Evil, what is it? And is there a universal good? (An essay inspired by Swimmerguy, though it has nothing to do with him.)

Tophat's picture

A fascinating concept, when you think about it.

I personally have a view of the world that dictates that all things are subjective. I'm going to put out a map of this as best I can. You university types, keep in mind that I'm a mere idiot and that I have very limited access to literature on societies.

One of the things that MUST be pointed out is that this whole argument of this operates on my own beliefs, namely, my atheism. This is a purely atheistic argument, as it were.

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Assumption 1: There is no god, or universal "force" such as Karma or somesuch idea.

Assumption 2: There is, therefore, no universal being or force to dictate a universal morality.

Assumption 3: There are no ethics that are set in stone.

Assumption 4: It is the individual and the society that dictates their own ethical code.

Assumption 5: Evil is therefore decided by the individual and the society.

I will adress this by assumption.

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Assumption one states that there is no god or "force". I use the word force in the Jedi sense, or in the Karmic sense. From this point on I will use the word "god" for both gods and "forces".

This is my own personal belief, and the rest of the philosophy hinges on this point.

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Assumption 2 states that without a god, there is no morality set in stone.

In most religions, the resident deity dictates what is right and wrong. To illustrate this, I'm going to come up with an imaginary god, whom I have named "Grubbles".

Grubbles has appeared to his first witness. Grubbles has stated to this witness that whatever this witness may have believed before is a load of shit and that Grubbles is the only god and creator/ruler of the universe. We shall assume for the sake of convenience that this witness accepts Grubbles's rather extreme claim and becomes his first believer.

After a time, this believer spreads Grubblesism, and they've developed a rather large following. However, the followers are doing things that make Grubbles unhappy; worshipping other gods along with Grubbles, murdering one another, having passionate and kinky sex on the altar, and worst of all, eating pork. So Grubbles calls up the first believer to give him some guidelines. We'll call them the 13 Friendly Suggestions.

These Friendly Suggestions become the basis of the Grubblesian morality, and the believers see it as an unbendable and universal set of laws to dictate life. (They have more, but we're not even going into Leviticus here.)

They therefore have this philosophy on morality:

Assumption 1: Grubbles is the one and only creator/ruler of the universe.

Assumption 2: His laws are therefore universal and unbendable.

Well, if we take Grubbles out of the equation, as my first assumption (There is no god) does, the Grubblesian's second assumption has no foundation and falls apart. In simpler terms, it's moot. This means that the things forbidden by Grubbles are in fact man-made and quite bendable by man.

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Assumption 3 states that there is, without a universal god to dictate morality (which is universal by definition), NO MORALITY AT ALL. Using the example of Grubbles once more, when Grubbles is taken out of the equation the ethical codes and laws are man-made and (man and his societies) can change it all they want.

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Assumption 4 is an easy step, in my mind, from assumption 3. If there is an ethical code, and it is not made by a god nor set in stone, it is logically made by the individual and the society that has adopted it.

The society will develop an ethical code to dictate what is acceptable and unnacceptable. The ethical code is often quite complex, with contradictions and paradoxes and whatnot, but it is often what keeps this particular society functioning (for better or for worse).

The individual makes his own ethics, which I believe is properly referred to as the conscience. This person's conscience dictates what is right, wrong, and flat out "evil" ("evil" being usually in the area of "wrong" but that could be disputed depending on the individual).

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Assumption 5 directly adresses evil. According to the school of thought (as it were) using assumptions one through four, evil CAN NOT BE DEFINITIVELY IDENTIFIED. Evil is dictated by a society and an individual, so what one individual or society may see as being evil may be "good" in another's sight.

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This logic can be used to refute a universal good to an extent, however there is an argument to the contrary.

There are people who believe that the concept of "compassion" is a universal concept, and universally seen as good. This is a very simple statement, isn't it?

Sadly, this is an incorrect statement. Compassion is not, in fact, a universal good.

Compassion is not always seen as good. In fact, there is an entire philosophy to the contrary! Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, states that compassion is detrimental to society.

"If any civilization is to survive," Rand once stated, "it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject."

While this quote deals specifically with "the morality of altruism", this quote does give a good feel for her philosophy. In her novels, she suggests that men must seek out what is purely in their own rational good. She sees selfishness as being the ideal. In fact, in her novel The Fountainhead her main character flirts with another character (in some rather unusual ways) and their relationship begins with rape. Rand stated, however, that "if it was rape, it was rape by engraved invitation." Mind you, the novel explicitly describes both characters' enjoyment of the rape (the rapist and the rapee, as it were) and that it was a, er, statement of love (For lack of a better term). The rape was an act of selfish love. Fascinating, isn't it?

Keep in mind, I'm not denouncing this philosophy or trying to insult Ayn Rand or her novels (as a side note, The Fountainhead is actually one of my personal favorite novels. I was simply using the rape as an example of compassion's non-unversality [assuming universality is a word]). I'm simply stating that compassion is not a universal good.

