1. SPS Accounts:
    Do you find yourself coming back time after time? Do you appreciate the ongoing hard work to keep this community focused and successful in its mission? Please consider supporting us by upgrading to an SPS Account. Besides the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from supporting a good cause, you'll also get a significant number of ever-expanding perks and benefits on the site and the forums. Click here to find out more.
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
You are currently viewing Boards o' Magick as a guest, but you can register an account here. Registration is fast, easy and free. Once registered you will have access to search the forums, create and respond to threads, PM other members, upload screenshots and access many other features unavailable to guests.

BoM cultivates a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. We have been aiming for quality over quantity with our forums from their inception, and believe that this distinction is truly tangible and valued by our members. We'd love to have you join us today!

(If you have any problems with the registration process or your account login, please contact us. If you've forgotten your username or password, click here.)

Good and evil

Discussion in 'Alley of Dangerous Angles' started by Prozac, Jul 7, 2003.

  1. Prozac Gems: 4/31
    Latest gem: Sunstone


    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2003
    Messages:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    A fundamental philosophical question: Good and evil - the two major anitipodes of our thinking - what characterises both? And what does, in your opinion, make the difference?

    Bush announced to fight evil. Now he went to war against evil the second time already. This is not a political but a philosophical and moral question:

    How can *them* evildoers become an enemy for a politician? How shall he know who he's fighting? What's the difference between good and evil? How do you recognise *evil* ?

    The people who crashed the airliners into the twin towers were probably evil. Killing some thousand people to make a political statement isn't what I would call a good deed, not even if it had been 7000 evil people.

    Well, american taliban Walker who joined a player in the axis of evil however, was for Bush "this poor fellow" who had "obviously been misled." That is pretty generous.
    Maybe he was evil by orientation? But if orientation makes evil, you have first to find out if the group he oriented with was evil.

    What makes the difference between him and the afghan taliban? Are they more evil because they were afgan and Walker less because of american origin - mind he was mislead ... Were the afghans evil by birth? Or mislead too? That could be plausible as there are good afghans, the northern alliance who aren't evil but good warlords and drugdealers ... :hmm: Definitely, all that's crazy talk that can't work.

    Would there be a clear distinction, good and evil, black and white it'd be easy. If we would know, they are evil and we are not the choice would be simple as that: We'd start a crusade, become a paladin and kill them all and make the world a place only inhabitated by the good.

    Can that work? Hardly, that's even more crazy talk as then it would depend on ones personal point of view - the 9/11 goons would have done good in case we'd be evil. So judging based on deeds doesn't much help. In the end, what assures we are right and they are not?

    Alexander Solzhenitsyn, himself a victim of some of the most horrific evil of the 20th century, warned against it in "The Gulag Archipelago" (highly recommended): "If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being."

    So how can a question, the choice between good and evil, a question only everyone can answer for himself, become a political agenda? Man is tempted to do either good or evil; he struggles. Evil as a group designation doesn't work, because who has the authority to give that trademark "EVIL (tm)" ? The pope? The Dalai Lama? Mullah Omar? George Bush? The term evil is pointless in politics.

    So in the end, what characterises evil?
     
  2. chevalier

    chevalier Knight of Everfull Chalice ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2002
    Messages:
    16,790
    Media:
    9
    Likes Received:
    49
    Gender:
    Male
    In so far as good and evil in US vision is concerned, let this here link speak for me (for your convinience it's quoted verbatim below the link):

    http://www.sorcerers.net/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=20;t=000335;p=1#000001
    ======

    The problem is that US courts apparently claim jurisdiction over the whole planet with no regard to any external factors at all while US themselves believe that their citizens cannot be adjudicated by any foreign court whatsoever. Which consequently displays that US assign more rights to itself than they recognise to reside with sovereign states and citizens thereof in general. Subsequently, they regard officially signed treaties and their binding power as subject to their own unilateral discretion. Thus US choose when to uphold and execute international law and when to criticise it on the grounds of infringement of US' sovereignty regardless of treaties and contracts.

    Similarly US adhere to rather arbitrary criteria of justifying the use of force. In general the use of force is acceptable to achieve US' political or economical goals, but it's not acceptable for other sovereign states to resort to force in protecting their rights or supporting the claims not to even mention achieving political or economical goals. This way the Iraqis break international laws by showing American prisoners of war on the television, but US don't break any laws at all by televising the surrender of an Iraqi troop or Iraqi soldiers held captive. Final interpretation of good and evil apparently lies within exclusive and discretionary competence of the current president of the United States of America.

    =====
     
  3. Xaelifer Gems: 10/31
    Latest gem: Zircon


    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2001
    Messages:
    356
    Likes Received:
    0
    [​IMG] Long rant:


    Characterizing good and evil is exhaustively and utterly up to the individual, based on his perception. Perception is created by the events of the past. Some acts considered evil by Dr. Phil are benevolent to Dr. Kevorkian - you get the point.

    Common events happen to groups of people, and thus each group has its own collective morality based on majority. There is where you get your ‘evil’. The miracle of majority perception.

