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Switch to Forum Live View On the Nature of Evil
7 years ago  ::  Aug 01, 2011 - 8:17AM #1
Posts: 13
I don't know how it is in the rest of the world, but here the recent happenings in Norway has dominated the media. If you do not know what I'm talking about, shortly: some days ago a bomb first exploded in Oslo, the capital of Norway. Then, on an island, not far from Oslo, there was a youth camp. A man, dressed as a policeman, came to the island and opened fire on the kids. All in all, over 90 people was killed. Most of them teenagers. The shooter was found to be behind both the shootings and the bomb. 

There has been discussion regarding the mental state of the shooter. He was found "sane" even though his lawyer was trying to claim "temporary insanity". Specialist say "he is not insane, he is evil". This has lead me to wonder, What is Evil? In my mind, for a "specialist" to use a word like "Evil" isn't very professional. The nature of Evil, and the definition of Evil, always depends on where you are coming from. 

Take one Mr. Adolf Hitler, for example. Many people think of him like on eof the most Evil men throughout history. It has even been suggested that he is the Antichrist. But imagine, if he was alive and you could go up to him ans ask "Why did you do it?" I don't think it very likely that he's answer "Well, I just sold my soul to Satan and now I have to go around doing all these Evil deeds." No, more likely he would say something like "I did it for the good of mankind". He probably believed in what he was doing, and that it was Good, not Evil. 

The same thing is probably true about almost every "evil" person there is. This Norweigan Shooter is said to be evil. But did he think of himself as evil? No, I don't think so. It has in fact been said that he was a Christian extremist. He did what he did, because he thought it Good. He was on a mission from God or something. He did this because he thought it right. 

So, what is Evil? Who has the RIGHT to say who is Evil and who is not? 

Is it a majorityquestion? If most people is of the opinion that someone is Evil, then that person is? If you think like that, then Jesus was an Evil man. At least, that was what the majority seemed to think back then. And if the majority decides... Well, then it is simple. 

But things are not simple. They seldom are. 

Jesus was a man who didn't conform to the rules of his time. But times change, and now he is a major figure in one of the worlds biggest religions. 

Hitler, on the other hand. He certainly haven't become a saint! But when he first started to get public, many of the leaderss around the world thought of him as a Good Man. He was liked, and many believed in him. It was only later that people fpund out about the monstrosities he'd done and ordered to be done. 

Then there are all the people in prisons all over the world. Are they Evil? Some claim to be innocent. Some have done so hidious crimes that it is hard to even consider them human. 

And then there are a whole lot of people, not in prison, who do crimes against mankind and against animals and against pretty much everyone. Some of these people are in leading positions in different countries. 

The shooter in Norway is said to be sane, but evil. And a sociopath. I wonder, if he is a sociopath, isn't that a mental illness? Now, before I go any further, I'm not trying to say what he did was right. He commited a horrible crime in my opinion. What I'm trying to discuss here is the claim that he is Evil. 

I've read a book, I don't remember the name, some years ago. It told about murders being done. One of the witnesses was a young woman. She was seen as an innocent and fragile thing, who had had to witness cruel murders. As the story continued, it became clear, that the young woman was the viscious killer. She showed no remorse, no feelings of any kind. She just did what she did, because of some reason clear only to her. It suited her, it got her something she wanterd. In the end of the book, she was discribed as without a soul, as a picture of pure evil. 

Is that the definition of Evil? The lack of a soul? Can one be without a soul? Is having a soul the same as having a consiousness? Do these people do things because they are evil? Do they think of themselves as evil? 

I would more think that being Evil would have to be a choice. Evil has an agenda. Evil people do Evil things because they choose to do so, want to do so. 

Someone who has no consciousness, has no feelings, do not do things because they are evil. They just don't care, one way or another. 

People who do horrible crimes, usually think of themselves as doing mankind a favor. They think they are chosen to do Good, to rid the world of evil or something. 

