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 14 2006 17:35
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. No matter what scum they are they still might give money to charity, treat their pet dog lovingly or whatever.

J: What is wrong with just saying they have personality disorders is this allows certain liberals to feel they can be "cured" and let back out into society. Whatever way you label it (and I DID say it would be helpful if peeps didn't get hung-up on the label aspect) Madashell appears to be backing my point when he says that "some people are total total bastards who need to be isolated for the collective good". Does anyone disagree with this?

Nemo - the reason we have to diagnose in what might seem a judgemental way to you eg someone is evil/is behaving in an evil way is because we HAVE to know what it is we are dealing with in order to provide an effective solution. What makes you think this would automatically lead to the justification that anything can be done to them? It doesn't have to be that way.

Also what makes you feel an evil person can't get into power in a senior/supreme position? Why not? They have an ideal skill set to get to the top rapidly with i.e. no empathy, utter ruthlessness, etc. Also - as I said - doesn't mean people like Hitler aren't functional and apparently normal in some ways....The people I met were like that..Can you not see that this is why it is so terrifying..because it/these people are on the surface calm/rational etc....This shield enables them to practice their evildoings - which answers your comment, John, on the dog-petting/charity-giving - yes this is a common shield used by those with zero empathy as part of their disguise..And it appears to work well...which is why they do it....I will give you a current example--alleged spiritual guru Sai Baba has attracted millions in support and donations and has donated millions to needy people in India. This is a shield in which to carry out his sexual abuse of young, male, child devotees. Because he is worth a lot of money his "team" surround him and protect him at all times as they live off him. Because he gives this money complaints against him are ill-recieved because others in need benefit from this money. But he doesn't give this money because he has a nice aspect. He does it as a shield.

October Lost - that is a beautiful poem. Thank you for this contribution. Who wrote it??

One of the problems with discussing people who commit evil/atrocity is the attention all seems to go on the pathology and needs of the abuser and not much on the victims...For example the killers of Jamie Bulger and their families have received much support and help from the authorities. But would it surprise you to learn Jamies mother has received no offers of support/counselling/help whatsoever???? This is something we need to address as a society.

Also (and on a related point) even though I said I felt this was not the time or place to go into gory details (and I stand by this) and sounded rational in my post, it is nonetheless troubling how none of you have expressed any feelings at all on the awful stuff I referred to OR acknowledged these experiences have given me a unique perspective..OR acknowledged my courage in bringing this info to the table....I mean guys I know you are all decent people but no empathy expressed at all to me is pretty worrying....do you see what I mean about how easy it is for this to remain a theoretical debate while action is delayed being taken and people like me are seldom heard...Just a simple "God that is awful you are very brave LW" would suffice/have sufficed...

Also I am willing to bet if any of you had experienced what I have your responses may be a tad different...but it is not your fault you have NOT experienced this..and not my fault that I have. I just want to make the point that in terms of impact/knowledge/wisdom etc ..experience trounces theory. Every time.

Love

LW X

PS Just want to make it clear that not many people come into this category btw. But because they hold such senior positions frequently it does not take many to cause immense damage... And the damage caused to peeps like me who ARE the unfortunate ones is maintained by an inability in society to believe us because people do not want to believe us. The Nazis knew this. Re: the atrocities carried out to their victims the victims were told "No one will believe you". (ie the victims would not be believed because it would just seem TOO incomprehensible to be true...too evil to be processed and absorbed). The Nazis KNEW this aspect of humanity - this is "evil intelligence" in action....which is why we must ALWAYS BELIEVE. This is the only tribute we can truly give to those who perished in the Holocaust. What is the personal link between me and the Nazis? The fact that my therapist told me what I experienced came from the same Nazi mindset.

I shall finish with this brilliant quote from holocaust survivor Ellie Weisel:

"Always take sides. Silence favours the oppressor".

8)

Nemo
Jul 14 2006 17:59
Lone Wolf wrote:
What makes you think this would automatically lead to the justification that anything can be done to them?

Because there is a long history of exactly that. Bush used the phrase "Axis of Evil" for exactly that reason. It is a scare word intended to switch people's brains off so that they don't have to think too hard. "Saddam is evil? Well we better invade Iraq then! We're killing too many Iraqis? Would you rather they lived under the evil Saddam's rule?"

