Evil

Discussion in 'Soap Box' started by Zurkhardo, Aug 16, 2009.

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  1. Zurkhardo

    Zurkhardo Well-Known Member

    He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. -Friedrich Nietzsche

    We don't have to look very far to encounter the reality of evil in our existence. I sometimes try to look back to when I first developed a concept of evil and realized that horrific things exist in the world. Go figure, I cannot. Evil is one of those things you just kind of know about, a timeless concept like goodness, life, or death. For years I've had a fascination with evil and the origin of all the horrible things individual humans and this race as a whole is capable of. Of course being an international relations major, in addition to my interest in history, has opened up a plethora of horrors about the limits of human morality and sanity.

    But what is evil: an absolute, universal concept or something subjective? Where does it come from: ourselves or a higher power or force? Is evil a preventable thing, or a tragic and intrinsic part of existence? Most contentiously, is evil truly 'bad' or does it actually serve some sort of positive aim, such as defining what is good or keeping us united? Unsurprisingly there are range of philosophical and theological theories regarding the nature and existence of evil.

    Socrates (or was it Plato, or both, I forget) believed evil to be merely ignorance, with good being merely that which all humans desire. Nietzsche assessed that whatever is branded as evil is only done so because it can't be obtained, so rather than deal with not having their desire, man copes by rejecting it as evil. Spinoza viewed evil as being dependent upon one's own personal inclinations, popularizing the idea that evil is as subjective as any other ethical or moral concept.

    Perhaps my favorite interpretation comes from Carl Jung, who famously - or infamously - defined evil as "the dark side of God," and even interpreted the story of Jesus as being God facing his own darkside. Of course this was applied to humans as well, in which evil is committed by those who cannot face their own repressed weaknesses. Perhaps we can interpret the committing of evil acts as some twisted form of compensation. The concept of the Shadow in Psychology is often interpreted as suggesting that evil as an intrinsic part of all humans, repressed within themselves. Could it be that we all have the potential for evil, and that deep down we all have temptations to rape, murder, steal, and such? What does that say about our own nations, much less the nature of evil, which would thus be natural as opposed to the aberration it is often considered to be.

    Plato observed that there are relatively few ways to do good, but many ways to do evil. Thus promoting goodness and morality could possibly not be enough evil; evil must be prevented or stopped because good alone good only do so much.

    Then we have the religious arguments. Faiths like Christianity and Zoroastrianism (the latter having inspired the former), treat good and evil as two separate and conflicting concepts represented by two ultimate personifications; with humans and this Earth being fought over by the factions. Christianity takes it a step further with the concept of original sin, which seems to suggest that humans are naturally evil. Interestingly the prophet Isiah projected all things in the world to be originated from God, including evil, dispelling the seemingly classic idea of evil versus good, which is God. This supports the philosophical understanding of evil as a tool.

    Judaism interprets evil in several ways: as the result of forsaking God or as a way of testing humans, who have a choice in the matter (Satan is even seeing as somewhat working with God to test humans).

    In Islam, God is interpreted as being a separate being, and thus evil as a separate concept beyond his machinations: rather it originates in man as well. Buddhism's take is similar, best explained in the Buddha's message that "By oneself, indeed, is evil done; by oneself is one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone; by oneself, indeed, is one purified. Purity and impurity depend on oneself. No one purifies another." Hinduism's take often seems similar, though is more complex, holding that evil is a result of ignorance of one's inner spirituality, existing due to lack of wisdom. Islam and Buddhism have made similar notions as well.

    And for the record most of these interpretations are just that, interpretations; so take what I have learned or gleaned from a faith with a grain of salt. Don't hold it against me if I have 'misinterpreted' any religion.

    There is so much that comprises the the study of evil, but I think it's best to give each of you a go at it. Care to postulate it with me?
     
  2. necrodude

    necrodude Well-Known Member

    long post... where to begin?

    i have to say jung would be the most accurate, in that he described it the way the others belived it. evil is a personal demon. i do not believe in good or evil any more, nor do i believe in any personifications of them as such. i may be considered a dualist but not it the zoroastrian sense. there is chaos and there is order. both "good" and "evil" beliefs have the same problem. the "good" ones wish to give everything and the "evil" ones wish to take. but if everybody gives, we all end up with nothing. if we all take the same will eventually occur. evil if it exists would be to join one of those sides (this covers more than just religion), thereby causing stagnation of body and spirit. however this means that it would also be good, to be on the opposite side, which creates equilibrium. but only if the takers give, etc. so if all attempts to define evil result in a balance, then how can it exist? if something does not move, how is it being pushed or pulled? now i know about the balance of forces, but that has the same effect as no forces being applied.

    basically evil, and good can be put into the subconcious attic, (or basement) along with santa, the tooth fairy etc. we should have no need for such concepts in this day and age. its like if there was a man going to be murdered (shot, for example), and he had terminal cancer, and wanted to die, would you save him or not? which is the good act?

    both answers are considered evil (although one is morally accepted, proving that its not even a question of ethics), so as there is no good act, a paradox is created (how can you define evil without good) negating the need for good and evil and instead poses another question, which would you find easier to deal with?
     
