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Does Evil Exist?

Yes
29% (8 votes)
No
57% (16 votes)
Unsure
7% (2 votes)
Other
7% (2 votes)
Total votes: 28

Posted By

Lone Wolf
Jul 12 2006 22:51

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Lone Wolf
Jul 12 2006 22:51

Well what do you think peeps? This is of course a vital question for all anarcho comms....are some humans evil? How would we define this? How would we deal with this in an anarcho comm society? Are some peeps beyond redemption? How do you feel society deals with evil at the mo? Would you differentiate between wicked and evil? What personal experiences can you bring to bear? Please feel free to answer one or all qs or come up with some of your own...I don't feel I have all the answers that is for sure but can share some experiences and perspectives as and when throughout the thread.

I would say have fun but that doesn't seem appropriate with this thread... neutral

Love

LW X

Jacques Roux
Jul 12 2006 22:56

What do you mean by Evil? Some sort of abstract moral concept? If so, then no i dont think it does.

davethemagicweasel
Jul 12 2006 23:02

I think 'evil' only really means something if its defined in opposition to an idealised 'good'. It only exists if one presupposes the existence of said good (and 'redemption' is the same - since redemption logically assumes two states to switch between). And for that good to exist there must be an objective moral standard - which normally means that for evil to exist there must be some sort of deity defining what is good and what is evil.

So, as an athiest, I vote 'No'.

However, there are certainly all sorts of things that I find disagreeable or undesirable - the question is how far, and by what mechanisms, can I act to limit those activities if they're carried out by others.

Lone Wolf
Jul 12 2006 23:07

Rkn - Great question! That is why I didn't start with my definition..cos its good to even q how we define something this important! I disagree with its "existing" as an abstract moral concept or a supernatural force. Even though this is Thought, I would like to debate whether or not this is a phenomenon some of us have come up against in our own lives. So I am interested in peoples own experiences and thoughts on how this "relates to them" i.e either as a result of experiencing or witnessing IRL or observing (directly or indirectly ie via media ) the very worse actions humans are capable of eg the Holocaust, baby rape etc. However if peeps want to get more theoretical that is OK - no rules- I am an anarchist, y'know! wink I just..for my money (or lack of...) see a lot of theoretical debate on this subject eg awful church types, politicians etc but I think our own experiences are more powerful. Theories can be debated but peeps own personal experiences cannot be denied...

Steven.
Jul 12 2006 23:16

Does "evil" exist? No.

Lone Wolf
Jul 12 2006 23:19

Dave..interesting..why would you feel a deity would need to exist in order to define good and evil and thus have "an objective moral standard". Surely moral standards are chosen by inds/institutions who normally use them as a stick to beat us with...I don't feel it needs to be that way...Surely we can define these concepts in our way..or do you feel this concept is irretrievably linked to religion etc cos I don't think it has to be this way...

And how would you define something you find "disagreeable" as opposed to evil/wicked...isn't "disagreeable" pretty mild to describe the worst actions humans are capable of? neutral

John - er - care to expand?

Steven.
Jul 12 2006 23:25

rkn and dave have covered my reasons pretty much. As a term it doesn't really mean anything.

Lone Wolf
Jul 12 2006 23:36

Fine. I would much rather get beyond terms to human experience anyway. For the reasons I have given..

I guess my concern is that by either a) discussing it as a term incessantly like church peeps or b) not discussing the issues appertaining at all because the term seems irrelevant..the actual real problems of how we practically and emotionally deal with "mans inhumanity to man" (sic) are not dealt with...

I think this is prob because

- It is too terrifying for a lot of peeps to look at

- And if peeps do not have direct experience of atrocity/evil/wickedness/whatever perhaps they feel detached...

Would you prefer the term atrocity?

(This to everyone not to John alone..)

davethemagicweasel
Jul 13 2006 00:07
Lone Wolf wrote:
Dave..interesting..why would you feel a deity would need to exist in order to define good and evil and thus have "an objective moral standard". Surely moral standards are chosen by inds/institutions who normally use them as a stick to beat us with...I don't feel it needs to be that way...Surely we can define these concepts in our way..or do you feel this concept is irretrievably linked to religion etc cos I don't think it has to be this way...