I do, by the by, completely disagree with Ayn Rand's objectivism. In fact, our philosophies are almost completely different, although they do intersect at certain points. That's for a different essay.

Therefore, I conclude that there is no universal good or evil. One could even go so far as to say that there is no good or evil at all, that they are simply human inventions. Some food for thought.

Comments

elph's picture

All I Can Say...

BRAVO

And you're only a high school freshman? Incredible! A future philosopher of note...

Tophat's picture

>///<

Thanks!

Now I'm blushing. Look what you've done! XD

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I love you.

tenmilestilts's picture

ohmygoshness! *freaks out*

ohmygoshness! *freaks out* i have tried to explain this to people so many times! this is one of the fundamental bases of my personal belief system. a couple of centuries ago, society as a whole saw slavery as acceptable, and so it was (and the people who were against it were called radical, or godless, or whatever). today we see it as an abomination--the societal viewpoint has done a complete 180. so what's to say some views society as a whole holds near and dear today aren't also "wrong"? years from now, we might look back and say "people back then were so inhumane!" in reference to any number of common practices today.
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Two wrongs don't make a right but three lefts do!

Tophat's picture

Well then...

You have my permission to E-Mail it to them with proper citations and credit to myself.

:D Glad you like it, hun!

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I love you.

Nanook's picture

And her comes the Nook train

And her comes the Nook train with his biology xD

The idea of altruism - of charity and mutualism - is inherent in our system(s) of life. Even in, for lack of a better term, less developed life forms, there exists this concept of not necessarily compassion, but rather, a quasi-altruism... ish... This concept is manifested in the relationships of life and its species, such as symbiosis. However, this concept, becomes obscured when it becomes applied to human. Even still, there exists residual themes of symbiosis in our lives. An example of this, I believe, would be the fact that humans can't survive on their own. Isolation from any form of life with at least some semblance of a nervous system has caused the degradation of the individual, leading to the eventual death. This concept can be further found in song birds who, when their mates die, perish as well.

I must state, though, that the concepts you've delved into are pretty solid. However, they are simply assumptions, and those assumptions, on the most very basic level, don't exactly hold true. It's in a human's interest to work together for a common good. The idea of mutuality and symbiosis is inherent, however, this is where the abstract forms of these concepts take off. Hence socialization and norms.

Basically, the roots of altruism, are in fact, inherent and thus biological, but how they manifest, however, are more or less a societal thing.

Wolfcry's picture

All I have to ask: If ther

All I have to ask: If ther is no good or evil, then ther is Nothing and everything. We all must dance with one or the other, but so few see that you cannot HAVE one without the other.

Its true in a sence, but as with light and dark, the abscence of one lets the other flood in. And there is always a shadow cast in every light, and a star to every night. Morality is simply a preconcieved notion bred into someone by how they are raised to think. I view the world as having ballance, while Top believes that the world is simply structured chaos.

Life cannot be without death, Light cannot be without Darkness, Joy cannot exist without Sorrow, Everything cannot be real whithout having first been nothing to which all shall return.

Dance with fire, and dance in Ice. Dance with life, and Waltz with death. If we falter one step we fall into the ice of Nothing, and if we dance too fast, the flames of Everything will consume us all. Life is a dance to which we are all bound, find your rhythm and dance. Life is the music, Love are the steps, so Dance.

Life is hard, but immortality is harder... Jasper Eversor Force

"Memories are nice, but thats all they are, you know?" - Rikku-FFX

"No matter how dark the night, morning always comes, and our journey begins anew." - Lulu-FFX

Tophat's picture

...

This isn't voodoo, sweetheart.

According to my purely atheistic and analytic philosophy, there is no such thing as a set good or a set evil.

You're sounding a bit spiritualitistic there, so it doesn't fit at all into what I was saying.

There is always order in the universe, love. It's a lovely thing called the Inevitability of Order. All things have a pattern. Mathematical fact.

But there's no purpose. No great command. There is order, but no orderer.

As for spiritualism, I personally see it as pure and useless drivel. So it has no place in my philosophy. You can believe all you like, but you can't argue against my point if we're not on the same page. For that matter, we're not even on the same book.

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I love you.

Wolfcry's picture

An interesting conundrum...

Ah, but you see Atheism is a BELIFE that there is no god or driveing force in the world. Therefore you claims that we are on the wrong book, are ill concieved because Atheism is in and of itself a belife that it is not a belife...

Life is hard, but immortality is harder... Jasper Eversor Force

"Memories are nice, but thats all they are, you know?" - Rikku-FFX

"No matter how dark the night, morning always comes, and our journey begins anew." - Lulu-FFX

jeff's picture

Well...

It is only a belief in the sense that you need to have a way to convey your thoughts to believers. Otherwise, you wouldn't have to make this case, as there would be no argument.

There is a proper name for an Atheist's belief system though: science.