If you want to use the word "evil", fine. But you better be aware of the way it is commonly used, and the effect it tends to have on people.

Lone Wolf wrote:
Also what makes you feel an evil person can't get into power in a senior/supreme position? Why not?

I was partly responding to John's point that evil people are not evil all the time. If Hitler was evil to those around him he would never have got into power. I also brought up Hitler because he is evil personified. "Saddam is the next Hitler... Ahmadinejad is the next Hitler... Chavez is the next Hitler..." This obscures whatever the real situation might be, and makes it easy to start killing the civillian population.

But I certainly agree with the thing you said about Jamie Bulger's mother -- and about evil not being a psychosis. That bothers me as much as things like this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oppositional_defiant_disorder

I am not sure that I agree that "some people are total total bastards who need to be isolated for the collective good." I find that worrying, though I'm not entirely sure why.

Lone Wolf
Jul 14 2006 18:11

Nemo - Cheers for the response. Not denying Hitler may have been decent to those he needed. But it would be because he NEEDED them. When he no longer needed them he could dispose of them..and did. These peeps (eg Hitler)may do some OK things - but it would not be for good reasons. It would be as part of their raison d'etre. These people are dangerous precisely BECAUSE they can impersonate normal people so well.

Love

LW X

Nemo
Jul 14 2006 18:17
Lone Wolf wrote:
Nemo - Cheers for the response. Not denying Hitler may have been decent to those he needed. But it would be because he NEEDED them. When he no longer needed them he could dispose of them..and did.

I'm not even sure that is entirely true. Powerful people aren't powerful because they are rich, or tell people what they want to hear ("Jews are evil"), or whatever. They are powerful because of their relations with other rich people, like minded people, etc. They can screw some of them over and get away with it to some extent, but there are limits. Nixon got in trouble because he pissed off powerful people. If Hitler had done the same his generals would have lead a coup against him. Maybe evil people can get in power, but I can't imagine they'd keep it for long.

Nemo
Jul 14 2006 19:54

Incidentally, while I'm here (and still sober), it is worth noting how Hitler presented his invading other countries.

Quote:
The wave of appalling terrorism against the inhabitants of Poland, and the atrocities that have been taking place in that country are terrible for the victims, but intolerable for a Great Power which has been expected to remain a passive onlooker. We will not continue to tolerate the persecution of the minority, the killing of many, and their forcible removal under the most cruel conditions. I see no way by which I can induce the government of Poland to adopt a peaceful solution. But I should despair of any honourable future for my own people if we were not, in one way or another, to solve this question.

Taken from: http://www.swt.org/share/ancientciv.htm

I'm sure he probably denounced their leaders as evil too.

davethemagicweasel
Jul 14 2006 22:20

Hi

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

J: What is wrong with just saying they have personality disorders is this allows certain liberals to feel they can be "cured" and let back out into society. Whatever way you label it (and I DID say it would be helpful if peeps didn't get hung-up on the label aspect) Madashell appears to be backing my point when he says that "some people are total total bastards who need to be isolated for the collective good". Does anyone disagree with this?

I'd agree with you - there are some people who need to be isolated from the wider community for the protection of that community. However, whether they are evil/wicked or not isn't my basis for that. Even if we hypothetically decide that every single act of inhumanity, violence, harm, destruction and atrocity is attributable to social factors and hence can be cured by rehabilitation we have no way of arriving at sufficient understanding of the human psyche to successfully carry out such rehabilitation in all cases.

So, those who we haven't been able to do that for should be kept in isolation (obviously in as humane a way as possible). Also, those people who we are currently trying to rehabilitate, but have not yet done so, need to be isolated from the community for the duration.

The really important point is how we decide who should be isolated from the rest of us - and who has the right to make that decision. To my mind, it has to be a decision for the relevant assemblies/councils/whatever of the affected community.

And overall, I actually think concepts of 'evil' or 'wicked' or the like confuse more than clarify that process. Whether someone is harmful or dangerous to the rest of us doesn't really need those terms to be decided.

