Social Question

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Does evil exist?

Asked by FireMadeFlesh (13827 points ) March 26th, 2011

Please think about this carefully before answering. I’m serious.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

122 Answers

everephebe's avatar

“Why, then, ‘tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so… – The Bard said it well.

Hamlet is fucking awesome isn’t it?

Symbeline's avatar

Been reading a lot of stuff on WWII lately. Especially about how the Jews were treated. (among many other people) I’d love to say evil is subjective, but it’s kind of hard to say that after I read all that stuff. But I don’t know. I mean, Hitler may genuinely have wanted what was best for his country, no matter how fucking crazy he was, but I’m left to wonder, why the hell did so many people support him? But THEN, people did fight back.

What I’m trying to say is, I guess nobody thinks they’re evil, so technically that doesn’t make them evil, and therefore evil cannot exist as it’s defined. (unless the guy who wakes up every morning to saw down trees is all like, YEAH IMMA KILL SOME NATURE as opposed to just wanting to pay his rent) We’re all terrorists in the eyes of another and all that, right?
A lot of bullshit sure does exist though lol. Prolly just shot myself in the foot by using the WWII example though haha. ’‘equips Flame Shield” There must indeed be some shrink shit goin down up in the hood yo, about how everyone else is evil but us. In the end though, I guess it’s just us being human? I denno, man.

faye's avatar

Of course it does, read the news.

Symbeline's avatar

@faye haha yeah. I’m tempted to ask, does good exist? XD

everephebe's avatar

Both good and evil seem to be subjective for the most part. Good or bad for who, or what?

I think it’s all perspective, is a supernova evil? We are made from the catastrophic results of incredible and violent forces, completely outside of our comprehension.

Are predators evil, killing their prey? They have offspring to feed, and help the ecosystem be balanced.

I can’t think that evil or good truly exist, they are both labels to put on: what is, was, and will be. Does the past, current or future need such labels? Are not mistakes great learning tools? You make the good, or the bad, it is up to you. Horrific things happen to people and when they do, they generally react in one way or another. What people have done in the past is evil or good seemingly, but how can you tell without changing things? Would you go back in time and change anything? Even one small change, meant for good, could end all civilization as we know it. Some people see me as evil some as good. I see people as good or evil too. But lumping folks in categories, is just a mode of ignorance. I mean it’s quite silly really.

What is the big picture? It’s impossible to know. Seeing things in black or white, is truly very limited. I’m guilty of doing it… it’s hard not to sometimes. The universe is complex, and two options don’t at all cover that complexity.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.” -CD ATOTC

How can we know? How can we dare, call anything good or evil without omniscience? Things are. And what we should do, is work hard to make things be “better,” as much as we can, as long as we can. We don’t even understand the nature of “reality,” how can we call anything, anything?

I don’t know. I only hope that it’s not as simple as good or evil, light vs dark. We’re alive in the first place, that’s pretty exciting.

mazzkat's avatar

Evil must exist: even if it’s as simple as the idea of what evil is in someone’s head. If you’re talking about a certain definition of ‘evil’, a physical action that determines one is ‘evil’, then to those who deem it as evil, it is a reality to them.

EG. Mary doesn’t think slapping that baby was evil but Amy did. Therefore the evil exists in Amy’s eyes because what she witnessed was ‘evil’ to her.

The idea of evilness exists but is completely relative. Once you see an act you determine as ‘evil’ then you accept it as that and it becomes a reality.

That’s my take on it, anyway.

Jeruba's avatar

As a thing unto itself? a separate reality? an entity apart from actions? I don’t think so. I think it is a process, like a flame, that has no independent existence but rather is something that occurs in much the same way that burning occurs, changing one thing into another. The process is the committing of a deed by a being capable of moral judgment.

I think this is true of good as well as of evil: not a transcendent abstraction or a thing with its own existence but rather an attribute of human action.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I have seen evil, and I never want to see it again. Does it exist? I believe that it does.

gondwanalon's avatar

There are so many evil men in history but I’ll just name 3 recent ones:

Adolf Hitler: During WWII he was responsible for the systematic murder of as many as 17 million civilians, including an estimated six million Jews targeted in the “Holocaust”

Mao Tse-Tung: “Great Leap Forward” and Cultural Revolution caused 40 to 70 million chinese deaths. The thing that is most disturbing is the fact that the Communist leaders of China still honor this monster with colossal pictures of him in Beijing including the Tiananmen Gate of Heavenly Peace”. That is insane!!! This is an indication that the Communist Leadership in China is evil.

Pol Pot (also known as Saloth Sar) was the leader of the “Khmer Rouge” Cambodian Communist movement who exterminated over 20% of the Cambodian population (1.7 to 2.5 million people). This where news reporters wrote about “The Killing Fields”.

Carol's avatar

WARNING: This is long and boring.

Evil is a moral concept. Morals are made by people and by societies. Evil can only exist in the eyes of those who judge.

If one seeks motive, just about any act can be justified. Therefore, to be able to see evil as existing, one cannot look at motive.

If you’re referring to evil acts of people (as opposed to natural disasters or diseases), most acts of “evil” can be justified, no matter how heinous if you examine motive closely. I have been in the position of giving prisoners psychological evaluations. In every case, the prisoner had a justifiable reason for committing his/her crime, even that of murder. Many times, it was the perception/misperception of the prisoner that they had been wronged in some way that precipitated their behavior which was, therefore, in their eyes, justified.

Can the mentally unfit be accused of evil? Fitness to stand trial is the way the legal system (in the US) deals with this problem. If a person doesn’t know right from wrong or cannot participate in his/her own defense, he/she has not committed evil acts. If the person is found “fit to stand trial” he/she may be found guilty of a crime. Only @ four percent of those evaluated for fitness are found to be unfit. And then came DNA sampling. Many evil people turned out not to be evil at all. Was society evil for misperceiving they were guilty? Even Jeffrey Dahmer who lobotomized, committed necrophilia and cannibalism on his victims was found fit to stand trial. He pleaded guilty but insane (that’s Wisconsin) but was found guilty and sane. Go know.

