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What do people mean by Evil?

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I notice in the religious thread on SD the word evil has crept in. I have always found this interesting as I have never been totally sure what it means. It is a human construct and seems to mean different things to different people.

 

On occasion over the years the word has cropped up in conversation and when I've asked the person what exactly do they mean when they say a person is evil it tended to initiate a slow glazing of the eyes. Noting this I have carefully made sure I've removed the word when discussing such things in case I get asked the same question.

 

Roy F. Baumeister writes:

 

Evil usually enters the world unrecognized by the people who open the door and let it in. Most people who perpetrate evil do not see what they are doing as evil. Evil exists primarily in the eye of the beholder, especially in the eye of the victim. If there were no victims, there would be no evil. True, there are victimless crimes (for example, many traffic violations), and presumably victimless sins, but they exist as marginal categories of something that is defined mainly by the doing of harm. Try to imagine a society in which nobody ever did anything that had any sort of bad effect on anyone else. VVhat would the police have to do? Would there even be police?

 

If victimization is the essence of evil, then the question of evil is a victim's question. Perpetrators, after all, do not need to search for explanations of what they have done. And bystanders are merely curious or sympathetic. It is the victims who are driven to ask, why did this happen? Why did those soldiers shoot my family? Why did that woman plant a bomb on that bus? Why did those boys beat me up? Why did my grandfather force me to have sex with him? As a general pattern, suffering stimulates a quest for meaningful explanation.1 The idea that suffering is random, inevitable, and meaningless has never been satisfactory to most people, and victims desire specific explanations. Evil is a partial explanation, and many victims can be satisfied (at least for a while) by concluding that their attackers were evil. But in the long run, evil needs to be explained, too.

 

Evil challenges some of our most basic and important assumptions about the world, and so the question of why there is evil goes to the heart of the human being's place in the universe. The great thinker St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that the existence of evil in the world is the single greatest obstacle to Christian faith and doctrine. In other words, nothing undermines the Christian belief in God more than the existence of evil. If God is aU-good and all-powerful, how can God allow evil to happen?

 

More recently, studies by social scientists have emphasized that most people in modern- Western society go through life with strong positive beliefs that the world is basically a nice place in which to live, that life is mostly fair, and that they are good people who deserve to have good things happen to them. 3 Moreover, these beliefs are a valuable aid to happy, healthy functioning. But suffering and victimization undermine these beliefs and make it hard to go on living happily or effectively in society. Indeed, the direct and practical effects of some trauma or crime are often relatively minor, whereas the psychological effects go on indefinitely.

 

The body may recover from rape or robbery rather quickly, but the psychological scars can last for many years. A characteristic of these scars is that the victims lose faith in their basic beliefs about the world as fair and benevolent or even in themselves as good people. Thus, evil strikes at people's fundamental beliefs.

 

Roy F. Baumeister, EVIL:Inside human violence and cruelty

 

So what is evil? Answers on a postcard to.....................................................

Edited by knocker

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I notice in the religious thread on SD the word evil has crept in. I have always found this interesting as I have never been totally sure what it means. It is a human construct and seems to mean different things to different people.

 

On occasion over the years the word has cropped up in conversation and when I've asked the person what exactly do they mean when they say a person is evil it tended to initiate a slow glazing of the eyes. Noting this I have carefully made sure I've removed the word when discussing such things in case I get asked the same question.

 

Roy F. Baumeister writes:

 

Evil usually enters the world unrecognized by the people who open the door and let it in. Most people who perpetrate evil do not see what they are doing as evil. Evil exists primarily in the eye of the beholder, especially in the eye of the victim. If there were no victims, there would be no evil. True, there are victimless crimes (for example, many traffic violations), and presumably victimless sins, but they exist as marginal categories of something that is defined mainly by the doing of harm. Try to imagine a society in which nobody ever did anything that had any sort of bad effect on anyone else. VVhat would the police have to do? Would there even be police?

 

If victimization is the essence of evil, then the question of evil is a victim's question. Perpetrators, after all, do not need to search for explanations of what they have done. And bystanders are merely curious or sympathetic. It is the victims who are driven to ask, why did this happen? Why did those soldiers shoot my family? Why did that woman plant a bomb on that bus? Why did those boys beat me up? Why did my grandfather force me to have sex with him? As a general pattern, suffering stimulates a quest for meaningful explanation.1 The idea that suffering is random, inevitable, and meaningless has never been satisfactory to most people, and victims desire specific explanations. Evil is a partial explanation, and many victims can be satisfied (at least for a while) by concluding that their attackers were evil. But in the long run, evil needs to be explained, too.

 

Evil challenges some of our most basic and important assumptions about the world, and so the question of why there is evil goes to the heart of the human being's place in the universe. The great thinker St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that the existence of evil in the world is the single greatest obstacle to Christian faith and doctrine. In other words, nothing undermines the Christian belief in God more than the existence of evil. If God is aU-good and all-powerful, how can God allow evil to happen?