Lone Wolf wrote:
Nemo - the reason we have to diagnose in what might seem a judgemental way to you eg someone is evil/is behaving in an evil way is because we HAVE to know what it is we are dealing with in order to provide an effective solution. What makes you think this would automatically lead to the justification that anything can be done to them? It doesn't have to be that way.

On that topic I'd say that the diagnosis can't be the preserve of one person, or even of a few trained professionals. I'm not comfortable giving anyone that right - it should be a democratically arrived at decision. After all, the people taking the risk by not isolating someone should be the ones to decide whether or not to take that risk.

Lone Wolf wrote:
One of the problems with discussing people who commit evil/atrocity is the attention all seems to go on the pathology and needs of the abuser and not much on the victims...For example the killers of Jamie Bulger and their families have received much support and help from the authorities. But would it surprise you to learn Jamies mother has received no offers of support/counselling/help whatsoever???? This is something we need to address as a society.

Yes, we definitely need to address that. And it doesn't surprise me in the slightest.

Lone Wolf wrote:
Also (and on a related point) even though I said I felt this was not the time or place to go into gory details (and I stand by this) and sounded rational in my post, it is nonetheless troubling how none of you have expressed any feelings at all on the awful stuff I referred to OR acknowledged these experiences have given me a unique perspective..OR acknowledged my courage in bringing this info to the table....I mean guys I know you are all decent people but no empathy expressed at all to me is pretty worrying....do you see what I mean about how easy it is for this to remain a theoretical debate while action is delayed being taken and people like me are seldom heard...Just a simple "God that is awful you are very brave LW" would suffice/have sufficed...

I don't think its that no-one cares, its that the internet is an awful medium through which to express any real kind of human emotion - emoticons simply don't cover this sort of thing. I actually started typing out a reply to this thread earlier today and tried writing a response to that. All I got down was "My sympathies" before my mind went blank, and that just sounded like a really shit response. So I decided to come back to this thread later and try again. I still can't think of much, other than that that sounds shit, well done for still being sane.

Lone Wolf wrote:
Also I am willing to bet if any of you had experienced what I have your responses may be a tad different...but it is not your fault you have NOT experienced this..and not my fault that I have. I just want to make the point that in terms of impact/knowledge/wisdom etc ..experience trounces theory. Every time.

Thankfully I haven't experienced anything so bad for me to call it evil. However, my then 15 year old cousin was raped, and if I got my hands on the fucker I'd kill him with my own hands and not feel the slightest bit of remorse about it. Maybe its not very libertarian of me, but fuck it I don't care.

Lone Wolf wrote:
"Always take sides. Silence favours the oppressor".

8)

Word 8)

Steven.
Jul 14 2006 23:29
Lone Wolf wrote:
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. No matter what scum they are they still might give money to charity, treat their pet dog lovingly or whatever.

J: What is wrong with just saying they have personality disorders is this allows certain liberals to feel they can be "cured" and let back out into society.

But the point of "personality disorders" is that they are by definition

incurable. They are that person's personality. Here you seem to be talking about psychopaths, who are people with a personality disorder who have no empathy, amongst other things. They are estimated at about 1% of the population, and do well in authoritarian competitive environments like being high-ranking in big business or whatever, as well as some being violent, serial killers or whatever.

Saying "evil" I think is just silly because it implies some religious supernatural element to them, not to mention imply that they are deliberately out to do bad things to hurt people. In fact I think they are just fucked up and utterly egotistical - all they want is to do what feels good to them, whether it means hurting other people or not. But I think their aim is just to please themselves, not hurt others, so the term "evil" does not apply.

Quote:
Whatever way you label it (and I DID say it would be helpful if peeps didn't get hung-up on the label aspect) Madashell appears to be backing my point when he says that "some people are total total bastards who need to be isolated for the collective good". Does anyone disagree with this?

I don't think anyone would disagree with this no. As for the label, I don't see how discussion of it could be avoided since you called the thread - on a very atheist board - "Does evil exist?" If you'd asked the question you pose here everyone would've said "of course". Or am I misunderstanding something?

