of half full, but I will check your information. What are the bad intentions?

In escalating rent? On the most immediate and obvious level, just to make a profit on property. On the face of it, this is not even bad, let alone evil.
But if you examined the capitalist credo (get more than you give) which drives the profit imperative, you can trace the types of harm done and the means to inflict those harms, back to the organizing principle of the society, which infuses everything: culture, justice and education, community relations, business practice and military entanglements.
The underlying bad intention is to use other people for one's own enrichment.


Would you please join a discussion group I am in, at our local senior center? I love how stimulating your point of view can be. We tax profits so capitalism benefits all of us. This is a mutual agreement and we have a democracy to regulate this.

We get into trouble because of our success and not being aware that our success now means we have a problem and we need to adjust to resolve the problem. Just increasing the value of gold and land does not resolve the problems created by our success. I so look forward to the day when we develop better thinking for dealing the problems caused by our success.

old question: What is the evil intent? Where is the discord, disorder, miscommunication, and incompetence?
As for evil intent: to keep the population insecure, anxious and paying through the nose.
As for the rest, I'm not about to analyze all that's messed-up about your health care system.


I am afraid you are right about some evil intent. I have come across an explanation that laborers serve best when they are insecure and low wages not only means better profits but getting more out of the laborer. Also, someone teaching property management locally, explained the way to discriminate against the poor and Blacks is to raise rents and all fees and deposits that can be charged before accepting a renter. Perhaps we should bring up these practices so we have a shared awareness of them, and can then use democracy to counteract these harmful practices? But I don't think we can resolve the problem of overpopulation that is the driving force behind these evils?

I have no intention of discussing every kind of crime and misdemeanour. I just listed a random selection of bad actions in ascending order of severity and premeditation. For me, bad behaviour has to reach a certain degree of both before I call it evil. Your scale may be different.


I think there is a problem with that basis of judgment. It might be too subjective when we need to be objective? It leads to punishing individuals instead of focusing on the cause and correcting the problem?

Old question: Am I committing armed robbery because I am desperate or because I just don't want to work for a living?

Motive is one factor. But in either case, we need to consider why armed robbery, with high risk of injury or death to innocent bystanders, rather than, say, stealing an expensive car, and the degree of premeditation (intent) in getting the guns and planning the hold-up.
The causes of a behaviour are always long and complex, and I would certainly judge each crime on its own merits, but that doesn't get us closer to defining "evil".
Whoo, whoo, whoo you have not included the employer and the property management company that are making decisions that are harmful to people, and until they are also considered, there will be justification for stealing from the rich, even if a gun is used or the person isn't really that rich. There is a problem with your explanation and perhaps with what we consider a crime? As Socrates said, if those people are exploited, sooner or later they will become a problem. A moral society needs to be moral, not stopping at identifying something like armed robbery as wrong. Taking every bit of a family's discretionary money for years and finally raising rents too high for the family to pay, is not armed robbery but it is very, very hurtful to the family, and if we are not to hurt others to benefit ourselves, then we need to talk about this differently.

Old question: I do not know what is deliberate about the change? I think all things have been done with good intentions.

I don't know what your reason for believing this is... unless you just believe what politicians say.


I know the 1958 National Defense Education Act was passed with good intentions and that many positive things have resulted from that, but also there have been negative ramifications and that in general, we are unaware of them, so problems are growing and we lack understanding of this. I also know labor and renters can not be exploited when the is a labor shortage and plenty of available land, and we not talking about today's problems as we need to talk about them. We are not using math and science as effectively was we could, so we are failing to comprehend the cause of our problems and the solution. It is like we are stuck in religious concerns of good and evil, instead of being scientific. We are being emotional instead of rational.

Old question; I don't think we deliberately do what gets bad results.
You don't think anyone deliberately takes resources out of the commonality for his own ambitions? Or attacked a rival with the simple intent of harming him? Or replaced a not-so-great health insurance scheme with a disastrously bad one?