  3. pit

    pit Well-Known Member

    Evil exists and is personified in people like Elizabeth Bathory, Stalin, Hitler, Dr. Josef Mengele.

    Good exists, and is personified in people like Mother Theresa, Dr. Jonas Salk, and Michael Jackson.
     
  4. ashes_away

    ashes_away Well-Known Member

    the ole good and evil debate.I dunno.I think evil already won the war,personally.Long time ago,too.
     
  5. CAD

    CAD Well-Known Member

    Some good stuff there but be careful not to equate Axial schemas(Zoroastrianism etc.) of "evil" with Christian ones, as those are far more multi-faceted (and really, early Christianity was more influenced by Platonism/NeoPlatonism than Zoroastrianism).
     
  6. Brighid Moon

    Brighid Moon Member & Antiquities Friend

    Michael Jackson is debatable.

    Good and evil are subjective value judgements which are put upon actions. Hitler thought he was doing God's work. I'm positive there is negative and positive, as those are qualities (such as in electricity) - and that both are necessary.

    Early Xtianity was influenced by mystic Judaism as well as Neo-Platoism, and Gnostic mysticism - as well as politics of the day. People tend to overlook the latter greatly.

    Good thread and good posts.
     
  7. Zurkhardo

    Zurkhardo Well-Known Member

    Yes I didn't intended it, it's merely that Christianity has often been interpreted as taking much of it's dualist interpretation of evil from Zoroastrianism, in addition to Platonism, etc). Particularly the part about angels and demons battling for our souls, though I left that out (oops :p)

    But thanks for the input everyone. I appreciate the interest and enlightenment on the subject!
     
  8. shades

    shades Staff Alumni

    An incredibly well thought out presentation from various points of view! And the replies are equally interesting. As I do not know enough to discuss this from the philosphical or religious angle, let me propose it as follows.

    Regardless of the cause, from any point of view, the psychological aspect you mention proposes that it is intrinsic and subsequently repressed to the extent that one is capable.

    Is there then any posiblilty that eventually, humankind will evolve to the point where evil, and more specifically evil thoughts will become a genetic fluke? That man will eventually become intrinsically non-violent and kind in thought and spirit with near complete repression of those thoughts and nearly incapable of inflicting horror upon others?
     
  9. Brighid Moon

    Brighid Moon Member & Antiquities Friend

    While I would hate to see the world eventually end up like Morlocks vs. Eloi, I would think that the way society is being manipulated (and saying this without wishing to go into any long discussions) perhaps we may well see humankind evolving into a completely passive creature in another 5000 years. Who knows.
     
  10. cofmadness

    cofmadness Well-Known Member

    Michael... we have no proof he didn't diddle those little boys, he was off his rocker. as for evil I don't know, some people just don't give a shit about what's moral and do as they please, not saying it's right, twisted sure but the world would be boring without evil, different, eccentric people.
     
  11. ashes_away

    ashes_away Well-Known Member

    being different and eccentric does not equal evil.
     
  12. CAD

    CAD Well-Known Member

    Since when was Mother Teresa the epitomy of goodness? The Catholic Church just drew her up as their poster-child. She was even opposed to abortion on the grounds of rape!
     
  13. necrodude

    necrodude Well-Known Member


    now that might be possible. or we could just wipe all of us out. weve been scrapping each other for at least 5000 years, why not a couple more millenia?
     
  14. Silvio

    Silvio Well-Known Member

    This is a very subjective and debatable issue. In every human psyche there exists both evil and good, that is known.
    However, for me I don't think there is a distinct line, that differentiates "good" from "evil", in other words it's a blurr, things like the justice system and police impose the notions of good and evil upon us.
    As proof, how about the criminals who have had a mental illness, such as being sociopathic and psychotic? It isn't their fault, they don't have control over their actions. Of course, it's dependent of the context, you see most people will say that murder is wrong, but murdering for the reason of self-defense is okay. What makes people do these horrible things? Put yourself in their shoes, maybe a harsh upbringing or whatever or some other traumatic event, maybe even to protect those they love and cherish.
    Now I want to train to become a criminologist when I become older, because this subject always fascinated me, you understand the psychology behind the things criminals (the alleged "bad" people considered by most) do.
    It's all to do with determinants and from my own intertextuality, I've read many profiles on sociopaths and psychopaths alike, they couldn't help it, they were either mentally disabled or had experienced trauma themselves.
    So my own interpretation, there is no good and evil, we're all human, we should develop an understanding of these universal themes, not belittle others, for the difference of paradigms, this is a very parasital attitude most people possess, undermining other people in order to make themselves a deemed "good" person of society and gain superiority, this to me, is truly evil and immoral. Why can't we just understand the motives behind everything the "Why's?" in things instead of the "What?" etc.
     
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