Lone Wolf
Jul 15 2006 02:56

Nemo - Yeah sure "evil" people can't get away with it for ever - agree with you there. Hitlers 1000 year dream only lasted 12 years - a mere 988 years short of his target!! tongue But IN this relatively short time a phenomenal amount of harm can be done..and obv. did in this instance.

Loved your quote!!!! These peeps are great at the "pot..kettle..black" stuff - absolutely no doubt about it. They will always always denounce others and not look at their own "stuff". It is all a massive projection.

Dave - agree with everything you say - yes, needs to be a community/collective decision. Absolutely agree with everything you say there. Also agree with the point earlier today that the term "evil" can be deliberately misused for corrupt political ends. Yes, use of the term "evil" is problematic - which is why I used that term. Surely there is no point starting a thread in which everyone will agree with everything.

John - Sheesh! roll eyes We have tried to move away from the "supernatural" thing about 2 pages ago. Reference Revols post - he seems to get where I am coming from here.

However really really appreciate you "getting" that they do well in high-ranking, competitive authoritarian settings. Exactly - and whether they are that or the "serial killer" variety - it is all about control.

However, sorry, but the penultimate point you made is just bonkers!!! The bit about how the aim is to "just please themselves not nec. hurt others ..whether it means hurting others or not.... ". Oh dear...John what you have just described is hedonism!!!!! Not wickedness/evil/psychopathy or whatever you want to call it.....What am I referring to is a planned, calculated, "intelligent" practice of mental and physical torture for the express person of destroying another. How can this fit the description you just gave???? Wow!!! Are you really THAT naive?? In the recent brilliant Holocaust doc. narrated and written by Rees, just to give you one small example, he was referring to the design of the concentration camp. How the "accommodation" was designed to maximise human humiliation, etc, by being as cramped, filthy etc as possible. The quote was "Suffering was built into the very fabric of Auschwitz. " Serial killers, Nazis etc do not "aim to hurt others???" Oh dear.... sad John - to try and give you the benefit of the doubt - you have admitted before you don't know too much about the Holocaust - I remember you saying you learnt a lot from seeing "The Pianist"...I suggest you learn a bit more about the nature of, for want of a better term to not use the "E" Word ( wink ) "Man's inhumanity to Man.." because you do not seem to be able to comprehend it...and that troubles me. Try telling a Holocaust survivor the Nazis did not intend to harm them... confused I still love you John..but..oh dear.. I am troubled.... neutral

Dave..thank you so much for your kind words. I guessed that people were not sure how to respond and could not find the words which is why I bravely mentioned it again. And you were brave enough to respond. I thank you for that. As I believe I said earlier, others inability to believe or even countenace what has happened because it is so incomprehensible to them has made it that much harder to recover...My recovery has not been completed because I have yet to receive any proper help as most "nice" NHS and private therapists are not geared for this kinda "torture from power figures stuff.." it is too big for them.(They would much rather hear some light and fluffy boyfriend stuff... roll eyes ) If it is too hard for them to even hear and they are trained professionals you can imagine how hard it is for me to even consider how I will heal from these incidents...I will go into a bit more detail on the "how did you become an anarchist" thread - but not too much detail. This isn't a therapy site and I don't feel the need. But given the worst incident was politically inspired torture, what happened there IS absolutely relevant to this site....

Love

LW X

Rob Ray
Jul 15 2006 08:38
Quote:
Oh dear...John what you have just described is hedonism!!!!! Not wickedness/evil/psychopathy or whatever you want to call it.....What am I referring to is a planned, calculated, "intelligent" practice of mental and physical torture for the express person of destroying another.

LW you seem to have a really simplistic way of looking at this. There are no 'evil' people who do not justify their own actions to themselves, at least in the moment of its doing (they may reconsider later). That is part of the essence of 'intelligent' practice - the conscious decision that taking a certain course of action is more desirable than taking another.

To take the mindset of the sort of person John described, if I decided that murdering someone was more desirable than not, to me that would not be an 'evil' action, because it brings me pleasure, or allows me to have more money, or whatever. To me it is not an 'evil' act, it is a thoroughly sound way of conducting myself. I'm not thinking 'I must make a self-sacrifice in order to do evil', I'm thinking 'excellent, now I can afford that car'.

