Eff's Rambles (Archive)

2/14/2005

On the subject of evil and defining people as such.

Evil is a complex issue. Of consideration are myriad factors. Each act can, in theory, have its justifications. Likewise, when there exists hypocrisy in those judging what is evil, their standards for defining what is evil can be used against them in their claim of something as being evil. Some might argue the relevancy of hypocrisy when there exists necessity to justify an act. Some might argue that an act is evil regardless of the benefit or intent behind the act. And some in that debate will agree that the evil act was necessary, while others will not. Some will find that the act, though defined as evil when done by others, is not evil when they do it.

And neccesity brings me to the subject of defining someone as evil. On an individual level, for things such as murder and rape, it seems a consensus that these are evil and thus murderers and rapists are evil. But war and painful impositions by governments on their people is a harder matter to define. Acts of war and acts to prevent war can have serious hypothetical consequences. What is the greatest good, and how can it best be served? Here we have the qaundry of competing theories and the morality of what which interest is best to act in the defense of.

I thought about this for a few days, and my conclusion is this: While evil acts can find people to rationalise them, there are two things that distinguishes a good person from an evil person that commits evil acts, if that is possible; necessity and choice. To argue that an evil act is necessary there must exist no viable alternative. If the end goal can be met through less evil or non evil methods, or there can be some reasonable compromise, and this belief rests on a realistic understanding of the situation as a whole, than, though hypothetical negative consequences should be considered, commiting unecessary evil acts which are known to not be the only good option, makes one evil. Some acts are so terrible that no past history of humanitarian behavior can negate one from being called evil.

4 Comments:

  • Apparently this post is hard to understand.

    Oh well.

    By Blogger Eff, at 2/14/2005 09:48:00 PM  

  • By Blogger Eff, at 2/18/2005 12:26:00 AM  

  • I do not believe that defining evil is as difficult, as it may seem to be at times. Evil in the context of a mindset, implies a conscious decision to ignore what the individual knows in his heart to be morally correct. The intent of the individual, at the time of the action committed, would be clear to any objective observer.

    The 'grey area' is where many people try to justify the necessity to commit such evil actions. Obviously, an objective observer could not justify the necessity of rape. It simply is beyond the realm of human comprehension. The perpetrator may try to, but it would be an effort of futility. In absence of genuine remorse and desire to reform, punishment should be both severe and swift.

    Note that I qualified the perpetrator as being devoid of a conscious, in my judgement above. Individuals such as this, are a danger not only individuals, but to society as a whole. Legal loopholes and psychiatric Dx's are used as tools to play down the severity of the crime, to put in our minds that we are to pity these people instead of punishing them. Justifying evil actions is a dangerous realm to venture into.

    When is the moral thing to do, not the right thing to do? To this, I say that there is never a time when the moral act is not the correct choice. My reply is biased however, based on the moral compass and value system that guides my decisions. The laws of man are often in conflict with the laws of God.

    This is especially difficult in times of war. Thou shalt not kill is a powerful commandment that causes many to pause and contemplate its meaning. The original translation however meant to convey that man is not to kill with malice in his heart, ie. murder. There is a huge difference between killing an enemy in battle and murdering an individual out of rage, revenge or callous indifference.

    Intent.

    I have yet to meet any honorable soldier that has killed during war which did not feel some sort of remorse for his actions. My brothers believed that they had a job to do.

    "What is the greatest good, and how can it best be served?" In these difficult times of war, each soldier must evaluate each situation and answer that question.

    One of my friends related a story where they were ordered to enter into an area that was known to harbour the enemy, and to remove the threat. In the process of doing so, a small child appeared from one of the 'houses'. When it came time for his team to leave for the extraction point, he took the child with him. Needless to say, his brothers in arms were furious and gave him one heck of a fit but he stood his ground and refused to leave without the child.

    He was brought up on charges and had to account for his actions. Failure to follow a direct order was the most serious charge. He replied by asking, where was it written that he had been ordered to kill a 5 yr old child? Passionately he pleaded for them to show him, anywhere...that it said he was to do this.

    In his mind, to have done so would have been an abomination to God and in direct contradiction to his core beliefs and values, ie. evil.

    I asked my friend if he regretted making that boy an orphan, to which he replied that the not only was the welfare of that child better served by being removed from those who would have indoctrinated him to their twisted ideology, but also was humanity as a whole better served.

    Intent within the heart is the key.

    By Blogger Misti, at 6/24/2005 07:49:00 AM  

  • Being an objective observer implies knowledge of the mitigating circumstances, if any exists, that can be rationalised or morally accepted by the observer, behind an offensive act, including if the act was or was not the best means of achieving the intent, which itself would need to be judged on knowledge of the person within which the intent was held.

    Who would be an objective observer in cases where context is still relevant?

    I have heard similar about that Biblical commandment.
    However, while killing in war might be justifiable by the larger purpose it is meant to bring about (such as defeat of a dictator), whether or not each action is motivated by revenge on the part of a soldier or the conscious consideration by said soldier of the rationilization of his action, might not be knowable by an objective observer.

    By Blogger Eff, at 6/25/2005 03:55:00 AM  

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