General Question

MaryBeth7992's avatar

What is the conscience? Does everyone have the propensity to do evil?

Asked by MaryBeth7992 (68points) December 29th, 2018

I find the thought of conscience, human will, the Freudian theory fascinating. Basically, what causes a “normal“person” to snap??

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17 Answers

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Sudden trauma ,or over load of stress might get a person to snap.
No one know anyone else’s limit until it is reached.

si3tech's avatar

The word propensity implies preference. So I’d say no.

Jeruba's avatar

Propensity: a natural inclination or tendency.

I’d say no to that too. But capacity, probably yes. If a human being can do it, then the potential is probably in us, no matter how we seem.

In the view of some who’ve studied the subject, people are not so likely to “snap” and do something completely out of the blue. Rather, they may end up doing something that’s been coming for a long time and that might even have been predictable if others were watching the signs (and knew how to read them).

MrGrimm888's avatar

I think we have to evaluate the word “evil,” to get a better idea of how to respond to this question.

Does the OP mean like a mass shooting, or terrorist attack?

KNOWITALL's avatar

If we all had the perfect storm of emotions, ability and opportunity, then yes, I believe we could rationalize anything. Evil, or right and wrong, are subjective.

Normal people can have children killed by a drunk driver, or a sister raped by a meth head. Things that can be so damaging you ignore a lifetime of law abiding, normal behavior. The problem is that you never know what will trigger that, as we are all very different, with unknown mental stability.

LostInParadise's avatar

There is no such thing as gratuitous acts of evil. Devil worship is an urban myth. However, self-righteousness is unbounded. We are able to justify to ourselves the most horrendous acts of cruelty. Did the Nazis believe that they were evil? No, they thought that the Holocaust was making the world better.

LostInParadise's avatar

How do you explain Bernie Madoff? He was wealthy and lived what appeared to be a good life. The people most affected by his pyramid scheme were his family and closest friends. He had to know that it would not take long for him to be caught. Even if he is a psychopath, it seems like a stupid thing to do.

rojo's avatar

Everyone has the propensity to do evil because good and evil are human constructs and are defined differently by each person.

Jeruba's avatar

@rojo, but no matter what your definition is, how does that mean you have a natural tendency (propensity) to do evil? I think most people tend away from it and fall into it only as an error or lapse.

Do you honestly believe that there are 7.7 billion different definitions of good and evil in use in the world? I would have thought maybe half a dozen or so.

Maybe what the answer hinges on here is not your definition of evil but your definition of propensity. Why not go by the dictionary?

rojo's avatar

@Jeruba My first response was that yes, perhaps there are but then I realized that is not correct. If good and evil are artificial constructs that we ourselves determine then the answer is no, there is not because if there truly is no evil; then there are only 7.7 opinions as to what constitutes evil but each and every one of them only as it relates to the individual. Add to that that each persons definition will change over time depending upon circumstance and happenstance over the course of each one of their lives then what you end up with is an infinite number of definitions and examples of evil.

Jeruba's avatar

A very large number of people do not see the concepts of good and evil as a matter of opinion, nor as human constructs. They take their definitions from scripture or from religious leaders or from their culture’s teachings, many of which are expressed in absolute, immutable, nonnegotiable terms. For all practical purposes, large groups of people agree on their understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong. They take their authority from the same sources, and they’ve been taught not to question them.

In my opinion, any time someone says “There are as many x as there are people,” they’re more likely than not to be wrong. I don’t even happen to believe that it’s impossible for two kernels of popcorn to be alike, never mind two snowflakes. And I doubt that my opinion is unique at all.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Evil is quite a subjective. In some cultures, it’s evil not to stone a girl to death because she was raped…

LostInParadise's avatar

Several people here have claimed that morals are arbitrary. It is more complicated than that. I like the philosophy of W D Ross, who claimed that there is a hierarchy of morals. Do not look at the classification as a fixed structure, but more as a rough outline.

rojo's avatar

@Jeruba The number of people that believe a certain thing or a certain way does not prove or determine whether or not something is real or exists. And as such, without getting into whether or not religions are also artificial constructs, taking your definitions of good and evil from scripture, religious leaders or cultural teachings does negate the premise that they are artificial constructs. They were determined by someone, even if this someone was not you, and passed down to you by this method. They do not actually exist. You have chosen to accept someone’s idea or belief instead of formulating your own.

rojo's avatar

^^^ too late to correct (and too lazy to proofread evidently) but that should read ”...teachings does NOT negate the premise…” sorry for the confusion.

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Bill1939's avatar

Conscience arises from consciously considering consequences of one’s actions, especially upon others, and regretting them. Because all behavior is directed by non-conscious functions, instinctive predilections lead to self-serving acts. Unaware of their effects, the potential to produce harm is great.

Evil is a judgement made by others that is based upon recognizing the harm someone else has cause to themselves, others, or the environment. One seldom judges their own acts as evil. They either are unaware or rationalize the results of their behavior. In this sense, we all have the propensity to do evil.

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