    Something bad happens to a bunch of people, they remember not to let it happen again and label it as evil, and though that exact event will never happen again, somehow lists are made of stereotypical ‘evils’, thus becoming sets of morals.

    Religion can clear any man’s mind of moral confusion, because it gives him the perception of the church, and he doesn’t have to worry about it - the church says, “Here are your morals, and this is how you shall behave, because it works for us.” The man says, "Alright, I'll act like that because I trust you, I think you are wise, and you have already experienced the things I am now. I shall trust your conclusion, not my own." Religion is the perception of self-proclaimed wise men in any case, under the guise of theology.

    In the whole fiasco of September 11 and terrorists versus patriots and all that, neither side is good, and neither side is evil, except in their own opinions, influenced by majority perception. Bombing 7000 people was not right, nor was it wrong, yet our own separate morals, delved from perception, tell us which to choose, and thus which side to fight for and for whom you pledge your alliance. Most moral arrangements heatedly proclaim killing is wrong, and therefore that belief is mostly universally accepted.

    There is no universal right nor wrong, good or evil. Each man and woman has his own morals, i.e., the events which have happened to him, on which he bases his assumptions about other stereotypical events.

    Morals are simply walls we build to separate things we enjoy and do not enjoy. These are different for every person, and thus there is not one set of walls which should work with everyone.

    What characterizes evil? Bluntly, the experience of the self.
     
  4. Ragusa

    Ragusa Eternal Halfling Paladin Veteran

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2000
    Messages:
    10,140
    Media:
    63
    Likes Received:
    250
    Gender:
    Male
    One example taken from catholic moral theology:
    You can transfer that argument on other areas: Exchange point 3. for "Killing a man in war entails the elimination of life" and you have a splendid argument against war, death penalty and killing in general.

    In any case you have to find a moral starting point, a dogma which to begin with. There is a core of dogmas that are indispensable and essential. They cannot and mustn't be questioned. If you do so you end up in Nihilism and that leads to decay as it takes away the last social consensus in our liberal world.
    Where will you end up when you say: I don't make that argument as I don't even know what's good? This cannot work. That core I mentioned, in the essence, common in all major religions, islam included.

    But you get into trouble here quickly: Take a killing of another individual in self defence. No one except a few fundamentalists would seriously question the : The societies feeling of justice accept that when defeating an assault on one's life self-defence with the ultimate measure, killing the assailant, is justified. But how about killing a burglar who wanted to steal sometghing?

    It get's more problematic with death penalty already: Holy man george Bush is for death penalty. That can be understood when you take death penalty into account as a measure of revenge or folowing the talion rule.
    Revenge is antipodic by nature. You are good, they are evil, that justifies everything to avenge an insult or a perceived violation - like "this unsult can only be washed away with blood". That resulted in blood feuds killing hundreds over decades.

    "Eye for an eye", the talion rule, is even moderate compared to the concept of revenge: If someone takes your eye he shall loose one as well - that's it. Harsh, but it serves to satisfy the feelings of revenge from the victim's side, the perpetrator is punished. Public peace is restored. Taking away a life is justified by dealing out counter-harm.

    The greatest achievement of all great societies, establishing a rule of law over the old traditions of blood feud and revenge. So, in modern days we made punishment a public job, by delegating it to the authorities we established for that purpose. That resulted in a concentration of power. So we, for the first time, had the issue that the individual had to be protected from the authorities to avoid abuse of power. That made the original concept of revenge or compensation by mutual harm step back. Nevertheless it is there. The victims still cry for revenge. To justify punishment, we have developed general concepts based on what purpose punishment serves:
    -Special prevention: You punish the perpetrator to prevent him from doing it again. You sure prevent this guy from doing it again by killing him. But on the other hand you might want put quite a lot of people into social programs in order to deter them from committing crimes for the future ...
    -General prevention - we kill you because you killed in order to deter others from doing the same stuff. That is flawed. In totalitarian regimes people committed atrocities in unique situations while beeing scaringly normal people otherwise - when trialed after the end of these regimes there was no need to deter them from repeating it. So prevention? Well, in a different, democratic society the same phenomenon isn't likely to happen again ...
    The prevention concept cannot deal with the issue of morality,. The way out is to base punishment on the perceived "guilt" of the perpetrator. The degree of guilt varies, so there is murder in cold blood, negeglience etc ... so even there we have no binding rule how to punish whom. Kill everyone who killed another man? That will be perceived as injust.
    I won't go further here as that leads us to another issue which is threaded here already. To sum it up: You have to *justify* a killing and death penalty makes this pretty hard already. And so I will spare you with more on an even worse attempts of a justification related with war ...

    Found that complicated already? Then make it worse and go to the realm of politics: You're in even more trouble when you go into the issues such as war or politics. Simple rules such as "good and evil" may act as guidelines but are not suitable for the plain evil environment of politics.
    Countries are bickering about aid concenpts for 3rd world countries. Wether it's good to give food aid while people are starving or if it is better to help these people to help themselves - in any case these people make a moral mistake as they don't see that the people starving *now* will not have a need for helf for beeing able to help themselves *tomorrow*. They may not see the day we decide - and that entails killing human lives. That is evil. Despite that we do it every day.