And how would you define something you find "disagreeable" as opposed to evil/wicked...isn't "disagreeable" pretty mild to describe the worst actions humans are capable of? neutral

John - er - care to expand?

Well, deity in the broadest sense I guess.

For example, I've just been reading the bit of Rocker's Nationalism and Culture that argues that Hobbes wasn't actually an athiest and that he instead elevated the state to godhood in Leviathan, and attributed to the state the same characteristics that religion imputes to god - basically 'if the state is everything then man is nothing', and therefore defines 'nationalism' as a political religion. Which is the exact same argument that you find in Bakunin's God and the State in relation to religion, which I think Rocker was probably deliberately aping in his phrasing.

So, really, substitute the word 'state' into my first post for deity and the argument is the same. Any notion of 'evil' to my mind implies a moral absolute, the consequence of which is to elevate some entity/agency to the role of determining what that standard is. Without such an entity the concept has no meaning.

Admittedly, disagreeable isn't a very strong word, and I would be more likely to call something sick, twisted, fucked, or the like.

Lone Wolf
Jul 13 2006 00:19

Dave - Yeah, feel sick/twisted/fucked are all appropriate..glad you do not define the Holocaust as "disagreeable"... grin

I guess where I am coming from is I personally consider "evil" to be a useful word and feel angry that it has been hi-jacked by outside agencies. I feel I am happy to use the term for what it means to/for me. I guess I just wanna re-claim the word....I feel we all need to define these things for ourselves. The State/Religion are all for imposing their "alleged truth" as "absolute truth" when to me, truth is relative...

As I said before I don't like it when debate over the term means the practical ramifications of how to deal with "mans inhumanity..etc" are overlooked. Therefore it is cool that you raised the point of these "disagreeable/sick acts..."you feel your reaction to this would be limited..understandably...dependent on the circumstances...would this limitation be more practical (ie limits to what one person can do) or theoretical (ie issues of free will etc)?

Ergo....what is the "role" of a libcommer when faced with atrocity/evil?

jef costello
Jul 13 2006 00:38

Well as a counsellor LW, you can't possibly believe in evil can you? Everything in psychology/psychoanalysis screams against it.

I believe evil exists, I'd show you a picture of it but luckily I've been protected from the sight of Conor drinking an Irish moss/ super malt cocktail. So I do believe in a god, as he spared me. Not in the devil though, I was never tempted smile

Lone Wolf
Jul 13 2006 00:50

Re: Use of the term -as in my first full paragraph in above post...More to be said on the subject at a later date...

Is the super-malt stuff really that bad or just Conors ungainly consumption of it? tongue

Nah I have never gone for the Devil either...I have enjoyed explaining to fundamentalist type Christians that if they believe "God is Love..." and God is all there is/all powerful etc etc than by definition the Devil cannot exist because if God is all there is that just about wraps it up for the Devil! tongue

Love

LW X

davethemagicweasel
Jul 13 2006 00:52
Lone Wolf wrote:
Dave - Yeah, feel sick/twisted/fucked are all appropriate..glad you do not define the Holocaust as "disagreeable"... grin

I don't think there's any doubt that the holocaust was disagreeable - but its also much worse than that conveys is all.

Lone Wolf wrote:
I guess where I am coming from is I personally consider "evil" to be a useful word and feel angry that it has been hi-jacked by outside agencies. I feel I am happy to use the term for what it means to/for me. I guess I just wanna re-claim the word....I feel we all need to define these things for ourselves. The State/Religion are all for imposing their "alleged truth" as "absolute truth" when to me, truth is relative...

So, what do you mean by the term 'evil' then?

And who do you want to reclaim the word from? That seems to imply that 'they' have stolen the word and altered it from some previous usage.

Lone Wolf wrote:
As I said before I don't like it when debate over the term means the practical ramifications of how to deal with "mans inhumanity..etc" are overlooked. Therefore it is cool that you raised the point of these "disagreeable/sick acts..."you feel your reaction to this would be limited..understandably...dependent on the circumstances...would this limitation be more practical (ie limits to what one person can do) or theoretical (ie issues of free will etc)?

