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Thread: What do you think evil is?

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    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    What do you think evil is?

    Yes, I'm pretty sure most of us will say it is subjective, and I would hazard to guess that some of us would say that it is subjective enough to be a meaningless classification.

    ...I happen to agree that it is entirely subjective (though I disagree that it is meaningless), and with that in mind, what is your gut reaction of what evil is? What constitutes an act of evil? Is there such thing as an evil person? An evil entity? Is one person's evil just someone else misunderstood? Is choosing to rationalize the non-existence of evil a cop-out?
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    Cannibal Rights Activist Ophidia's Avatar
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    Re: What do you think evil is?

    In my mind, evil is dependent on your religion's definition of it. Good and bad are subjective, but there are fewer connotations of religiousness tied to 'good' and 'bad'.

    Good things happen, bad things happen - and that's purely based on one's perception of events, and whether or not one is on the receiving end of things that are happening. Generally, when 'evil' things happen, according to various religions, the victim of 'evil' usually deserves it in some way or another. 'Evil' never seems to happen on its own, while 'good' and 'bad' are somehow chance or happenstance. 'Evil' people who did something to a victim are somehow seen as instruments of punishment for the victim's transgressions and the instrument's morality, ethics & actions are reassigned to a higher power of some sort - 'the Devil made them do it'. Much like portrayed in countless serial killer/mass murder horror movies like the Halloween or Friday the 13th franchises. Michael Meyers and Jason (and Jason's mom) are all pretty horrible people, but the blame is lifted from Michael & Jason because they are killing immoral teenagers who have premarital, promiscuous sex.

    When people say Hitler was evil, or Idi Amin, or Virginia Mukankusi were evil, it seems to imply that those people were not acting of their own free will. The hand of some outside agency was guiding their actions, using them as a tool to commit atrocities. It removes their humanity and turns them into supernatural monsters or puppets. It would be better to name them and clearly define their actions as committed by people to other people (or animals, or cultural identities). They were cruel, they committed atrocities, they were killers, torturers and abusers. These people were not 'evil', they were inhumane, not inhuman.
    The forum member formerly known as perzephone. Or Perze. I've shed a skin.

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    PF Ordo Hereticus MaskedOne's Avatar
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    Re: What do you think evil is?

    Evil with a capital E? I treat it as a malevolent power with some ability to tamper in this reality through mortal life. I don't consider it to be the overwhelming boogeyman that some sects have turned Satan into but I believe in a power that would like to quote TSCC, "to see the world burn."

    Little e evil is a descriptor that we use to describe particularly repugnant behaviour. Genocide, torture for entertainment value, a number of things some people do to children trip my "kill it with fire" line.

    Now regarding interaction between the two. The former can encourage the latter but Evil is not a specific act or group of acts and the symptoms as it were of its manifestation vary depending on circumstance. Past that, while it can encourage a lot, coercion is rare to non-existent and all told a lot of things can encourage certain behaviour. A well chosen and timed sentence can encourage behaviour. That's the whole point of persuasive writing. The existence of one more Force that can encourage behaviours that I disapprove of doesn't absolve human beings of responsibility for their acts or society of its failures to tackle conditions that encourage ill behaviour.
    "It is not simply enough to know the light…a Jedi must feel the tension between the two sides of the Force…in himself and in the universe."
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    Yoda told stories, and ate, and cried, and laughed: and the Padawans saw that life itself was a lightsaber in his hands; even in the face of treachery and death and hopes gone cold, he burned like a candle in the darkness. Like a star shining in the black eternity of space.

    Yoda: Dark Rendezvous

    "But those men who know anything at all about the Light also know that there is a fierceness to its power, like the bare sword of the law, or the white burning of the sun." Suddenly his voice sounded to Will very strong, and very Welsh. "At the very heart, that is. Other things, like humanity, and mercy, and charity, that most good men hold more precious than all else, they do not come first for the Light. Oh, sometimes they are there; often, indeed. But in the very long run the concern of you people is with the absolute good, ahead of all else..."

    John Rowlands, The Grey King by Susan Cooper

    "You come from the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve", said Aslan. "And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth; be content."