    And it goes further when companies lobby politicians into offering sterile corn to 3rd world countries to solve their nutrition problem, in the knowledge that these countries will depend on more corn for the next seed, and the next seed.
    That's development aid? Helping to be able to help yourself? Driving them into dependency? Silly when they vote for commies one day and face a trade ambargo from that very country.

    Or how about that: The first step in fighting the taleban was to cut off food supplies to the already starving people of afghanistan? A good deed because they were evil? Hardly. These people had nothing to do with anything Al Quaida did.
    Killing others in an attempt to avenge deeds from a third party is outrageous, just as oputrageous as collective punishment: One man from this village shot one of our troops? Let's kill 10 of them. Find that outrageous? That was *allowed* until the end of WW-II under the international rules of war. The concept was revenge and general prevention. Or how about killing them altogether as entailed in the concept of nuclear deterrence which is about the sickest thing mankind has developed up to day?

    Politics orient at economocal interests. Moral issues are usually not a point. So declared morality in politics almost always is hypochrisy.

    So when I said that a core of dogmas has to be indispensable that also means that we mustn't say "1. We are good and they are evil." because that leads us into an oblivious dead end of feeling good because of defining yourself as good.
     
  5. Iago Gems: 24/31
    Latest gem: Water Opal


    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2003
    Messages:
    1,919
    Likes Received:
    0
    Pure evil comes from people who think they can exactly decide what is right and what is wrong. And are deeply convinced to be right and good.
     
  6. Pac man Gems: 25/31
    Latest gem: Moonbar


    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2002
    Messages:
    2,119
    Likes Received:
    1
  7. chevalier

    chevalier Knight of Everfull Chalice ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2002
    Messages:
    16,790
    Media:
    9
    Likes Received:
    49
    Gender:
    Male
    Doesn't work that way. In war you protect greater good, most probably against a willing aggressor and administering death penalty is a result of specific legal condtions and aimed to help the society eliminate danger. Sure, it looks nice if we keep them imprisoned for life, but I'd rather give the money spent on such prisoners to those who really need that money and have done nothing to deserve the massive lack of it.

    Abortion in turn is a matter of convinience. As pro-abortionist love to say: a matter of choice, of the right to choose even. Only no one gives the right to the most interested person, one around whom it's all centred and whose life or death is being decided: the child who isn't a convicted criminal or aggressor.
     
  8. Nakia

    Nakia The night is mine Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2003
    Messages:
    5,575
    Media:
    102
    Likes Received:
    135
    Gender:
    Female
    Treat other people the way you would like to be treated.
    This is in every major religion in some form or another.
    Evil is when I do something to someone that I would not like done to me.
    Good is when I treat other people the way I would like to be treated. Of course they may not see it that way. When I said this to one boss I had she replied, "If I yell at you then you can yell at me".
     
  9. Ragusa

    Ragusa Eternal Halfling Paladin Veteran

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2000
    Messages:
    10,140
    Media:
    63
    Likes Received:
    250
    Gender:
    Male
    Personal indivudual standards like "Good is what I like to be done to me" and evil the same in reverse are questionable. That's hailing to the whackos.

    To take it to examples. One placative cliché-ridde counter-example: A masochist beats you up ... that's then good? Or: You're a muslim and despise pork, you serve your worst enemy, a christian just that. Evil? Or: What the heck do you complain about me stealing *your* car? I wouldn't mind you stealing *mine* too :roll: :spin: ;) Consider this with taking a life ... :evil:

    Individual standards are pointless in defining good and evil because when you give this definition to the disposition of the individuum, it disposes. And that cannot work in a society as they demand a degree of social consensus, forming the moral standards.
     
  10. Prozac Gems: 4/31
    Latest gem: Sunstone


    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2003
    Messages:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    The "I treat you how I want to be treated and vice-versa" rule can only work in an environment among equals with the same power. A system where this is the case (nominally) is international law. All countries are equal, have the same soverignty, Iraq no less than the US. Rogue state or civilised center of the universe. And as recently seen this equality only exists on paper, some are more equal and get away with ignoring the above rule *. Power, however, has no impact on good or evil. Might is not right.

    That is not the case in real life among people. People are not equal. They want to be but they aren't. You are not your boss and when you do indeed yell at your boss you get fired once you cross an invisible line, despite all she said before. You are in an inferior position to the bank, to your boss and others.
    So what works among equals, between bank and bank or bank and boss, might not at all work for you.

    And that is about good and evil. It is irrelevant if you're inferior or superior in power. The standards are binding and equal for all.

    * It's kinda amusing to imagine an iraqi intervention to aid the opressed US people, acccording to Michael Moore ruled by a junta that took power by manipulating elections :shake: but that's another thing ;)
     
Sorcerer's Place is an independent project run entirely by fans and for fans. Maintaining Sorcerer's Place and a stable environment for all our hosted sites requires a substantial amount of time and money on a regular basis, so please consider supporting us to keep the site up & running smoothly. Thank you!