To qualify as an evil act, I think one has to know that the act is wrong and do it anyway. Example: A man marries a wealthy woman. After seven years, he’s bored and itchy. He is in lust and having an affair with his cheap tart of a secretary. But oh….the money and the lifestyle that goes with it. The prenup states that if they divorce, he does not get half of their assets. The only way out of this grossly untenable situation is to kill her. 1) This is evil because he promised to be faithful to his wife and he wasn’t. 2) It is evil because he knows he shouldn’t commit murder. Being a greedy bastard on top of everything else, he can double his money by taking an insurance policy out on her and does so. 3) This is evil because he is committing insurance fraud. Ultimately, his evil acts will be ferreted out by the insurance company and he will be punished by society unless he is not discovered.

Anybody see Double Indemnity? Eeeeevil.

Do governments commit acts of evil? Personally, I think so but I’m sure they have their reasons.

Judi's avatar

Yes. I just got throug reading Love Wins, by Rob Bell. Been contemplating this question a lot. He has got a lot of flack from the Christian community being called a heretic, because he says that if you die and you’re not a Christian, you may not be doomed to the fiery hell that the evangelicals have been scaring us with.

bunnygrl's avatar

Evil absolutely exists. It exists in the heart of anyone who knowingly, and deliberately harms a child, an animal or a fellow human. Yes, people eat meat, humans have been carnivores, but a greater enlightenment is spreading (though not fast enough for me but thats another topic) among us humans relating to how animals in the meat industry are treated, just to end up on our plate. I do see, though likely not in my lifetime sadly, a world where we, as a species, no longer eat meat. So, yes,people killing animals to eat happens but that is not what I meant by knowingly and deliberately harming animals. The sickness that the animal cruelty charities deal with every day, is stomach turning. Tell me that is not evil. <pauses to hug furbaby Jade who was herself a victim before coming to live with mummy and daddy via a lovely kind lady called Frances and her rescue group.>

Yes, evil absolutely exists, it has always existed, and sadly in some shape or form I think it always will. It is though an aberration rather than the norm. Broadly the world is full of people who have good hearts and go about the day to day living of their lives without dreaming of torturing other souls, and thank god for that.

@FireMadeFlesh GQ honey
hugs xx

ninjacolin's avatar

“Serious” questions ought to be “general” questions, philoso-friend.

Yes, “evil” fits the definition of “fallacious.”

augustlan's avatar

I’ve never been able to commit to a yes or no answer on this question. My gut says evil exists, and my head says it doesn’t. Generally, I let my head rule the day, but every once in a while my gut is shouting so loudly that I can’t ignore it.

Spreader's avatar

What a different world this would be if individuals, organizations and nations heeded the inspired counsel: “Never pay back evil for evil”! But the sad fact is that today, more than ever before in human history, individuals, organizations and nations go counter to that wise advice. ( Rom. 12:17) Not only is paying back evil for evil unwise, since it merely aggravates a bad situation, but it is also unloving. It could well be that the evil we received was committed unintentionally and due to a misunderstanding, an oversight or a slip of the tongue. Since any one of such things may well have been the cause, why not give the other party the benefit of the doubt, exercising self-control, resisting the impulse to retaliate, and proceeding as if nothing had happened? Does not God’s Word admonish us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to do to others as we would have them do to us? Yes, it does, ( Luke 6:31)

cookieman's avatar

Have you met my mother?

Mikewlf337's avatar

Yes evil exist. All you have to do is look around to see that. This is a simple question that some have trouble answering because of their arrogance and presumed intelligence. Evil does exist and you don’t have to look hard to find it.

kess's avatar

Because if the nature of evil it cannot exist in and of itself..

But because of people who think it does, it will continue to exist.

PhiNotPi's avatar

Evil is not an independant entity. It is caused when either greed or the hunger for power drive people to do immoral things..

XOIIO's avatar

Allow me to introduce myself…

SABOTEUR's avatar

“In the absence
of that which is not
that which IS
is not.”

CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD, Neale Donald Walshe

CaptainHarley's avatar

For those of you who say that evil does not exist, you have obviously never come face to face with it. It exists. It is real. It will take your life.

lloydbird's avatar

I try hard to hold to the idea that there is no such thing as ”..evil..” and that there are just different degrees of ‘wrong’. However, maintaining this stance is a real struggle, given some of the despicable things that go on in the world.

@CaptainHarley While I respect your assertion and cannot begin to imagine what you have seen that has informed your opinion, I suspect that when analysed, what you are talking about are occurrences on the outer extremes of wrongness. Also, and if my memory serves me right, you are a believer in God and if so, would God not have deliberately created “evil”? And if so, why?

Coloma's avatar

‘Evil’ is nothing more than pathological ego and it’s lack of empathy, remorse for the suffering it causes. Just as the kingdom of heaven is within, so is hell.

Evil is an inner force not an outer entity.

Read Scott Pecks ’ People of the lie’ for a great take on ‘evil.’

Meego's avatar

Well depending on your morale evil can exist in many different forms. In religion it can be as simple as following the rules of the bible or vice versa not following Satan (satanism).
In our country morales are usually judged by the law system, where intention targets the sentence for the evil doer and therefore altering his/her personality as evil.

Does evil exist? It’s in the dictionary but doesn’t that mean we as the people have decided what it means to be evil. We as humans need some kind of order and organisation.

As I see it we are all evil, our regular way of life is to impose our ways on the one thing that matters ~ mother earth and her child nature. And we pay for it with her anger and it is of the worst kind. Behind her rage we are left behind in a land of the desolate with extinction as a promise in the wake of her devastation.

cak's avatar

My ex MIL is still kicking. So yes. Evil does exist. She told my ex husband, many times, she wished she had aborted him. What a gem.

laineybug's avatar

Evil does exist, but only a very few things are truly evil. Many things that people consider evil have a purpose that someone thinks is for the better. Like killing someone because they caused you extreme harm is not evil. Killing someone just because you felt like it is evil. Some people consider everything that is wrong as evil, so evil is also subjective. That’s why almost everyone here has a different answer.

cockswain's avatar

Like as a force of nature? I don’t think so. Can chimpanzees, bears, or cockroaches behave in an evil fashion? I think it’s just a human construct, and a measure of how far from cultural norms one can stray. Murder, torture, etc…are the results of a deviant mind. Mob psychology can cause seemingly healthy people to commit heinous acts. I don’t think evil is some force in the universe, locked in eternal struggle with some vaguely defined force of good.

