Evil

Evil

Overview
Evil is the violation of, or intent to violate, some moral code
Morality
Morality is the differentiation among intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good and bad . A moral code is a system of morality and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code...

. Evil is usually seen as the dualistic opposite of good. Definitions of evil vary along with analysis of its root motive causes, however general actions commonly considered evil include: conscious and deliberate wrongdoing, discrimination designed to harm others, humiliation of people designed to diminish their psychological needs and dignity, destructiveness, and acts of unnecessary and/or indiscriminate violence that are not legitimate acts of self-defense but aggressive and designed to cause ill-being to others.
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Unanswered Questions
Quotations

Now you see, Lone Starr, that evil will always triumph, because good is dumb.

Dark Helmet, Spaceballs

One, who enters the places of evil repute has no right to complain against a man who speaks ill of him.

Ali, a hundred sayings

Jamais on ne fait le mal si pleinement et si gaiement que quand on le fait par conscience.

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it conscientiously.

He who studies evil is studied by evil.

Ranjen Solbor, "The Changing Face of Evil", Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, inspired by the famous quote of Friedrich Nietzsche

There is Good and there is Evil and Evil must be punished. Even in the face of Armageddon, I shall not compromise this.

Rorschach Watchmen

Without followers, evil cannot spread.

Spock, "And The Children Shall Lead", Star Trek

Good can imagine Evil, but Evil cannot imagine Good.

W. H. Auden, A Certain World

A thing may look specious in theory, and yet be ruinous in practice; a thing may look evil in theory, and yet be in practice excellent.

Edmund Burke, Impeachment of Warren Hastings, 19th Feb. 1788.

Some men aren't looking for anything logical. He can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Alfred, The Dark Knight Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
Encyclopedia
Evil is the violation of, or intent to violate, some moral code
Morality
Morality is the differentiation among intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good and bad . A moral code is a system of morality and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code...

. Evil is usually seen as the dualistic opposite of good. Definitions of evil vary along with analysis of its root motive causes, however general actions commonly considered evil include: conscious and deliberate wrongdoing, discrimination designed to harm others, humiliation of people designed to diminish their psychological needs and dignity, destructiveness, and acts of unnecessary and/or indiscriminate violence that are not legitimate acts of self-defense but aggressive and designed to cause ill-being to others. The philosophical
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 question of whether morality is absolute or relative leads to questions about the nature of evil, with views falling into one of four opposed camps: moral absolutism
Moral absolutism
Moral absolutism is an ethical view that certain actions are absolutely right or wrong, regardless of other contexts such as their consequences or the intentions behind them. Thus stealing, for instance, might be considered to be always immoral, even if done to promote some other good , and even if...

, amoralism, moral relativism
Moral relativism
Moral relativism may be any of several descriptive, meta-ethical, or normative positions. Each of them is concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures:...

, and moral universalism
Moral universalism
Moral universalism is the meta-ethical position that some system of ethics, or a universal ethic, applies universally, that is, for "all similarly situated individuals", regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexuality, or any other distinguishing feature...

.

The root meaning of the word is of obscure origin though shown to be akin to modern English "over" and modern German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 über (OE ofer) and "up" (OE up, upp) with the basic idea of transgressing.

Etymology


The modern English
Modern English
Modern English is the form of the English language spoken since the Great Vowel Shift in England, completed in roughly 1550.Despite some differences in vocabulary, texts from the early 17th century, such as the works of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible, are considered to be in Modern...

 word "evil" (Old English ) and its cognate
Cognate
In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin. This learned term derives from the Latin cognatus . Cognates within the same language are called doublets. Strictly speaking, loanwords from another language are usually not meant by the term, e.g...

s such as the German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

  are widely considered to come from a Proto-Germanic reconstructed form *ubilaz, comparable to the Hittite
Hittite language
Hittite is the extinct language once spoken by the Hittites, a people who created an empire centred on Hattusa in north-central Anatolia...

 huwapp- ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 form and suffixed zero-grade form . Other later Germanic forms include Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

 , Old Frisian
Old Frisian
Old Frisian is a West Germanic language spoken between the 8th and 16th centuries in the area between the Rhine and Weser on the European North Sea coast. The Frisian settlers on the coast of South Jutland also spoke Old Frisian but no medieval texts of this area are known...

  (adjective and noun), Old Saxon
Old Saxon
Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German, is the earliest recorded form of Low German, documented from the 8th century until the 12th century, when it evolved into Middle Low German. It was spoken on the north-west coast of Germany and in the Netherlands by Saxon peoples...

