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PatCox
01-29-2009, 10:36 PM
I just read a news report from Missouri, about a man who raped his daughter repeatedy from the age of 13 to 19, fathered 4 children with her, and it seems may have murdered 3 of the children, all while keeping his wife and his other daughter terrorized with threats of death.

I am still processing this, its a blow to my worldview. This is worse than Hitler. Seriously, I will defend that statement.

PatCox
01-29-2009, 10:37 PM
See, its so shocking to me it is making me seriously re-examine my own beliefs regarding good and evil.

shamus
01-29-2009, 10:38 PM
A man here threw his 4 year old daughter off the highest bridge in Melbourne yesterday.:(

jack grebe
01-29-2009, 10:39 PM
This is worse than Hitler. Seriously, I will defend that statement.
Yes, it is bad, But worse than Hitler???????

You my need help with this one

Nanoose
01-29-2009, 11:34 PM
In what way are you reexamining your beliefs re good/evil, Pat?

Glen Longino
01-30-2009, 12:04 AM
Don't let it get you down, Pat.
It's so demoralizing to all of us who hear these kinds of stories.
Of course, it makes us all re-examine our notions about good and evil.
How good is good? How bad is bad?
Unless one is so warped by religion that he can say, "tis God's will", he will re-examine his beliefs re good/evil, Pat.

Jim Bow
01-30-2009, 12:26 AM
Pat,
This has been going on for the history of mankind. Pick up any newspaper and you'll discover stories like this.

You will also read stories about extremely good people,

I recently read of a young man who coaches extremely developmentally disabled adults at a not for profit agency. He earns $28,000 a year and contributes $10,000 a year back to the agency he works for.

Give him a thought while you're "processing".

L.W. Baxter
01-30-2009, 12:33 AM
That exact life history--of incest, rape, murder and rule by terror--has been lived out many times by male mountain gorillas, lions, etc.

I think in some cases it is easier to view man as a fallen ape.

Glen Longino
01-30-2009, 12:58 AM
That exact life history--of incest, rape, murder and rule by terror--has been lived out many times by male mountain gorillas, lions, etc.

I think in some cases it is easier to view man as a fallen ape.

Dangit, Baxter, here I am trying to cheer up ole Pat and make him look at the sunny side of life and you're telling him he's a "fallen ape".;)
For some time I've viewed Pat as a sensitive monitor of our human condition.
Whatever makes Pat cry makes me cry.

Nanoose
01-30-2009, 01:11 AM
Don't cry, Glen! :(

Glen Longino
01-30-2009, 01:37 AM
Don't cry, Glen! :(

Why not?
Jesus wept.
Tears are therapeutic, even for old barbarians.;)
BTW...I've been thinking about your leg!:eek::)

seanz
01-30-2009, 04:54 AM
I am still processing this, its a blow to my worldview. This is worse than Hitler. Seriously, I will defend that statement.

As people have defended statements that are a lot more left-field than that one, I don't doubt it.
To be concise.....wrongdoing via direct action vs wrongdoing via control of others actions....so you might think this guy is worse than Hitler (and you may argue as much) but he's not in the same league.


A man here threw his 4 year old daughter off the highest bridge in Melbourne yesterday.:(

I read that headline....I didn't click on the link. After "man throws daughter off bridge'' what more could the story say that I'd want to read?
That she flew?
:(:(

I don't understand people being mean and violent towards children (anybody really but especially chidren) and it seems to be happening a lot in this country at the moment. Had to stop being such a media junkie for a while as some of the trial details were just too upsetting. What drives people to crush and abuse the most powerless members of our societies?

I just don't get it.
:(

shamus
01-30-2009, 06:25 AM
without the grace of God we cannot control our behaviour, and we will tend to do whatever gives us immediate pleasure, regardless of the harm that we do to others.I try to respect everyone's beliefs but I find this a really surprising idea. I know many people, who are and do 'good' because they have decided on rational grounds or just through experience, that it is desirable to act in a caring and thoughtful way towards others.

Edited to add: But I completely agree with the latter part of your post. Like Seanz, I know no detail of that story, because you don't have to know any more. And as I think Pat may be thinking, this almost makes me believe in 'evil' as some kind of tangible presence: except that really that seems a kind of cop out.

George.
01-30-2009, 06:47 AM
If an engine malfunctions and sets fire to a wooden boat, it is a bad engine. But is it "evil?"

People also malfunction. There are biological drives like the sex drive which, if their control mechanisms are even slightly defective, can produce what we consider horrible crimes.

shamus
01-30-2009, 06:57 AM
some outside force - Evil - did it.

That's about what I meant when I said it's a bit of a cop out. One can let one's self, or humanity at large, off the hook, to a certain extent, if there's an outside power seeking whom it may devour.

P.I. Stazzer-Newt
01-30-2009, 07:03 AM
... But psychology does not have all the answers.

None of the answers - but a wide range of descriptions for some of the problems.

The example from the original post is so far away from the range of "normal behaviours" as to rule it out as innate - unlike infanticide in Lions which is common and serves an obvious purpose.

Chris Coose
01-30-2009, 07:05 AM
It is geography. Is Missouri near texas?

George.
01-30-2009, 07:25 AM
George. that accounts for crimes committed "when the balance of the suspect's mind was disturbed". But psychology does not have all the answers.

In the terms of the McNaugten Rules: To establish a defence on the ground of insanity it must be clearly proved, that, at the time of committing the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it, that he did not know that what he was doing was wrong

The line between "sane" and "insane" is totally arbitrary.


if he did know it, that he did not know that what he was doing was wrong

I submit that no one ever does anything that he himself considers "wrong". People may do things that they later come to see as wrong, or things that they realize others will consider "wrong."

George.
01-30-2009, 07:47 AM
Define "wrong".

Flying Orca
01-30-2009, 08:08 AM
I recently read of a young man who coaches extremely developmentally disabled adults at a not for profit agency. He earns $28,000 a year and contributes $10,000 a year back to the agency he works for.

Well, with an exorbitant salary like that*, it's no wonder. :cool:

*That's my field. The provincial government, which funds and regulates such work around here, established a target wage of almost exactly 2/3 the quoted figure (using yesterday's exchange rate) for direct support professionals during last year's funding top-up.

TomF
01-30-2009, 08:42 AM
Doesn't much shake my conception of good and evil, Pat. Horrific events though, to be sure ...

As others have observed, the man was acting as an Alpha male would in many species. New Alpha lions kill cubs sired by their predecessor ... stallions mount pregnant mares to force miscarriages ... etc. This man's behaviour is appalling, "evil," because he's quite simply reverted to operating through animalistic instincts, rejecting the type of social overlay of morality which self-conscious humans have inserted into their communal life.

My wife reminded me of a small Buddhist statue of a horseman ... riding towards death. The horse was shying away ... the rider gazing forwards eagerly.

That's the dichotomy, IMO. Our bodies have their own agendas and imperatives ... which as beings with consciousness, we over-ride as possible when our conscious thought or social forms impel is to.

And we lurch away with revulsion, identifying as "evil" examples of people abandoning that ... because it is abandoning crucial parts of what distinguishes humanity from other species.

In my Christian worldview, I fully expect that this life is going to be chock-full of opportunities (large and small) to follow our bodies' imperatives to the detriment of what love would require, when these things happen to diverge. I firmly believe that the opportunity to not act in accordance with love is crucial, if our purpose in this life is wrapped up in developing a greater capacity to love.

It is in that, as yet limited capacity, that I think we are created in "the image of God;" the capacity to love. Abandoning that capacity - which is fundamentally a capacity of self-conscious beings, I'd argue - is perhaps an aspect of what Jesus called a crime against the holy spirit.

Not a crime for lions, or stallions, or other non-conscious species, but a rebellion and reversion when humans act similarly ...

t

George.
01-30-2009, 09:05 AM
As others have observed, the man was acting as an Alpha male would in many species. New Alpha lions kill cubs sired by their predecessor ... stallions mount pregnant mares to force miscarriages ... etc. This man's behaviour is appalling, "evil," because he's quite simply reverted to operating through animalistic instincts, rejecting the type of social overlay of morality which self-conscious humans have inserted into their communal life.


And yet "social overlay of morality" has brought us, among other things, slavery, genocide, and aerial bombardment of "enemy" cities. None of these things are "animalistic," to be sure.

If the gentleman we are discussing had dropped a bomb while in uniform and killed a score of other people's children, some of us might disagree with what he did, but few would be calling him "evil". What causes horror is precisely the fact that his behaviour was not "animalistic". Animals may kill each others' offspring like we do, but only malfunctioning animals kill their own.

I resist the constant attempts to equate "evil" with animal nature.

TomF
01-30-2009, 09:19 AM
Thanks for that, George. I think that animal nature isn't evil; it's simply unconscious.

From my perspective (which obviously isn't the only perspective going!), the "real" person is the soul; the body is the set of clothes we wear for a while. And the purpose of being here is intrinsically bound up in the soul learning something, which can't be learned in another manner.

You're right that wars, genocides, slavery etc. are grotesque elements which arise only in our species ... are not "animal" in nature. Yet I think they're perversions of "animal" instincts for domination and pack identity which are somehow written into our DNA. Those instincts are neither good nor evil, but become evil to the degree that they're inflamed in a manner which rejects love.

So perhaps the issue is the rejection of love - whether by indulging in unloving instinctual behaviour (i.e. killing your step-children = lion males killing others' cubs) or by twisting instinctual behaviour into something unique to our species - a cancerous "pack identity" which attacks and dominates through wars etc.

George.
01-30-2009, 09:31 AM
You're right that wars, genocides, slavery etc. are grotesque elements which arise only in our species ... are not "animal" in nature. Yet I think they're perversions of "animal" instincts for domination and pack identity which are somehow written into our DNA. .

Maybe not perversions. Maybe they are simply those instincts scaled up and applied to our current social structure. Lions kill their competitors' cubs, nations bomb their enemies' children. Unfortunately, it works. The perps tend to be successful.

Perhaps, if there is a soul, it learns something from riding inside the body. But it definitely doesn't seem to apply much of what it learned in this life.

Keith Wilson
01-30-2009, 09:46 AM
One wonders what was done to that fellow when he was growing up. Maybe I'd rather not know. I'm not sure that he tells us much about human nature, being a statistical outlier by any definition. The fact that all of us here are appalled and nauseated tells us a lot more.

Dividing our nature into the "bad animal" and "good higher consciousness" doesn't seem to correspond to reality. Like all other animals, we are hard-wired to do many good things (love our children, help our tribe, be loyal to our friends) as well as some bad ones (kill our mate's children by other men, screw anything with two X chromosomes if given half a chance, massacre other tribes). Likewise, our higher consciousness can cause us to do both marvelous and appalling things; the same church ran hospitals, orphanages, schools, and inquisitions (not to pick on the Catholics; almost any other religion would serve as an equally good or bad example).

ishmael
01-30-2009, 10:06 AM
Gawd, what a story, Pat. I know that people do ugly stuff to each other, but this one hits you like a punch in the nose.