We might want to imagine that terrible acts committed by humans are forces of evil at work to help explain them, but they are just terrible acts committed by a warped human mind.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@lloydbird

Perhaps to teach us how to be strong?

cockswain's avatar

Well He’s toughening the hell out of the Japanese right now.

lloydbird's avatar

@CaptainHarley Perhaps,sir. But wouldn’t that make “evil” a divine positive educational device? And therefore somehow good!?

CaptainHarley's avatar

“Good” by whose definition?

CaptainHarley's avatar

@cockswain

“God makes his rain to fall upon both the just and the unjust.” Earthquakes are simply natural phenomena, not something God does with premeditation.

lloydbird's avatar

@CaptainHarley“Good” by whose definition?
God’s, I suppose. No pain – no gain?

augustlan's avatar

@Mikewlf337 Are you really suggesting that all of us with no definitive answer to this question are arrogant? How so?

everephebe's avatar

Honi soit qui mal y pense?

Jeruba's avatar

I don’t know if I’m among those being castigated for my opinion here, but I didn’t say evil does not exist. I said it exists as fire exists. Fire is real, but it has no being separate from the process of burning.

mrrich724's avatar

For everything that exists, so exists something considered “opposite” to whatever that entity is.

Clearly there exists things that are desirable. When the opposite of that is so completely opposite that it is repulsive, you can call it evil.

This is my very crude explanation of my feeling of evil.

Bluefreedom's avatar

I thought it over carefully and yes, evil does exist. My first wife was (and probably still is) evil. She exhibited signs of sociopathic behavior about a year into our marriage. Seriously.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@lloydbird

You could say that, yes. Pain is one of the fastest ways to learn.

filmfann's avatar

Does evil exist? It sure does, and has a nightly commentary show on FOX.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@augustlan It seems arrogant to me for someone to flat say evil does not exist or thinks too deep to decide wether it exists or not. This world is full of evil. It isn’t hard at all to realize that evil does exist.

Jeruba's avatar

@Mikewlf337, you are expressing an opinion, as are the rest of us.

augustlan's avatar

@Mikewlf337 It seems equally arrogant (to use your word) to flat out say that evil does exist. I don’t actually think any of us are being arrogant, though.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Thanks everyone for your answers. I don’t have the time to respond to all of you, but your answers are appreciated nonetheless. I deliberately did not clarify the question to get a good range of interpretations, and you guys have certainly delivered.

@mazzkat Certainly evil exists as a concept, and I don’t think anyone is disputing that people see things as evil. Do you think the concept is useful or applicable though?

@Jeruba Good analogy, thanks. What does it take for an action to be considered so immoral as to be evil? Is it a matter of perspective or opinion?

@CaptainHarley Do you see the concept of evil applying solely to actions, or to blind events and people also? Is a person who commits an evil act an evil person?

@gondwanalon I am aware of countless figures in history who are considered to be evil, but I don’t think it is sufficient to point to examples and use them as a definition.

@Carol In your example, could the man in question be selfish, short sighted, and desensitised to violence without actually being evil? People often use an arbitrary system of morality without providing any justification. If a person cannot see a justification for the arbitrary assertion, and then do not follow it, is their act evil? As you say, any act can be justified if you look at motives. We can say an act is morally wrong, and add superlatives in proportion to just how wrong, but don’t we need to know the intention of the subject to truly know whether or not it was an act of evil?

@Mikewlf337 I don’t think it is that simple. Ancient people used to take it for granted that the Earth was flat, simply because it appeared to be. You always need to look deeper than appearances for a satisfactory answer.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh

I’m not really sure. It seems that there are a very few people who have given themselves over to evil and have thus become evil, but they are a small number indeed.

Mikewlf337's avatar

I don’t know how anyone can say that evil does not exist. Evil people do evil things everyday. It does exist. That is all there is to it. There isn’t any deep thought needed. Not everything requires deep thought to figure it out.

everephebe's avatar

@Mikewlf337 Yes, you’re right, your paradigm is how the whole universe operates. :D There is deep thought needed. I truly don’t mean to be rude, but you have to realize that there are valid other perspectives. So thank you for sharing yours, it does help this discussion. But do remember this is a discussion, please.

Evil is a concept. I don’t think I’ll get too much flak for that, since it is a personal definition for everyone. Evil is a tricky subject to grasp. And we have yet to define what evil is! It’s good question whether or not it exists, as it is subjective, and therefor opinion. Your opinion doesn’t make it so, and neither does mine make it nowt.

We have to ask, “What is evil?” because I think it does exist on some levels and on others it does not. It depends entirely on perspective doesn’t it? So which evil are we talking about? Evil on a universal level? I can’t think so. Evil on a interpersonal level? Well, yes and no. It’s subjective. The (mother) in-law example is a great one. Seriously, I can understand that, but people aren’t motivated out of evil are they? It’s love, fear, over-protectiveness or a variety of “reasons.” Was Hitler or Stalin evil incarnate? No, they were terrible people, who did evil things. Acts do seem to be able to be evil. Murder in most, if not all cases does seem evil. But a blanket, “yes there is evil in the world,” seems hasty. There has to be a case by case considerations. Would it be evil to prevent evil by doing evil? I don’t know, personally. But I do know that I am not an authority on what is evil, rather -I am skeptical of our own definitions of evil. You know, words seem to be well defined, you think, “Of course I know what that means!” And it ends up being less clear than that in the end. Which is good in a way, because it makes you think deeply about it. Morality and the nature reality need to be considered carefully.

I think a solid, “I don’t know,” is very valid. Especially since we have yet to describe which evil we are referring to. @FireMadeFlesh said, “Please think about this carefully before answering.” Let’s consider this difficult subject carefully.