My reaction wouldn't be limited by free will. Just because someone has free will and they can choose to exercise that free will in such a way harmful to others doesn't mean that the rest of us should put up with that. But my reaction would depend on the circumstances, in fact thats the whole point to my mind. Rather than a legal system based on attempts to create and define universal rules (arguably the product of an alienated society) I think each case should be consideredon its own merits.

A given community should be free to deal with anyone who wrongs a member of that community as they see fit, most likely through their own social organisations of whatever type determining firstly if the accused really did do it (i.e. a jury function) and then determining an appropriate response to that - a determination I would expect those who have suffered harm to have a pretty major say in.

Moral relativism doesn't mean accepting the atrocities, just dealing with them in a practical way imho.

Lone Wolf wrote:
Ergo....what is the "role" of a libcommer when faced with atrocity/evil?

To resist it, through the collective acts of the victims and the wider society in a spirit of empathy and solidarity. And to support others doing the same. And if resistance proves unsuccessful then there may unfortunately be times when retreating in order to minimize harm is appropriate.

lem
Jul 13 2006 00:55

I don't think that its impossible or unethical for objectove morals, so yeah, I see no reason why evil cannot exist.

As for it not being a useful concept, many people would say that it is the most important argument against the existence of God. And if you believe in subjective ethics - that ethical statements aren't just meaningless and tell us about emotional states, then sure, it has currency as a reaction to something.

Levinas thought that evil is located in the nature of being itself. He also thought that the Nazism was a manifestation of the elemental evil of being that traditional philosophy had been able to address. The philosophy tying spirit to the body was interpreted as an enslavement to the body: hence the biologism and supposed purity of race. Levinas latter regrets calling it a philosophy. Levinas is a bit of an idiot.

Lone Wolf
Jul 13 2006 01:03
revol68 wrote:
i think LW long put to bed the idea of evil as some sort of transcedental but rather she is wanting discuss a materialist concept of evil. INfact surely our ability to judge evil, to define it, implies a certain looting of judgement from the heavens, and it's reapropriation within a field of immanence.

Yes Yes Revol - that is exactly what I am coming from! smile

Dave - my definition of evil will have to wait as it v. late and I don't want to get into this just before bed...It will not engender happy dreams...

I will have to think about whether I should have used the word claim or wrest instead of "re-claim" but I need to think about this because there are so many concepts/terms that HAVE been misappropriated...

Great we are now getting into the practical stuff - I will contribute more tomorrow.

Dave - Could you not tell I was teasing at your use of the word "disagreeable in relation to Holocaust etc?????

Love

LW X

Lone Wolf
Jul 13 2006 01:09

Lem - Yes yes currency as a reaction to something and subjective ethics relating to emotional states.....

Levinas may have had a point at one stage but sounds like he got a bit confused... grin

Love

LW X

Caiman del Barrio
Jul 13 2006 01:48
Jef Costello wrote:
Well as a counsellor LW, you can't possibly believe in evil can you? Everything in psychology/psychoanalysis screams against it.

Good point. I'm interested to hear LW's reply to this. I mean, couldn't a Freudian explain Hitler's preoccupation with Jews?

Personally, I always found it implicit within Marxist economics the idea that most injustice in the world is not motivated by ill feeling towards fellow humans, but can be explained as a simple pattern of events. Of course, this is slightly simplistic, and there clearly are members of the ruling class who understand and "follow" Marxism, yet simply consider themselves to be some sort of Darwinist Ubermensch or something.

the button
Jul 13 2006 08:08

I don't really care whether evil exists or not. What interests me is the way that the concept of "evil" is deployed politically. For instance "axis of evil." In such contexts, I see it as a foreclosure of the political. That is, it's an attempt to remove certain actions (the invasion of Iraq, military action in Afghanistan) from the politcal field, and situate them as questions of morality -- thus making objecting to them far more difficult.

I'd recommend Alain Badiou's Ethics: an essay on the understanding of evil here -- it's only 90 pages long, and very well-written.