As to the source of such "evil", that's something people have been wrestling with forever.

Most scripture, both East and West, contains stories of demons -- autonomous entities that can infest the unbalanced.

Sociopathy, the modern materialist explanation, is perhaps easier for most people to swallow. Generally considered to be caused by ill treatment of the child during the early years when the child is forming its notions of relationship. The ill treatment can range anywhere from serious neglect to physical harming. Even then, some children who are abused horribly don't turn into monsters, and some who have relatively normal upbringings do, so it can't be considered directly and inevitably causative.

The former explanation, of possession, is clearly unprovable, and seems rather archaic, yet I've met a few people when doing mental health work that made me wonder. I've also worked a bit with young male sociopaths. They didn't have the same weirdness about them, and in fact were usually quite personable. Somewhere along the line they picked up the skills to put on a reasonable persona, and could often fool you until you'd had a look at their histories, and had a chance to talk to them in a bit of depth.

Just some random thoughts. I confess not having much of a clue about what causes a man to do those things to his own family, or to strangers. Mentally ill? Possessed? I think both explanations inside the realm of possibility. I try not to think on the issue too much anymore. It's too painful.

JimD
01-30-2009, 10:42 AM
I think in some cases it is easier to view man as a fallen ape.
Can't we for once leave W out of this?

oznabrag
01-30-2009, 11:03 AM
...snip... as someone whom "God has endowed with less theological understanding than a goose" (Sam F) ...snip...

OMSMFJ!

Mr. ACB, what a glorious accolade!

I just hope you won't get all swell-headed and puffy-chested on us!

John T

James McMullen
01-30-2009, 11:09 AM
Andrew, as a devout athiest, I have to point out that I myself have never committed rape or murder or theft or fraud or kicked a puppy despite being entirely devoid of any notion of the Grace of God or fear of divine retribution after my demise.

Was it the grace of God that allowed that innocent child to be raped again and again by her twisted, psychopathic father?

Keith Wilson
01-30-2009, 11:10 AM
. . as someone whom "God has endowed with less theological understanding than a goose" (Sam F)I'm positively green with jealousy. Despite my best efforts, he's never, ever given me a compliment like that.

About the original post - the one thing we can say for sure about such behavior is that it's rare.

George.
01-30-2009, 11:17 AM
Yes. Clearly, it is selected against... :D

Sam F
01-30-2009, 11:54 AM
In the perhaps temporary absence of our more professional Christians, and as someone whom "God has endowed with less theological understanding than a goose" (Sam F)

That's a rural Mississippi-ism - as in... "The poor boy ain't got the sense God gave a goose." It's a term of exasperated affection. We don't say that about people we don't like. :)


I will try to fill in the conventional Christian explanation, which is that men and women are naturally inclined to do evil, unless persuaded to do otherwise.

Someone more theologically literate than I would bring in St Paul, Irenaeus, Augustine and Aquinas at this point - maybe someone will be along in a minute.

However, very broadly, the idea is that without the grace of God we cannot control our behaviour, and we will tend to do whatever gives us immediate pleasure, regardless of the harm that we do to others.

The meaning of "original sin" is not so much that Adam and Eve had sex,[/QUOTE] as that they, and their descendants, lost the power to control themselves when tempted to do wrong....[/QUOTE]



Original sin - an essential truth of the faith

388 With the progress of Revelation, the reality of sin is also illuminated. Although to some extent the People of God in the Old Testament had tried to understand the pathos of the human condition in the light of the history of the fall narrated in Genesis, they could not grasp this story's ultimate meaning, which is revealed only in the light of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.261 We must know Christ as the source of grace in order to know Adam as the source of sin. The Spirit-Paraclete, sent by the risen Christ, came to "convict the world concerning sin",262 by revealing him who is its Redeemer.

389 The doctrine of original sin is, so to speak, the "reverse side" of the Good News that Jesus is the Savior of all men, that all need salvation and that salvation is offered to all through Christ. The Church, which has the mind of Christ,263 knows very well that we cannot tamper with the revelation of original sin without undermining the mystery of Christ.
http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p1s2c1p7.htm
More at
http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1992/9201frs.asp

PatCox
01-30-2009, 12:21 PM
Worse than Hitler, because Hitler loved and was kind to children and dogs, at least, and did not torture people right in his house. His orders resulted in more deaths, but really, merely killing bunches of strangers, thats easy, hell, the pilot of the Enola Gay is outspoken to this day of how proud and happy he is for what he has done, and subjectively, I am sure Hitler was doing something he believed necessary and justified, under his twisted system of thought. There is such a thing as error, in most sins, error, stupidity, misjudgment, blindness, insanity, impulse, all kinds of factors that make an evil act understandable as not necessarily the result of conscious and deliberate evil.

There are those who give in to an impulse, but that isn't this guy. This guy raped his own daughter. Major major, universally accepted moral precept that crosses all religions and cultures, you do not rape your daughters. And you do not procreate with your daughters. Then he killed his infant children. He put them in igloo coolers and buried them in the basement, or some such.

He lived, he lived this sin for years on end, it was not a mistake, it was not misjudgment, it was not something he inspired but which was carried out by others, this fellow lived this sin intimately, every day, every waking moment, for years.

Thats why I think this is truly the most depraved individual I have ever heard of.

Now, does it make me think of original sin? Not after hearing SamF's explanation of original sin, it doesn't. There is no comparison between the sin the average human is prone to, and this sin.

And he undercuts everything he says with this canard that unless you accept jesus you cannot control yourself and that atheists have no reason not to live their life as this dude lived his.

ishmael
01-30-2009, 12:29 PM
Just a note about one of the causes of this behavior. The notion of autonomous entities infecting a person doesn't have to involve any theological perspective. As I said, this phenomenon has been recognized for centuries, millennium, across the religious spectrum.

"Something ain't right with that fellow, seriously not right." And I'm all for having a look. Sometimes it's someone who is schizophrenic. Early thought, that someone that way as possessed, was good to challenge. Good to distinguish.

Yet I maintain there are cases that are not explainable with modern medical diagnosis. I can't explain them, but I have seen them.

PatCox
01-30-2009, 12:51 PM
ACB, then God grants some measure of this Grace unasked-for?

Kaa
01-30-2009, 12:59 PM
The Milgram Experiment.

Kaa

Nanoose
01-30-2009, 01:08 PM
The Milgram Experiment.

Kaa

Seems like an ethical conflict: will I obey authority, or will I injure another party. Which is the lesser of two evils?

We face ethical dilemmas every day, some weightier than others. How do we decide?

As I think about 'will I obey authority, or will I injure someone', I am struck that I actually have to think about it! Then, as a Christian, I asked myself how Christ would handle it, and I remember he did have a similar choice, and he went against authority, for the authority was a corruption of the truth. Interesting..... thanks, Kaa. Deb

Kaa
01-30-2009, 01:13 PM
Seems like an ethical conflict: will I obey authority, or will I injure another party. Which is the lesser of two evils?

Ethical conflict? There is no ethical imperative to obey authority.

Disobeying is not an evil.

Kaa

martin schulz
01-30-2009, 01:16 PM
This is worse than Hitler. Seriously, I will defend that statement.

No its not.

One is a twisted soul who finds pleasure in oppressing a weaker person (I don't think it matters that this was his daughter - it was just someone within reach). The other one is/was a olitician who seriously strived to kill a whole people with industrial like planning and precision.

One is just a plain criminal, who should be locked away, the other one is/was a criminal with a vision, which IMHO is much worse.

George Jung
01-30-2009, 01:16 PM
Nice read (if a bit 'rant-ish'). And not to quibble, but this

hell, the pilot of the Enola Gay is outspoken to this day of how proud and happy he is for what he has done

caught my eye. I think that's an unfair characterization, in that (from what I've read) he had regrets, though felt he was doing his duty. It'd be bad enough to have to deal with such an action, for the rest of your life, without ratcheting it up a notch or six. Got a link?

Dan McCosh
01-30-2009, 01:22 PM
The notion of a sociopathic personality was the subject of a recent article in the New Yorker. The lack of any sense of good and evil is one of the characteristics of the sociopath. In the minds of the broader human experience, this is a pretty good definition of an evil person. From the scientific point of view, it is simply one personality type, with some evidence that it is biological in origin. That it exists supports both the religious as well as the objective scientific observation. Oddly, a psychopath can easily do good as well as harm, and the type often does well in business, according to the article. A recent book--"The White City"--is the true story of a psychopath loose during the Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
"Worse than Hitler" seems pretty easy to understand, as the actions of the psychopath end up with no commonly accepted framework explaining them, as well as ending up with attrocities done by one individual against another. Hitler likely would have seen the problem, and had them executed.

Nanoose
01-30-2009, 01:24 PM
Ethical conflict? There is no ethical imperative to obey authority.

Disobeying is not an evil.

Kaa

Sorry....what I mean is this appears to be the internal conflict for those involved in Milgram. In fact, the experiment was designed to test exactly that. Whether explicit or not, and in the case of Milgram it apparently was, this was the issue....i.e., there are consequences for disobedience, and this belief was seen in the Milgram experiment.

And when ethics are socially derived (cultural ethics), disobedience is seen as, and punished as, the evil in that society.

Keith Wilson
01-30-2009, 01:34 PM
Andrew, I have a sincere question for you (not a troll). Despite having even less theological understanding than a goose, ;) I think there are multiple parts to the standard Christian notion of original sin. The present-day effect is that human beings have an innate tendency to do evil, or perhaps as you put it, an inability to control their impulses to do evil. There’s more however: the idea that our ancestors were originally not this way, that they were sinless and in some version, immortal, until they “fell” because of their disobedience to God.

Do you think this is the case? I presume you don’t think the story of Adam and Eve and the talking snake is literally true, but what about the idea of a “fall” from some previous state of grace?

George.
01-30-2009, 01:42 PM
I don't know about Adam and Eve, but I have met a few talking snakes...

PatCox
01-30-2009, 01:43 PM
Ya know, when I read Genesis, I have to say, my take was that the fruit was the fruit of KNOWLEDGE, that the unaware are the only truly innocent, and that the "sin" was the "knowledge of good and evil," which knowledge is what creates the duty to choose good and avoid evil, whereas, without knowledge of good and evil, there is no good or evil. The unaware lion, when it acts like an alpha male and kills to live, is just being a lion, there is no moral choice for the lion because there is no moral awareness.

So you see, it almost seemed to me an allegory for what seperates men from animals. Its not that God punished us with sin, no, we ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and aquired the knowledge which makes us subject to sin.