I think we can say, “That yes, the concept of evil does exist. Now what does that mean? Is it just a concept? What is evil, and is it really real? Or is evil a construct to articulate a horrifying aspect of nature?”

That’s my $0.02, dears. Cheers.

laineybug's avatar

@Mikewlf337 Could you please try to be a little more open minded about this? You pretty much said that everyone that that thinks differently than you on this subject is arrogant, and I don’t particularly appreciate that.

Jeruba's avatar

Ok, let’s dissect an evil person.

Scalpel, please.

Is the person’s hair evil? How about his toes? Does he have an evil chin? an evil shoulder? an evil stomach?

Let’s cut away every part that is not evil. Is there something left? What is it?

If we can’t locate evil in some part of the person’s body, if we can’t identify an evil substance that a person can contain, how can evil be a thing that is in a person?

Perhaps you say, no, evil is what a person does.

Okay, then, you agree with me: it’s an action, a process, and not some material thing that can be said to possess independent existence. Just like walking, running, laughing, eating, fighting, and everything else that a person can do, it has reality only in the doing of it. There’s no such thing as running (etc.) apart from the act of performing it.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Jeruba

No, evil, like ugly, goes all the way to the bone!

Jeruba's avatar

Ugliness too has no existence apart from someone or something that possesses it as a characteristic. It’s an abstraction. You can’t isolate it from all other entities and put it in a box.

everephebe's avatar

It’s said that beauty is pain. It’s also said to be symmetry. So maybe ugly is pleasure and asymmetry? Wait no, that doesn’t sound right!

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Jeruba

It’s a play on words, hon. : P

Jeruba's avatar

Sorry, I must be a little slow, @CaptainHarley. Which word has the double meaning?

ninjacolin's avatar

By that description, @Jeruba, “evil” is a rating of behavior. From desirable to least desirable, it fits in the “least” section.

Jeruba's avatar

No, not by me, @ninjacolin, though others may say so: I simply say it’s a deed or state and not something that exists independently of human agency, just as a flame or a state of burning exists only when a process of oxidation is taking place. So evil isn’t something that a god could create as a power or force aligned against the force of good. Rather, it’s something that a human being—a being who is capable of moral judgment—creates in the act of performing an evil deed.

ninjacolin's avatar

I’m confused, what is this? Payback?
If you could dim that down a shade, I’ll be eternally grateful.

Jeruba's avatar

Are you addressing me? I don’t understand your comment.

ninjacolin's avatar

lol, it was an attempt at self-deprecating humor. I’m saying that I don’t fully understand your comment just above.

Are you simply saying that evil isn’t an entity?

ninjacolin's avatar

And instead.. it’s a chemical reaction?

Jeruba's avatar

Yes—as in my first comment above:

As a thing unto itself? a separate reality? an entity apart from actions? I don’t think so. I think it is a process, like a flame, that has no independent existence . . . (etc.)

No, not a chemical reaction. A process. Or a state of occurring.

cockswain's avatar

I agree with @Jeruba . I don’t think evil or good are some forces of nature. Without humans, there would be no such thing. Animals don’t commit evil or good. Evil isn’t battling good in the universe outside of humans. It’s just a human construct.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@cockswain

Evil exists independently from both animals and humans, but humans, as conscious beings with free will, are the only ones susecptible to coming under its influence.

cockswain's avatar

So it is a universal force that acts only on beings of a certain level of sentience on planets around the universe? That doesn’t make sense to me.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Lots of things don’t make sense to me, but I don’t lose sleep over them. : )

Mikewlf337's avatar

Some got mad at me saying they are being arrogant yet I have been called some pretty nasty names on here. I have been called subhuman, I have been called a fool, I have been mocked on here. Calling someone arrogant is not going to hurt your feelings all that bad. Evil is real. What did Adolf Hitler and the Nazis do to the Jews and other undesirables? Play pattycake with them?

Jeruba's avatar

What form does that influence take, @CaptainHarley? Is evil a substance that takes up residence in humans? A virus? Bacteria? Is it a force field like magnetism? Or more like gravity? Where is it located? Is it measurable? Does it have mass? Is it a wave or a particle? Is it distributed throughout the universe or only in the vicinity of earth? If throughout the universe, what is its medium? If only in our neighborhood, does it follow us when we travel? Is it evenly or unevenly distributed? Is it sentient? Does it have will? Is it omnipotent, or can it be contained or defeated?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Mikewlf337 Hitler committed genocide, but he also thought it was the right thing to do. For it to have been evil, wouldn’t it need to be a conscious decision to do what was immoral?

augustlan's avatar

And was Hitler evil, or insane?

@Mikewlf337 A) I don’t think most of us on this thread have ever called you a name and B) Two wrongs don’t make a right.

cookieman's avatar

but three wrongs make a left.

Meego's avatar

I think this discussion is getting a little too heated..and heat and emotion can start to turn eeeVIL…eeekkkk =\ rrrruuunnn

Mikewlf337's avatar

@augustlan Not on this thread but on fluther I have.I also have had people send me harrassing Messages. Reason i said it is arrogance is because some people refuse to accept that it does exist. It isn’t just a point of view. Hitler wanted a whole race dead. Insane? Yes, Evil? Absolutely. I don’t care if he felt it was the right thing to do. How could anyone justify genocide? Only and evil person can find a way to justify genocide and get people to back him/her up.

lloydbird's avatar

@Jeruba “What form does that influence take,@CaptainHarley?
It can sometimes be found in high-minded sanctimoniousness, and displayed in a craven willingness to exert linguistic advantage in an unseemly fashion. Maybe.
But hey?, what do I know? I don’t even believe that it exists!

laineybug's avatar

@Mikewlf337 I’m sorry that people have been mean to you here on Fluther, but I don’t think it’s right to call people arrogant because of their opinions. It’s not really a refusal to accept that evil does exist, but it really is just a difference in opinion. And it was me who called you out on saying that it’s arrogance, I’m sorry if you were displeased by it.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@laineybug I’m not saying that everyone on here who disagrees with me is arrogant but I find it very strange that someone would doubt that evil truly exists. After what people have done to others throughout history I would think people would not try to challenge that. People have done some terrible things to others while knowing it was wrong to do it.

laineybug's avatar

@Mikewlf337 I know that people have done bad things, but if you read my earlier answer you would see that I believe evil does exist, but I think that true evil is knowing it’s wrong and not have any reason that you thought it was for the better. If evil is just doing something that is terrible, then many, many people would be considered evil.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@laineybug Not just anything terrible. I’m talking genocide, serial muderers, child molesters, rapists, stuff like that.

laineybug's avatar

@Mikewlf337 The thing about using child molesters, serial killers, and rapists as an example is that you have to keep in mind that most have something wrong with them or think they’re doing something for the better. And with genocide, it is terrible but someone most likely thinks it’s for the better, even though it’s not.

Meego's avatar

According to the dictionary evil has to do with morales, who’s morales? I think that’s the real dispute here.

Symbeline's avatar

@Mikewlf337 I certainly understand where you’re coming from. It seems silly to me to not consider Hitler evil. But I think that in issues of subjectivity and all, people are trying to understand why people do the things that they do. Not even 500 years ago, people would have clear black and white, and that was it. You steal bread, off with your head. That’s all that’s it. Today, we have science, psychology and other methods of exploring things further. And people have found things which may dispute the angel VS the demon conviction. Like being a product of your time, or insane, or…just ignorant. See like, we look at Hitler and what he did. we wonder, just how the fuck did this man go to sleep at night? So maybe he was crazy, really had radical beliefs and ideologies, but the fact that we don’t understand how he could do such things points out an interesting point. He can do this, we can’t fathom how. He obviously wasn’t normal, at least as far as it goes with general social standards, since most of us are appalled. Something was clearly wrong with his ass. He was, perhaps, plain evil. Just crazy. Deluded. But then where it gets blurry to me is that people supported this guy, even after they saw what he did. Were they abnormal and crazy too? Or evil? It gets confusing to me, when the line between black and white gets blurred this way. So I think, whether there is an actual evil or not, that people wish to understand. Maybe they think that by doing so, they can help to eradicate ’‘evil’’. Maybe by denying evil itself and thinking it is something which CAN be stopped, it helps them to chug along in the world. There’s lots of different ways to inspect the issue, and while I personally do not believe that mankind will ever stop skull fucking his brother, with stuff like that, I can’t quite believe in evil as it’s generally defined. Too many factors which relate it to us for it to be something of its own. (unless one may agree that THAT in itself is evil) Find me arrogant if you will, but I’m not stating any of this in stone. I don’t KNOW, just observing and making suggestions.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Mikewlf337 I still don’t understand how “look around, its obvious!” is a valid argument. Where some see the September 11 terrorists as evil men that carried out a terrible massacre, others see freedom fighters who stood up to US interference in their corner of the world. The point here is that nothing is ever so black and white to be able to call one or the other ‘evil’ or ‘good’, as though one word could conclusively sum up the morality of a particular act or event.

For every act, there is a justification. No one acts without reason, if they possess any measure of self-control or intelligence. Likewise no one acts in a way that they identify as being immoral or wrong. Therefore if ‘evil’ (as traditionally understood) is committed, the person who committed that act is either unintelligent, lacks self-control on a grand scale, or they have a warped sense of morality. If a person is unintelligent or lacking in self-control, then it isn’t really fair to blame the person for the evil nature of the act, since it wasn’t a considered intentional action on their part. If they have a warped sense of morality, either they have a mental condition triggering immoral desires, or they have been mislead by their teachers or their own reason. In these cases, I still don’t think it is applicable to call the person evil.

This is where @Jeruba‘s analogy of the fire is important. If, as I have proposed, people cannot themselves be evil then either good people commit evil acts, or evil itself does not exist and the word itself should be replaced by others such as immoral, disadvantageous, decadent, etc. Now I return to my original point – simple observation and assumption is never enough to determine the nature of an act. A deeper analysis is required. Please consider this question on a more fundamental level, and do not assume that everyone who disagrees with you is arrogant. After all, if I was entirely confident in my point of view I wouldn’t have phrased this thread as a question.

Jeruba's avatar

If I understand you correctly, @lloydbird, you are suggesting that the traits of high-mindedness, sanctimoniousness, cravenness, and eloquence can all be found in a single person, and that when these occur together they can serve to define evil; moreover, that the use of one’s verbal skills is an inappropriate and deplorable act. Is this your message?

I am having difficulty even imagining two of them—high-mindedness (having high principles and ethics) and cravenness (cowardice)—as belonging to one person; they seem nearly opposite to me. But if evil is to be defined as broadly as that, then there is very little that is not evil, to the extent that it seems pointless to speak about it.

At any rate, it does not seem unjust to me to assume that if a person is capable of making a confident, assured, and unequivocal assertion about the nature of evil, that person should be in a position to answer a few questions about its characteristics.

mattbrowne's avatar

It can be simply defined as a violation of the Golden Rule.

SavoirFaire's avatar

“Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.”
—George Bernard Shaw

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

I’m not sure I quite agree with that @mattbrowne. In my line of work, I meet people every day where I am sure that were I in their position I would want to be euthanased – however I still believe it would be unethical for them to be euthanased. This is particularly true in cases where the person is unable to communicate because of their medical problems. I think everyone has double standard regarding themselves, and these can at times be healthy.

Thanks for your answer.

lloydbird's avatar

@Jeruba Oops! Sorry. I meant high-handed.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Those who committed the 9/11 attacks are evil. Americas involvement in the middle east is no reason to hijack planes, fly them into buildings and kill everyone in the plane, in the building, and everyone near the building. Anyone who sees those terrorist as freedom fighters are idiots. What freedom do they offer. They want women to have no rights. They want all religions banned except for Islam, They want the death penalty for homosexuals. They are definitely not freedom fighters. Ted bundy was smart and from the outside a good person. He knew what he was doing was terreible. Still he targeted and killed people for know other reason other than his own pleasure. These people may be messed up in the head. So yes, “look around, its obvious” is a valid argument.

cockswain's avatar

@Mikewlf337 I think where you’re hung up is that some are arguing it doesn’t exist as some cosmic force in the universe, locked in an eternal struggle with good, but you are stating that people doing shitty things are evil. I think (not certain) you’re saying heinous, terrible behavior is evil. But do you think evil is a force that possesses people, flowing through the universe? Or is it just a way to describe the most terrible behavior?

