What is “evil,” exactly?

Would a serial killer be considered “evil,” even if his murders stemmed from the per usual compulsatory disorder out of his, or very rarely her, ability to control (very glib description, but you get the point)? Would we describe Hitler as evil, even if he truly believed, in his mind (not mine, for God’s sake) that he was truly doing the best thing for his country?

“The Good deserve a higher plane of existence than this life can offer, The Bad an even higher.”

“Did you know you can summon the forces of Evil from the comfort of your own home? It’s true; all you need is common household baking soda, some white vinegar, and … goat’s blood!”
     – Kids in the Hall

EVIL is as EVIL does.

Does doing evil things make you an evil person? Yes, if ou consistantly do the evil act.

Can people be temporarily posessed by evil? Yes. You don’t need goat’s blood, but alcohol will do just fine. Some people get drunk and abuse their spouse and are truthfully sorry the next day.

I wouldn’t define evil as occasionally doing bad things, whether under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or stone cold sober. We all do things that we regret. I think evil runs deeper than that. It is also usually not something so blatant as the crimes of a serial killer or even of a spouse-batterer.

Evil is primarily a willingness to sacrifice the well-being of others for the sake of one’s own self-interest. It could take the form of a parent refusing to get help for a mentally ill child because if word got out that the kid was seeing a psychiatrist, “What would the neighbors say?”
It can take the form of a corporate executive of a highly profitable company who decides to lay off hundreds of workers as a cost-cutting move to increase stock prices, then rewarding himself with a multi-million dollar bonus.

I recommend reading M. Scott Peck’s “People of the Lie”. It is an excellent study of human evil, mostly evil of the sort you run into in day to day life.

The trouble with Sir Launcelot is by the time he comes riding up, you’ve already married King Arthur.

I think the trouble I had with Dr. Peck’s, People Of the Lie was his attempt to quantify and measure evil as a series of aberrant characteristics. He focuses on the nature of evil as simply deception, selfishness, laziness, passivity, callousness, and lack of compassion. Seemingly, the nature of evil can be solved by a few sessions of therapy and group hugs.

His most disturbing finding of the nature of evil was a lack of awareness and lack of sensitivity for other’s feelings. I guess Hitler and the Nazi regime slaughtered six million Jews because they were just plain inconsiderate?? When I cut someone off on a freeway, that’s inconsiderate. When I decide on a calculated program of genocide, and plunging the world into war, I think you can come up with a more deeper explanation of my act than “lack of sensitivity”.

Peck's example of the My Lai Incident in the Vietnam War as an example of evil based on "group narcissism" or "group identity" is way off base. Dr. Peck completely discounts the *nature* of that war and the people, especially the young draftee GIs that fought it. It would be interesting to see what he would've done if he was in the boots of those young men of the Americal Division that day in March of 1969, watching their buddies die in fire coming from several "pacified" village hamlets.

I don’t agree with his final premise of the root of evil being narcissism and laziness. Evil, in the human experience, has always been a dynamic and active process, seldom a passive one. Certainly not something you can treat with Prozac or “feel good” pop psychology.

…send lawyers, guns, and money…

       Warren Zevon

Good and evil: abstract concepts, often tied to religion, which can be subjected to a variety of variably respectable definitions as above.

Another idea: evil does not exist. Actions which are counterproductive do. For instance, it is not evil to kill your brother, but it is harmful to him, to you, to his wife, his children, and so on in many, many ways.

Just an idea… not necessarily mine.


Are you messing around or do all the year old threads interest you?

It seems that there are a large number of threads that get forgotten about in the great river of ideas that is the BBS. I had some time to ‘mess around’ this weekend and found some threads of merit and some I thought were just worth one more look. I try to do the treads service by posting intelligently, and only posting to threads that are of value, but sometimes I fail.

My apologies if I’m getting on people’s nerves and my regrets if I’ve been misinterpreted as simply trying to screw around on the boards.

Thaks for the concern…wolfStu.


I was just wondering about all the nostalgia being brought up.

Carry on.

Are you saying that resurrecting old threads is … EVIL? :wink:

Is there anything that can alway be “Evil”? Something, that no matter what the situation is always the wrong thing.

Is Evil a waveform or a atomic arrangement? You might say that it’s only a idea, but even then it manifests itself in the real world. It has to start at a more basic level if it is to exist.

I would say that climbing to the top of a bell tower with a rifle and indescriminately shooting random people is fairly evil. There really is no excuse (including mental illness or prior abuse).

From what I know of quantum physics, there are no Eviltron particles. Evil is a philosophical construct, not a physical one. We polarize actions and behaviors into degrees of “good” and “evil” as a way of simplifying the motives behind them as well as the results of those actions. Actions that are beneficial to us and those things we care about are “good”. Those are harmful are “evil”. (George Bush isn’t really “evil”, you just don’t agree with his politics. Besides, hes better than Gore.)

To say evil “exists” as some sort of external force or energy relieves us from the responsibility of our actions. “The devil made me do it” was never an acceptable excuse, except to the most primitive people.

Just my 2 cents.

Exactly, but it is also the basis for modern Christianity wouldn’t you say?

Didn’t Jimmy Swaggart beg for forgiveness on TV for what the “Devil made him do”?

I wouldn’t know. I’m not a Christian.