I don't think the sin is a "punishment" for the disobediance, its more like, we discovered something God would have rather we did not discover, just as we parents, don't we wish our children could remain innocent? But we know they are not?

TomF
01-30-2009, 01:45 PM
Andrew, I have a sincere question for you (not a troll). Despite having even less theological understanding than a goose, ;) Surely this is a canard?:D Poultry, anyway.
I think there are multiple parts to the standard Christian notion of original sin. ... human beings have an innate tendency to do evil [and also] the idea that our ancestors were sinless and in some version, immortal, until they “fell” because of their disobedience to God.

Do you think this is the case?Nope. Another of my heresies, I suppose.

I don't think there was a "sinless" time in our human theological history any more than I think there was a "state of nature" in our human political history. Each is a somewhat useful construction, upon which to base a worldview - but ahistorical.

TomF
01-30-2009, 01:48 PM
I think that wilful disobedience to God lies at the root of sin, and this applies not just to humans but to other beings too.We got a puppy at Christmas. As it joyfully trotted under the dining table with my daughter's slipper ... my daughter in hot pursuit ... Sasha commented that our Seminary profs would have done well to project that picture to illustrate the concept of original sin.

Nanoose
01-30-2009, 01:49 PM
I don't think there was a "sinless" time in our human theological history ...a somewhat useful construction, upon which to base a worldview - but ahistorical.

Tell me more, Tom.

Keith Wilson
01-30-2009, 01:50 PM
In other words I think it is a myth - something that conveys a truth by way of a fable. Yes, I think that willful disobedience to God lies at the root of sin, and this applies not just to humans but to other beings too.Fair enough, but my question was about the idea of the "fall", that there was a time when our ancestors weren't like that. Do you think that is the case?

TomF
01-30-2009, 01:57 PM
Tell me more, Tom.I think that the Genesis stories are metaphorical. They tell us things which are "true," but not through telling us things which are historically factual. To focus on the talking snakes (legless variety, George :D) is to discount the actual intent of the story ...

... which is, I think, to illustrate what ACB is getting at. Sin is the turning away from God, from love. The turning towards something else. While Genesis' creation stor(ies) are attempts to convey the wonder and goodness of creation, and our own place as stewards of it, formed in relationship with God and each other, I think PatCox nails it when he describes the impact of consciousness. That's what the apple represents - consciousness, and the choices which inhere in it for us, unlike other species.

Keith Wilson
01-30-2009, 01:57 PM
Ah, so the idea of sin (disobedience) make little sense until we're conscious enough to understand what's going on? Thus it's not a fall from a state of grace, but an inherent part of waking up?

TomF
01-30-2009, 02:00 PM
I think so. Consciousness is the bit by which we are "like God," in the story.

Fascinating that in our mythology and folklore, the apple seems to be a "binary switch" for waking up. Snow White didn't wake up when she bit her apple ...

Keith Wilson
01-30-2009, 02:08 PM
Not terribly orthodox, but it makes more sense than the standard version.

TomF
01-30-2009, 02:18 PM
Not terribly orthodox, but it makes more sense than the standard version.For "terribly orthodox" you need to go two doors down, on the right.

Nanoose
01-30-2009, 02:42 PM
Not terribly orthodox, but it makes more sense than the standard version.

I'm not sure what is unorthodox about this view....help me! :o

PatCox
01-30-2009, 02:50 PM
So, when we developed consciousness, that which we had once done naturally, and without sin, became sinful, and we were placed under an obligation to refrain from it.

Its the internal struggle, the dionysian versus the appolonian.

Dan McCosh
01-30-2009, 02:54 PM
Ah, so the idea of sin (disobedience) make little sense until we're conscious enough to understand what's going on? Thus it's not a fall from a state of grace, but an inherent part of waking up?

So the psychopath is the original innocent?

TomF
01-30-2009, 03:01 PM
So the psychopath is the original innocent?I think the term is "not criminally responsible."

peb
01-30-2009, 03:09 PM
In the perhaps temporary absence of our more professional Christians, and as someone whom "God has endowed with less theological understanding than a goose" (Sam F) I will try to fill in the conventional Christian explanation, which is that men and women are naturally inclined to do evil, unless persuaded to do otherwise.

Someone more theologically literate than I would bring in St Paul, Irenaeus, Augustine and Aquinas at this point - maybe someone will be along in a minute.

However, very broadly, the idea is that without the grace of God we cannot control our behaviour, and we will tend to do whatever gives us immediate pleasure, regardless of the harm that we do to others.

The meaning of "original sin" is not so much that Adam and Eve had sex, as that they, and their descendants, lost the power to control themselves when tempted to do wrong.

Now, I'm a parent, and I find the idea of harming a child utterly horrible, because I cannot help but see in my minds eye my own children when I hear of such things as this.

There certainly do seem to have been a string of cases of:

- fathers repeatedly raping daughters

- fathers killing small children after a break up with the children's mother

Both are about as horrible as one can imagine, but both seem to be due to men simply responding to their immediate impulses without any sort of control. In the second case I suspect the mother is getting or has got custody of the child(ren) and the father simply feels "if I cannot have my child(ren), no other man will"

These cases look like giving way to a dreadful impulse.

Well, I don't have time to read this whole thread. I have done a quick scan and I will pick Andrew's first post as a starting point, understanding that the discussion has gone way past this.

First of all, as someone who is NOT an theological expert on the whole gammet of issues regarding original sin and the effect of grace on our behavior, I would say that it seems that Andrew's statement about the effect of original sin comes across a little strong (perhaps his calvinist background bubbling up) but fairly accurate. The RC terminolgy would be that since the fall we are inclined towards sin (ie concupiscence is the technical word). How much of this inclination, if any, we can control without God's grace is a question I am not for sure I know the answer.

But I think the Andrew's oringal post is not entirely applicable towards describing PatCox's news report from Missouri. If man had never fallen, would these stories occur, of course not. But IMO there are levels of evil that cannot be simply explained by man's inability to control sinful impulses. Simply put, normal people do not have these types of sinful temptations.

I think to explain this, you have to take into account both man's concupiscence AND the actions of Satan in the world. While there is such a thing as demonic possesion, there is also such a thing as demonic obsession. One can open oneself up to horrible temptations one step at a time and allow Satan to play an ever increasing role in one's life. This is what happens in these cases.

TomF
01-30-2009, 03:14 PM
...One can open oneself up to horrible temptations one step at a time and allow Satan to play an ever increasing role in one's life. This is what happens in these cases.At the risk of alienating my usual community (and appearing schizophrenic) ... I agree with you. I do think there is a personification of evil - a Satan - who tempts us into progressively more evil actions.

Love is far stronger, though Evil tells us otherwise.

ishmael
01-30-2009, 03:32 PM
"So the psychopath is the original innocent?"


"I think the term is "not criminally responsible."

I'd say neither term is appropriate. Someone who is genuinely psycho/sociopathic, needs to be held responsible for their actions. The only ways I know to do that are either through the criminal justice system or the mental health system. In either case, they get locked up.

Thankfully, people without a conscience are rare, but they are potentially dangerous. They might do nothing their whole lives worse than sideswiping a parked car and not leaving a note(not thinking twice about it), but some are in fact dangerous. Not that we shouldn't hold compassion for their illness, but I for one am glad the likes of Dahmer and Bundy got caught and locked up.

The prognosis for successful treatment and rehabilitation for such folks is grim. Because the wound is so deeply seated -- it usually goes back to the pre-verbal -- it's very difficult to get at and heal, even in young people.

My psychology two cents.

Kaa
01-30-2009, 03:35 PM
For "terribly orthodox" you need to go two doors down, on the right.



M: Look, I CAME HERE FOR AN ARGUMENT, I'm not going to just stand...!!
Q: OH, oh I'm sorry, but this is abuse.
M: Oh, I see, well, that explains it.
Q: Ah yes, you want room 12A, Just along the corridor.
M: Oh, Thank you very much. Sorry.
Q: Not at all.
M: Thank You.


Kaa

PatCox
01-30-2009, 03:36 PM
Seems to me the father her is just flat out missing some part wich is an important part of what it means to be a human.

shamus
01-30-2009, 03:40 PM
You guys are nutz:D
All you need to want to do good, is a sense of empathy, and an idea of the bigger picture than the 1 metre around yourself.
People that do evil just aren't thinking.

Keith Wilson
01-30-2009, 03:52 PM
Wow, peb and TomF both talking about Satan! Curious. I won't get into that, but my opinion is that human beings, or at least some of us, are quite capable of doing dreadful things without any outseide assistance.

ishmael
01-30-2009, 04:02 PM
"Seems to me the father her is just flat out missing some part wich is an important part of what it means to be a human."

Have you ever read Steinbeck's "East of Eden" Pat? Steinbeck's take, and he was not stupid, was that his protagonist in that book, Kathy, was a bad seed, though she was born during our Civil War, her father gone, and that was confusing.

She wasn't abused as a child, she was just dark, was born that way. People recognized it early on. Even as a little girl she scared people. She goes on and becomes a prostitute, and then a madam. Those weren't the dark parts. She's truly brutal and hard in her dealings with her sons. Very much focused on money; very uncaring of other's concerns or feelings.

It's Steinbeck's comment on some of what we've been talking about. It's probably more reflective of Steinbeck's psychology, than anything concrete, but an interesting novel.

Dan McCosh
01-30-2009, 04:11 PM
I think the term is "not criminally responsible."

Most psychopaths are quickly held criminally responsible. The article I referred to involved lots of studies of psychopaths in jail. There, they are not too welcome, as they often randomly attack their cellmates, guards, etc. The "Silence of the Lambs" movie about Hanibal Lector is a quite accurate portrayal. They often make a good case for execution, as nothing much seems to affect their behavior, or change it. They often act like they do since they were children, although there is nothing definitive about their upbringing. I would not be surprised if someone could demonstrate many religious beliefs about morality were formed by experience with such people. They certainly seem like the model for the devil. I don't want to get too graphic, but the "White City" book was in part about a person in the mainstream of society who killed uncounted numbers, men women and children, in particularly strange ways--and this was in the 1890s.
Frankly, I think a religion that assumes all people are like that unless they are swayed to change is a little odd. I just think people like that do exist, and most people are nothing like them.

James McMullen
01-30-2009, 04:16 PM
The doctrine of original sin says that we are all flawed and cannot control our behaviour so we are unable to resist the wish to do evil save through the operation of divine grace.

Again I say utter bullsh!t! I control my behaviour and resist the wish to commit evil on an hourly basis without any help from an outside source whatsoever. If God is able to grant this divine grace or not at his own discretion, then why didn't he dole some out to this girl's daddy before he had the chance to rape her for years and years? Claiming a supernatural source for this guy's aberrant and abhorrent behavior does nothing to help root out and cure the actual cause of his problem which almost certainly has to do with a mixture of improper socialization and abnormal brain chemistry. Perhaps you might claim that a healthy dose of religious upbringing might have kept him from doing such things, but the historical record shows that this is undeniably not 100% effective.

peb
01-30-2009, 04:26 PM
Noting the difference between my Calvinist approach and peb's RC one, I very much agree with that. The key bit is:



Tom F, peb and I are not talking about a fellow with cloven hooves, horns and a tail, here, any more than we were talking about a snake in an apple tree, earlier.

peb has it exactly right - one can open oneself up to horrible temptations, one step at a time. That is what happens. One step at a time until:

" I am in blood
Stepped in so far, returning were as tedious as go over. "

Hold on there, we may not be quite on the same page. I am talking about the fellow with cloven hooves, horns, and a tail (figuratively speaking, but like many old, allegorical descriptions, it is probably pretty accurate). I think TomF is also, at least that is how I interpret the word "personification" in his post. These horrible temptations do/can come from someone else. Maybe not always???, I don't know, but often.

Keith Wilson
01-30-2009, 04:30 PM
Another serious question Andrew and TomF (peb, I think I already know what your opinion is, assuming it's the orthodox RC one). If you're not talking about someone with horns and a pitchfork, what are you talking about? Do you think evil has any reality other than as something human beings do? Any volition or intelligence or consciousness of its own apart from people?

ishmael
01-30-2009, 04:44 PM
"These horrible temptations do/can come from someone else."

I'm being ignored on this thread, and undoubtedly deserve it, but here's an idea I don't think has been presented yet. There is no distinction. Who is this other? Is there not a unity here? Didn't Jesus swallow Satan whole in the desert? The Gospel has him dispelling this imp, but I believe he took him, like you take an opponent in a game of badmington. If Jesus was the being some say, would he be afraid of a liar, the father of lies? I don't think so. I think, after suffering it a bit, he'd just take him in and offer him a bunk and meal.

Satan is a very lonely character. I think Jesus, after laughing at him, would take him in.

peb
01-30-2009, 04:49 PM
We are on the same page, peb. They come from the same force, or power, once angelic. I tend to take a Terry Pratchett type view of anthrpomorphic personifications, and this one is not funny at all. Give it an opening and it will work on it.
Ok, just making sure.

ishmael
01-30-2009, 04:54 PM
Which parts do you disagree with? Jesus isn't much of an all compassionate God if he didn't welcome a wayward son. Who mentioned the Albigensians?

Kaa
01-30-2009, 04:54 PM
Interesting. So ACB and peb agree that Satan is a being, a creature. Right?

Kaa

peb
01-30-2009, 05:34 PM
Interesting. So ACB and peb agree that Satan is a being, a creature. Right?

Kaa
Affirmative. There are many parts of Christian belief that even the protestants haven't messed with too much, although we do have to worry about some modern day Catholics. :) :) :)

Nanoose
01-30-2009, 05:36 PM
Evil is the opposite of good.

...or evil is the lack of good?

Keith Wilson
01-30-2009, 05:47 PM
I find the idea that good and evil are something, nouns rather than adjectives, something other than descriptions of human actions, very odd, almost incomprehensible. But then it's a rare engineer that has much patience with Platonism.

peb
01-30-2009, 05:49 PM
Which parts do you disagree with? Jesus isn't much of an all compassionate God if he didn't welcome a wayward son. Who mentioned the Albigensians?

The issue is not if Jesus would welcom a wayward son. The issue is if the wayword son repented. As Andrew has since said, the disobediance of Satan, because he understood God much better than we, was permanent. In the passage you site, Satan never asked for mercy or compassion from Jesus, only submission. w.r.t Satan, it is not God's unwillingness to forgive which is permanent, it is Satan's sin.

BarnacleGrim
01-30-2009, 05:54 PM
One could argue that Hitler was kind to his dog and therefore a better man. But I still think having 9 to 11 million people brutally murdered is a much bigger crime. Genocide is as bad as it can possibly get in my book.

peb
01-30-2009, 05:55 PM
I find the idea that good and evil are something, nouns rather than adjectives, something other than descriptions of human actions, very odd, almost incomprehensible. But then it's a rare engineer that has much patience with Platonism.

You know, sometimes you just have to trust the language you use. Surely you use the words good/evil as nouns quite often. I bet I could find instances on this forum where you have done so. If you so naturally use the terms as nouns in your language (ie your thought process), why would you find the idea incomprehensible?

Keith Wilson
01-30-2009, 05:58 PM
There are a lot of ways one uses language for convenience - metaphors, figures of speech - which don't correspond to reality. Just because we can say something doesn't make it real. There's a large class of words describing characteristics of human beings - courage, loyalty, tenacity, laziness, empathy - which pretend to be nouns, but are actually classes of behavior. Show me some evil as a thing, apart from human actions, and I'll reconsider.

ishmael
01-30-2009, 05:58 PM
"I don't think evil is equal to good, any more than I think antimatter is equal to matter."

Andrew, I didn't say they were equal. Only that they are both parts of our reality.

As a professing Christian, who doesn't want to make a big deal of it over and above other understandings, I find this split to be disconcerting. It usually has been, anyway.

As you've said, I've done wrong. I know I'm capable of it. I don't need Jesus to tell me when or where. Nothing terrible, but I've treated people badly. Almost always the women in my life, when I was less than honest -- emotional dishonesty. Never any violence, nothing terrible. I couldn't tell her exactly what I was feeling. Most times I didn't know. That's a minor sin, but a sin nonetheless. A missing of the mark, which is what the Greek in the New Testament usually refers to.

shamus
01-30-2009, 07:01 PM
Isn't there a rule that the first person to mention 'Albigensian' loses?:)

SamSam
01-30-2009, 08:33 PM
Yes, I think that wilful disobedience to God lies at the root of sin, and this applies not just to humans but to other beings too.



If you don't believe in God, how can you "willfully" disobey Him? Do you have to have religion to be able to sin? I don't think so. Here's one definition of sin..."A transgression of a religious or moral law, especially when deliberate." This comes back to the righteous claim that without religion, humans have no morals and cannot tell right from wrong. Atheists are automatically bad parents and we're going to steal your stuff. We are a bunch of 'wild and crazy guys'.

But, that's all been hashed over to death here before. I'm wondering what you mean about other beings, besides humans, having the ability to sin? What "beings" are you talking about?

TomF
01-30-2009, 08:44 PM
I'm with ACB and Peb on this one; Evil is, I believe, active.

I think also, it's worth pondering the role which the Satan ("the tempter", in Hebrew) has. In the Job story, Satan is essentially God's quality control tester. And if I'm correct in thinking that our souls are here on earth to learn that which can only be learned in Matter, Evil still has that role.

Ultimately, nothing can resist Love, in my Universalist perspective. And though the Satan may indeed have overthrown its role as God's servant for quality control, even he/it will eventually come round.

But yes, I think there's personified Evil ... Powers and Principalities and all that.

jbelow
01-30-2009, 09:30 PM
It would be best if we would consult President Obama and Rev. Wright . They could form a coalition amoung the community leaders an talk the evilness out of this man.

shamus
01-30-2009, 09:34 PM
Some people are uncontrolled in their eating- abandoning themselves to gorging on anything they can get their hands on. Other people eat simply & modestly.
You only have to do the latter, to be convinced it's better. No one goes round suggesting that there is a being who places food in your way to tempt your base appetite! No one surely suggests that you can only eat sparingly through the grace of God?

PeterSibley
01-30-2009, 10:15 PM
And yet "social overlay of morality" has brought us, among other things, slavery, genocide, and aerial bombardment of "enemy" cities. None of these things are "animalistic," to be sure.

If the gentleman we are discussing had dropped a bomb while in uniform and killed a score of other people's children, some of us might disagree with what he did, but few would be calling him "evil". What causes horror is precisely the fact that his behaviour was not "animalistic". Animals may kill each others' offspring like we do, but only malfunctioning animals kill their own.

I resist the constant attempts to equate "evil" with animal nature.

So we need to describe the behavior of the rapist father as malfunctioning ? I'd say so ,we can call it evil if we want .It attracts our sense of outrage ,we are appalled , but carpet bomb a city ,reek suffering beyond the ability to comprehend and it's SOP ,we call it war ,we have a word, a category so we can deal with it .

(edited to add ......
Perhaps it's because we can comprehend rape and murder that we can actually deal with them and identify them .The banal evil of war however sits protected by its label and it's too big too truly evil to wrap our tiny consciousness around .)

The evil ,if you want to use that word ,is our own .Our ability to accept barbarity .....if we have a pidgeon hole to put it in .

Raping your daughter doesn't fit in a readily available box .....that's the problem :(.

PatCox
01-30-2009, 10:30 PM
ACB, I guess theism, as opposed to soft atheism or agnosticism, lies in this thing about personifying, objectifying, good and evil, which are not things, they are actions.

But as I often say, numbers do not exist either as objects, but they are real. Good and Evil can be real, without being "objects," or entities, just as a number is not an entity, it is a quality, it is a state of existence, but not a thing that exists.

Are we in agreement that an unthinking animal which kills and tortures, as a cat tortures a mouse before killing it, is not "evil?" That what makes an action evil is connected with some attribute of the actor. Not the act, the actor.

Now evolution produces a brain capable of self-awareness, reason, empathy, emotion. Now, what the creature with these attributes does may be evil, unlike what the tiger or the housecat does.

Now, it also seems that good is only possible with this same consciousness.

If there are hgher beings, gods or devils, why would they be toying with us and competing to pull us towards either good or evil? We don't look at the lower animals and exhort them to be either good or evil, we understand their lesser status and let them be what they are.

Why would higher beings not simply just attend to their higher interests?

TomF
01-30-2009, 10:36 PM
That's a most interesting question, Pat. And I really don't know why it is that God loves us, to be frank. Any more than I have any real sense of why God might have taken it into his/her head one morning to get up and decide to create a universe.

There are a bunch of interesting, variously compelling rationales ... but I dunno why. It does seem, however, to be so ... at least it seems that way to some of us.

PatCox
01-30-2009, 10:41 PM
Or is it just that we have a genetic, deep, inherent revulsion towards harming "our own," something which developed as a result of natural selection, because we are social animals? We have, don't we, a revulsion against acts of violence performed by one of our own against another of our own. And the special revulsion against those who would harm their own children is because one's own children are the most obviously one of "ones own?"

We have no such revulsion against violence against an "other." The only thing open to moral debate with us humans, is the question of who is one of "our own" and who is an "other." We laud those who kill the enemy in wars because they are killing an "other." Doesn't matter if its a political war or a religious war, the only difference is the attribute which we use to define "us" and "them," their politics, or their religion.