Sorry if I’m not close, just trying to understand your view.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Mikewlf337 The terrorists responsible for the September 11 attacks did commit an immoral act, but if you remember the cheering crowds all over the Arab world immediately after, it should be apparent that not everyone thought it was evil. All those people saw the US as an unwanted presence in their lands, and could quite easily justify the attacks on the same grounds that Americans used to justify the Hiroshima bombing. (Please note I am not expressing a personal viewpoint on either event – that is irrelevant).

The concept of evil is a human construct, used to make the world easier to understand. Therefore what is evil and what is good is decided purely by popular majority. In our modern world we regard cannibalism as abhorrent, but in many older cultures it was normal, and in many cases regarded as a necessary part of the justice system of the tribe.

Ted Bundy, like any other serial killer, had learned how to act like he was normal. As a child, he would have learnt early on that he was different, and would have developed the ability to imitate normal people. Still, underneath all his disguises, he was a compulsive killer – and I don’t think it is fair to call someone evil because of what they feel compelled to do.

mattbrowne's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh – I don’t see how your example violates the Golden Rule. So if you were in their position, you wouldn’t want others make decisions for you. You are deciding about your own life. You are not making decisions about other people’s lives.

XOIIO's avatar

Twitter is the evil that sole our founders and best from us!

everephebe's avatar

@XOIIO and gave them a bi-weekly paycheck. :D

Mikewlf337's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh nothing you (or anyone else) have said has changed my mind about evil. It does exist and I know it. Those who cheered the 9/11 attacks cheered because they are stupid. Noboby in America cheers when thousands of their people die. I know because I am an american and I never once seen anyone cheer the death of a single middle eastern person. I don’t know why you are using Americas involvement in the Middle East as an example to prove your point. This has nothing to do with any particular nation. Cannibalism by itself is not evil. Some tribes eat their dead as a funeral right. Some people eat other people in a survival situation Serial Killers intentionally kill others for their own pleasure, Terrorist use fear to motivate their agenda. What these people do is the very definition of evil which is the will to cause death, harm and destruction. That is what evil is and it does exist. Just because they feel compelled doesnt mean they do not deserve to be called evil. You cannot argue that. You try but you have not convinced me that evil doesn’t exist. Some thing are black and white. Not most things but some things.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@cockswain My definition of evil is simple. The willful attempt to cause death, harm, destruction for pleasure, domination, and/or monetary gain. That is why I say evil does exist because people who cause death, harm, and destruction for pleasure, domination and/or monetary gain do exist.

cockswain's avatar

@Mikewlf337 Do you think it is a spiritual sort of force that possesses people, or is just people that do bad things?

everephebe's avatar

@Mikewlf337 “Noboby in America cheers when thousands of their people die. I know because I am an american and I never once seen anyone cheer the death of a single middle eastern person.”

Do you live under a rock? Don’t you remember Iraqi? I remember being in a room with people cheering during shock and awe. How about cheering for Japanese people dying, recently. Yeah that happened too, in the U.S.

By your definition America is evil:
“My definition of evil is simple. The willful attempt to cause death, harm, destruction for pleasure, domination, and/or monetary gain.”
Yeah, we’ve done that, a whole lot. And in more than one insistence, made some enemies doing so.

Are you trolling or what? @Mikewlf337 not cool. No matter what you say the matter isn’t simple, or black and white, except maybe to people like you. I think you have to lack a certain amount of pathos, empathy and compassion to start labeling people evil. And you also have to be willfully ignorant of their side of the story, and have to desire not understanding why they did what they did. I think the concept evil is completely a way of sweeping complex things under a rug and not dealing with it.

It’s fine if you believe in evil, but saying anyone else who doesn’t is wrong… doesn’t work here. If you are going to make claims don’t make wild ones, unless you can back them up.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@everephebe No I don’t live under a rock. I never seen Americans cheering the death of middle easterns. You may have but I did not. Americans were still mad at the 9/11 attacks and the attempt to fly a plane into the white house to kill the president and his family. There was no justifiable reason for the 9/11 attacks. They killed innocent people who had nothing to do with America’s involvement with the middle east. In fact it did nothing to help middle east. In fact in made America more involved. I am not trolling. Just because I disagree with alot of people on this thread doesn’t mean I am a troll. I am not trying to piss of anyone on here. If I posted things on this thread just to get people riled up then that would be a different story but I did not. If anyone is getting pissed off. They are getting pissed off because I refuse to agree with them. Labeling me a troll? Not cool. No matter what you say. None of you have gave me a good reason to change my mind on this subject. BTW I have not made any wild claims on here. Just claims you don’t agree with.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@mattbrowne In some of those situations, I would want to be dispatched regardless of motive or means.

@Mikewlf337 I am using the example of US involvement in the Middle East because it is something everyone is familiar with. It is naive to write them all off as stupid – many of the terrorists are actually very intelligent people (see Aafia Siddiqui). Deluded, but not stupid.

If you define evil as “the will to cause death, harm and destruction”, then how can you call serial killers evil? They don’t want to kill people in the same way you or I would want to go fishing, they kill people because they feel a psychological need. It is usually a sexual thing, so think of it as sexual tension multiplied by several orders of magnitude. They become more and more unstable, and killing is the only thing that relieves their psychological tension.

My purpose is not to convince you that evil does not exist. As I said earlier, I’m not entirely sure one way or the other. I am just trying to show you that every interpretation of an event, such as calling it good or evil, is a matter of perspective. As such, you cannot make blanket assertions that an event or a person is evil to the core, because that is only your perspective on the situation.

everephebe's avatar

“I never seen Americans cheering the death of middle easterns.” How about our troops? Remember Mission Accomplished? You don’t get out much do you? Go ask anyone if they deserve it, for what they did to us. You’ll find more than one person, who will say that they do. Hypothetically, if we captured and later executed Osama bin Laden, you better fucking believe that people in the U.S. would cheer.