Sure a camp can be set up to humiliate and torture - but there is a reason behind it, no matter how warped. Hurting the Jews in Auswitz was not done out of some sense of noble self-sacrifice in the cause of 'doing evil', it was thought of as variously a way to liquidise assets for the war in the East, a means of ridding the Reich of its enemies, and on a very base level with some of the soldiers, a source of undoubtedly sick pleasure. But here's the crack - the Jews were not considered to be human by the soldiers. On the whole, they were not looking at this saying 'I'm committing evil, woohoo', and certainly not to the point where they could no longer justify their actions to themselves (and those that could not self justify either left, committed suicide or were in turn victims of the camps).

Now these people were wrong in their analysis of the situation, and about their reactions to it. They were hugely selfish, and utterly reprehensible in the eyes of the vast majority of the world. That I think is a fair enough comment.

However, 'evil' is a nonsense word, a moralising tone set from your own vision of what 'right' and 'wrong' is. Seeking to apply it to the world as a 'meaning of life' concept is ridiculous, and massively counterproductive. You eat meat? You know how it's made? Ooh you must be evil. You drive a car? You know about climate change? Ooh you must be evil. Sounds ridiculous? Well to a 1944 mindset of a german officer in the concentration camps, the words 'Jews are equal' would be tantamount to 'evil'.

The socialists were 'evil' to Thatcher. The academics were 'evil' to the Kmher Rouge. Evil is a point of view. Now I suspect I largely agree with what you would call 'evil' as something that should be fought for the betterment of the species, the planet, and my personal safety and enjoyment of life. However, what I also acknowledge is that other people do not feel the same way about that. Until you understand this concept you won't be able to understand how capitalists think - and that make you naive, not John.

Nemo
Jul 15 2006 10:44
Lone Wolf wrote:
Nemo - Yeah sure "evil" people can't get away with it for ever - agree with you there. Hitlers 1000 year dream only lasted 12 years - a mere 988 years short of his target!! tongue

You never know, if the conspiracy nuts are right he may well be planning his comeback right now! eek

Nemo
Jul 15 2006 10:56
Saii wrote:
Sure a camp can be set up to humiliate and torture - but there is a reason behind it, no matter how warped. Hurting the Jews in Auswitz was not done out of some sense of noble self-sacrifice in the cause of 'doing evil', it was thought of as variously a way to liquidise assets for the war in the East, a means of ridding the Reich of its enemies, and on a very base level with some of the soldiers, a source of undoubtedly sick pleasure.

I posted a quote from Hitler further up the thread, where he basically says he wants to liberate the Polish. I have no idea whether he actually believed it or not, but it is at least possible.

Saii wrote:
But here's the crack - the Jews were not considered to be human by the soldiers.

I think this is one of the main mechanisms for bypassing morality. I'd imagine it is pretty difficult to kill (oppress, enslave, ...) another human being, therefore you have to pretend that they are not human. The Jews were branded, herded off like cattle, and starved till they barely looked human. (I wonder if they only started killing them in large numbers after they had achieved this makeover?) Slaves were just dumb niggers to their owners. The Vietnamese were gooks to the US GIs -- and now the Iraqis are Hajjis. (There was a report on Newsnight where some US soldiers said that the higher ups encouraged this kind of racism.)

Steven.
Jul 15 2006 11:48
Lone Wolf wrote:
John - Sheesh! roll eyes We have tried to move away from the "supernatural" thing about 2 pages ago. Reference Revols post - he seems to get where I am coming from here.

Okay so what do you mean rather than evil then? Like I suggest above, the existence of people who only want to do calculated harm to others?

Quote:
However really really appreciate you "getting" that they do well in high-ranking, competitive authoritarian settings. Exactly - and whether they are that or the "serial killer" variety - it is all about control.

This is quite common knowledge now isn't it. Thanks largely to Channel 4 documentaries.