Some are pacifists and reject all war because they have a bigger definition of "us" and a smaller definition of "them." Some are animal rights activists because their definition of "us" includes even sentient animals. Some of us oppose the death penalty because we believe even the most depraved criminal is one of us, while others believe that such depraved souls have forfeited their membership in "us," as it were. Some belief abortion is murder, because they believe a fetus is one of "us," while others disagree.

The whole big mess of ethics and morality could easily spring from one inherited, biological imperative, "don't harm your own." All else, all the other complications, are just disagreements about what is "harm" and who is "one of ours."

PatCox
01-30-2009, 10:48 PM
TomF, see, I think you cannot ever objectify God and think of God as having desires or intentions. God exists outside the realm of "being" and "not being." I think we percieve God in the good. But thats like seeing the shadow he casts in our existence, not seeing Him himself.

I do believe in the supernatural. I believe consciousness is supernatural. There is no materialistic explanation for it. None. I think there is a spark in us, a supernatural thing, call it a soul. And I cannot believe it exists only in us, it must also exist in other forms, or without form. In ways we can never understand.

TomF
01-30-2009, 10:52 PM
I expect you're right, Pat ... with the proviso that I have experienced God personally, at times, in prayer. However else God is, however unimaginably beyond my reckoning or capacity to reckon, God can also be personal. I suspect the same is true of what I've called personified evil.

And yeah, I see no reason to suspect that humans have cornered the market on souls. How would we know?

PatCox
01-30-2009, 10:55 PM
In the big picture, is life in some way "anti-entropic," or is just a delaying, through incredily complex chemical reactions, of the process of increasing disorder? I would like to believe that Life, or maybe just "consciousness," awareness, is the only thing in the universe that is anti-entropic, which reverses entropy. Because there is the only huge dichotomy which is describable from science, physics, entropy, increasing disorder. Is that evil? And is life, in whatever form, the only thing in the universe which is not?

The largest kinship I feel is the kinship of all that is alive. Whenever we lose one of us, here, it happens far too frequently, it reminds me so powerfully that in the end, we are all one, all that is alive is one, sharing the miraculous bond of life itself, and death and entropy is the universal enemy of all that are alive.

Is that good and evil? Or is it an inherited trait which fosters social groups? Or is it God and the Devil tempting us one way or the other? Or is it all just an illusion? The workings of electronic circuits in our brain not needed for some essential function, and which just sorta accidentally developed this capacity for worrying and wondering, instead of just being?

PatCox
01-30-2009, 11:00 PM
TomF I beleive an individual can experience God. I don't know if I have or have not, thats the problem, was that God or the devil?

The closest I have ever felt to God was those moments when I was feeling this profound connection to all other people, and, truly, loving them all, it happens to me sometimes, just a spark, for a moment, a warm rush. Thats the only time I ever wonder if I am somehow experiencing some aspect of the presence of God, but I am nowhere near believing I was, just wondering maybe.

George Jung
01-30-2009, 11:41 PM
Glenn, Mr. Coose does have an edge to his discourse, doesn't he? So do a few others. It's telling, but... not a reflection on you (or Texas)

Glen Longino
01-30-2009, 11:49 PM
Glenn, Mr. Coose does have an edge to his discourse, doesn't he? So do a few others. It's telling, but... not a reflection on you (or Texas)

That's soothing, George, Thank you!
Now I'm gonna delete my angstful post, thanks to you.:)

WX
01-31-2009, 05:07 AM
without the grace of God we cannot control our behaviour, and we will tend to do whatever gives us immediate pleasure, regardless of the harm that we do to others.

Yes well a Christian has to believe that don't they? otherwise there would be no reason to feel superior to us mere mortals who don't need a God.

WX
01-31-2009, 05:32 AM
the doctrine of original sin

Wasn't it St Augustus that came up with that little gem of wisdom?


And you don't escape from the love of God simply by saying that you don't believe in Him.:)

I've always like that Roger Waters line...We were shown how to feel good and taught to feel bad>

downthecreek
01-31-2009, 05:45 AM
o And you don't escape from the love of God simply by saying that you don't believe in Him.:)

Andrew, would I be right in thinking that your concept of hell is, therefore, something we make for ourselves by rejecting the love of God? As opposed to a judgment upon us by God - based on our deeds, or faith and deeds, or faith alone (depending on which theology you adhere to?)

WX
01-31-2009, 05:56 AM
Usually we make our own Heaven and Hell and sometimes someone else makes it for us.

PeterSibley
01-31-2009, 06:18 AM
I'm afraid too much Gott mit uns has shaken my faith in an anthropomorphic God ...I'm more ready to believe in Paul Davies version .....more to do with the motion of stars than human foibles .

Syed
01-31-2009, 09:06 AM
Human are directly and entirely responsible for all their acts, good or bad and that's why the concept of 'reward and punishment' has got any grounds.

George.
01-31-2009, 09:56 AM
I still hold that no one without a split personality does something that he himself believes is wrong. People may have later, or almost immediate, regrets, but that is it.

So perhaps evil has to be defined down as "consciously doing what you know others will consider wrong." Make that "others whose opinion you value." Literally, anti-social behaviour.

If so, then certain animals are certainly capable of "evil".

George.
01-31-2009, 09:56 AM
I still hold that no one without a split personality does something that he himself believes is wrong. People may have later, or almost immediate, regrets, but that is it.

So perhaps evil has to be defined down as "consciously doing what you know others will consider wrong." Make that "others whose opinion you value." Literally, anti-social behaviour.

If so, then certain animals are certainly capable of "evil".

shamus
01-31-2009, 11:37 AM
And you don't escape from the love of God simply by saying that you don't believe in Him.:)

If He in fact exists, that would be so.
Many things would be easier, if it were so.
Perhaps I should proceed along the lines of Pascal's Wager.

downthecreek
01-31-2009, 12:42 PM
If He in fact exists, that would be so.
Many things would be easier, if it were so.
Perhaps I should proceed along the lines of Pascal's Wager.

Julian Barnes, in his book "Nothing to be Afraid Of" (written as a sort of confrontation with his fear of death) remarks "I don't believe in God, but I miss him". I think quite a few people who (like me) don't believe in any kind of supernatural God can still identify with that.

Glen Longino
01-31-2009, 12:55 PM
If He in fact exists, that would be so.
Many things would be easier, if it were so.
Perhaps I should proceed along the lines of Pascal's Wager.

Conversely, if He does Not exist, we will not experience His love regardless what we believe. Which is my belief.

"Many things would be easier, if it were so."

Yes, as many things are easier for cattle in a feedlot, plenty of food, shelter from the rain, until the day they become hamburgers.
But many other things would become impossible, such as freedom from temperamental arbitrary gods.
Pascal's Wager seems to assume that we need protection from the wrong choice, "there is no God", when in fact(my fact), "there is no God" is the Right choice without any associated fears.

Nanoose
01-31-2009, 01:10 PM
If He in fact exists, that would be so.


Does God exist? Well, yes He does...I know He does. I experience Him in my life, in the myriad of ways scripture says we will know Him if we will come to Him, and He is active throughout the world today. So, yes, God does exist.

Glen Longino
01-31-2009, 01:23 PM
Does God exist? Well, yes He does...I know He does. I experience Him in my life, in the myriad of ways scripture says we will know Him if we will come to Him, and He is active throughout the world today. So, yes, God does exist.

I suspect you've experienced a group of natural human emotions and hormonal influences and named them God.

Dan McCosh
01-31-2009, 01:38 PM
One could argue that Hitler was kind to his dog and therefore a better man. But I still think having 9 to 11 million people brutally murdered is a much bigger crime. Genocide is as bad as it can possibly get in my book.

This raises the question as to whether evil is the result of an individual's action, or what motivated the individual to that action. Is having people murdered worse than doing the murders? Hitler was acting on several broadly-held beliefs that resulted in millions of people murdered. It's a different kind of evil than, say one individual eating babies alive. Even moral relativism finds it more difficult to justify the latter than the former. Bad things done by people in large numbers tend to be justified by those same people. Not so with the solitary evil act.

Nanoose
01-31-2009, 01:54 PM
This raises the question as to whether evil is the result of an individual's action, or what motivated the individual to that action.

Is it not both?

Dan McCosh
01-31-2009, 02:03 PM
Is it not both?

I suppose it could be, but then many simpleaccidents become "evil". I would stick to the idea of the existence of evil people out there, much different than most of us.

peb
01-31-2009, 03:49 PM
This thread began with a discussion of why it might be that some people do really, really, horrible and wicked things.

I must plead guilty to having advanced a Christian explanation, but I didn't want this thread to be reduced to a discussion of the ontological predicament of the "God exists" / "No he doesn't" variety.
You are to be excused. Except for the Christain explanation, all of the answers to the quetion which began this thread are woefully insufficient.

Dan McCosh
01-31-2009, 04:19 PM
My main problem with the "Christian" (I don't think this view is restricted to Christianity) explanation is the idea that this evil lurks in all, and needs to be controlled. There is some evidence that a psychopath is a biological issue--something like being born with no feet. Something lacking, rather than something lurking.

Kaa
01-31-2009, 04:34 PM
You are to be excused. Except for the Christain explanation, all of the answers to the quetion which began this thread are woefully insufficient.

Ahem. The "Christian explanation" might seem sufficient given that you're already a Christian. If you're not, it's about as sufficient as a suggestion that evil is caused by interstellar multidimensional parasites burrowing into people's brains...

Kaa

downthecreek
01-31-2009, 05:00 PM
some evidence that a psychopath is a biological issue--something like being born with no feet. Something lacking, rather than something lurking.

That's certainly reflects my experience - the one person I have met and known well whom I came to believe was genuinely and irredeemably evil. Although she was acutely aware of, and sensitive to, the vulnerabilities of others, and could exploit them remorselessly, she appeared to be entirely lacking in the essential human quality of empathy - not only to recognise the feelings and motives of others, but to identify with and be affected by them. In this respect she appeared to me to be, quite literally, sub-human.

As far as the Christian explanation goes, I have some difficulty with the idea that evil resides within us, but not good, which has to come from without (God's grace, not ours) I can't really see any reason why we shouldn't encompass the full spectrum of human possibilities within ourselves (or at least, collectively) What comes out simply represents the interaction between our genetic makeup and our individual experiences and circumstances.

Peerie Maa
01-31-2009, 06:08 PM
Sorry. Probably my fault. We are capable of goodness; indeed we are drawn towards it, but our own goodness is not sufficient, we need God's Grace if we are to resist the temptation to do evil.

Andrew, if that works for you , that is well and good.

I have no faith, do not practice any religion, but I strive to do good, and find evil, whether petty or gross, abhorrent. Therefore I do not agree with your thesis that religion is necessary to resist temptation. If your thesis were to be taken further, it could lead to a disservice to the population of good people who do not worship any deity.