    Aslan, Prince Caspian by CS Lewis



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    Silver Member Tylluan Penry's Avatar
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    Re: What do you think evil is?

    In my view evil is never so evil as when it's pretending to be good.

    Which is why things like the child-abuse scandals in the Church, or Dr Shipman the UK's worse mass murderer, chill me to the core.
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    Phantom Turnips never die.... they just get stewed occasionally....

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    Kick Ass Little Crow Corvus's Avatar
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    Re: What do you think evil is?

    I really can't see the concept of evil being anything substantial. The subjectivness just makes it too fluid a definition for me. It's possible to rationalize anything. A person doing evil usually won't see their acts as evil
    世の中に潜み落下した「アレ」はねえか? 誰が書き換える 世界の汚れは?
    Do you have 'that' which lies dormant within society? Who can overwrite it, the filth in the world?


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    PF Ordo Hereticus MaskedOne's Avatar
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    Re: What do you think evil is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Corvus View Post
    It's possible to rationalize anything.
    A lot of things maybe. Anything? Shrug, yet to see a good rationalization for the forced rape of a child. Walking out and murdering a guy to see what it feels like is also one of those things that takes a bit of effort to try and justify. Human beings have gleefully pulled some really stupid **** and not given a d*** about whether their actions were wrong on any scale. I'm in no rush to jump on the anything can be rationalized train unless I get to use the same argument for shooting a rather large number of people who don't see themselves as villains.
    "It is not simply enough to know the light…a Jedi must feel the tension between the two sides of the Force…in himself and in the universe."
    ―Thon

    "When to the Force you truly give yourself, all you do expresses the truth of who you are,"

    Yoda

    Yoda told stories, and ate, and cried, and laughed: and the Padawans saw that life itself was a lightsaber in his hands; even in the face of treachery and death and hopes gone cold, he burned like a candle in the darkness. Like a star shining in the black eternity of space.

    Yoda: Dark Rendezvous

    "But those men who know anything at all about the Light also know that there is a fierceness to its power, like the bare sword of the law, or the white burning of the sun." Suddenly his voice sounded to Will very strong, and very Welsh. "At the very heart, that is. Other things, like humanity, and mercy, and charity, that most good men hold more precious than all else, they do not come first for the Light. Oh, sometimes they are there; often, indeed. But in the very long run the concern of you people is with the absolute good, ahead of all else..."

    John Rowlands, The Grey King by Susan Cooper

    "You come from the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve", said Aslan. "And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth; be content."

    Aslan, Prince Caspian by CS Lewis



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    Cannibal Rights Activist Ophidia's Avatar
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    Re: What do you think evil is?

    Quote Originally Posted by MaskedOne View Post
    Walking out and murdering a guy to see what it feels like is also one of those things that takes a bit of effort to try and justify.
    To me, this example falls under a mental illness or personality disorder, like sociopathy or schizophrenia. I can't equate mental illness to any gradient of good/bad, evil/saintly. The mentally ill have been subject to ostracism and torture under the guise of exorcisms and experimentation because for centuries, no one understood the strange things that can happen to the brain, emotions and actions in various types of disease states. They aren't evil, they're legitimately sick. Granted, not everyone who goes out intending to kill someone just to find out what it feels like is sick, but it's definitely a factor.

    Children also have the 'doing things to see what it feels like' mentality - which can be constructive or destructive. They aren't evil, they just need proper parenting and supervision to keep them from killing each other in preschool (ok, maybe not preschool, but definitely kindergarten - I'm thinking about that story of the 5-year-old who drowned her 18-mo old brother back in May).

    It's part of why we have regulations for mental competency and 'being tried as an adult' in the legal system. A child below a certain age (the age differs depending on the place the kid lives) is not expected to fully understand the implications of cause and effect - and neither is someone who is mentally ill.
    The forum member formerly known as perzephone. Or Perze. I've shed a skin.

  8. #8
    Bronze Member Clive's Avatar
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    Re: What do you think evil is?

