Wednesday 29 June 2011

The absence of evil from modern discourse


Isn't it remarkable that evil strikes us as ridiculous? That the concept of 'evil' seems dumb or insane or manipulative - that to believe in the reality of 'evil' is itself seen as the product of a deranged mind?


One of the ways that evil is disposed of is that it is regarded as a kind of conspiracy theory, and we all know that conspiracies don't exist...

The two options presented by mainstream discourse are 'cock-up or conspiracy' - accidental and blameless error versus self-aware, purposive, explicit alliances to pursue what are acknowledged to be deliberately harmful plans.

 Actually, these two options do not exhaust potential descriptions of reality...


Evil is absent from modern discourse, because the modern concept of evil is a straw man - and also because in a nihilist world there is no such thing as evil.

Similarly to conspiracy, for something or some-one to count as evil they are supposed to be self-aware concerning their own evil nature, and to pursue evil wholly and relentlessly in all things.

If it can be shown that evil people or groups are well-motivated, or sometimes do good things, then that evidence is assumed to have disproved or explained-away the evil.


How did we reach such a state of absurdity? Especially after living-through the twentieth century, with evil operative on an unmatched scale?

Answer: Because we live in a society where the Left has won. And the Left has a problem with evil, a deep and insoluble problem.

The Left cannot conceptualize evil (because it has no coherent concept of The Good). Even in its own terms of materialistic, this-worldly hedonism - in terms of a society optimizing comfort and pleasure and minimizing suffering, the Left cannot deal with evil - at root, because so much misery on such a vast scale has been deliberately produced by Leftist schemes and regimes

For the Left to have a concept of evil would be to convict themselves.

Leftist evil (and evil by Leftist standards of moral evaluation - truly vast quantities of human misery) - evil which is so very extreme and so very obvious - simply cannot be acknowledged nor responded-to.


You would have thought that so many and such extreme examples of the consequences of Leftism would have destroyed the Left - but no; the Left is stronger than ever.

The conclusion is that no evil which could ever happen could ever destroy Leftism.


And since we all live in a Leftist society so pervasive that we are all tainted by Leftism to a greater or lesser degree - we can only glimpse the truth at moments before relapsing into delusional dreams.

We all have a problem with evil, a blind-spot about evil.

And the simpler and clearer and more obvious the evil, the less clearly we can understand or see it, the more necessary it is that we do not see it.



JP said...

The Left has dismissed Evil as a theological concept (arising from the Devil and Original Sin).

The Left defines Evil in terms of intentions rather than outcomes. Thus they are able to escape condemning the vast evils that Leftist schemes have produced.

The Left reserves moral outrage for those who oppose Leftist schemes. Such people can only be evil, as what person of good intentions could possibly oppose them. "Racism" is the new version of Original Sin -- no white person is devoid of this blood guilt -- but other sins include offenses against the environment, homophobia, and Islamophobia.

Alex said...

The liberal mind refuses to acknowledge the fact that some people are evil because they enjoy acting in malevolent ways or they will yield to wicked impulses when it's expedient to do so.

A favourite liberal explanation of evil is that it results from some kind of mental illness or perhaps temporary derangement.

Thus, wicked people must be 'sick in the head' or 'insane'. They are suffering from a mental disorder and so are not morally responsible for what they do etc. (If Hitler was a criminal lunatic - i.e. 'mad', was he a culpable moral agent?)

This approach resolves the problem of evil without the need for metaphysical inquiry.

dearieme said...

How do you react to the writings of Kirk, as summarised by Briggs?

Daniel said...

"And since we all live in a Leftist society so pervasive that we are all tainted by Leftism to a greater or lesser degree - we can only glimpse the truth at moments before relapsing into delusional dreams."

May I ask you, Mr. Charlton, as a believing Christian, do you find that this is less true for you than it was before you had faith? I am not trying to tempt you to spiritual pride. My question is, rather, is there truly no way to escape from the Leftist morass, not even for a Christian? (I speak of the mundane situation here on Earth not, of course, of the fate of one's eternal soul about which, presumably, a Christian would answer emphatically that indeed, Christianity is the way.) Or is Christ a pole star for the Christian even when the situation is as dire as you describe it here?

I know that faith brings nothing like complete understanding or always-clear vision — we are still weak and sinful humans — but does it at least help?

Brett Stevens said...

I like the definition of evil as willful error.

This means that it is a deliberate choice, and that it is clear that the evil acts are not wholly right, but they're "right enough" in that short-term gain can be had at the expense of long-term beauty or excellence.

Many bad things arise from pure stupidity, hence error; to some degree, the stupid is evil, and that offends the liberal mindset (because stupid people don't "mean to" be stupid of course, so it's not egalitarian to attack them for it).

The liberal mind also relishes social chaos and so sees evil as useful, as long as it's not a personal loss. Then they cry to high heaven. But most of them seem to live in nice comfortable safe areas, or comfortable oblivion, anyway.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Daniel - it certainly helps.

JP said...

"I like the definition of evil as willful error."

The problem with that definition is that it allows people to weasel out through the "good intentions" loophole. In my view, when Leftists pursue courses of action that have proven catastrophic in the past, then they are evil regardless of their supposed "good intentions".