Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Absolute Evil

  1. Jun 5, 2003 #1
    This was discussed quite a bit, on the old PFs, and I'd like to revive the topic.

    Is it "evil" to sin against a person? If so, then all "heroes" are really "evil", as they must sin against their enemies, in order to acheive their [noble] purpose.

    However, this raises the question of purpose. If someone's purpose was good (in that it would lessen the suffering of more people than it would inflict suffering upon (this is just a quick definition of a "good" intention, and is subject to argument, if anyone disagrees with it)), then wouldn't their action be good, by default?

    Any/all replies are appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 5, 2003 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Fear, anger, hate, the dark side are they...
  4. Jun 5, 2003 #3
    Re: Re: Absolute Evil

  5. Jun 5, 2003 #4

    Firstly, you need to define what you mean by sin. Does this include actions which indirectly affect the outcome? If yes, then probably all actions affect future actions within the light cone, so every action could potentially sinful.

    This reduces to only direct actions. The heoroes were convinced that they were doing the right thing. Does this mean they were evil, as they thought that their actions were doing good in the long run.

    I think that your definition of evil is flawed. Whilst some sinful actions could be considered evil, some of them are not. So evil is a (not necessarily equal) subset of sinful.
  6. Jun 5, 2003 #5


    User Avatar

    Time to dig up that old line...

    Good and evil are subjective things, meaningful only within a given ethical perpective. There is no such thing as absolute evil unless you believe in the existence of an absolute moral code. If then, by soft deontological approaches it is possible for heroes to be good, or strictly speaking doing the less of two evils.
  7. Jun 5, 2003 #6

    very true FZ+.

    i find it hard to classify anything as evil. i can't think of a scererio in which someone does something truely evil. (at least to them it isn't evil and who's to say your definition is more true than theirs?) (and if to them they do think it's evil, then they probobly have a mental problem, which can be ascribed to biological irregularities. (chemical imbalances, eviornmental stress, ect...)
  8. Jun 5, 2003 #7
    Reality is the equilibrium that exists between the two extremes. By which we have the propensity to do one or the other.
  9. Jun 5, 2003 #8
    I would add that humanity's ability to judge what is and isn't evil has proven clouded on both the personal and the social level. From extreme injustices being perpetuated to self-destructive behavior, evil has proven one of the most desctructive concepts humanly conceivable.
  10. Jun 5, 2003 #9
    Ahh, the forbidden fruit ... "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

    While the thing that clouds the issue even more, even if only "socially implied," is that evil doesn't want to be seen for what it is, in which case it dawns the "cloak of disguise," making it all the more insidious.
  11. Jun 5, 2003 #10
    Want to know absolute evil? It is absolute knowledge. It may of being a poetic myth, but the acient hebrews had good reason to make the tree of knowledge THE original sin. To understand the truth to human existance is to realize that there really is no human justification. All things are as they are because they are. People in the end really have no place to take as a foundation or for a socity. Of course this realization gives you two choices, 1. appericate life and try to become a more advanced being, or 2. let go of moral laws and live absolutly what you want no matter what the cost with no compassion or conpunction in hurting others. Knowing how greedy and hedonistic people are, it is little surpirse that nature bestows the capacity of profound analytical insight to a VERY narrow spectrum off the human population. Like I've said to a friend some time ago, if everyone were an intellectual, our world would of come to a shkriching halt long ago.

    Just my two pessimistic pennies.
    (please forgive my spelling, I know it is horrid.)
  12. Jun 6, 2003 #11
    Re: Re: Absolute Evil

    To sin against another person is to cause some form of injury to that person.

    But you missed another important point, of my post: Purpose. If the purpose of sinning is good, then the sin becomes "good", doesn't it?

    Remember, in this thread I'm not stating any opinions (as you can see from my first post), I am just asking questions (and then, of course, arguing the responses - but, come on, that's just what I do :wink:).
  13. Jun 6, 2003 #12
    But I disagree with this (possibly just because it's an opinion, and I'm "supposed" to challenge it ). You see, if "good" and "evil" are subjective things, then it is definitely not "evil" (in some people's minds - remember, you said it was entirely subjective) to sin against someone else, while it definitely is "evil" (again, in some people's minds) to try to help them.
  14. Jun 6, 2003 #13
    Special Relativity of Evil:
    Helping others without being asked for that is no less evil. Eg:

    Master and his apprentice walked on a busy street, and apprentice noticed a snail in the middle of the road. He thought "someone's gonna smash it, so I'll make a good act and save it" and he took it up and put at the roadside into grass. "Why did you do that evil to snail?" master asked. "But it'd gonna die there!"

