Tuesday 20 September 2011

(Even) more on the nature of evil


Although there is a distal and ultimate sense in which everything that is is Good, evil here and now in this world is real and purposive.


However evil is not a primary thing, it is expressed only in relation to the Good - evil is anti-Good.

(Secular modernity cannot conceptualize evil precisely because it cannot conceptualize Good - or more exactly, the 'good' of modern secular Leftism is first subversion then inversion of The Good.)


So, although much or most actual evil is (merely) a kind of selfishness and short-termism (hedonism) - a desire for self-sufficiency - this is not adequate to conceptualize evil in evil's ultimate sense (which is a less-ultimate sense than Good).


Evil is motivated against Good - evil is not indifferent to Good.

Evil is not content simply to be evil in its own time and place and manner, evil is not (merely) autonomous self-satisfaction: ultimate evil actively and tirelessly seeks the ruin of Good - of all Good.

Evil is not, therefore, encapsulated; it is totalitarian and universal.


Evil will never be content to make its own little (or big) world of evil; always it yearns and strives for the ruin of Good wherever and whenever it exists (and Good always exists - even when partial, deformed, misapplied).


The spirit of Morgoth is immortal and has an insatiable and eternal desire for destruction of the Good, for the ruin of creation. He can be imprisoned or exiled - but not killed; nor can his purpose be coercively changed (the choice of an angel is irrevocable).

Only by remaking the whole of existing reality could evil be ended, will evil be ended.



JP said...

Evil is not content simply to be evil in its own time and place and manner, evil is not (merely) autonomous self-satisfaction: ultimate evil actively and tirelessly seeks the ruin of Good - of all Good.

Modern liberalism is a totalitarian, universal ideology that actively and tirelessly thrusts itself into every area of human social, economic, scientific, artistic, and political interaction. Why? Modern liberalism is evil and cannot tolerate truth, beauty, or virtue. Thus it seeks to crush them wherever they can be found.

baduin said...

In a naive view, evil and good are opposites. Absolute evil sits on one end, absolute good on another, and all other things are set somewhere in between.

This view is dangerously simplified. A better view of evil is expressed in the old adage: "Corruptio optimi pessima". Corruption of the best is worst. In other words, the great evil is a corrupted great good. Because of that, great evil is similar to great good - but turned to evil purposes.

What is opposite to the Absolute Good is Nothingness - which is not evil, not even existing; and for that reason is not dangerous.

Further, reality is organized into many levels, which are hierarchically organized. At the bottom is the inorganic matter, higher there are plants, animals, men, and even further spirits. Obviously, virtues belonging to higher levels are better than those of lower levels. A wise man is better than a strong man, and a saint better than a philosopher. Higher levels are also stronger – in the long term. A boxer can kill a scientist with one blow, but it is the scientist who will in the end wield the power to destroy the world. Less obviously, in the long term the development of morality is more important than the development of science. The science can emerge and develop only thanks to specific moral, philosophical and theological preconditions.

Obviously, higher levels are not accessible to beings belonging to the lower levels; although men are able to notice spiritual virtues, they do so only with utmost difficulty. It should be noted that morality, or virtue, can be thought of as such a level of being; it is of course different from moral judgement of behaviour. The morality as an objective characteristic means the level of development of moral ideas and practical training in living according to them. This objective moral development can be used for evil, that is immorally, similarly to any other good.

To say that stronger man is better than a weak one (ceteris paribus) seems contrary to Christianity. To understand this, it is necessary to understand the difference between morality and objective goodness. Morality and law show us how to behave and allow us to judge the behaviour of others; but the objective goodness is not a judgement, but an observable characteristic, similar to energy, momentum or entropy. We at present lack even the words to speak about objective good and evil. Catholic Church, when it is forced to distinguish between the moral judgement of behaviour and intrinsic valuation, as in the case of homosexualism, has to use circumlocutions, such as “objectively disordered relationship”. This means simply that homosexuals are objectively worse than heterosexuals, poor than rich, weak are worse than strong, sick than healthy, ugly are worse than beautiful, stupid than wise, etc. This is not a moral judgement, but a simple factual observation – you can judge how somebody uses his potential, but can hardly praise somebody for the mere fact of possessing it.

Mixing up of objective goodness and moral judgement has highly deleterious effects for the society. On one hand, the objectively worse people, poor, less intelligent, etc can be judged also morally evil, despised etc. On the other, the rejection of the previous mistake leads to the denial of objective goodness, and concentration on intentions as the only allowed way to judge actions. If a strong Christian belief is added to that mistake, the resulting policies can easily destroy the state.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP - Indeed - I think we are forced to conclude that Leftism is indeed evil - not merely a mistake.

@Baduin - Good analysis, but I lost your point towards the end and especially in the last paragraph.

My clear impression - eg from Medieval theology - is that it is better to be poor, ignorant and weak but Good, than the opposite but evil (and you would of course agree) - BUT ALSO that it is *easier* to be 'saved' (to be Good) when poor, ignorant and weak.

I expect that we do not disagree that the job of each to to be Good of their kind (and to be free of all envy or disdain), and that the hierachy is mostly a necessary division of labour.

Yet, also, it does seem likely that the higher Good (say an Archangel, or an Apostle such as St John) is worthy of - what? - greater veneration? than a lesser Good (say, a personal guardian angel or a recent Saint) - which is perhaps the point you are making.

baduin said...

I wanted to say that there exists a hierarchy of created goods, starting with existence, life, and going to wisdom, morality, spiritual power.

Evil consist in diminishing those goods - unless this is done to increase a higher good (ie ascetism is bad per se, but good when it serves to improve morality or spiritual power).

God, however, is above all this hierarchy of created goods; therefore a saint, who is near to God, is better than a very strong, very wise and very moral man who is not a saint.

But that does not mean that a saint should rule - very often a saint is utterly disqualified to rule anything (eg Pope Celestine - who was right as to principle, but utterly at fault as to politics).

Higher good is better than a lower good, but it cannot replace it, at least not immediately or directly.

God is above all created things and absolutely independent and unaffected by them. Therefore, the moral commands given by God serve to preserve and increase various created goods - as far as their content goes.

The act of trying to obey God's commands serves to bring us closer to Him, but their content has always some created good as end (even spirits and spiritual goods are created).

Morality consist, in one sense, in increasing and not destroying various goods.

A homosexual is objectively worse than a heterosexual man, since he lacks some normal and necessary instincts and propensities, and possess instead sick ones. This does not mean that a homosexual is by merely being a homosexual morally evil. To the contrary, should he be able to follow commandments, he will be morally higher than a sane man. The same applies to disabled, idiots etc.

In modern world, including modern Christianity, there can be easily observed a tendency to reject the notion of objective goodness existing in the world (according to which a man is better than a woman, and should rule her) and to replace it with moral evaluation (a man may be morally worse than a woman, and often is, when he uses his superior strength, independence etc badly).

This, however, must necessarily end in the destruction of secular world, destruction of all goods, which it is the purpose of morality to preserve, ie in great evil.

As to morality (and law, which is even more complicated), it is a few things at the same time, which should be distinguished.

Its purpose, as said above, is the preservation and development of goods. However, morality is at the same time a part of social reality; a set of rules, instincts, emotions, desires etc. It is, in this sense, a part of the whole hierarchy of goods, and being only a created good - certainly lower than God, although perhaps the highest of created goods.

Morality, as a part of social reality, has no independent worth, however; it is good if it fulfills its purpose, ie serves to increase and preserve other goods.

However, one of the mechanisms through which it works is social recognition, "face", and internal recognition, conscience. Men want to be recognized as doing good, and want to think about themselves that they are doing good. This desires is useful, but is very easily corrupted.

In this way, morality, or being "morally higher" becomes an independent, parasitic goal, which obscures and destroy actual goods it should support, and finally replaces even God in popular viedw as the source of all goodness.

This deification of morality is the particular failing of the Western Civilisation. This is seen very well in the blasphemous idea of theodicy "Justification of God", invented by Leibniz.