Obviously the 9/11 attack was “justifiable” to the attackers, even if it isn’t to you or I, I mean they did go through with it for a reason. Didn’t they?

However the United States, as a country would probably have the highest total enemy civilians causalities heaped at their feet, at least in modern times. I could be wrong, but it still would be close, if I was wrong, and I think my point would still stand. I’m including, Native Americans, and all the wars we’ve been involved in since our founding. Remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Yeah, that was pretty fucked up huh? Although the British and Roman Empires would give us a run for our money. As would Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, The People’s Republic of China, if we include their own civilians. We have certainly killed more of our own civilians, than any attack on us has.

A question like this, isn’t for us to make you think differently, or for you to make us feel differently. Well, I could be wrong about that, but it’s usually about thinking, pondering, musing… Does evil exist, is a big question. If the OP wasn’t trying to promote though on the subject, they probably would have stated the question as an opinion. And how could you put a question like this in the general section. It would be impossible, pretty much all of the responses would be moderated, right?

I never “labeled” you a troll, I asked a question. I never said, “You are a troll.” I don’t care if you agree with me or not, I’m pissed off because some of the things you are saying sound ignorant to me. Now that’s just to me, and I’m not saying that you are indeed ignorant, let’s get that clear. It’s just that the, “Of course evil is real! Because I think so!” style argument really doesn’t work. It doesn’t. And I’m not alone in thinking that.

It’s a pretty wild claim that the 9/11 attackers didn’t feel like they had a reason to do what they did. And it’s pretty wild to say no one in america was ever happy anyone in the middle east died. A wild claim to me, isn’t one I don’t happen to agree with, it’s one that is not at all factually supported.

Sure maybe evil exists, I won’t really fight you on that. Even if evil is only a human construct, it’s real to us right? But evil isn’t just whatever we don’t understand yet, or things we can’t relate too. Evil isn’t whatever we don’t understand or ever care to understand. The black and white that would be, “Anything I can’t see clearly is evil.” Or is that what evil is? Because if that’s the case believing in that kind of evil to me, would be evil. Honi soit qui mal y pense?

augustlan's avatar

@Mikewlf337 Americans have caused plenty of willful death and destruction in an attempt to dominate. (Just think of how Native Americans must have viewed us!) Also, I don’t think anyone is getting upset with you for disagreeing, but because you labeled those who disagree with you in a negative way.

Mikewlf337's avatar

Ok since when did this become an America is wrong thread. Did I ever say that our hands are clean? No I did not. The 9/11 attacks were evil and most world leaders and most of the worlds people would agree with that. Even in the middle east. The cheers for the attacks were a loud minority.

cookieman's avatar

nothing you (or anyone else) have said has changed my mind about ___________. It does exist and I know it.

evil
god
ghosts
space aliens
monsters
unicorns
demonic possessions
faeries

Whatever you decide to fill the blank with, it’s a subjective opinion.

Which is fine. You’re entitled to your opinion – but to claim that it’s “black and white” and those of us who see the shades of grey are “arrogant” is short-sighted at best. I’m afraid your view of reality is very narrow @Mikewlf337. So narrow, you don’t even realize it.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@cprevite I’m not narrow. You all just can’t change my mind to see things the way you all do and it has irked you. It’s arrogance because you all can’t stand to be wrong.

Response moderated (Personal Attack)
FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Mikewlf337 Several people have already stated that they aren’t out to change your mind. This isn’t about making people think in a certain way – its about discussion different aspects of a complex topic, and learning from it. The final belief or lack thereof is not the purpose of this thread. You say that we can’t stand to be wrong, but yet you haven’t provided any supporting arguments to show how or why people are wrong. You have also lumped everyone who disagrees with you in together, when there are more than two facets to this discussion.

I honestly don’t care if you leave this discussion believing in evil or not. All I would like is for you to provide an argument rather than an assertion. Is that really so much to ask?

laineybug's avatar

@Mikewlf337 the statement that the only reason people are getting mad is because you don’t agree with them is untrue. I’m getting upset by your behavior but in my actual answer to the question you would see that i don’t completely disagree with you. I am upset because of the way you’re treating the people who do disagree with you, who happen to be quite nice people, including my mother.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@laineybug Well you all may not have to deal with me much longer. I don’t feel welcome on this site and I have thought about leaving for good. I’m not throwing a pity party. I just don’t hang around where I’m not wanted.

everephebe's avatar

@Mikewlf337 Every thread is a new one. Every post too.

Meego's avatar

@Mikewlf337 Hey don’t sweat the small stuff! I mean you don’t even know the ppl personally so don’t take it to heart.

I believe the entire question has been blown out of context @FireMadeFlesh stated “its about discussion different aspects of a complex topic, and learning from it. The final belief or lack thereof is not the purpose of this thread.” <some things are better left unsaid, I think your second sentence is only word play and inadvertently stating what @Mikewlf337 was fighting about to begin with because really why restate the obvious? But back to why I think the question is blown out of context…the question:Does evil exist? I do think it’s either a yes or no answer and anything after that is going into a persons personal morales/religious beliefs and those areas can be highly debatable of which this topic has become victim to. Not that there’s anything wrong with that =\ I choose to stay neutral tho thanks :|

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Mikewlf337 I think this is the prime problem. People here simply do not agree with your definition. I know I certainly don’t. “Evil” seems like a very robust moral term to me, and so I would need to know that certain metaphysical truths obtained before I was willing to call something evil. Your definition makes evil too mundane of an affair.