As a conclusion, I believe true Evil is very rare. True Evil is a conscious choice. It is a stark believe that there are forces in the Universe, that want to have Evil things done. It is a belief that by doing those things, like sacrificing animals or people, one gains something. If someone truelly is Evil, one knows it. One is the epitath of Evil and Selfishness. 

To use the word "Evil" about someone who has done a terrible crime, is unprofessional. Only one self can say, is one Evil or not. No one should define anyone else. Only one self has the right to label one self. 

Pedophiles, baby-killers and many others are people I find disgusting and it would be easy to call them Evil. It isn't my place though. I may think that they are the scum of the Universe, but Evil? That is not up to me. 

As for the Shooter in Norway. He thought himself Good. I do not. Many people do not. But who is the one who has the right to say, to label others? I think he was a sociopath and I also think he was deluded. I do not have the right to call him Evil though.
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7 years ago  ::  Aug 02, 2011 - 3:21AM #2
Posts: 3,409

Very valid musings indeed. True evil is rare. A rare combination of rather well-known and preventable factors underlies, more often than pure evil or insanity, mindless acts of violence.

I would like to think that I have come to the sober conclusion that the underpinnings of killing sprees perpetrated by young Western men or teenagers of middle-class upbringing, is not advanced mathematics at all. In fact, unravelling the mystery of gun-slinging pimple-faces requires no probing psychoanalyses by the Oracle of Delphi, nor a special theme season by the almighty Dr. Phil. Common sense may in fact offer fresh glimpses into the problem although, of late, common sense has not been all that common.

For a non-psychotic 15-year-old to blow his classmates to kingdom come, or a self-styled Norwegian islamophobe to hunt down youth summer campers in cold blood, requires by logical necessity at least the following five ingredients:

1. A serious lack of respect for human life (thanks in part to a culture of over-indulgence and living in a technology bubble)

2. A personal grievance of some sort (sometimes even justified) involving the school, classmates, staff-members, a woman, a family member, you name it (thanks in part to the inability, learnt in the earliest childhood, to face ordinary hardships of life without raising a hue and cry about it).

3. An ideology of contempt or even hatred towards either the whole human race or some specific races, religious groups or ideological groups who are perceived to threaten one's very existence (thanks in part to the failure of parents in providing meaningful purpose in life).

4. Violent examples and influence, including one or a combination of the following:
- child abuse or domestic violence
- violence in the neighbourhood or society at large
- previous cases of teenage gun-violence widely reported in the media
- over-exposure to TV or the internet 
- over-exposure to violent computer games

5. A firearm

It is important to highlight that any single one of the above factors alone will not result in gun-violence. It would therefore be too simplistic to reduce the problem merely to that of gun-control, computer games, internet or television. Any slippered geek obsessed with gory computer games would instantly deny violent computer games having any role in school shootings just as the average recreational elk hunter from N. Dakota would jump to declare gun-control as entirely irrelevant to gun-violence. It would however run diametrically counter to both fact and reason to seriously claim that shooting sprees occur without guns, violence without examples of violence or wanton murder without flagrant disrespect for human life.

In fact, even if only one of the above ingredients is missing, a 15-year-old will not blow his classmates' brains to smithereens. A combination of all the five factors acting simultaneously is required to trigger such outbreaks. Were society to address merely the symptoms of the problem of young men's gun-violence, the removal of one of the five ingredients may, in fact, well prove sufficient to prevent such shooting sprees while failing entirely to deal with their root-causes. The remaining factors are bound to find alternative avenues of expression, whether in the form of stabbing incidents (instead of shootings), social alienation (where some respect for life exists), classroom ostracism, drug abuse or suicidal tendencies. Some of the alternative expressions may be more insidious and less conspicuous, yet no less alarming.

The manner in which these factors feature in different cultures (European, American, non-Western) remains a much broader question. The prominence of any one of these factors in one culture hardly implies their non-existence in others. The illusion of Norway or Finland as a safe haven and America as the source of all modern social ills has proven as harmful as it has erroneous.