Nemo
Jul 13 2006 08:25

Now sounds about the right time to mention Nietzsche's Master-Slave Morality. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master-Slave_Morality

I think he generally had the right idea (I've not read him in depth), though the masters caught on long ago and have taken slave morality and use it as a means of controlling the slaves (Axis of Evil, etc.).

the button
Jul 13 2006 08:32
lem wrote:
Levinas thought that evil is located in the nature of being itself. He also thought that the Nazism was a manifestation of the elemental evil of being that traditional philosophy had been able to address.

The first point is very much where Levinas parts company with Heidegger, L's main beef with H being that H doesn't complete his own project in Being & Time. I often think this is just down a difference between German & French, though -- that is, the difference between Es gibt & Il y a.

Heidegger takes Es gibt and goes on (and on and on) about the "gift of being, " the "to-handness" of the world & all that. Those resonances aren't there in il y a, because it's not a conjugate of the French verb "to give."

Not to say Levinas doesn't have a point, like. But I think Blanchot does it better.

jef costello
Jul 13 2006 11:12
Quote:
Admittedly, disagreeable isn't a very strong word, and I would be more likely to call something sick, twisted, fucked, or the like.

But sick and twisted both require a counterpoint.

I would agree that there is no such thing as evil, but there is such a thing as right and wrong.

For evil to exist there have to be people who enjoy doing things that are wrong, I find it hard to believe that these people are not unwell and I like to hope that they could be cured although in practise this may not be possible.

the button wrote:
I don't really care whether evil exists or not. What interests me is the way that the concept of "evil" is deployed politically. For instance "axis of evil." In such contexts, I see it as a foreclosure of the political. .

Interesting point Button.

davethemagicweasel
Jul 13 2006 11:14
Lone Wolf wrote:
Dave - Could you not tell I was teasing at your use of the word "disagreeable in relation to Holocaust etc?????

embarrassed Even with the smilie my brain didn't connect the dots embarrassed

In my defence, it was nearly bed-time

Lone Wolf
Jul 14 2006 02:50

Well it is v. late at night...must be time for a heavy posting!!!

Dave...glad you were tired the other night and are not humourless..that would be way more worrying! tongue

Yes, all the training I have done and political and psychological theory I have read tells me that evil does not exist. But I have experienced it. I have been on the receiving end of it and know what it is to be in its presence. How can this apparent dichotomy be reconciled? Like I said..I don't know all the answers. I can only share my experiences and as a result make reccos on how as a society we should respond to this phenomenon.....

I don't feel this is the thread to go into gory details..but I will share some of it on the "why did you become anarchist" thread at some point which I feel is the right place for it. So what do I mean when I refer to these experiences?

I will say I have been unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of behaviour I would refer to as wicked/abusive/brutal etc:

eg sexual abuse, mental torture, murder attempt but devastating though they were - fearing for my life, feeling sick and disgusted, blaming self with the sexual stuff etc (part of the territory when it comes to sexual abuse I am afraid) I did not feel these people or events to be what I would term evil. Shocking those these incidents were, I could tell I was in the presence of a damaged person, sometimes due to mental illness. However cruel and sadistic the behaviour something always told me that this behavour was NOT the free will choice of the perpetrator. They were reacting from this damaged place. It felt reactive, spontaneous, messy, etc.

What was far far more scary was what I felt in the presence of those I would label - for want of a better word - evil. This is the difference: Evil has an intelligence. What emanates from these people is not emotive or messy or rageful or hateful or spontaneous or clearly bonkers etc as with the damaged peeps. It is - being in the presence of people in whom evil so suffuses their being there is nothing else TO these people but an empty shell. I do not mean they cannot be functional in society - the three people I am talking about had (and still have... twisted ) senior positions. No- what I mean is this functionality is a mere cloak to shield them. It has no other purpose. The difference is this. For whatever reason - they have no conscience. Whatsoever - none. We are kinda talking Shipman territory here. Some people think those who commit evil have something the rest of us don't have - an evil gene or whatever. But no - it is a lack. There is no humanity in these people - therefore there is nothing that can be reformed/rehabilitated etc. For the difference is - with the damaged people however much they resist/rant/rave/deny deep down they would like to change. Whether on not they are capable of it depends on a) their free will and b) what help if any society gives. With the evil peeps they really do not want to change one iota. They are what they are. And they love it. Believe me.

So..given I used to be a rehabilitator in all cases where has this left me personally and professionally? I guess with the following insights:

a) Most harm in society is caused by people who are damaged and not evil...

b) Some of which will choose to get help/get helped and some, sadly, won't.

c) A minority are evil....and incapable of change.

Where can an anarcho comm society improve on what we have now?

a) More genuine, non liberal white-wash, support for damaged people - both perps and "victims".

b) An end to the structures that cause this damaging behaviour

Most peeps on here would agree with a and b I should think but I will have to add in c based on my experience:

c) A reluctant admission that there are a minority incapable of changing their pathology who MUST be isolated from the rest of the community. At all costs. The most important thing is to be vigilant and be prepared to recognise this behavour and act accordingly. We cannot afford to be naive and choose to shield our eyes from a truth we may find unpalatable if innocent hearts and minds are at stake. I cannot remember who said this but you will prob. all know this brilliant quote:

"All that is required for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing."

Love

LW X

PS When responding to this it would be helpful if, for the duration of these responses, you could respond to the differing calibre and tone of my experiences i.e the diffs between the "wicked" and "evil" ones rather than getting too hung-up on the terminology.

Steven.
Jul 14 2006 10:17

Surely for these people, who are pretty much irredemebly bad, what's wrong with just saying they probably have personality disorders (a lot of them - psychopathy)? Saying they're "evil" seems to simplify things, and imply that all they do is evil, all the time in all situations. No matter what scum they are they still might give money to charity, treat their pet dog lovingly or whatever.

madashell
Jul 14 2006 10:20

I wouldn't say I believe in "evil" insofar as I don't think that any mentally healthy person deliberately and habitually sets out to harm others for the sheer pleasure of harming them. At least, not as some kind of inborn trait, existing in a vacuum from society.

I'd agree that a lot of people are total, total bastards, and there probably always will be people like that, who need to be isolated from the rest of us for our collective safety.

Nemo
Jul 14 2006 10:31
John. wrote:
Surely for these people, who are pretty much irredemebly bad, what's wrong with just saying they probably have personality disorders (a lot of them - psychopathy)? Saying they're "evil" seems to simplify things, and imply that all they do is evil, all the time in all situations.

I dislike the whole idea of "evil" as it is usually used as a way to bypass morality and reason. If someone is evil then anything goes: you can lock them up, execute them, invade their countries, etc.

John. wrote:

No matter what scum they are they still might give money to charity, treat their pet dog lovingly or whatever.

And I'd imagine that if Hitler really was evil, he would never have got into power.

Rob Ray
Jul 14 2006 12:26

Evil exists only as a viewpoint, and as such is impossible as a definable 'thing'. What if I attempted to define the appropriation of property for the masses as 'evil'? Would you be able to prove outright that it wasn't?

JoeMaguire
Jul 14 2006 12:38
Quote:
When people see things as beautiful,

ugliness is created.

When people see things as good,

evil is created.

Being and non-being produce each other.

Difficult and easy complement each other.

Long and short define each other.

High and low oppose each other.

Fore and aft follow each other.

Therefore the Master

can act without doing anything

and teach without saying a word.

Things come her way and she does not stop them;

things leave and she lets them go.

She has without possessing,

and acts without any expectations.

When her work is done, she take no credit.

That is why it will last forever.

cantdocartwheels
Jul 14 2006 14:47

People can be sadistic, and will hurt people purely for the sake of their own personal gratification, so i suppose you can call that a capacity for evil if you want, depends if you saw evil as an absolute or near total lack of empathy or if you mean evil as a thing in itself, i'd go for the former, as the idea of evil as a concrete negaive absolute doesn't really seem to add up.

the button
Jul 14 2006 14:52

This is a debate that has raged & raged in the crazy world of theology for centuries.

On the one hand, Thomas Aquinas who said that evil is simply the lack of good. On the other, Augustine, who said that while evil may very well be the lack of good, it has some sort of existence in & of itself.

In the end, the Catholic church -- in its official teaching, at least -- went with Acquinas.