 , Old High German
Old High German
The term Old High German refers to the earliest stage of the German language and it conventionally covers the period from around 500 to 1050. Coherent written texts do not appear until the second half of the 8th century, and some treat the period before 750 as 'prehistoric' and date the start of...

 , and evil Gothic
Gothic language
Gothic is an extinct Germanic language that was spoken by the Goths. It is known primarily from the Codex Argenteus, a 6th-century copy of a 4th-century Bible translation, and is the only East Germanic language with a sizable Text corpus...

 . The root meaning is of obscure origin though shown to be akin to modern English "over" and modern German (OE ) and "up" (OE ) with the basic idea of "transgressing".

Western philosophy


Evil is that which is not amazing good
Good
Good may refer to:* Good and evil - The distinction between positive and negative entities* Good - Objects produced for market* Form of the Good - Plato's macrocosmic view of goodness in living* Good...

. The Bible defines evil as the condition of being alone (the "not good" of Gen. 2:18). In this sense, evil may be seen as that which goes against, or is outside of society, both in terms of values and actions.

Some authors, such as Christian apologist William Lane Craig
William Lane Craig
William Lane Craig is an American analytic philosopher, philosophical theologian, and Christian apologist. He is known for his work on the philosophy of time and the philosophy of religion, specifically the existence of God and the defense of Christian theism...

, have divided evil into moral evil
Moral evil
Moral evil is the result of any morally negative event caused by the intentional action or inaction of an agent, such as a person. An example of a moral evil might be murder, or any other evil event for which someone can be held responsible or culpable....

, or harms perpetrated by some agent; and natural evil
Natural evil
Natural evil, or surd evil, is a term generally used in discussions of the problem of evil and theodicy that refers to states of affairs which, considered in themselves, are to be avoided and not to be promoted, and for which no agent is morally responsible...

, harms resulting from natural disaster
Natural disaster
A natural disaster is the effect of a natural hazard . It leads to financial, environmental or human losses...

s, disease
Disease
A disease is an abnormal condition affecting the body of an organism. It is often construed to be a medical condition associated with specific symptoms and signs. It may be caused by external factors, such as infectious disease, or it may be caused by internal dysfunctions, such as autoimmune...

, or other agentless causes. Natural evil has particular import to theodicy
Theodicy
Theodicy is a theological and philosophical study which attempts to prove God's intrinsic or foundational nature of omnibenevolence , omniscience , and omnipotence . Theodicy is usually concerned with the God of the Abrahamic religions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, due to the relevant...

, as it cannot be simply explained as the result of an agent's free will
Free will
"To make my own decisions whether I am successful or not due to uncontrollable forces" -Troy MorrisonA pragmatic definition of free willFree will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. The existence of free will and its exact nature and definition have long...

.

Spinoza


Benedict de Spinoza said that the difference between good and evil is merely one of personal inclinations: "So everyone, by the highest evil right of Nature, judges what is good and what is evil, considers his own advantage according to his own temperament... ."

The duality
Dualism
Dualism denotes a state of two parts. The term 'dualism' was originally coined to denote co-eternal binary opposition, a meaning that is preserved in metaphysical and philosophical duality discourse but has been diluted in general or common usages. Dualism can refer to moral dualism, Dualism (from...

 of 'good versus evil' is expressed, in some form or another, by many cultures. Probably this results from bininary cognitive distinctions and separation of voluntary and involuntary acts both being cultural universal
Cultural universal
A cultural universal , as discussed by George Murdock, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Donald Brown and others, is an element, pattern, trait, or institution that is common to all human cultures worldwide. Taken together, the whole body of cultural universals is known as the human condition...

s. However, identitively, distinguishing good and bad is also a cultural universal. Those who believe in the duality theory of evil believe that evil cannot exist without good, nor good without evil, as they are both objective states and opposite ends of the same scale.

Carl Jung


Carl Jung
Carl Jung
Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as "by nature religious" and make it the focus of exploration. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and...

, in his book Answer to Job
Answer to Job
Answer to Job is a 1952 book by Carl Gustav Jung addressing the moral, mythological and psychological implications of the Book of Job...

and elsewhere, depicted evil is evil as the "dark side of the Devil". People tend to believe evil is something external to them, because they project their shadow
Shadow (psychology)
In Jungian psychology, the shadow or "shadow aspect" is a part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts. It is one of the three most recognizable archetypes, the others being the anima and animus and the persona...

 onto others. Jung interpreted the story of Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 as an account of God facing his own shadow.