Quote:
However, sorry, but the penultimate point you made is just bonkers!!! The bit about how the aim is to "just please themselves not nec. hurt others ..whether it means hurting others or not.... ". Oh dear...John what you have just described is hedonism!!!!! Not wickedness/evil/psychopathy or whatever you want to call it.....What am I referring to is a planned, calculated, "intelligent" practice of mental and physical torture for the express person of destroying another. How can this fit the description you just gave???? Wow!!! Are you really THAT naive?? In the recent brilliant Holocaust doc. narrated and written by Rees

Ok well I'd like to stop things here for a second. The statement I made was about individual psychology. This cannot be applied to world politics. The general definition and diagonises of psychopathy are "as a condition characterised by lack of empathy or conscience, poor impulse control and manipulative behaviors" (Wikipedia). Having no conscience, they are just out to please themselves, in whatever way they see fit (whether it involved harming people or not). Would you disagree with this?

Now if you want to talk about the Nazis, you can't be talking about psychopathy. For one, if the people who carried out, supported and collaborated with the Holocaust were "psychopaths" it would mean that they had been and would have remained psychopaths. And the proportion of them in the population must have risen way above the usual 1%. You can't explain mass human (i.e. historical) activity with individual psychology. Mass behaviours are determined largely by historical trends, which are heavily shaped by economic factors. In Germany early 20th C, this would have been the huge revolutionary wave after 1918, and the strong workers' movement which had to be crushed. Ideologically this was achieved by blaming the Jews for society's ills rather than capital. Psychopathy, personal feelings, emotions or psychology are pretty much irrelevant to this. Though it's very likely that the NSDAP was probably an area where psychopaths could do well. I'm not sure Hitler was one though. Did he genuinely love Eva Braun, for example? Cos psychos are pretty much devoid of emotion. Anyway if it hadn't've been for Hitler some other individual who may have believe utterly in his cause, or was just pretending to advance himself, would've filled his shoes anyway.

Quote:
Oh dear.... Sad John - to try and give you the benefit of the doubt - you have admitted before you don't know too much about the Holocaust - I remember you saying you learnt a lot from seeing "The Pianist"...I suggest you learn a bit more about the nature of, for want of a better term to not use the "E" Word ( Wink ) "Man's inhumanity to Man.." because you do not seem to be able to comprehend it...and that troubles me. Try telling a Holocaust survivor the Nazis did not intend to harm them... Confused I still love you John..but..oh dear.. I am troubled....

Well that was quite a patronising post! I am aware of the brutality of the Holocaust - what I thought was good about the Pianist was the way it showed how the thin end of the wedge, combined with swift punishment of dissent, meant that there was almost no resistance to it happening, even if most people may have opposed it. But of course as other people have said many Germans believed or were were brainwashed into believing that Jews were sub-human, and damaged decent god-fearing Germans, therefore wiping them out was a good thing.

Nemo
Jul 15 2006 12:00
John. wrote:
Now if you want to talk about the Nazis, you can't be talking about psychopathy. For one, if the people who carried out, supported and collaborated with the Holocaust were "psychopaths" it would mean that they had been and would have remained psychopaths.

Yes, this kind of behaviour has little if anything to do with psychopathy. Rather disturbingly it looks as if perfectly ordinary people can do this kind of shit under the right circumstances.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

That's one of the reasons I turned to anarchism.

Steven.
Jul 15 2006 12:01
Nemo wrote:
John. wrote:
Now if you want to talk about the Nazis, you can't be talking about psychopathy. For one, if the people who carried out, supported and collaborated with the Holocaust were "psychopaths" it would mean that they had been and would have remained psychopaths.

Yes, this kind of behaviour has little do with psychopathy. Rather disturbingly it looks as if perfectly ordinary people can do this kind of shit under the right circumstances.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

That's one of the reasons I turned to anarchism.

Exactly.

lem
Jul 15 2006 19:05

Interesteing factoid, is that the "banality of evil" is supossed to mean that "humans are not predictable". Its not as pesimistic as it is often interpreted to mean, it simply means that events have a geater claim on our thinking and acting, and we ought to recognize that. Arendt's portrayal of Eichmann shows a notion of evil that is counter to religous characterization of evil as demonic in source.

RPG
Jul 15 2006 19:10

"Evil" is a socially constructed term like many ("money" is another - debit cards, coins, notes only work as a means of exchange because we all agree they do,otherwise in 'reality' they are just plastic, metal and paper). It seems to me that most "reasonable" people can agree that certain things are "evil" so yes in that sense "evil" does exist.