Okay, there are people who knowingly harm others and rationalize why this is okay, Enron and the financial community had corporate corruption, and there should have been strong punishments dealt out. But even worse, is all the things that are done for good reasons that have bad results. I am not sure how we can judge when something is evil because the person is really a psychopath, or when something is evil because the person's logic was wrong?

Old question: Do you include all mythology in this idea of "theistic religions"?
Whenever animist religion gave way to a centrally-controlled system of anthropoid gods. (Egypt may be a good example of the transition.) My reasoning is that these religions introduce two very bad ideas: the external embodiment of human characteristics and the replacement of natural forces by kingly figures. They also introduce a very bad mechanism: the priestly intermediary, and a very bad concept: man's fall from or failure to attain a desired state of being; therefore unearned guilt.


Wow, you peaked my interest and I am running out of time and can not give this the attention I would love to give it. Do you care enough about this subject to use that statement to open a new thread? I do not know of the transition of which you speak, but do know the spirit of Egypt was dying. For awhile the Persians controlled it and then the Greeks took it from the Persians, and they revived the religion and turned it into a huge profit making industry. There is so much to consider here and it could help us understand the bigger picture and what this has to do with wrong thinking.

Old comment: I prefer Greek philosophy for understanding the human condition.
Oh yes, very poetically, too. The condition of humans in a highly evolved state of civilization. That condition, though, already includes much of the mal-ease that we have now. Artists usually understand it, but nobody in power acts on the recommendation of artists or scholars.


I am not sure of what you speak here? Individuals have written books that change the consciousness of the masses, and art has played a vital role in shaping mass consciousness. For sure I can see a connection between what you said and the paragraph above. And for sure, I better turn my attention to what I have to do today. But I hate to leave when a discussion is this interesting!
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby BadgerJelly on June 22nd, 2017, 3:41 pm 

Athena -


Rigid do's and don't's can not work because of the variety of circumstances.


You are completely taking what I have said out of context. Saying a hypothetical is not real is an obvious statement. The use of it is what I developed in the other thread "ethics" or whatever I called it?

I was starting from a very simple and two dimensional and then slowly expanding, not trying to rush ahead (although I have in places.)
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Serpent on June 22nd, 2017, 4:32 pm 

Athena » June 22nd, 2017, 12:54 pm wrote: We tax profits so capitalism benefits all of us. This is a mutual agreement and we have a democracy to regulate this.

You still buying that line, with a berserk billionaire who hasn't paid any taxes in - how long? maybe his whole destructive, fraudulent career - rampaging through your social services?

Perhaps we should bring up these practices so we have a shared awareness of them, and can then use democracy to counteract these harmful practices?

They're not a secret. Nor is it a secret that when American workers demand fair wages and working conditions, they cease to be "competitive", and it's their own fault the employers up-stakes, abandon the town that offered massive tax-breaks to have a factory built there, leave the suddenly unemployed population to grapple with big mortgages, work-related health issues and no insurance plan, leave a building empty on ground contaminated with cadmium, and relocate to a country with a larger, more disposable local population.
But the victims are invested in the system and can nearly always be persuaded to vote against their own interest; they blame the union, or government regulation or welfare recipients. Anyway, talking about it would get you labelled a leftist radical and you know nobody listens to them!
BTW, I heard from a high-level conservative economist that the optimal unemployment rate in North America is 7.2%. Enough to keep 'em at one another's throats, but not to riot.
Here is a web-site with lots of good information. You may already know about https://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/index.jsp

But I don't think we can resolve the problem of overpopulation that is the driving force behind these evils?

You believe that's what drives bad business practice? And what drives overpopulation?
(a\corollary: What drives the massive opposition to reproductive and end-of-life choice?)

I think there is a problem with that basis of judgment. It might be too subjective when we need to be objective?

I indicated where I draw my personal line between bad and evil. You make your own scale, and judge on whatever basis you choose.
It leads to punishing individuals instead of focusing on the cause and correcting the problem?