The problem is primarily a Western one, not only an American one, and increasingly a global one. The Norwegians should not be surprised that such acts of heinous violence have finally beached their shores, nor should they exclusively blame the outside world for it.

At the risk of sounding preachy, young men's gun-violence is in itself a symptom of a well-rooted and fanatical culture of self prevalent in the West, that by its very nature results in the breakdown of morality and the loss of respect for rules and standards. Such heinous acts are the natural offspring of a culture of unchecked individualism where any resistance to the will of the child is deemed anti-liberal or despotically repressive of the creative tendencies of an innocent child. Better moral parenting and early moral education of the child may not be the only factors in the prevention of such incidents in the future, but I sincerely believe they are the most powerful and effective ones.

Hokies, time to cork it. Thanks (for those who have soldiered on this far) for bearing with my ramblings. I will gracefully step down from the soap-box and go watch a fantasy flick to escape some more from reality...  :P

"All things have I willed for you, and you too, for your own sake."
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7 years ago  ::  Aug 31, 2011 - 8:02PM #3
Posts: 7

Although evil is often used as a noun, I think it can only be properly used as an adjective.  Evil is a value judgement, not an object.  You can't buy a gallon of evil or carry evil around in a bucket.  The word is meaningless unless you are referring to some thing.  Seeing it this way eliminates a lot of pointless discussion because we then actually know what we're talking about.

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7 years ago  ::  Sep 06, 2011 - 6:04PM #4
Posts: 4,647


First thing that I would like to know is what is the difference between "true" evil and "false" evil!

I suspect that the answer will be as vague  and ambiguous as my asking what is the difference between a "true" religion and a "false" religion.

Evil as I understand it is generally meant to mean "immoral".   That which is anti or against a set or moral principles.  The consquence of acting immoral causes injury, suffering or death to others wether the others are humans or even other animals.  

I think we can agree that morality=good and immorality=bad.  However what about an amoral person? 

If morality is a set of princiles that determines what is good and what is bad what is the source of morality? 

Now dualist will claim that that the source is transcendental.  They claim that a transcendental being or beings are the source of "morality".    If these transcendental-dualist are monotheists they call this source of morality "god".    The problem is that there are......disagreements among dualistic transcendental monotheists over the details of what is moral. 

It has been suggested that

"1. A serious lack of respect for human life (thanks in part to a culture of over-indulgence and living in a technology bubble)"

People have had a serious lack of respect for human life for a long, long, long, time before vioent video games, the internet and the technology of guns.   Anyone who has read the bible, the quran or secular history would know that.   Technology of whatever type is a double edged sword.  Technology is morally neutral.  

"2. A personal grievance of some sort (sometimes even justified) involving the school, classmates, staff-members, a woman, a family member, you name it (thanks in part to the inability, learnt in the earliest childhood, to face ordinary hardships of life without raising a hue and cry about it)."

Again this is nothing new and has nothing to with "modern" man.   Sticks and stones can break my bones but names will never harm me or as Marcus Aurleius once said "You can kill me but you cannot hurt me."

"3. An ideology of contempt or even hatred towards either the whole human race or some specific races, religious groups or ideological groups who are perceived to threaten one's very existence (thanks in part to the failure of parents in providing meaningful purpose in life)."


Again there is nothing new or modern. 

"4. Violent examples and influence, including one or a combination of the following:
- child abuse or domestic violence '

Nothing new or modern. 

"- violence in the neighbourhood or society at large "

Noting new or modern. 

"- previous cases of teenage gun-violence widely reported in the media"

Is the solution for "the media" not to report teenage gun-violence? 

"- over-exposure to TV or the internet "

Again teenagers have been.....naughty long before there was either TV or the Internet. 

- over-exposure to violent computer games"

Again teenagers have been.....naughty long before there were violent computer games. 




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