Rob Ray
Jul 16 2006 08:54
Quote:
John are you seriously suggesting that there aren't people who know they are causing harm to others and don't justify it to themselves. Cause there are people who have caried out horrendous acts of barbarity for the expressed purpose of causing suffering.

No, they don't. They do it for the express purpose of enjoying other peoples' suffering. There's a difference. And crucially, they won't think it's particularly evil, it's just something they enjoy doing. And your views on the matter are irelevant. As I said earlier, they aren't doing these acts because they are evil, no-one goes out of their way to be 'evil' unless they have a desire they wish fulfilled, in the same way as no-one does 'good' without having a desire they wish fulfilled behind it.

The point is that you will be unable to prove to them that it is, because there is no such thing as 'evil' there is only your, and the majority I guess, perception of it. In terms of 'goodness' and 'evil', the only real format for it is majority pressure - you know something is good because your peers tell you so. But if you are ignoring your peers, and don't give a flying fuck what they think, who is to tell you that what you are doing it evil who's view you will value?

Sadly if you want to build up a picture of what the world thinks is evil, anarchists are probably part of that picture - bombs and McDonalds smashing etc. Do you think that makes this picture right? Or do you ignore the people who tell you (like a friend was told by a Catholic the other day) that anarchism is 'against god'? If you want to define 'evil', as a view held by the majority, it swiftly starts to entertain notions you don't like, no?

lem
Jul 16 2006 09:19

What word, do you use to describe actions that you disagree with and want people to stop? If you do, use a this sort of word, how is the same argument not valid against it - that no-one else agress, so its wrong to use it?

IME, most poeple on here, are moralizers. And yet they deny morality! black bloc

I think the point about sociopaths, that people are missing, is that alot of their actions are impulsive - so they do not necessarily do them for pleasure.

lem
Jul 16 2006 09:42

I mean, do poeple listen to the tone of their posts? You seem to be using alot of value terms, words with action guiding or prescriptive meaning. I mean, this whole site is about guiding action! The right and wrong way of doing things. And epistemic values are values too, apparently.

We are all prescribing actions, IMO, to say that its clearly false to do so, is just another value statement. To say that most people don't agree, is, don't you think, to miss the point.

Rob Ray
Jul 16 2006 09:43

If they have no motivation one way or the other however, how can their actions be described as 'evil'? That implies lack of self-control not an evil impulse.

Steven.
Jul 16 2006 09:45
Saii wrote:
If they have no motivation one way or the other however, how can their actions be described as 'evil'? That implies lack of self-control not an evil impulse.

Yeah. The impulsive thing was a good point, but it still doesn't make them evil. 'Assholes' probably, people who need to be separated from the rest of society possibly, but 'evil'? I don't think so.

lem
Jul 16 2006 09:45

I don't know wthat the term evil is supposed to mean. It just sounds like you are both right.

Steven.
Jul 16 2006 10:03

Do you talk about certain people of historical acts as being "evil"? Doing a quick search of your posts, there are a few references to "evil", all of which are taking the piss. Doing a search of the whole boards the only time "evil" has been used that I can see is by a couple of animal rights types, and one person in reference to the "lesser/greater evil". If "evil" is such a useful term, why do you - or anyone else here - ever use it?

I'm concentrating on the actual word "evil" here because that's what you're talking about in your post. I don't think you've adequately explained what you mean by it. Unless you mean people or things done only to harm people. Which I don't really believe in, as Saii and I have outlined.

Nemo
Jul 16 2006 10:08
revol68 wrote:
couldn't we say that someone has been so brutalised, so fucked up, that they are evil.

I think that the use of the word "evil" often (if not always) obscures whatever the real situation might be. Calling a murderer evil doesn't really say anything. The point is not that they are evil, it is that they have caused harm. Calling someone evil is almost always used to justify "evil" actions against that person as being just (e.g. capital punishment). It is a blank cheque for revenge.

lem
Jul 16 2006 10:23

I think, I've heard that before somewhere. I think in terms of practical issues like harm, so yeah, I agree with the sentiment.