Ayn Rand


Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism....

 wrote in The Virtue of Selfishness
The Virtue of Selfishness
The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism is a 1964 collection of essays and papers by Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden. Most of the essays originally appeared in The Objectivist Newsletter, except for "The Objectivist Ethics", which was a paper Rand delivered at the University of Wisconsin...

 that "Since reason is man’s evil basic means of survival, that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil." This is elaborated in Atlas Shrugged
Atlas Shrugged
Atlas Shrugged is a novel by Ayn Rand, first published in 1957 in the United States. Rand's fourth and last novel, it was also her longest, and the one she considered to be her magnum opus in the realm of fiction writing...

: "Thinking is man’s only basic virtue, from which all the others proceed. And his basic vice, the source of all his evils, is that nameless act which all of you practice, but struggle never to admit: the act of blanking out, the willful suspension of one’s consciousness, the refusal to think—not blindness, but the refusal to see; not ignorance, but the refusal to know. It is the act of unfocusing your mind and inducing an inner fog to escape the responsibility of judgment—on the unstated premise that a thing will not exist if only you refuse to identify it, that A will not be A so long as you do not pronounce the verdict “It is evil.”

Is evil universal?


A fundamental question is whether there is a universal, transcendent definition of evil, or whether evil is determined by one's social or cultural background. C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis , commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as "Jack", was a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Belfast, Ireland...

, in The Abolition of Man
The Abolition of Man
The Abolition of Man is a 1943 book by C. S. Lewis. It is subtitled "Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools," and uses that as a starting point for a defense of objective value and natural law, and a warning of the consequences of...

, maintained that there are certain acts that are universally considered evil, such as rape
Rape
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

 and murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

. However the numerous instances in which rape or murder is morally affected by social context call this into question. One might argue, nevertheless, that the definition of the word rape necessitates that any action described by the word is evil, since the concept refers to causing sexual harm to another. Up until the mid-19th century, the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 — along with many other countries — practiced forms of slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

. As is often the case, those transgressing moral boundaries stood to profit from that exercise. Arguably, slavery has always been the same and objectively evil, but men with a motivation to transgress will justify that action.

The Nazis
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

, during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, found genocide
Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

 acceptable, as did the Hutu
Hutu
The Hutu , or Abahutu, are a Central African people, living mainly in Rwanda, Burundi, and eastern DR Congo.-Population statistics:The Hutu are the largest of the three peoples in Burundi and Rwanda; according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency, 84% of Rwandans and 85% of Burundians...

 Interhamwe in the Rwandan genocide
Rwandan Genocide
The Rwandan Genocide was the 1994 mass murder of an estimated 800,000 people in the small East African nation of Rwanda. Over the course of approximately 100 days through mid-July, over 500,000 people were killed, according to a Human Rights Watch estimate...

. One might point out, though, that the actual perpetrators of those atrocities probably avoided calling their actions genocide, since the objective meaning of any act accurately described by that word is to wrongfully kill a selected group of people, which is an action that at least the victimized party will understand to be evil. Universalists consider evil independent of culture, and wholly related to acts or intents. Thus, while the ideological leaders of Nazism and the Hutu Interhamwe accepted (and considered it moral) to commit genocide, the belief in genocide as "fundamentally" or "universally" evil holds that those who instigated this genocide are actually evil. Other universalists might argue that although the commission of an evil act is always evil, those who perpetrate may not be wholly evil or wholly good entities. To say that someone who has stolen a candy bar, for instance, becomes wholly evil is a rather untenable position. However, universalists might also argue that a person can choose a decidedly evil or a decidedly good life career, and genocidal dictatorship plainly falls on the side of the former.

Views on the nature of evil tend to fall into one of four opposed camps:
  • Moral absolutism
    Moral absolutism
    Moral absolutism is an ethical view that certain actions are absolutely right or wrong, regardless of other contexts such as their consequences or the intentions behind them. Thus stealing, for instance, might be considered to be always immoral, even if done to promote some other good , and even if...

     holds that good and evil are fixed concepts established by a deity
    Deity
    A deity is a recognized preternatural or supernatural immortal being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, and respected by believers....

     or deities, nature, morality, common sense, or some other source.
  • Amoralism claims that good and evil are meaningless, that there is no moral ingredient in nature.
  • Moral relativism
    Moral relativism
    Moral relativism may be any of several descriptive, meta-ethical, or normative positions. Each of them is concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures:...