 

More recently, studies by social scientists have emphasized that most people in modern- Western society go through life with strong positive beliefs that the world is basically a nice place in which to live, that life is mostly fair, and that they are good people who deserve to have good things happen to them. 3 Moreover, these beliefs are a valuable aid to happy, healthy functioning. But suffering and victimization undermine these beliefs and make it hard to go on living happily or effectively in society. Indeed, the direct and practical effects of some trauma or crime are often relatively minor, whereas the psychological effects go on indefinitely.

 

The body may recover from rape or robbery rather quickly, but the psychological scars can last for many years. A characteristic of these scars is that the victims lose faith in their basic beliefs about the world as fair and benevolent or even in themselves as good people. Thus, evil strikes at people's fundamental beliefs.

 

Roy F. Baumeister, EVIL:Inside human violence and cruelty

 

So what is evil? Answers on a postcard to.....................................................

That's an excellent article by Roy Baumeister and sums up my own thought s on the matter.

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That's an excellent article by Roy Baumeister and sums up my own thought s on the matter.

 

Being a tad pedantic I should perhaps have emphasised that this was part of the introduction of the book. He goes to explain his thinking in detail and I have to say, although it's some years since I read it, it's not an easy read.

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Excellent article. To the question...What is Evil? I'm going to give it some thought and get back to this. Food for thought indeed.

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To the uninitiated, the curry I'm planning for tonight could  be fairly described as 'evil'. As could anyone who inflicts pain and suffering on another person or animal for no other purpose whatsoever than their own gratification.

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Another snippet from Baumeister on the myth of pure evil and an observation from me.

 

Religion and the Devil

 

Probably the best place to learn how people think of evil is in religion, which often provides explicit, vivid explanations of evil. The noted scholar Jeffrey Burton Russell has written extensively about the images of evil in Christian thought. As he points out, cultures all over the world have arrived at "remarkably similar" versions of evil figures and forces. The idea that these similarities are the result of the spread of certain concepts from the same original place to cover the entire world is not plausible. Instead, Russell says, one must conclude that some common psychological process is responsible: The same version of evil was invented several different times, in different parts of the world, independently. Religious ideas of evil thus spring from the way people see the world.

 

Russell notes that the word devil comes from words meaning "adversary." Essentially, evil is seen as the adversary of the good.  Evil is defined in relation to good, as its opposite. Evil does not exist by itself there must be some positive forces of good, some conceptions of what is right and desirable, so that evil can emerge as the opposite.

 

There are two important implications of the idea that evil originates as the opposite of the good. The first has to do with the prospect of eventual victory. If evil is dependent on good (as a reaction against it), then there is hope of eventual victory. In past eras, this issue was debated in theological terms: Was God responsible for creating Satan? If so, is it likely that Satan will eventually be defeated and perhaps even saved? Christian views of the supremacy and omnipotence of God have grappled with how to understand the notion of Satan as God's intentional creation, because it seems to suggest that God created evil. In Russell's terms, the theological dilemma is as follows: You assume either that God chose to permit evil (in which case God seemingly shares the blame) or that God was unable to prevent it (in which case God is revealed to be something less than all-powerful). Neither of those views is acceptable to the faithful, because the first implies that God's goodness is limited andthe second that God's power is limited. Generation after generation of Christian theologians have searched for a way to explain evil without accepting either of those options.

 

Other religions have frankly acknowledged Satan as the equal of God. For example, in Iranian religions, Ohrmazd and Ahriman were twins, one good and one evil, and they competed on a fairly equal basis in the devine tasks of creation and rule. Such dualistic views see the universe as a permanent struggle between ineradicable principles of good and evil, and it is not likely that either will ever fully destroy the other.

 

In our own time, the issue of the relationship between good and evil is  usually phrased in terms of human nature: Are people fundamentally good, or is there a side of everyone (or of some people) that is fundamentally bad? The utopian idealisms that flourished in recent centuries ~blamed society for making people bad, and there was sincere hope that by reforming society-whether through a Rousseauian return to nature, sharing the benefits of liberty and equality, or helping society to evolve into a socialist paradise where everyone would share things equally and work for the betterment of all-human evil could be obliterated. The perennial disappointment of these idealistic visions has discouraged most modern thinkers about advocating them seriously.

 

Taking to piece I've highlighted Franz Stangl springs to mind. He commanded Treblinka and was found guilty of the co-responsibility for the slaughter of at least 900,000 people. An act if any ever was of pure evil. But before and after the war he was a normal family man with a wife and children. So was he fundamentally evil. I don't think so.

 

Regarding LGs curry. Thank heaven for the tiggly oggy

Edited by knocker

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Regarding LGs curry. Thank heaven for the tiggly oggy

 

 

I bet even those come in curry variants, these days - tho' the genuine Cornish ones might be a bit soggy....!

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And evil spelt backwards is live.

Devil spelt backwards lived.

Now that is interesting.

Edited by Snowyowl9

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