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"Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are." - Kurt Cobain

Wolfcry's picture

I believe in Magic...

I believe in Magic... Science can go suck itself off...

Life is hard, but immortality is harder... Jasper Eversor Force

"Memories are nice, but thats all they are, you know?" - Rikku-FFX

"No matter how dark the night, morning always comes, and our journey begins anew." - Lulu-FFX

Dracofangxxx's picture

I believe in miracles

since you came along!
You sexy thang!
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There isn't a sharp line dividing humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. It's a very wuzzie line...and it's getting wuzzier all the time. - Jane Goodall.

jeff's picture

Err...

Magic is just what uninformed people call science. ;-)

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"Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are." - Kurt Cobain

Wolfcry's picture

. . . you know unintelegent

. . . you know unintelegent people make that assumption right? Magic is use of energy of the body and soul to affect the world in some ways.

Life is hard, but immortality is harder... Jasper Eversor Force

"Memories are nice, but thats all they are, you know?" - Rikku-FFX

"No matter how dark the night, morning always comes, and our journey begins anew." - Lulu-FFX

jeff's picture

heh...

it somewhat deflates your case when you spell unintelligent wrong, no?

As for this "magic," eh, not buying it. Your definition hasn't shown it to rise above science, let alone replace it. Without examples, could just be superstition and hokum.

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"Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are." - Kurt Cobain

Tophat's picture

Spiritualism... God, how I hate it.

Magic, spirit, all that jazz...

I prefer organized religion over such drivel.

Spiritualism and "magic" is just jumbled up superstition with no rhyme nor reason, and entirely useless to anyone who actually looks at the world without rose-tinted glasses. Sadly, in my opinion, it takes cement glasses to even say "I can channel my energy to make magic happen" with a straight face.

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I love you.

Nanook's picture

I'm inclined to believe you

I'm inclined to believe you on the grounds of magic, however, not so much on spiritualism. Magic is much more concrete - it's an assertion that there exists an energy that's non-cohesive with scientific theories. Spiritualism, however, doesn't assert anything necessarily - especially not in a universal or uniform manner. Rather, spiritualism is just a quasi-consortium of unorganized beliefs. It's like Christianity, except looser, and not organized - it's just the top of the hierarchy. Sure, magic could fall into it, but Amerindian and meso-American beliefs could too.

But alas, perhaps I've become too regularized to the concepts of spiritualism. Wait. No. That's a lie. I forgot - I live in the least religious state.

Wolfcry's picture

YAY! Thanks for helping me

YAY! Thanks for helping me clarify! *hugs* I'm Wiccan, and I LOVE being thus. I don't want to convert anyone here though. I mearly tried to point out that Tophat's theorum had flaws.

Life is hard, but immortality is harder... Jasper Eversor Force

"Memories are nice, but thats all they are, you know?" - Rikku-FFX

"No matter how dark the night, morning always comes, and our journey begins anew." - Lulu-FFX

Tophat's picture

It has few flaws

When you start from the same point.

However, you start with the assumption that there is a god, or some sort of outside force. My first assumption is entirely different from yours, sso you can't argue any of them besides the first. And since god/force cannot be proved/disproved, there's no arguing it.

That's why I was so annoyed.

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I love you.

Wolfcry's picture

you seem to have forgotten

you seem to have forgotten that annoyance and arguements with me are like argueing to a steel wall... EXTREEMLY pointless.

Life is hard, but immortality is harder... Jasper Eversor Force

"Memories are nice, but thats all they are, you know?" - Rikku-FFX

"No matter how dark the night, morning always comes, and our journey begins anew." - Lulu-FFX

Nanook's picture

I beg to differ. The

I beg to differ. The concepts of "good" and "evil" are inherently complex - they both require a complex nervous system. A dog, a beetle, a jaguar and a bacterium don't necessarily understand them (at least that it seems like from the human perspective). However, light and darkness are concepts which are relatively easy to comprehend. A dog or jaguar can easily make the distinction between the two. It could also be argued that bacteria do, in a way (photoluminiscent compounds being produced by bacteria). Beetles? Well, I'm not to versed in creeper crawlers, do I honestly can't say. As for death and life, I think it would be fair to say that that certainly dogs and jaguars understand those concepts. They're very able to make the distinction between live and dead prey. However, I think it's quite easy to say that the concepts of morals and ethics are foreign to non-human organisms. The beetles never had an individual named Hammurabi who made a code. They never had a Moses. They don't have a court system. Nor do jaguars, dogs or bacteria.

Morals and ethics, in my opinion, aren't inherent in life. Sorry.

Tophat's picture

*HUG*

I love you.

Thank god for cool headed logic. I'm not so good at that unless I'm monologuing.

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I love you.

Dracofangxxx's picture

Thank you, my dear. It makes

Thank you, my dear. It makes complete sense.
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There isn't a sharp line dividing humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. It's a very wuzzie line...and it's getting wuzzier all the time. - Jane Goodall.