A Conversation for Evil from a Western Perspective

Let us define Evil as dark...

Post 1

Tremolo

If we define evil as dark, how do we define dark in itself? Do we not say dark is the lack of light? We have no idea therefore of what dark is unless we know what light is, is that not so?

If we talk about evil, how do we define evil in itself? Do we not say evil is the lack of goodness? We have no idea therefore of what evil is unless we know what goodness is, is that not so?

Is it therefore safe to say that when we talk of evil from the western perspective we already know what is goodness - from the perspective of the west, that is? Is that not so?

If that is so your Guide Entry "Evil from a Western Perspective" does indicate that Good from a western perspective is as unstable and not as steadfast as a lot of western people would like to believe. smiley - sadface


Let us define Evil as dark...

Post 2

Belvill the Blind

I'm not sure why one would want to define evil as dark per se, except possibly to use light and dark as metaphors for polarity. I think perhaps that concluding that evil is an absence of good (dark is an absence of light) may be taking this metaphor too far. In fact the metaphor works just as well if you qualify the light and dark as the paint - is evil therefore a mixture of all moral thought (black being a mixture of all the colors)?
I think before I would be confortable following your line of thought, I would have to have it explained why we would define evil as darkness. If the reasoning is simply metaphoric example of polarity, then I think you may have over used your metaphor.


Belvill


Let us define Evil as dark...

Post 3

Belvill the Blind

I'm not sure why one would want to define evil as dark per se, except possibly to use light and dark as metaphors for polarity. I think perhaps that concluding that evil is an absence of good (dark is an absence of light) may be taking this metaphor too far. In fact the metaphor works just as well if you qualify the light and dark as the paint - is evil therefore a mixture of all moral thought (black being a mixture of all the colors)?
I think before I would be confortable following your line of thought, I would have to have it explained why we would define evil as darkness. If the reasoning is simply metaphoric example of polarity, then I think you may have over used your metaphor.


Belvill


Let us define Evil as dark...

Post 4

Tremolo

I merely used it as an example. For if we know what dark is, then we must already know what light is. Going back to Evil. If we already know what Evil is, then it follows that we already know what Good is. In other words, we cannt separate them, although of course we can talk about them separately. But in doing so we always have at the back of our minds the one when discussing the other.

My point after having said all about defining...etc. was that the Guide entry showed how varied and unstable the concept of Evil in the West was, and is. It must therefore follow that our concept of what Good was, and is, is equally varied and unstable - which does not bode well for the future of mankind. What with all the political violence and strife going on... The issue of cloning, abortion, whether to legalize drugs or not, and so on. Amidst all these, where and how do we find what is Good and what is Evil when our concept of Good and Evil is so unstable. Do we settle what is Good by force of arms? By race? By ideology? By religion? By profit and greed? By expedience? For me, that is the implication of this very instructive Guide entry on Evil. It implies the moral and ethical chaos we are really in but we have not yet realized the meaning this has for the future.


Let us define Evil as dark...

Post 5

Researcher 185495

One could forever discuss evil in terms of its opposites...however this would be ultimately futile as it would lend little insight into the actual nature of evil or more importantly, the origins of evil in a person or in a society.
While the intellectual investigation of the definition of evil is useful, since to know something one must have at least some definiton of what it is, and therefore know what it is not, the discussion must invariably proceed to somethin more useful, such as causes and (hopelessly) solutions. I add this.
A society decides what it considers evil to be. There is no absolute evil, since this would be the 'bottom line' and presumably there is no bottom line except that evil must be 'good' unto itself in order to survive. If evil wher to be evil towards itself, the outcome must be negative...to defeat evil...and this would be 'good'.
However in this we must not forget what we have termed 'natural law', namely that there are certain natural conditions which since the dawn of time all societies have held, in varying degrees, as taboo.
Murder is normally considered an evil act, however infanticide is oft practiced to this day as a means of survival among pygmy tribes in the Amazon....yet the same tribes would consider such an act evil if it occured outside the neccesity caused by food shortages.
There is one English law case of two adult men and a minor who were adrift in a boat at sea. The adults killed the boy and later pleaded necessity. It is possible to envisage a senario where they wouldbe aquitted however the magistrate believed they have taken advantage of the boys vulnerability.
Ultimately evil stems from not doing. 'Not doing' means just that. A failure to act, often in accordance with natural law,but also in accordance with what society believes to be correct. All religions preace 'Do unto others as you would ahve them do unto you'. This statement is not an exhortation to treat people as you would like 'them' to treat you, BUT rather it is an exhortation to activelt go out and seek to do good unto others.
To fail to act, to do nothing, creates a situation where evil, as a force, either mental, physical or etheral (if one is a believer)can fester with fairly predictable outcomes...........you can fill in here any example you like where people, never mind actually trying to do good, but rather by doing nothing, allowed events to happen that we and most of the planet have come to regard as evil.