     holds that standards of good and evil are only products of local culture, custom, or prejudice.
  • Moral universalism
    Moral universalism
    Moral universalism is the meta-ethical position that some system of ethics, or a universal ethic, applies universally, that is, for "all similarly situated individuals", regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexuality, or any other distinguishing feature...

     is the attempt to find a compromise between the absolutist sense of morality, and the relativist view; universalism claims that morality is only flexible to a degree, and that what is truly good or evil can be determined by examining what is commonly considered to be evil amongst all humans. Author Sam Harris
    Sam Harris (author)
    Sam Harris is an American author, and neuroscientist, as well as the co-founder and current CEO of Project Reason. He received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Stanford University, before receiving a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA...

     notes that universal morality can be understood using measurable (i.e. quantifiable) metrics of happiness and suffering, both physical and mental, rooted in how the biology of the brain processes stimuli.


Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 wrote that there are relatively few ways to do good, but there are countless ways to do evil, which can therefore have a much greater impact on our lives, and the lives of other beings capable of suffering. For this reason, philosophers such as Bernard Gert
Bernard Gert
Bernard Gert is a moral philosopher known primarily for his work in normative ethics, as well as in medical ethics, especially pertaining to psychology. His work is notable for its emphasis on the greater importance to commonsense morality of avoiding causing evil as opposed to promoting good...

 maintain that preventing evil is more important than promoting good in formulating moral rules and in conduct.

Is evil a useful term?


There is a school of thought that holds that no person is evil, that only acts may be properly considered evil. Psychologist and mediator Marshall Rosenberg
Marshall Rosenberg
Marshall Rosenberg is an American psychologist and the creator of Nonviolent Communication, a communication process that helps people to exchange the information necessary to resolve conflicts and differences peacefully...

 claims that the root of violence is the very concept of "evil" or "badness." When we label someone as bad or evil, Rosenberg claims, it invokes the desire to punish or inflict pain. It also makes it easy for us to turn off our feelings towards the person we are harming. He cites the use of language in Nazi Germany as being a key to how the German people were able to do things to other human beings that they normally would not do. He links the concept of evil to our judicial system, which seeks to create justice via punishment — "punitive justice" — punishing acts that are seen as bad or wrong. He contrasts this approach with what he found in cultures where the idea of evil was non-existent. In such cultures, when someone harms another person, they are believed to be out of harmony with themselves and their community, are seen as sick or ill and measures are taken to restore them to a sense of harmonious relations with themselves and others.

Psychologist Albert Ellis makes a similar claim, in his school of psychology called Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, or REBT. He says the root of anger, and the desire to harm someone, is almost always related to variations of implicit or explicit philosophical beliefs about other human beings. He further claims that without holding variants of those covert or overt belief and assumptions, the tendency to resort to violence in most cases is less likely.

Prominent American psychiatrist M. Scott Peck
M. Scott Peck
Morgan Scott Peck was an American psychiatrist and best-selling author, best known for his first book, The Road Less Traveled, published in 1978.-Biography:...

 on the other hand, describes evil as "militant ignorance". The original Judeo-Christian concept of "sin
Sin
In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

" is as a process that leads us to "miss the mark" and fall short of perfection. Peck argues that while most people are conscious of this at least on some level, those that are evil actively and militantly refuse this consciousness. Peck characterizes evil as a malignant type of self-righteousness which results in a projection of evil onto selected specific innocent victims (often children or other people in relatively powerless positions). Peck considers those he calls evil to be attempting to escape and hide from their own conscience (through self deception) and views this as being quite distinct from the apparent absence of conscience evident in sociopaths
Psychopathy
Psychopathy is a mental disorder characterized primarily by a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow emotions, egocentricity, and deceptiveness. Psychopaths are highly prone to antisocial behavior and abusive treatment of others, and are very disproportionately responsible for violent crime...

.

According to Peck, an evil person:
  • Is consistently self-deceiving, with the intent of avoiding guilt
    Guilt
    Guilt is the state of being responsible for the commission of an offense. It is also a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes—accurately or not—that he or she has violated a moral standard, and bears significant responsibility for that...

     and maintaining a self-image of perfection
    Perfectionism (psychology)
    Perfectionism, in psychology, is a belief that a state of completeness and flawlessness can and should be attained. In its pathological form, perfectionism is a belief that work or output that is anything less than perfect is unacceptable...