PeterSibley
01-31-2009, 06:34 PM
This raises the question as to whether evil is the result of an individual's action, or what motivated the individual to that action. Is having people murdered worse than doing the murders? Hitler was acting on several broadly-held beliefs that resulted in millions of people murdered. It's a different kind of evil than, say one individual eating babies alive. Even moral relativism finds it more difficult to justify the latter than the former. Bad things done by people in large numbers tend to be justified by those same people. Not so with the solitary evil act.

As I said earlier , if we can conceive of it , understand it , be appalled by it it is evil .The other is outside our comprehension ,it becomes a statistic .....perhaps a matter of State .Aerial bombing , collateral damage ,accidents of war .God is with us ....'til you gag on it .

WX
01-31-2009, 08:54 PM
ACB, I think you will agree that the concept of good and evil is a Human one. When a non human carnivore kills another animal to eat, it does not think, this is an evil act and I should not have done it.
All Humans are capable of good deeds, conversely it has been shown all Humans are capable of what can be described as evil acts. Child soldiers in the Congo would be a good example, they didn't start out as evil. They were just normal children till they were put into an abnormal situation.

PatCox
01-31-2009, 10:49 PM
I said it earlier, our moral judgment of anyone who kills comes down to "did he kill one of "Us," or did he kill one of "Them." And, what was the reasonableness of the killer's belief in the "Otherness" of those he killed. This guy raped and murdered his own kin, thats so obviously not a case of killing one of "Them" that it shocks our moral sense. On the other hand, if one of our soldiers, during a war, kills more of the enemy that anyone else, we will give him a medal and have a parade for him, because its OK to kill "Them."

We rate this guy really evil because he killed "us" and there is no way anyone can believe his own kids are "them."

With Hitler, we have Hitler thinking the jews are "Them" when he orders them killed. We are appalled at the reasons he gave for believing so, the only reason we do accept is "self defense," so we regard him as evil.

PatCox
01-31-2009, 10:52 PM
GW Bush believed that the Iraqis were "them" because they had WMDs that threatened us, so he unleashed a war that killed several hundred thousand of them, forced millions into exile, and destroyed their country's infrastructure.

Turns out he was wrong about why he thought they were "them." Just like Hitler was wrong about thinking the jews were "them."

PatCox
01-31-2009, 10:55 PM
Or maybe W and Cheney felt that a few hundred thousand lives and the destruction of a society, was worth it to establish a permanent military presence and effectively control a major percentage of all known petroleum reserves.

Why lie about it, is what I mostly wonder.

WX
01-31-2009, 10:58 PM
Pat regarding the Jews and Hitler, I think it is more the way he went about killing them. If they had died in battle fighting the Germans then that would have been more acceptable. Death in war has an air legitimacy about it. Whereas the Final Solution took cold blooded murder to an industrial level never seen before or since.
One more thing about the 6 million Jews...6 million Christian Poles died at the hands of the Nazis as well. You don't hear about them.

Kaa
01-31-2009, 11:36 PM
One more thing about the 6 million Jews...6 million Christian Poles died at the hands of the Nazis as well. You don't hear about them.

That's because they don't exist.

Most of those 6 millions Poles (actually, closer to 5 million) were Jews. Contemporary estimates for the number of civilian ethnically Polish casualties at the hand of the Nazis is about 2 million. Consult http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties for details.

Kaa

WX
02-01-2009, 06:44 AM
I stand corrected.





Jews 3,000,000 Total Poles 5,600,000 16.07%

So 2,600,000 Christians.

George.
02-02-2009, 07:35 AM
I believe it was 11 million total, of which 6 million Jews. Most victims of the Nazi camps were Jews, but by no means all.

Andrew, so those who practice "evil" do so because God deprived them of his Grace? How can you then condemn them? You should pity them!

Sorry, but I stand by my biological malfunction explanation.

TomF
02-02-2009, 08:19 AM
...I do not agree with your thesis that religion is necessary to resist temptation...I think, Nick, that ACB's not arguing that religion is necessary for people to resist evil, so much as that God is necessary.

That's where I'd be, anyhow. What enables you, and many other people who don't believe in God to resist evil is, in fact, that bit of you which is connected to and supported by God nonetheless.

For me, I find it more possible to act as I innately know I should when I consciously tap into God's presence, rather than let it occur in the background unnoticed. Others may be more spiritually evolved though.

downthecreek
02-02-2009, 08:44 AM
That's where I'd be, anyhow. What enables you, and many other people who don't believe in God to resist evil is, in fact, that bit of you which is connected to and supported by God nonetheless.


That makes the argument a little clearer, but not its credibility, as God does, in that case seem to bestow or withold His love in very arbitrary ways.

I'm lucky enough to know a lot of fine Christians (partly through my voluntary work with a small Christian charity that takes disadvantaged children sailing) as well as many people who, like me, do not believe in, or call upon, any God. I'm also working at the moment with a Roman Catholic colleague whom I consider to be a truly admirable person. On a stone plaque beside the fireplace in her sitting room are written the words "Bidden or unbidden, God is present".

But what I don't see is any obvious difference between my God fearing and non God fearing friends in their ability to refrain from "evil" behaviour - or, indeed, in their general decency and goodness.

Similarly, I see quite a lot of very bad behaviour from the Godly and the unGodly alike.

My naive and lamentably illogical way of testing this kind of proposition is to wonder whether it seems to be borne out in my everyday experience. In this case, I can't really see any evidence to support it.

Gonzalo
02-02-2009, 11:05 AM
Show me some evil as a thing, apart from human actions, and I'll reconsider.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Sichuan_earthquake
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/12/1227_041226_tsunami.html
http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/cancer/cancer.html

The examples above are natural events that caused (or continue to cause) massive harm to humans, apart from human actions. I call that evil, though obviously the evil doesn't stand apart from its effect on humans (and other living beings.) Without the suffering caused by natural forces, I doubt I'd call it evil. On a lifeless planet, who would care if a mountain blows up?

Kaa
02-02-2009, 11:45 AM
That's where I'd be, anyhow. What enables you, and many other people who don't believe in God to resist evil is, in fact, that bit of you which is connected to and supported by God nonetheless.

There's a bit of trouble with this approach.

God dispenses grace as He sees fit, right? To some people He gives enough grace to resist evil and be saved, and from other people He withholds enough grace so they fall into temptation and are damned.

Now, God, being omniscient, knows perfectly well at the time He grants grace what exactly this amount of grace will lead to. In particular, when He gives someone insufficient amount of grace, insufficient to avoid evil and achieve salvation, He knows it is insufficient.

I think that presents some problems.

Kaa

TomF
02-02-2009, 12:16 PM
You Calvinist you! Positing predestination and all that.

Personally, I think the problem goes away if we accept the possibility of multiple lives. Reincarnation, through which we develop, over lifetimes, the capacity we need.

Another of my heresies.

Kaa
02-02-2009, 12:24 PM
Personally, I think the problem goes away if we accept the possibility of multiple lives. Reincarnation, through which we develop, over lifetimes, the capacity we need.

That's very Buddhist of you :-)

Kaa

PatCox
02-02-2009, 12:35 PM
Tragedy is not evil. A natural event which causes harm, such as an earthquake, is a tragedy, but its not evil. Only something which knows better but rejects good and chooses evil can be evil.

Peerie Maa
02-02-2009, 01:02 PM
I think, Nick, that ACB's not arguing that religion is necessary for people to resist evil, so much as that God is necessary.

That's where I'd be, anyhow. What enables you, and many other people who don't believe in God to resist evil is, in fact, that bit of you which is connected to and supported by God nonetheless.

For me, I find it more possible to act as I innately know I should when I consciously tap into God's presence, rather than let it occur in the background unnoticed. Others may be more spiritually evolved though.

That is where Faith trumps all rational debate.

In the red corner: God exists, so even if an atheist does good, God gets the credit.

In the blue corner: God does not exist, people who do good are innately good due to their genes and their upbringing.

Because people with Faith and Atheists will not agree there will always be a stand-off and this thread will ultimately peter out without any common ground being reached.

downthecreek
02-02-2009, 01:03 PM
Tragedy is not evil. A natural event which causes harm, such as an earthquake, is a tragedy, but its not evil. Only something which knows better but rejects good and chooses evil can be evil.

You take me back to a moment that is still vivid in my memory.

Crossing from southwest England to the west of Ireland (around Lands End - Eddystone, Wolf Rock, Bishop Rock, Fastnet - the poetry of lighthouses :)) in a well found 14 ton Hillyard. We encountered some weather that was much heavier than forecast - a full gale - when we were well out to sea - very much in the same area as the boats that suffered so badly in the 1979 Fastnet race.

Big, steep, confused seas. I was quite young and still remember looking up at them and thinking "that is just as likely to drown ME as anyone else". Not evil - just hugely powerful and utterly indifferent......

Keith Wilson
02-02-2009, 01:41 PM
"Natural evil" (earthquakes, disease, etc) is only a problem - is only evil, really - if one assumes an omnipotent loving God in charge of it all. (Multiple gods in charge of various aspects of nature are not usually thought of as entirely benevolent.) Otherwise it's just people unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When I said "show me some evil apart from human action and I'll reconsider", I was developing what was first a linguistic point - that "evil" is really an adjective, describing a certain class of behavior. The tendency to think of evil is a thing rather than an attribute is understandable, but illusory.

Kaa
02-02-2009, 01:44 PM
When I said "show me some evil apart from human action and I'll reconsider", I was developing what was first a linguistic point - that "evil" is really an adjective, describing a certain class of behavior. The tendency to think of evil is a thing rather than an attribute is understandable, but illusory.

Keith, there's a whole category that's neither "things", nor adjectives. They're usually called abstract nouns.

Kaa

TomF
02-02-2009, 02:09 PM
That is where Faith trumps all rational debate. ....
Because people with Faith and Atheists will not agree there will always be a stand-off and this thread will ultimately peter out without any common ground being reached.Well, we won't reach agreement on the existence of God, certainly. In numerous threads we've had (perhaps before your time here), many of us agreed that either belief or non-belief comes down to a "leap of faith." For all that there were those on each side of the equation who disagreed ... stating that belief/disbelief could be empirically proved.

I think it likely that only personal experience - or the personal experience of one whom you implicitly trust - is sufficient to answer this question for any individual. Certainly my faith can't provoke your belief ... any more than your disbelief will shake my faith.

But I think it is possible to arrive at common ground over some aspects of the nature of evil - and that we're getting there. Seems to be an emerging consensus that "evil" is somehow volitional. That tragedy devoid of intent (or at least the capacity for intent) should not have a moral epithet attached to it.