Who was punished by my listing examples of bad behaviour? The examples that are illegal are punishable by law - but not by me, and not because I consider those acts criminal.
Please stop obsessing over the particulars of that list. The only point I was trying was to make was that the it's the degrees of harm and premeditation that pushed bad action over into evil action. If you don't like my examples, use better ones.
The problem cannot be corrected without a major alteration in social structure.

Okay, there are people who knowingly harm others and rationalize why this is okay,

And so we approach the subject of the thread.

But even worse, is all the things that are done for good reasons that have bad results.

Where there is good will and good intention, bad results can be corrected. Evil does not accept criticism or co-operate in correction.
I am not sure how we can judge when something is evil because the person is really a psychopath, or when something is evil because the person's logic was wrong?

At that point where I find the tortured bodies of young women chained to his basement ceiling, I don't care how he became evil or why he's behaving in such a manner - I just need to stop him.
I would very much like to prevent others becoming like him in the future, but that's not my primary consideration at that moment.
Incorrect logic doesn't have that kind of bad result. Something might blow up - that's an accident. Something might not work - that's a failure. Somebody might not like how it works - that's a disagreement. None of those outcomes are evil.

Do you care enough about this subject to use that statement to open a new thread?

I care... but it's a touchy subject with theists present.

I do not know of the transition of which you speak,

From animist to anthropomorphic religion. You can still see where the gods, and their picture of the world, come from. The gods have the appearance of both animals and humans, and they control natural forces, which is a step away from being the natural forces. The origin myth refers to their body parts and functions in a continuity between the land, the climate, nature and the divine. But they also wear the trappings and symbols of monarchy and thus legitimate the power of the ruling family and the priestly and administrative hierarchy. Here, the god-mandated order of things is obedience.
This arrangement becomes the norm in all civilized societies: the individual's autonomy, importance and self-regulation is taken away; replaced by commanders and liege-lords. In most of them, the individual's very essence is taken way: you are not a fully-integrated unique entity, but a hybrid of animal body (worthless, shameful, dirty) that is at the mercy of your "betters"; and immortal soul (inadequate, unless you strive to bring it up to standard) which belongs to the god(s) In other words, you've gone from noble savage to miserable worm in a mere 30,000 years.

Individuals have written books that change the consciousness of the masses, and art has played a vital role in shaping mass consciousness.

Then why doesn't it change? For a century, the smartest of our scientists and writers have been warning us about the potentially fatal effects of industrial and commercial practices, as well as population increase and political instability. Yet a lot of the Masses are saying : What climate change? There's always been bad weather. Anyway, I like steak with bacon on it.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Athena on June 23rd, 2017, 12:27 pm 

Serpent said: Yes, I suppose realizing how insignificant we are does diminish our responsibility. But if we each went around taking the blame for everything that goes wrong in our whole civilization, we would be catatonic by age 12. You can have both responsibility and perspective.


Badgerjelly said: Yes, and we have to decide where and when to take responsibility, rightly or wrongly.


I think our sense of purposes as citizens of the US is accepting responsibility for the whole of civilization. Our Declaration of Independence says:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.


The pursuit of happiness at this time in our history comes out of Greek philosophy and means gaining knowledge of life. To fulfill our responsibility as citizens, meanings lifelong learning, accumulating the knowledge of life that gives us good moral judgment and makes us capable of having liberty and self-government. The most important goal of our education should be preparing us for this.
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Re: Good and Evil

Postby Athena on June 23rd, 2017, 12:36 pm 

BadgerJelly » June 22nd, 2017, 1:41 pm wrote:Athena -


Rigid do's and don't's can not work because of the variety of circumstances.


You are completely taking what I have said out of context. Saying a hypothetical is not real is an obvious statement. The use of it is what I developed in the other thread "ethics" or whatever I called it?

I was starting from a very simple and two dimensional and then slowly expanding, not trying to rush ahead (although I have in places.)


I apologize for not being able to give this thread the careful deliberation it deserves. It seems like lately, I am rushing from one thing to another and I am planning on taking on even more responsibility. What is being discussed here is important and I am not willing to give it up, but apologize for rushing through.
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