  • Deceives others as a consequence of their own self-deception
  • Projects
    Psychological projection
    Psychological projection or projection bias is a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people...

     his or her evils and sins onto very specific targets, scapegoating others while appearing normal with everyone else ("their insensitivity toward him was selective")
  • Commonly hates with the pretense of love, for the purposes of self-deception as much as deception of others
  • Abuses political (emotional) power ("the imposition of one's will upon others by overt or covert coercion")
  • Maintains a high level of respectability and lies incessantly in order to do so
  • Is consistent in his or her sins. Evil persons are characterized not so much by the magnitude of their sins, but by their consistency (of destructiveness)
  • Is unable to think from the viewpoint of their victim
  • Has a covert intolerance to criticism
    Criticism
    Criticism is the judgement of the merits and faults of the work or actions of an individual or group by another . To criticize does not necessarily imply to find fault, but the word is often taken to mean the simple expression of an objection against prejudice, or a disapproval.Another meaning of...

     and other forms of narcissistic injury


He also considers certain institutions may be evil, as his discussion of the My Lai Massacre
My Lai Massacre
The My Lai Massacre was the Vietnam War mass murder of 347–504 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam on March 16, 1968, by United States Army soldiers of "Charlie" Company of 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the Americal Division. Most of the victims were women, children , and...

 and its attempted coverup illustrate. By this definition, acts of criminal
Terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

 and state terrorism
State terrorism
State terrorism may refer to acts of terrorism conducted by a state against a foreign state or people. It can also refer to acts of violence by a state against its own people.-Definition:...

 would also be considered evil.

Is evil necessary?


Anton LaVey
Anton LaVey
Anton Szandor LaVey , born Howard Stanton Levey, was the founder of the Church of Satan as well as a writer, occultist, and musician...

, the late founder of the Church of Satan
Church of Satan
The Church of Satan is an organization dedicated to the acceptance of the carnal self, as articulated in The Satanic Bible, written in 1969 by Anton Szandor LaVey.- History :...

, asserts that evil is actually good (an often-used slogan is, "evil is live spelled backwards"). This belief is usually a reaction to evil being described as destructive, where apologists claim that definition is in opposition to the natural pleasures and instincts of men and women.

Even Martin Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

 allowed that there are cases where a little evil is a positive good. He wrote, "Seek out the society of your boon companions, drink, play, talk bawdy, and amuse yourself. One must sometimes commit a sin out of hate and contempt for the Devil, so as not to give him the chance to make one scrupulous over mere nothings... ."

In certain schools of political philosophy, leaders are encouraged to be indifferent to good or evil, taking actions based solely on practicality; this approach to politics was put forth by Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was an Italian historian, philosopher, humanist, and writer based in Florence during the Renaissance. He is one of the main founders of modern political science. He was a diplomat, political philosopher, playwright, and a civil servant of the Florentine Republic...

, a 16th-century Florentine writer who advised politicians "...it is far safer to be feared than loved."

The international relations
International relations
International relations is the study of relationships between countries, including the roles of states, inter-governmental organizations , international nongovernmental organizations , non-governmental organizations and multinational corporations...

 theories of realism and neorealism, sometimes called realpolitik
Realpolitik
Realpolitik refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on power and on practical and material factors and considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic or ethical premises...

advise politicians to explicitly disavow absolute moral and ethical considerations in international politics in favor of a focus on self-interest, political survival, and power politics, which they hold to be more accurate in explaining a world they view as explicitly amoral
Amorality
Amorality is an absence of, indifference towards, or disregard for moral beliefs. Any entity that is not sentient may be considered amoral. In addition, it can be argued that sentient but non-human creatures, like dogs, have no concept of morality and are therefore amoral...

 and dangerous. Political realists usually justify their perspectives by laying claim to a "higher moral duty" specific to political leaders, under which the greatest evil is seen to be the failure of the state to protect itself and its citizens. Machiavelli wrote: "...there will be traits considered good that, if followed, will lead to ruin, while other traits, considered vices which if practiced achieve security and well being for the Prince."

Sociological views on evil


In 2007, Ph.D Philip Zimbardo
Philip Zimbardo
Philip George Zimbardo is an American psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University. He is president of the Heroic Imagination Project...

 suggested that people may act in evil ways as a result of a collective identity
Collective identity
The term collective identity may refer to a variety of concepts. In general however, these concepts generally pertain to phenomena where an individuals' perceived membership in a social group impacts upon their own identity in some way. The idea of a collective identity has received attention in a...

. This hypothesis, based on his previous experience from the Stanford prison experiment
Stanford prison experiment
The Stanford prison experiment was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment was conducted from August 14th-20th, 1971, by a team of researchers led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University...