    Master replied: "You can't know that. Maybe it had enough will to cross the road, maybe it was escaping from poison, maybe it was desperately moving towards food. By placing it back where it started you didn't help it, you just zeroed its enormous effort, and broke its determination and will. Maybe now it will die." Apprentice wanted to undo his evil act and to put the snail back where he found it. But master disallowed that too: "That would be evil act again. Must've been its fate that a stupid moron came to its life and undid its effort. By placing it back you'd leave it confused, weak and naked. It'll have no 'will force' and get smashed probably. Now it must itself find its strength, gather it and attempt another crossing. Maybe it'll find it and survive.
    See, you can't just walk around and think that you can help others, because you can't possibly know what is good, and what is evil. It doesn't matter if you mean it well, if you are not asked for it, its evil. Hardest thing to people is to let others be. They help others, preassuming that others are weak and *need* help. But by that attitude, they make others weak, and thats doing real harm. Thats evil."

    Most evil in this world comes from stupid understanding of what is good. Yes, to sin another person isn't necessarily evil. When lion sins against a human, noone thinks that lion is evil. Its one human forcing other feel and believe its weakness and helplessness thats evil.
    I agree with FZ, evil depends on given ethical perpective - paradigm. Some other perspective might have no concept of evil at all. For eg. animal world, math.

    Heroes are not evil if they respect their enemies. Ethic code of warriors. But acting upon a good purpose of reducing suffering isn't automatically good. It may turn out to be stupid and also evil.
  15. Jun 6, 2003 #14


    User Avatar

    Isn't that what the major anti-communist mentality of the 70s consisted of? :smile: In some cultures, it is considered to be an insult and encouraging weakness to help someone. Instead, you must present a cold front to force them to improve.
  16. Jun 6, 2003 #15
    Wouldn't that also suggest that Superman was a moron? Or, at the very least, terribly naive?
  17. Jun 6, 2003 #16


    User Avatar

    No, you missed the point. It doesn't suggest that at all. It suggests that in some cultures, the actions of superman are too idealistic and unwise - it suggests there is not an universal goodness or badness. Most of the people in the cities where Superman helped believed he was good, and as an entertainment piece, I think you are meant to consider superman to be the good guy. But if some idiot starts messing about around my backyard wearing his underwear on top of his pants, I most definitely am going to call the police. :smile:
  18. Jun 6, 2003 #17
    Actually I was interjecting my own thoughts here and, while I wouldn't go so far as to say he was a moron, he was at the very least, naive. He wasn't much of a hero in that sense either, in that it didn't require him to make "the sacrifice," and he always had the ability to reconstitute himself and never suffered any long lasting ill-effects from his encounters.

    That's a good one about the guy in the underwear though!
  19. Jun 7, 2003 #18
    Someone should debunk that crossing over guy with some coin flips- that's very funny Praetor, that should be on a tee-shirt. If true, I feel humanity is often underestimated in it's capacity for change. Evil is a self-terminating function. Your spelling doesn't matter, it's the concepts that count.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 7, 2003
  20. Jun 7, 2003 #19
    You still run into the purpose behind the action (or in this case, the inaction) of the "hero".
  21. Jun 8, 2003 #20


    User Avatar

    Ok, let's fall back out the capitalist ideology point. Much of the idea at the basis of extreme free market systems and capitalism is that the act of exploitation for personal gain is a natural part of good business. The nature of economics is to make money itself, and this brings overall stability at the cost of personal well being. Attempts to control it with altruistic basis are evil because they undermine this basis of social action. In this way, ruthless business management is good, and naive idealistic dealings with others in mind is evil. Everybody is out there for themselves, and it is better to follow the flow of the money. Greed is good. Kinda like Machiavellian ethics, eh?
    Are they amoral? No. They often have a strong system in place. Wasting money for example is evil. It's just different from many other people's.
    The point is that every does what he thinks is the most good of all possible acts, by their personal moral system. But that good is subjective, not objectively out there.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2003
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook