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josie's avatar

Can evil be measured by a standard? If not, why do people use the term. If so, what is the standard?

Asked by josie (30931points) April 23rd, 2017

Seems relevant these days.

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21 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

It is measured in Degrees Hitler.

cazzie's avatar

Why use the term ugly? or distasteful? or beautiful? or delicious? These adjectives are an opinion or taste. They are relatively harmless ones to use, but they do lack certain standards and are a matter of personal opinion. ‘Geez, that building is ugly!’ for example.

I can describe something as evil and point to what it or they did to back up my adjective. Evil, good, smart, ignorant, or ineffective are demonstrative. They are words that describe the actions of a person or group. They require no standard other than the actions of the person or group being called those adjectives.

I’m curious. Why you feel this question needs to be asked, @josie ?

elbanditoroso's avatar

No, it can’t. There are so many kinds of evil in so many different contexts, that you can’t compare one to another.

I see evil on two levels – let’s call them macro-evil and micro-evil.

Micro-evil is when a person does something bad but on a small level – a parent molesting a child, a kidnapper killing his victim, and so on.

Macro-evil is on a larger scale – nation, large group of people, etc. The Armenian Genocide was a macro-evil. The Holocaust was a macro-evil. Slavery was a macro-evil. Brainwashing is a macro-evil.

But even then, how do you compare? Was the Armenian Genocide by Turkey worse than the Holocaust? Where do the massacres in Serbia rank? And what about the genocides in Sudan and Rwanda?

I just don’t see how you apply rankings or degrees.

cazzie's avatar

I don’t see how, by requiring the application of rankings, and then the inability for everyone to agree on said rankings, it somehow negates its existence.

@ragingloli has a point that people whip out Hitler as some sort of ‘standard of evil’ but I think they instantly discredit their argument when they do that. They should only address the direct things that demonstrate what ever it is they are trying to describe. The ‘Hitler comparison’ is lazy and childish, unless it directly relates to the political and war tactics Hitler actually undertook, but the person had better explain that.

Calling a building ‘ugly’ isn’t telling me much other than your opinion about the building. Calling it impractical or how it blocks the light or doesn’t match the surround aesthetics is a better place to start, but by comparing it to the ugliness or impracticality of another building isn’t telling me much about the building you are trying to critique. Tell me about how much it will cost to replace a window or how expensive and difficult the practical up-keep of the roof or siding.

Sneki95's avatar

It’s a matter of personal moral, knowledge, culture, experience, etc.

There are no such things as good and evil, it depends on the context, and whether we have benefit from it or not.

Becca543's avatar

Hmm…that’s s good question to ponder.
I think that knowingly doing something that hurts people or animals like torture or abuse, deception, murder etc. Is evil.
If you understand the consequences and the pain and suffering you’re causing, but you choose to do it anyway and you derive some kind of sadistic pleasure from the suffering of others I think that’s evil.
Some people have strange personalities though and are insensitive, and just plain numb to the pain of others. I don’t know if that type of person (Sociopathic or psychopathic) is considered evil or sick if they do horrible things?

Sneki95's avatar

^ insensitive =/= sociopathic.

Becca543's avatar

@Sneki95 Are you asking me if I think that insensitivity is equal to being a sociopath?
I think insensitivity is a characteristic of being a sociopath.

kritiper's avatar

The “Golden Rule” makes for a good standard. If you don’t “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” then what you’re doing is evil.

ragingloli's avatar

Excluding masochists.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Hmmmm, could a sadist and a masochist ever find happiness together? I wonder.

Becca543's avatar

@Patty_Melt I guess so because I read that a Sadist derives pleasure from causing pain and degredation to others and a Masochist derives pleasure from causing or recieving pain and degradation.
So I guess that’s where “Sadomasochism” comes from?
I feel like maybe you were asking that sarcastically and you knew that already?
I on the other hand knew nothing about it and just learned that putting a Sadist and a Masochist together will result in Sadomasochism.
Whether they are happy together or not I have no idea.

Strauss's avatar

Old joke…Masochist and sadist are ina relationship; Masochist cries, “Oh, baby, beat me!” Sadist lovingly replies, “No.”

ragingloli's avatar

A masochist and a sadist are in a relationship. Masochist says: Hurt me!. The sadist then handcuffs the masochist to a pipe, and puts a hacksaw next to him. The masochist complains: “But that does not hurt!”. The sadist replies: “Just wait until I set the house on fire.”

Strauss's avatar

^^Lolli humor!

Patty_Melt's avatar

LOL oops, brb.

ragingloli's avatar

How about this strange Beer Commercial
how was this ever allowed.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Oh my, trailer park date.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

There is a scale to measure levels of evil. It was developed by forensic psychologist Michael Stone. Here it is.

As to why “evil” gets used as a descriptive, a guess would be that they aren’t trained in the field of psychology.

LostInParadise's avatar

There is no way of defining evil. For example, consider the trolley problem How do you determine what the right thing is? The best that we can do is to use general standards and to pass laws following them, but in the end there will always be some human judgment required in interpreting what is evil.

SergeantQueen's avatar

The standard is called “Hilliary Clinton”

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