, was published in the book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.

Islamic theology


There is no concept of absolute evil in Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, as a fundemantal universal principle that is independent from and equal with good in a dualistic
Dualism
Dualism denotes a state of two parts. The term 'dualism' was originally coined to denote co-eternal binary opposition, a meaning that is preserved in metaphysical and philosophical duality discourse but has been diluted in general or common usages. Dualism can refer to moral dualism, Dualism (from...

 sense. Within Islam, it is considered essential to believe that all comes from Allah
Allah
Allah is a word for God used in the context of Islam. In Arabic, the word means simply "God". It is used primarily by Muslims and Bahá'ís, and often, albeit not exclusively, used by Arabic-speaking Eastern Catholic Christians, Maltese Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Mizrahi Jews and...

, whether it is perceived as good or bad by individuals; and that what the things that are perceived as "evil" or "bad" are either natural events(natural disasters or illnesses) or caused by humanity's free will to disobey Allah's orders. In the Islamic view, evil is not the cause but the result.

Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 asserted, “When evils or wrong-doings are done against Allah, the one who recited the Great Kalimah (i.e., Shahada
Shahada
The Shahada , means "to know and believe without suspicion, as if witnessed"/testification; it is the name of the Islamic creed. The shahada is the Muslim declaration of belief in the oneness of God and acceptance of Muhammad as God's prophet...

) does not prevent the evildoers from committing the evils”.

Christian theology


Christian theology
Christian theology
- Divisions of Christian theology :There are many methods of categorizing different approaches to Christian theology. For a historical analysis, see the main article on the History of Christian theology.- Sub-disciplines :...

 draws its concept of evil from the Old
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 and New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

s. In the Old Testament, evil is understood to be an opposition to God as well as something unsuitable or inferior. In the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 word poneros is used to indicate unsuitability, while kakos is used to refer to opposition to God in the human realm. Officially, the Catholic Church extracts its understanding of evil from the Dominican
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

 theologian, Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

, who in SUMMA THEOLOGICA defines evil as the absence or privation of good.French-American theologian Henri Blocher
Henri Blocher
Henri A. G. Blocher, a French evangelical theologian, is Gunther Knoedler Professor of Systematic Theology at Wheaton College Graduate School and is Professor of Systematic Theology, Faculte Libre de Theologie Evangelique, Vaux-sur-Seine, France....

 describes evil, when viewed as a theological concept, as an "unjustifiable reality. In common parlance, evil is 'something' that occurs in experience that ought not to be."

Jewish theology


In Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

, evil is the result of forsaking God. (Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy
The Book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible, and of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch...

 28:20) Judaism stresses obedience to God's laws as written in the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 (see also Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

) and the laws and rituals laid down in the Mishnah
Mishnah
The Mishnah or Mishna is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions called the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism. It was redacted c...

 and the Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

.

Some forms of Judaism do not personify evil in Satan
Satan
Satan , "the opposer", is the title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible...

; these instead consider the human heart to be inherently bent toward deceit, although human beings are responsible for their choices. In other forms of Judaism, there is no prejudice in one's becoming good or evil at time of birth. In Judaism, Satan is viewed as one who tests us for God rather than one who works against God, and evil, as in the Christian denominations above, is a matter of choice.
Some cultures or philosophies believe that evil can arise without meaning or reason (in neoplatonic philosophy, this is called absurd evil). Christianity in general does not adhere to this belief, but the prophet Isaiah
Isaiah
Isaiah ; Greek: ', Ēsaïās ; "Yahu is salvation") was a prophet in the 8th-century BC Kingdom of Judah.Jews and Christians consider the Book of Isaiah a part of their Biblical canon; he is the first listed of the neviim akharonim, the later prophets. Many of the New Testament teachings of Jesus...

 implied that God is ultimately responsible for everything. (Isa.45:7).

Non-Trinitarian theology


In Mormon
Mormon
The term Mormon most commonly denotes an adherent, practitioner, follower, or constituent of Mormonism, which is the largest branch of the Latter Day Saint movement in restorationist Christianity...

 theology, mortal life is viewed as a test of faith, where one's choices are central to the Plan of Salvation. See Agency (LDS Church). Evil is that which keeps one from discovering the nature of God. It is believed that one must choose not to be evil to return to God.

