Does evil exist and if so, in what way?

Hitler is referred to as being evil. I think he was just hateful. Vlad the Impaler liked for victims to suffer a long and painful death. Is that evil? Are animal abusers and serial killers evil or just deviant? I'm beginning to think evil is a hoax. In the absence of religion, is evil relevant?

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If by evil you mean something that exists outside of the heads of human beings and affects them (like some mythical beings, satan or cthulu, for example), I'd say no, but if by evil you mean people with no regard for their fellow human beings, people willing to cause immense suffering in pursuit of some personal goal...well then I'd have to say yes, although I think the clinical term is psychopathy or psychopathic personality disorder.
wow. I'm at a loss for words.
Hey Daniel, your definition of psychopathy resembles a lot my idea of 'evil'. I just wrote a bunch of definitions on my blog the other day, as a description of the things I believe in, and 'evil' was one of them. I came up with the following: Evil is putting one's needs before and above everybody else's needs without caring about the negative effect on others (damaging others). There are degrees of evil, depending on the quality and scope of the damage.
(If it has grammatical errors I apologize).
The real problem with the term evil is that it is often associated with outside agency. Psychopaths are people who, for as of yet unidentified differences in cognition, lack the ability to empathize with other human beings. This allows them to commit acts that would deeply trouble a person who does empathize without remorse.
It is believed that these people are not like this strictly due to genetics, but rather because of some contingent event during their development. It is this causative event or events that is/are probably the closest thing to the outside agency of evil, changing neural pathways in the developing psychopath. Unfortunately, the human mind is such a complex device that environments that drive one individual to psychopathy often do not have that effect on another, so identifying and eliminating formative environments is difficult.
To my mind, a person who grows up unable to sense and empathize with the emotions of another suffers from a severe handicap. I've read studies that indicate up to 10% of the population do not empathize, and the vast majority do not turn into monsters, as they are able to govern their behavior intellectually. I have a great deal of respect for these people, as they are able to control themselves without the internal mechanism of empathy to guide them.
It is those who do not empathize and who engage in behaviors that empathetic individuals would not engage in that earn the label of "evil". Because even though they may be innocent in the events that led to their condition, they make conscious decisions to behave the way they do.
There are no universal existence's called Good and Evil. Pure constructs of animals. Good = good for you Evil = bad for you

And what is good for me may not be good for the poor dirt farmer on the other side of the world. But that doesn't mean our concepts of good and evil or right and wrong are unimportant. We just need to realize that it's ALL relative and live with the uncertainty and be willing to change our actions based on new information and experiences.
Good and Evil are moral concepts, so it would depend upon you morality. As forces in the universe, I would say no.

Is Hitler Evil? Well...yes. Morals are subjective, of course, but MOST people would agree that killing six million or so of your fellow man because they are 'genetically inferior' is pretty damned evil.

We must realize that just because a theist uses a term does not mean we must shy away from using the same term if it describes what we are trying to convey.
The way I see it, "evil" can only be applied to the outcome of an action.

The motives are either misguided, chemically induced, vengeful, or a result of a defect in the brain.
Ergo, nobody is actually "evil"... but the resulting action can be labeled as such.
Evil is like Pornography, I know it when I see it.

Evil is a valid label to apply, usually to actions, inactions or intention (to act). In my mind, evil seems to require cognition, intention, action and exploitation.

Exploitation is important because it brings along the idea of justice. Some would argue that justice is as equally a tangled knot of an idea as the word evil. I would argue that it is not. No one has to be taught the core of human morality. Anyone suffering an injustice knows without being told the fact. We may have to be told about the injustice others are suffering but that is another matter.

Exploitation also brings in the concept of the differential power. My empty handed and unprovoked attack on a 300 pound professional fighter may exhibit cognition, intention and action. The fact that I am left lying in a bleeding heap demonstrates the lack of exploitation. I have not benefited from a differential in power. An inclusion of a weapon in the equation could shift the calculations somewhat.

That same fighter's unprovoked attack on me contains the necessary components to receive a label of evil. Cognition, intention, action and exploitation are all present in the formulation.

I would go so far as to argue that evil IS exploitation. Cognition is merely tacked on to exempt the lions and the tigers. Intention is tacked on to exempt the ignorant. The action qualifier then becomes redundant.
Nicely put, I wish I could have said it as well.
I would still say that swinging at the guy is still an intended act of evil, even if you didn't benefit, you intended harm.

Morality boils down to empathy, or the lack thereof.

When you act in ways that interfere with the right of others intentionally and deliberately, you are, in essence, denying them rights you would claim for yourself. You are acting without empathy for the other person, or their position.

That is the basis of evil, immoral, or bad actions. That is what offends our sense of rightness, or fairness, even if what is being done is completely legal.

Can this be measured as an absolute, as some mathematical principle? Of course not. That is why it is so debated.
Nicely put.
Evil implies an absolute notion of right and wrong. People who claim to know what's right and wrong, with aboslutely certainty, are walking down a theist road.

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