    I think it is possible to rationalize anything, at the very least to oneself. Rationalization doesn't necessary mean anybody will buy it because "rational" is subjective itself. To someone who thinks they're on a holy mission to destroy nonbelievers, "God told me to do it" is perfectly rational. I, for one, think they're a total fruitcake.

    Anyway, I guess evil to me is something environmental or genetic. Mentally ill people who commit murder and torture are "evil" in the sense that they spread death, pain, sorrow, and anger to other people, even if it wasn't really their fault. Or perhaps it wasn't they themselves who were evil, but their actions.

    People who harm innocents for the sake of power, money, and prestige are evil to me. I believe in capitalism and I totally understand that not everybody gets their way all of the time, but crap like building Yankee Stadium on the playground that poverty-stricken children play on pisses me off.

    I don't believe that there's a Satan-like entity whose entire purpose is to cause "bad" things to happen, I believe in Murphy's Law. As we know, if we didn't know what sorrow and anger felt like, we wouldn't recognize joy when we felt it.

    That's all I have on this matter for now...it is a complicated question.
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    Kick Ass Little Crow Corvus's Avatar
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    Re: What do you think evil is?

    Clive pretty much got my point. An individual can rationalize anything to themselves and see it as right/good event hough other people might think the're nuts or evil. This may not be a good example but, many people consider Adolf Hilter one of the most evil men in history. Hitler himsefl most likly did not think of himself as evil, he actually thought that he was helping Germany. He was wrong about well everything, evil to some but some people thought he was a hero. I realize thats probably not a good example. Maybe the crusades would be a better example. Reclaim the holy land kill the infidels, they rationalized mass murder by thinking it was the will of God. Many modern people would say mass murder is evil, by that logic than the crusades were evil. I'm not sure if that's better.

    A different angle might be you can't belive in evil if you dont beilve in morals.
    世の中に潜み落下した「アレ」はねえか? 誰が書き換える 世界の汚れは?
    Do you have 'that' which lies dormant within society? Who can overwrite it, the filth in the world?


  10. #10
    PF Ordo Hereticus MaskedOne's Avatar
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    Re: What do you think evil is?

    Clive got your point. Both of you missed mine. There's a reason that I didn't ask for a rationalization of great atrocities. Put simply, rationalizing the great evils that men do is absurdedly easy because the men committing them feel very strongly about something. Strong beliefs shape the way we see things and in pursuit of those beliefs we do great and terrible things. I don't want to know how Hitler could see his acts as beneficial because I already do just like I can work out potential viewpoints of the scum that ran the death camps and a dozen other idiocies through human history.

    I'll repeat my prior challenge. Show me the justification of killing to see how it feels. Show me the justification behind the forcible rape of a child. Then show me people actually using these justifications.

    Perze made a good point by bringing mental illness into the picture but while insanity works to absolve guilt (when it applies). It fails as a justification. The use of the insanity defense is affirming that you are (or at least were while committing the crime) incapable of rational behaviour. It does not justify the action taken but claims that the guilty party was incapable of fully understanding the act or incapable of doing anything else.
    "It is not simply enough to know the light…a Jedi must feel the tension between the two sides of the Force…in himself and in the universe."
    ―Thon

    "When to the Force you truly give yourself, all you do expresses the truth of who you are,"

    Yoda

    Yoda told stories, and ate, and cried, and laughed: and the Padawans saw that life itself was a lightsaber in his hands; even in the face of treachery and death and hopes gone cold, he burned like a candle in the darkness. Like a star shining in the black eternity of space.

    Yoda: Dark Rendezvous

    "But those men who know anything at all about the Light also know that there is a fierceness to its power, like the bare sword of the law, or the white burning of the sun." Suddenly his voice sounded to Will very strong, and very Welsh. "At the very heart, that is. Other things, like humanity, and mercy, and charity, that most good men hold more precious than all else, they do not come first for the Light. Oh, sometimes they are there; often, indeed. But in the very long run the concern of you people is with the absolute good, ahead of all else..."

    John Rowlands, The Grey King by Susan Cooper

    "You come from the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve", said Aslan. "And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth; be content."

    Aslan, Prince Caspian by CS Lewis



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