Christian Science
Christian Science
Christian Science is a system of thought and practice derived from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy and the Bible. It is practiced by members of The First Church of Christ, Scientist as well as some others who are nonmembers. Its central texts are the Bible and the Christian Science textbook,...

 believes that evil arises from a misunderstanding of the goodness of nature, which is understood as being inherently perfect if viewed from the correct (spiritual) perspective. Misunderstanding God's reality leads to incorrect choices, which are termed evil. This has led to the rejection of any separate power being the source of evil, or of God as being the source of evil; instead, the appearance of evil is the result of a mistaken concept of good. Christian Scientists argue that even the most "evil" person does not pursue evil for its own sake, but from the mistaken viewpoint that he or she will achieve some kind of good thereby.

Zoroastrian theology


In the originally Persian religion of Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

, the world is a battle ground between the god Ahura Mazda
Ahura Mazda
Ahura Mazdā is the Avestan name for a divinity of the Old Iranian religion who was proclaimed the uncreated God by Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism...

 (also called Ormazd) and the malignant spirit Angra Mainyu
Angra Mainyu
Angra Mainyu is the Avestan-language name of Zoroastrianism's hypostasis of the "destructive spirit". The Middle Persian equivalent is Ahriman.-In Zoroaster's revelation:...

 (also called Ahriman). The final resolution of the struggle between good and evil was supposed to occur on a day of Judgement
Last Judgment
The Last Judgment, Final Judgment, Day of Judgment, Judgment Day, or The Day of the Lord in Christian theology, is the final and eternal judgment by God of every nation. The concept is found in all the Canonical gospels, particularly the Gospel of Matthew. It will purportedly take place after the...

, in which all beings that have lived will be led across a bridge of fire, and those who are evil will be cast down forever. In Iranian belief, angels and saints are beings sent to help us achieve the path towards goodness.

Buddhist theology


According the general teachings of the Buddha, "evil" means "harmful" and refers to 1) the three selfish emotions—desire, hate and delusion; and 2) to their expression in physical and verbal actions. See "ten unvirtuous actions in Buddhism". Specifically, "evil" means whatever harms or obstructs the causes for happiness in this life, a better rebirth, liberation from samsara, and the true and complete enlightenment of a buddha (samyaksambodhi). Ignorance is defined as the root of all evil.

Hindu theology


In Hinduism the concept of Dharma
Dharma
Dharma means Law or Natural Law and is a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion. In the context of Hinduism, it refers to one's personal obligations, calling and duties, and a Hindu's dharma is affected by the person's age, caste, class, occupation, and gender...

 or righteousness clearly divides the world into good and evil,and clearly explains that wars have to be waged sometimes to establish and protect Dharma,this war is called Dharmayuddha
Dharmayuddha
Dharmayuddha is a Sanskrit word made up of two roots: dharma meaning righteousness, and yuddha meaning warfare. In the ancient Indian texts, dharmayuddha refers to a war that is fought while following several rules that make the war fair....

.This division of good and evil is of major importance in both the Hindu epics of Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

 and Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

.

Meher Baba's theology


The spiritual teacher Meher Baba
Meher Baba
Meher Baba , , born Merwan Sheriar Irani, was an Indian mystic and spiritual master who declared publicly in 1954 that he was the Avatar of the age....

 stated that "Good as well as evil are impressional products of the evolutionary momentum...Some impressional tendencies, which were necessary and inevitable at a particular phase, are carried over to the higher phase of evolution and they persist in their existence due to inertia." Baba also conveyed that "Evil is to all appearance the converse of good yet at the same time it is capable of being converted. Thus generally speaking, the [spiritual] path lies from evil to good and then from good to God, Who is beyond both good and evil."

See also


  • Akrasia
    Akrasia
    Akrasia , occasionally transliterated as acrasia, is the state of acting against one's better judgment. The adjective form is "akratic".-Classical approaches:...

  • Antinatalism
    Antinatalism
    Antinatalism is a philosophical position that assigns a negative value to birth, standing in opposition to natalism. It has been advanced by figures such as Arthur Schopenhauer, Peter Wessel Zapffe, Heinrich Heine, Emil Cioran, Philipp Mainländer, Philip Larkin, Chris Korda, Matti Häyry, Thomas...

  • Banality of evil
    Banality of Evil
    Banality of evil is a phrase coined by Hannah Arendt and incorporated in the title of her 1963 work Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. It describes the thesis that the great evils in history generally, and the Holocaust in particular, were not executed by fanatics or...

  • Beyond Good and Evil
    Beyond Good and Evil
    Beyond Good and Evil is a book by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, first published in 1886.It takes up and expands on the ideas of his previous work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but approached from a more critical, polemical direction....