Let us define Evil as dark...

Post 6

Zarquon's Singing Fish!

What about flying a jet engine into a tower block? This is an intentional act. By this definition, it is not evil! Perhaps, it's just misguided?


Let us define Evil as dark...

Post 7

Zarquon's Singing Fish!

What about flying a jet plane into a tower block? This is an intentional act. By this definition, it is not evil! Perhaps, it's just misguided?


Let us define Evil as dark...

Post 8

wotan

I always thought that evil in the western tradition meant 'absence'ar 'negation' anyway? Or a moral action negating life and 'natural order'.


Let us define Evil as dark...

Post 9

wotan

I meant only to say that in the Augustinian tradition culminating in Aquinas (who references it to Aristotle 'a thing is good in as much as it is')- and I think for the west inasmuch as the west is the Catholic church, anyway, Goodness and Being always went together: what is is good, metaphysically - evil is a lack (famous eg, blindness as the absence of sight), and as I said a moral act which negates natural order. A tendency to nothingness. Could be wrong, though. What I meant to say though is that i understand this way of thinking to be precisely the point at which Augustine rejects manichaeism, which some of the discussions above seem to sort of reiterate in the polarity thing - in that good and evil rely on each other for their definition and as such being, if something has to be to be susceptible to definition. At least the lead essay seemed to suggest that Augustine was a manichee?
I could just be talking to myself though, and I'm not sure that charging above positions of manichaeism is fair.


Der Wanderer is among us!

Post 10

Spiff

Hi there Wotan, smiley - ok

Wow, that's some heavy duty metaphysical s**t you're layin' down there! smiley - biggrin

Way outta my league!

Seeya
Spiff


Der Wanderer is among us!

Post 11

wotan

S**t - don't you understand it either? We're lost.


Der Wanderer is among us!

Post 12

Researcher 216473

What about if good is what is good for the single person.
Since it is possibly impossible to catagorically prove that there is anything but the singular in human experience.
Therefore if I enjoy murdering then this is good in the same way that if I don't enjoy smiths salt & shake crisps they are evil.
This would make all talk of such things irrelevant as there would be no point in sharing things that can only ever be relevant to me . It would also end this discussion.

And I bloody hate smiths salt & shake crisps.


Evil or evil?

Post 13

senwad

I don't think you can define evil unless you define the context in which it lies. To me, evil is something from which no lasting good can come, but as other people have said, it's largely subjective; dependant upon a person's values and beliefs.

The metaphorical use of black and white to represent evil and good is purely a term used in language, and doesn't survive the transition into the physical world. It's probably rooted in man's primieval fear of the dark, as in night being a time when we were vulnerable to nocturnal predators, or simply being attacked whilst we slept. Darkness confuses us because we rely on our eyes to guide us most of the time; confusion equates to fear, in life threatening situations. White represents the light of day when we felt safer because we could see our enemies and thus avoid or fight them.

If you're considering good and evil in a biblical sense, as in God and the Devil (add an 'o' to 'God' and take the 'D' from 'Devil' - weird huh?), pure evil cannot possibly exist if its definition is a total absence of good, because good and evil always sit side by side e.g. 'doing something evil for the greater good.