Gonzalo
02-02-2009, 02:23 PM
"Natural evil" (earthquakes, disease, etc) is only a problem - is only evil, really - if one assumes an omnipotent loving God in charge of it all.I would hold that suffering from "natural evil" is what makes it a problem, not what one believes about God, his attributes, or his being in charge. The causes of suffering are evil, whether of human origin or not. Evil caused by human action is a subset of evil in the world. Fundamentally, suffering is suffering whether caused by disease, natural disaster, or human action such as war, violence, or totalitarian repression.

In this I am making a different linguistic point that you did: rather than evil being, as you said, a class of behavior, I say it is a result of a behavior or an natural event. One of the differences in our approaches is that my way of looking at it, the question of intention is lessened, that of result is maximized.

It did not occur to me until reading this thread that one would consider natural disasters to be other than evil. Perhaps that is because in considering the Theodicy problem, it is natural to lump the causes of suffering together, and that is how I have come to think of it.

I do not regard every minor discomfort as suffering or every unpleasant behavior as evil; as with everything else in the world, there is a continuum.

Kaa
02-02-2009, 02:35 PM
In this I am making a different linguistic point that you did: rather than evil being, as you said, a class of behavior, I say it is a result of a behavior or an natural event.

The usual term for what you call "evil" is "harm".

Kaa

Gonzalo
02-02-2009, 02:47 PM
The usual term for what you call "evil" is "harm".That might be a useful term in a legal sense, but when 225,000 people are wiped out in a few minutes by a tsunami (for example), the word "harm" seems a pale description.

Keith Wilson
02-02-2009, 02:53 PM
Hmm - this may be more about the definitions of words than about the real world, but still. . . I was using "evil" as malevolent, deliberately causing harm. If I cause harm to someone without intent or negligence, it's generally not considered evil - unfortunate yes, something to be avoided if possible, but not evil. If an earthquake kills a lot of people, unless there's some will directing it, I wouldn't call it evil. Harmful, yes, and definitely something we should avoid if possible, but lacking intent, just an accident albeit a very large one. One source of confusion might be the word "bad", which has a wide range of meanings: either malevolent, evil in the sense I described, or just harmful (a really bad storm).

PatCox
02-02-2009, 03:20 PM
Big, steep, confused seas. I was quite young and still remember looking up at them and thinking "that is just as likely to drown ME as anyone else". Not evil - just hugely powerful and utterly indifferent......

Thats what I felt watching the tornado pass by last summer.

Peerie Maa
02-02-2009, 03:20 PM
Tom F
I agree with each of your three points completely.

I am not sure, but we may be able to set aside the issue of why individuals or populations are good or evil. The reason that I am not certain whether we can set it aside, is that theories are being worked out and tested as to why "organisms" do good. This study is grouped under the collective noun of Altruism. Wiki has an entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altruism#Altruism_in_ethology_and_evolutionary_bio logy. Then you apply Occam's razor, and decide that you do not need God as the fount of good. It also depends on whether those with Faith believe that God was specific about how things would turn out, or just set the system working with a given set of rules that ended up with us.

However, setting that aside, it may be that people are evil for different reasons. To return to Hitler. He was morally bankrupt, and sufficiently charismatic to carry people along. He also arrived in a period of history when Eugenics, a particularly bad and nasty misapplication of poorly understood evolutionary theory was popular.
This and related crappy pseudo scientific thinking lead him to formulate the "Master Race" theory. It has been said that if all of the genealogy resources now available on t'internet were available in the 1920's that theory would never have got off the ground.
So he was a moral defective. He was able to persuade the majority of a nation to follow him. The "environment" in which he existed planted ideas in his head and made his ideas "acceptable" to that majority. All three of those combined to create the evil that was Hitler and the Nazi's

Gonzalo
02-02-2009, 03:30 PM
One source of confusion might be...I think one source of my confusion is the framing of the Theodicy question, which is usually about the source of suffering the in world, but which is often stated as the existence of evil. I am perfectly willing to admit that the definition I stated for evil might be more broad than most people use, or at least more broad than is useful for the discussion in this thread. That wasn't apparent to me when I first responded to you.

Webster, by the way, offers some support to the way I am using the word in that its definition for evil includes "causing harm", but as we have written in discussions with Sam F the dictionary definition is only a starting place toward understanding how a word is used.

George.
02-04-2009, 08:00 AM
rather than evil being, as you said, a class of behavior, I say it is a result of a behavior or an natural event.

You seem to be saying that evil is subjective. It is defined by the sufferers, or by those who empathize with them.

In other words, there is no objective evil - something that exists and is evil even if no one suffers as a result. I agree.

Sam F
02-04-2009, 09:15 AM
...Webster, by the way, offers some support to the way I am using the word in that its definition for evil includes "causing harm", but as we have written in discussions with Sam F the dictionary definition is only a starting place toward understanding how a word is used.

Just a starting place? Oh absolutely. For instance suppose a crowd starts yelling: You ought to stoned with blazing hot rocks!
And what does that mean?
Well... resorting to the dictionary would seriously mislead you.
Anyone would understand that one needn't worry one bit if a crowd of people started yelling for you to be stoned with blazing hot rocks. This what they mean :D

http://www.gadgetpages.com/shopimages/products/normal/SpaRocks.jpg

Nanoose
02-04-2009, 10:11 AM
I recently read that evil is the absence of good, but through discussion, one person countered evil is not so much the absence of good but rather the corruption of the good. I think this view holds. Thoughts?

PatCox
02-04-2009, 10:31 AM
Good and evil are one thing, neither can exist without the other. That just hit me, it follows from interpreting the "tree of knowledge of good and evil" as implying that unaware animals, and earthquakes, are innocent, or at least, neutral, a tragedy is not necessarily evil, unless it was consciously chosen by someone or something which had a choice of good or evil.

So not so much corruption of or absence of good, I would say, but rather, the other side of good. Yin and yang, not warring, but inextricably linked. Absent one, the other could not exist, as is the case among animals, they have neither.

Keith Wilson
02-04-2009, 11:31 AM
The more I think about this, the more I see linguistic confusion. "Evil" (intentional evil, not earthquakes or tigers or tapeworms) is not a thing, although we use it as an abstract noun - it is a category of behavior. Evil is something people do. The idea that "evil is necessary for good to exist" is really saying that for some people to behave in one way, other people must behave in another. This is silly.

PatCox
02-04-2009, 11:36 AM
No, keith, evil can only exist if the behavior is perpetrated by someone who has knowledge of good. Good can only exist if the actor has knowledge of evil. Kinda in the way that mandatory faith is a contradiction in terms.

Good is the conscious decision to reject evil, and evil is the conscious decision to reject good. Neither can exist without the other. Unconscious acts are neither. Nowhere does this suggest that there must be some balance or law of conservation of good and evil in the universe (though apparently your objection was Hegel's objection to Leibniz' explanation of good and evil).

Keith Wilson
02-04-2009, 11:43 AM
. . . evil can only exist if the behavior is perpetrated by someone who has knowledge of good.Theoretically, but the majority of what we think of as good and evil appears to be innate in human beings (sociopaths excepted).

Nanoose
02-04-2009, 11:46 AM
Good is the conscious decision to reject evil, and evil is the conscious decision to reject good. Neither can exist without the other.

I agree with your first point, however, the first does not require the second.

Good can and does exist without evil. It does not require evil for its existence. If we all always made, as you say, the conscious decision to reject evil, there would be no actual evil. There would be only good. Evil would still exist as a possibility, but not as an actuality. The fact that we have free will to choose one or the other leads to responsibility, our systems of justice, etc. Evil is a corruption, a perversion, of the good. Evil could be done away with and good would be left (as Christians believe will one day be the case). Good does not require evil for its existence.

Kaa
02-04-2009, 11:51 AM
The more I think about this, the more I see linguistic confusion. "Evil" (intentional evil, not earthquakes or tigers or tapeworms) is not a thing, although we use it as an abstract noun - it is a category of behavior. Evil is something people do. The idea that "evil is necessary for good to exist" is really saying that for some people to behave in one way, other people must behave in another. This is silly.

Well, let's try to sort out the confusion.

I would suggest that "evil" is primarily an adjective and is a characterization of an action/idea/etc. from the point of view of a specific moral system. It's not an intrinsic quality of something, but rather an evaluation of that something.

To call something "evil" you need to have a moral system which defines what evil is. Different moral systems have different definitions, though there's lots of overlap between them because of biological imperatives common to all humans.

As to the necessity of evil for good to exist, it's not about a balance between them in real life, but rather about the existence of the concept. If there's no concept of evil, then there is no concept of good and vice versa, the very idea of good implies the existence of "not-good".

Words like "good" and "evil" classify reality. They allow one to separate chunks of reality into distinct piles and affix labels to these piles. There's no need for these piles to be the same in size, but if you have only one pile, then nothing's really happening and there's no need for a special label.

Kaa

Phillip Allen
02-04-2009, 11:51 AM
I wish I could fix it...but I can't...it makes me sad

downthecreek
02-04-2009, 12:54 PM
Not wanting to set the thread adrift (and not worried that I shall do so) I keep being reminded of Philip Larkin's poem "Church Going" in which he wonders what will happen when all the churches fall into complete disuse. Will we keep a few cathedrals "chronically on show"? Will churches become unlucky places? Will "dubious women" appear at night, bringing their children, out of superstition, to touch some lucky stone?

The whole poem is worth reading, but here's the final stanza:

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

In whose blent (blended) air all our compulsions meet.....

Are recognized and robed as destinies.....

A hunger in himself to be more serious.....

Somewhere in there, a synthesis of thought and experience about our human lives and "compulsions" (to good and evil) that does, in itself, compel in a unique way. And if it is lost.... ?

At least to me, an interesting thought.

Peerie Maa
02-04-2009, 01:49 PM
No, keith, evil can only exist if the behavior is perpetrated by someone who has knowledge of good. Good can only exist if the actor has knowledge of evil. Kinda in the way that mandatory faith is a contradiction in terms.

Good is the conscious decision to reject evil, and evil is the conscious decision to reject good. Neither can exist without the other. Unconscious acts are neither. Nowhere does this suggest that there must be some balance or law of conservation of good and evil in the universe (though apparently your objection was Hegel's objection to Leibniz' explanation of good and evil).

I do not agree with this point of view. It is the population at large that forms a consensus of what is evil, and evil has been done by people who have no idea that they are judged to be evil. They have selected a path that seems right to them, there is no rejection of anything in their mind.
To return to out straw man, Hitler, who had no concept that he was doing evil. He believed, and most of the German nation at that time, believed that whet he was doing was good for Germany.

TomF
02-04-2009, 02:13 PM
I disagree, Nick.

I'll agree partway with people like Habermas that values and norms are social constructions, opposed to the post-modernists who conclude that there can be no sure ground. But the work of people like Joseph Campbell has pointed out the commonality among cultures about most of the basic tenets of "good" and "evil." Despite the fact that they way these are expressed and socially maintained certainly varies.