  • Devil
    Devil
    The Devil is believed in many religions and cultures to be a powerful, supernatural entity that is the personification of evil and the enemy of God and humankind. The nature of the role varies greatly...

  • Evil empire
    Evil empire
    The phrase evil empire was applied to the Soviet Union especially by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who took an aggressive, hard-line stance that favored matching and exceeding the Soviet Union's strategic and global military capabilities, in calling for a rollback strategy that would, in his words,...

  • Graded absolutism
    Graded absolutism
    Graded absolutism is a theory of moral absolutism which resolves the objection to absolutism that in moral conflicts we are obligated to opposites. Moral absolutism is the ethical view that certain actions are absolutely right or wrong regardless of other contexts such as their consequences or the...


  • Natural evil
    Natural evil
    Natural evil, or surd evil, is a term generally used in discussions of the problem of evil and theodicy that refers to states of affairs which, considered in themselves, are to be avoided and not to be promoted, and for which no agent is morally responsible...

  • Ponerology
    Ponerology
    Ponerology is the name given by Polish psychiatrist Andrzej Łobaczewski to an interdisciplinary study of the causes of periods of social injustice. This discipline makes use of data from psychology, sociology, philosophy, and history to account for such phenomena as aggressive war, ethnic...

  • Problem of evil
    Problem of evil
    In the philosophy of religion, the problem of evil is the question of how to explain evil if there exists a deity that is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient . Some philosophers have claimed that the existences of such a god and of evil are logically incompatible or unlikely...

  • Psychopathy
    Psychopathy
    Psychopathy is a mental disorder characterized primarily by a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow emotions, egocentricity, and deceptiveness. Psychopaths are highly prone to antisocial behavior and abusive treatment of others, and are very disproportionately responsible for violent crime...

  • Sin
    Sin
    In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

  • Value theory
    Value theory
    Value theory encompasses a range of approaches to understanding how, why and to what degree people should value things; whether the thing is a person, idea, object, or anything else. This investigation began in ancient philosophy, where it is called axiology or ethics. Early philosophical...

  • Villain
    Villain
    A villain is an "evil" character in a story, whether a historical narrative or, especially, a work of fiction. The villain usually is the antagonist, the character who tends to have a negative effect on other characters...


Further reading

  • Baumeister, Roy F.
    Roy Baumeister
    Roy F. Baumeister is Francis Eppes Professor of Psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. He is a social psychologist who is known for his work on the self, social rejection, belongingness, sexuality, self-control, self-esteem, self-defeating behaviors, motivation, and...

     (1999) Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty. New York: A. W. H. Freeman / Owl Book
  • Bennett, Gaymon, Hewlett, Martinez J
    Martinez Hewlett
    Martinez "Marty" Joseph Hewlett is Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Arizona. He is also an adjunct professor at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology of the Graduate Theological Union...

    , Peters, Ted
    Ted Peters
    Ted Peters is a Lutheran theologian and Professor of Systematic Theology at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. In addition to his work as a theologian and educator, he is a prolific author and editor on Christian and Lutheran theology in the modern world...

    , Russell, Robert John
    Robert John Russell
    Robert John Russell is founder and Director of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences . He is also the Ian G. Barbour Professor of Theology and Science in Residence at the Graduate Theological Union...

     (2008). The Evolution of Evil. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. ISBN 978-3-525-56979-5
  • Shermer, M. (2004). The Science of Good & Evil. New York: Time Books. ISBN 0-8050-7520-8
  • Stapley, A. B. & Elder Delbert L., "Using Our Free Agency". Ensign May 1975: 21
  • Vetlesen, Arne Johan (2005) "Evil and Human Agency - Understanding Collective Evildoing" New York: Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest publishing house, and the second largest university press in the world...

    . ISBN 978-0-521-85694-2
  • Wilson, William McF., and Julian N. Hartt. "Farrer's Theodicy." In David Hein and Edward Hugh Henderson (eds), Captured by the Crucified: The Practical Theology of Austin Farrer
    Austin Farrer
    Austin Marsden Farrer was an English theologian and philosopher. His activity in philosophy, theology, and spirituality lead many to consider him the outstanding figure of 20th century Anglicanism.-Life:...

    . New York and London: T & T Clark / Continuum, 2004. ISBN 0-567-02510-1


Katz, Fred Emil (1993) "Ordinary People and Extraordinary Evil", [SUNY Press], ISBN 0-7914-1442-6;
Katz, Fred Emil (2004) "Confronting Evil", [SUNY Press], ISBN 0-7914-6030-4.

External links