I think ultimately good and evil are no more than concepts, and no more 'real' in a physical sense than 'time'.


Evil or evil?

Post 14

Flynn - General Secretary for the Ministry of Stuff That No Other Ministry Wants To Take Charge of, E.g. Rechargeable Batteries

I'm going to go out on a teleological limb and say that good and evil are completely subjective, and it is context and consequence that give the terms validity, as without context the two words are just that- empty words. What is good or evil can be decided by what is more likely to produce a greater degree of happiness for more people. However this system can lead to minority oppression, for example in the case of a judge executing an innocent man in order to serve as an example and quell publid disorder.

Just think yourselves lucky you're not doing an A level in this sh*t.


Let us define Evil as dark...

Post 15

Patrice

The most logical definition of Evil I have come across is from the philosophy of the heretical Christian Cathars (mediaeval France). To them this material world was evil. The world from which we have come, the spirit world is 'good'. Anything material is essentially evil in that it is the cause, in one form or another of all our suffering. As we make closer contact with 'spirit' in successive lives so our suffering becomes less. Eventually our 'accomodation' between the material and spirit world becomes so perfect that we no longer need to return, and thus evil is conquered. Jesus was one such, though he did return in order to help those of us who are 'land-locked' to understand the rules of the game. What is particularly fascinating is that the process of 'return', ie.reincarnation, is in this modern age becoming more of a science than a belief.
The old dark/light metaphor used for evil/good worked fine in its days - vide the Gnostic Gospels and other scriptures - and this is where the idea of black as evil has come from. That was a time when peoples were used to working with metaphors. Our religions have however regressed our power of comprehension so much that on the whole we can only think in concrete terms - we have lost the gentle art of reading between the lines.


Let us define Evil as dark...

Post 16

senwad

Oh those Cathars! They had a good time of it, didn't they? Until they got wiped out by the Roman Catholic Church that is. Talk about church sanctioned mass murder; if anybody has any doubt about how evil the Church was at that time, there you go.


Let us define Evil as dark...

Post 17

Alaska Grown

Well, someone thought it was a good idea.


Let us define Evil as dark...

Post 18

Researcher 241477

Hello people - bare with me on my English please - now I read the article on evil. I think this was a good article since it didn't claim ever to define evil in itself. I found that the writer had studied the broad historical view and demonstrated general perceptions of evil mainly the perception of the famous and less famous "intellectuals" and religios leaders society etc.

Now people SEEM to not be able to find any strong bonds of agreement on what evil is unless they are of the same belief. What I find interesting is that sometimes I have happened to agree with an individual on a moral statement they have set forth - only to later find out that we had entirely different motives for reaching the same conclusion. So we both do not like mushrooms to make it simple - now we shake hands yes man you're just like me hey cool !! later I find out that I hate the taste of it while he hates the concistancy of it.

I fail to see who is qualified to teach me anything about evil except for myself. There are religions that claim to have the answers to all of this. So if you are able to believe one of them, then you are able and I wont stop you unless you threaten my view of good wich again is relative to me my faith emotions of fear hope joy pain etc etc. SO.....
my best shot is to put forth the thought ... wouldn't it be possible that evil as we percieve it is directly sprung from our own value systems apart and/or joined ? .....
.... as for higher reality wich could possibly be the sum of all subrealities such as yours mine his hers theirs and natures and gods etc. .... wouldn't it be fair to say that this total reality if it exists is a bit too much of a task to figure out when we still are only using a small percentage of the human brain and still don't know how to activate the rest of the brain ....

why not just continue being subjective about our views and oppinions as it's almost all we really ever have been -

as for the write of the article - I like the approach of just stating as many facts as possible of events and theories on evil and trying to see if there is any logic in that might give away the logical answer of what it is - but I doubt such an emotionally and religious and cultural subjective phenomonom will reveal any clear patterns anytime soon.


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