Quote:
Unless you mean people or things done only to harm people

Something done with no other motive other than to hurt, would be so statistically impossible, or whatever, that the evil could only be of concieved possible if by demoic origin, or some other magic. I think. Could you imagine a action motivated entirely by emapthy. People are all about conflicts, apparently.

My first day at full time work, a long time ago, someone told me that Thatcher was evil. I just agreed, thought he was on to something, anyway.

Nemo
Jul 16 2006 10:29
revol68 wrote:
don't you think in the case of someone like Joseph Mengele we could say they were evil, whilst understanding their actions within a wider context.

My point earlier in the thread with regard to Hitler (and I see no difference who it is), is that "Hitler" then becomes a synonym for "evil", and is used in much the same way as I outlined in the post you just responded to. "Chavez is the new Hitler." The use of the word "evil" is extraneous to "understanding their actions within in a wider context," and probably counter productive to that end.

EDIT: Here is a good example of what I mean: http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Mengele+stem+cell

madashell
Jul 16 2006 10:53
revol68 wrote:
don't you think in the case of someone like Joseph Mengele we could say they were evil, whilst understanding their actions within a wider context.

I'm not prepared to give up evil as a term for someone like that, or for the holocaust in general. That should not mean obscuring anything or as a means of explanation.

Evil can be used to appeal to metaphysical explanations though. For example, one of my lecturers once insisted that the brutal nature of collectivisation in the Soviet Union proves the existence of "evil" as some kind of external force.

Bear in mind this is a man with a PhD in history, and he's trying to explain things away by appealing to some vague, metaphysical force roll eyes

Evil explains everything and nothing at the same time, that's the problem with it. You might as well say "The holocaust was bad" or "The holocaust wasn't very nice".

lem
Jul 16 2006 11:16

If you have a probelm with metaphysics, why not bring it up on the thread I have mentioned objective morality on confused

Nemo
Jul 16 2006 12:43
revol68 wrote:
but surely if you are going to dismiss "evil", you may as well dismiss "good" or "bad", evil to me is just a superlative to those.

But words have meaning beyond their literal meaning, and can be put to all sorts of uses. My objection to using the word "evil" is that it's use is almost always pernicious. Take the other example you gave, which I didn't respond to: The Holocaust is evil. No one (here) would deny that it was obscene, and should never be allowed to happen again. But I would never describe it as evil.

Take Norman Finkelstein's criticism of the contemporary use of the word "anti-Semitism" (essentially a synonym for evil, as a result of the Holocaust). It is used to shout down critics, and label them as evil, of Israel's oppression of the Palestinians. Similarly the Holocaust has been used to prepare for a possible attack on Iran, with the use of mistranslated quotes -- "wipe Israel from the map" (shades of the Holocaust) versus "wipe the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem from the pages of history" -- and a bogus story about the Iranian government forcing Jews to wear identity badges on their clothes like in Nazi Germany.

I personally feel that the negative uses of the word severely out weigh any benefits of using it.

Red Marriott
Jul 16 2006 12:49

Revol; You might talk of good or bad songs, for example - but you'd be unlikely to call a bad song evil - unless you're a metal-hating christian or something.

Doesn't 'evil', derived from its religious root, still imply something with an independent existence that descends on people, if they are not vigilant - whether by not obeying the supposed laws of god and his earthly church representatives, or other laws of society? So its origin, at least in part, is in submission and duty? It's usage today is often not conscious of this origin, but the concept still implies a blanket term for all that is deemed morally wrong. The term seems to have gone thru a similar process to the word 'fascism' - losing its historical specifity to become a vaguer blanket term, avoiding more than it explains. For me, its religious connotations make it too loaded a term to be useful.

What is seen as evil fulfills a logic - whether for the objective goals of, e.g., the nazi machine or for those individuals within it who got a subjective thrill from killing. It is always a response to a social context. 'Evil' may sometimes be seen as an extreme lack of empathy with fellow creatures - but it is also an extreme form of empathy with one's own (warped) desires within that context. To be satisfied with merely categorising these things as 'evil' stops the investigation at the point where one should ask - what created the conditions to make someone get that kill-thrill? 'Cos they're evil' is an a-historical avoidance of any real search for an answer.