Few cultures, for instance, would accept the position of Neitzche, Ayn Rand etc. that compassion is essentially an "evil" which degrades the species. The premise was shocking precisely because it was counter-cultural.

The argument arises, I think, as to whether the "common ground" definitions of evil and good are based simply in biology, or in something outside biology. I'm of the latter view, at least as regards some of what cultures have commonly called good and evil.

I also think Pat's onto something we've hinted at earlier - that evil and good are in some measure mutually defining, and require each other. This was intuited by one of the writers of the book of Isaiah, in which God is put in the position of saying He created both good and evil (Isaiah 45:6-7).

The question is why. I've outlined the smattering of ideas I have on why a bit earlier in the thread.

PatCox
02-04-2009, 02:34 PM
Nick, I would say that the person who does not know he or she is causing harm is not doing evil, as I said, what makes it evil is the knowledge of the actor. The tiger that ate Roy was not, is not evil, did not commit evil. But if a sane person decided to do this to someone else, then it would be evil.

Keith Wilson
02-04-2009, 02:35 PM
My goodness, that alone was enough to justify the thread. Larkin's Church Going (http://www.artofeurope.com/larkin/lar5.htm) is quite a poem. Thank you. I haven't read Larkin; looks like I should. He was a librarian, like Borges.

downthecreek
02-04-2009, 03:07 PM
My goodness, that alone was enough to justify the thread. Larkin's Church Going (http://www.artofeurope.com/larkin/lar5.htm) is quite a poem. Thank you. I haven't read Larkin; looks like I should. He was a librarian, like Borges.

Glad you thought well of it, Keith.

In my opinion, "High Windows" is the best of Larkin's collections. The last poem in that book - "The Explosion" - about a mining disaster in Wales - is, I think, one of the finest of the last century.

Yes - librarian at a provincial university and a strange character. But well worth reading.

jbelow
02-04-2009, 03:30 PM
My goodness, that alone was enough to justify the thread. Larkin's Church Going (http://www.artofeurope.com/larkin/lar5.htm) is quite a poem. Thank you. I haven't read Larkin; looks like I should. He was a librarian, like Borges.

Keith , tried to read it ( yawn ) sounds like meaningless blather.

TomF
02-04-2009, 03:41 PM
Keith , tried to read it ( yawn ) sounds like meaningless blather.Really?

What do you recommend we read instead, jbelow?

Keith Wilson
02-04-2009, 03:51 PM
sounds like meaningless blather.De gustibus non est disputandum.

jbelow
02-04-2009, 04:00 PM
Really?

What do you recommend we read instead, jbelow?

Really! I recommend you read anything less blathersome.
A Dick and Jane book would be a step up.

Keith Wilson
02-04-2009, 04:06 PM
"A Dick and Jane book would be a step up" from Phillip Larkin? My goodness, jbelow from Vidor Texas, you certainly are a fine upstanding representative of your people.

jbelow
02-04-2009, 04:39 PM
"A Dick and Jane book would be a step up" from Phillip Larkin? My goodness, jbelow from Vidor Texas, you certainly are a fine upstanding representative of your people.

Keith , I apologize for the false impression I gave you. I am not a representative of Vidor Texas. I thought the people in the bilge were my people. That hurts me deeply.

Keith Wilson
02-04-2009, 04:49 PM
Sorry jbelow - I let my worse instincts get the better of me. We may disagree about politics and literature, but that's no excuse for me to get nasty.

TomF
02-04-2009, 04:55 PM
If we're your people, jbelow, then let's drop the cartoonish names.

I am a Liberal ... but not a Libtard, Libturd, etc.

You're a Conservative, or maybe Libertarian ... and I'll call you that, instead of something deliberately hurtful.

PeterSibley
02-04-2009, 05:33 PM
Thanks all ,for the thread , the thoughts .I've thought to contribute but I feel that my small visions are always covered by others and usually more articulately .

May ! ask a question ? Not theoretical or philosophical ...more day to day .Let us assume a Western bomber bombs a village in Afghanistan and kills a large number of people .Some fighters for the Taliban , some children .The raid is a military success . The pilot is a wholesome young man in service of his country .

Could someone comment on the "good and evil" involved .There are fairly obviously two different perspectives and possibly a third from some disinterested party .Could someone comment ? I have my ideas , but having read the thread ,it's fairly obvious to me that there are a multitude of variations possible .

jbelow
02-04-2009, 06:51 PM
If we're your people, jbelow, then let's drop the cartoonish names.

I am a Liberal ... but not a Libtard, Libturd, etc.

You're a Conservative, or maybe Libertarian ... and I'll call you that, instead of something deliberately hurtful.

TomF , for your benefit , I will. That will be difficult because you guys are guilty of the same insults, hyperbole, and BS. I was being vicious whe I said the people in the bilge were my people . I thought you guys would have seen through that.
I am here in the bilge for my own selfish reasons. The main reason is for my entertainment , the 2nd would be to satisfy my curiosty. For life of me , I still do not understand the liberal mind. Maybe this liberal/conservative thing is genetic . We are hard-wired by nature or is this learned behavior.

Glen Longino
02-04-2009, 07:03 PM
"We are hard-wired by nature or is this learned behavior."

Learned behavior!
What you learn, you can Unlearn, or learn something new to replace it.
If you would put your mind to it, you could be a Liberal within six months.
Not interested? I figgered!:)

Keith Wilson
02-04-2009, 07:10 PM
I was being vicious when I said the people in the bilge were my people . I thought you guys would have seen through that.I retract my apology.

The thing is, you make very little attempt to "understand the liberal mind". As far as I can tell, you see only your own ideas of what folks on the left think, and show no interest in finding out whether or not that corresponds to the reality. If you really wanted to satisfy your curiosity about how people who disagree with you think, it would be far better to listen and ask questions than to call names. Anyone who uses the epithet "libtards" is not likely to get a respectful response.

Perhaps this should go on another thread; sorry for mucking up this one.

Kaa
02-04-2009, 08:30 PM
Some people find the concept of grace utterly foreign to them...

Kaa

jbelow
02-04-2009, 08:56 PM
I retract my apology.

The thing is, you make very little attempt to "understand the liberal mind". As far as I can tell, you see only your own ideas of what folks on the left think, and show no interest in finding out whether or not that corresponds to the reality. If you really wanted to satisfy your curiosity about how people who disagree with you think, it would be far better to listen and ask questions than to call names. Anyone who uses the epithet "libtards" is not likely to get a respectful response.

Perhaps this should go on another thread; sorry for mucking up this one.

Keith , take no offence . None of this on the WBF is personal. If you look at my profile you will see that I have been here since Feb. 2006 . Three years , during that time period I have not seen anyones mind changed from a conservative to a liberal or vice-a-versa. I have learned what many of you liberals believe but cannot see the logic of the the arguments as to why? I know most here cannot understand my point of view. As far as seeking reality or truth ! We can pick and choose any referance material in cyber space to back up our beliefs. I learned that one in the first few months in the bilge. I do know that everyone here in the bilge are guilty of snide remarks and insults. Your not excluded.

PeterSibley
02-05-2009, 02:25 AM
Well ,so much for the response . Thanks, jbelow, for stuffing up a good thread .:rolleyes:

Have you ever considered saying nothing if you have nothing to contribute ?

downthecreek
02-05-2009, 04:16 AM
May ! ask a question ? Not theoretical or philosophical ...more day to day .Let us assume a Western bomber bombs a village in Afghanistan and kills a large number of people .Some fighters for the Taliban , some children .The raid is a military success . The pilot is a wholesome young man in service of his country .

Could someone comment on the "good and evil" involved

Does the end justify the means?

Well, I suppose it can do, in principle. I shouldn't break down your door, but if I break it down to save your life, the breaking becomes an intrinsic part of a "good" action. (Unless you had settled rationally upon suicide and genuinely did not wish to be saved)

But the difficulties are immense. Is the end really a good end? What if the end turns out to be something quite different from what you had intended (even if that was a good end)? What about the unintended (but often foreseeable) consequences that accompany the end you had intended? What if your end is another's disaster? What about the value you place on "us" and our lives as opposed to "them" and their lives? What about the inevitable slide, as reality emerges from the fog of intention, into ever more extreme means? To echo a previous thread, was Madeleine Allbright right, for example, when she stated that the price of half a million dead children was a fair one for whatever ends the sanctions imposed on Iraq were intended to achieve? Could the same, or at least, sufficient, ends have been achieved by less harmful means?

Sorry - all very abstract. But we do seem to shy away from these questions, which is very bad news for anyone who gets in the way of power, self interest, self delusion and self righteousness. Of course there are good ends that justify evil means. But any that go beyond the suppression of even greater harm seem to me to need (but won't get) some very tough questioning, unless the law of the jungle is all we have left to us. Maybe it is.

Oh, and one more thing. If evil means are to be justified by good ends, I suppose we had better be pretty clear exactly what end we have in mind and very good reason to believe our actions will actually achieve it.

downthecreek
02-05-2009, 06:54 AM
De gustibus non est disputandum.

Or, as my mother would put it:

Each tae their ane, as the auld wife said when she kissed the coo ;)

George.
02-05-2009, 07:35 AM
Evil means for good ends?

Rubbish.

Ask the bomber pilot, or the generals who sent him, or the public who supports him, if they thinks he is an evil "means." Ask them if they believe that yes, they are doing something evil, but calculate that the outcome outweighs it.

You are more likely to hear that the bastards getting bombed deserve it, and that any collateral damage is unintended and unavoidable, i.e., cannot count as "evil" any more than a tsunami can.

Think of this example: five patients in a poor hospital. One is hooked up to a dialysis machine that keeps him alive. The others need a drug that the hospital cannot afford - unless it sells the machine. You are the hospital administrator. Do you order the machine sold?

If so, do you do so with the same emotions felt by the general who orders the bombardment of a town?

George.
02-05-2009, 07:42 AM
Evil means for good ends?

Rubbish.

Ask the bomber pilot, or the generals who sent him, or the public who supports him, if they thinks he is an evil "means." Ask them if they believe that yes, they are doing something evil, but calculate that the outcome outweighs it.

You are more likely to hear that the bastards getting bombed deserve it, and that any collateral damage is unintended and unavoidable, i.e., cannot count as "evil" any more than a tsunami can.

Think of this example: five patients in a poor hospital. One is hooked up to a dialysis machine that keeps him alive. The others need a drug that the hospital cannot afford - unless it sells the machine. You are the hospital administrator. Do you order the machine sold?

If so, do you feel the same as the general who orders the bombardment of a town?

George.
02-05-2009, 07:58 AM
What do you mean?

What do you mean?

Oh. Oh. I see. I see.