Moreover, I’m not certain you are properly distinguishing between acts you think count as examples or instances of evil and the definition of evil itself. I find @Jeruba‘s responses to be helpful here. In fact, her comments remind me of a famous passage from David Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature:

“Take any action allowed to be vicious: Willful murder, for instance. Examine it in all lights, and see if you can find that matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice. In whichever way you take it, you find only certain passions, motives, volitions and thoughts. There is no other matter of fact in the case. The vice entirely escapes you, as long as you consider the object. You never can find it, till you turn your reflection into your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation, which arises in you, towards this action. Here is a matter of fact, but it is the object of feeling, not of reason. It lies in yourself, not in the object. So that when you pronounce any action or character to be vicious, you mean nothing, but that from the constitution of your nature you have a feeling or sentiment of blame from the contemplation of it.”

If Hume is correct here, then “evil” is something we impose on the world: a category that springs forth not from nature, but from our own minds. That’s all well and good, I suppose, but it raises legitimate questions with regard to whether or not evil can really be said to exist (or at least the nature of its existence). Merely looking around, then, seems to be incapable of settling all the relevant questions—even if it brings quite a bit of relevant information to the discussion.

Jeruba's avatar

So very many disagreements come down to definitions.

In this case I think the term that requires unambiguous definition is not “evil” but “exist.”

I’m using a definition something like these—that is, that to exist, a thing must have its own separate, definable and recognizable being.

Some posters on this thread seem to take the position that denying evil this kind of existence is the same thing as saying evil doesn’t happen. Not so. Evil most certainly happens, and by happening it shows itself to be an action rather than a thing that can be located in time and space. Everyone’s favorite evildoer, Hitler, most certainly perpetrated evil acts. But those evil acts did not have any form and substance apart from the doing of them.

mattbrowne's avatar

Come on, although I don’t know the US as well as you do, I am absolutely sure that 99.99% of all Americans don’t cheer when people in the Middle East are being killed. Fox might turn a war into something glorious and heroic, but it’s always about winning a war, not killing people as such, especially innocent civilians. The vast majority of Muslims didn’t cheer during 911, and the few who did were the exception. Even in Iran many people lit candles to mourn the victims.

Unless people are completely brainwashed (like hardcore Nazis killing Jews as mentioned above or Al-Qaeda fanatics) they don’t cheer when people are being killed.

Meego's avatar

I wonder if the people who are cheering anyway are not “evil” so to say but just plain ignorant and disrespectful at the time of others needs? Then again some would say disrespect and ignorance constitutes as evil. So where can you start to call one evil?

everephebe's avatar

@mattbrowne 0.01% is still approximately 30,701 people. And I was in the room with 30 of them during the “Shock and Awe” bombing of Baghdad. We bombed the shit out of Baghdad, and there is no way that no civilians were killed. These folks we praying, celebrating, eating food, laughing, cheering, and clapping. I still think that it’s a minority of the people, but @Mikewlf337 made the claim that not one person in the U.S. cheered. It is just not the case. I remember how the whole world mourned 9/11, people were very supportive of the U.S. then. Listen I think America is a mixed bag, it’s got the some of the best and worst of what’s out there. It’s a diverse country, and that’s one of the things that makes it great. But it’s naive to assume that America has it’s hands clean at all, when it comes to the blood of innocents. And it would be unpatriotic to be ok with everything that happens in this country, and let it all slide.

everephebe's avatar

The “Bad guys” in the world, have family too. Killers were once children. And most people think, that they themselves, are the good guys. Evil is far more complex than black and white. That’s all I was saying. And I said that because @Mikewlf337 seemed to think less of the people who thought that it wasn’t a simple, cut and dry matter. @Mikewlf337 can think what he wants… I mean, this is the social section, and it’s only opinion here basically. But demeaning anyone for disagreeing with him is… something else. I don’t care about changing his mind on what is evil or not. But I’d like him to understand that for others it’s not an easy and simple thing to call anything evil. And hesitating doesn’t make them stupid. His opinion is valued, but I don’t think it’s put to it’s best use when he insults people for disagreeing with him.

I clearly handled this situation with less pose and grace then @Jeruba, @SavoirFaire, @FireMadeFlesh, @augustlan and others.

It’s just the attitude of:
Yes evil exist. All you have to do is look around to see that. This is a simple question that some have trouble answering because of their arrogance and presumed intelligence. Evil does exist and you don’t have to look hard to find it.” -@Mikewlf337

“You all just can’t change my mind to see things the way you all do and it has irked you. It’s arrogance because you all can’t stand to be wrong.” -@Mikewlf337

That really pisses me off.

I’ll re-post this part of my moderated post: “I can’t speak for others about this, but I know I don’t mind being wrong, and I suspect others here are the same way. In fact, I rather be corrected and learn, then think I’m right when I am not. I think many people are that way, at least here on fluther, it’s an anonymous Q&A site! It’s not about being right, it about learning and understanding…”

I think there are many great and interesting posts here, some of which I agree with, some that I do not. I personally thought that @Mikewlf337 was purposely trying to derail this topic, and in trying to prevent that, I became part of the problem. For that I am sorry.

everephebe's avatar

To get more on topic then the last two posts.
Maybe it would help us, to ask more questions:
Are evil people or is it just acts that are evil?
“Does evil exist?” depend on how we define evil or exist, before we answer?
If so, how should we define them?
Are there any examples of what we would all call evil out there?
Is evil’s existence, a matter of personal belief only, something that is completely subjective or is it something more tangible?
Is, “Does evil exist?” a yes or no question?

[@everephebe shuts up, and fluthers away to listen in a quite corner]

Jeruba's avatar

@everephebe, just letting you know that all that small print is just too hard to read. A line or two, okay, but not whole paragraphs. Sorry.

everephebe's avatar

Understood. I managed to edit in time @Jeruba, I felt guilty for posting so much, so I went the small print route. I’ll try to remember that as a rule, “A line or two, okay, but not whole paragraphs.” Thanks for letting me know. Cheers.

mattbrowne's avatar

@everephebe – You’re right, the claim that not one person in the U.S. cheered is wrong. There were a few out there out of the 300 million. Yet the percentage is significantly higher in countries influenced by militant political Islam. It’s very wrong in either case.

Carol's avatar

@Jeruba My takeaway from your comments is that evil is a verb, rather than a noun. You are indeed, an enlightened being.

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