Concepts of Good and Evil...

I’m thinking out loud here, anyone want to join in?

:slight_smile:

Eastern philosophy tends to describe universal balance- ying and yang- good and evil in constant flux and always balanced. If you look at the ying/yang symbol, there is a bit of white in the black and a bit of black in the white…Nothing is absolute; masculine must contain some feminine and vice-a-versa.

Now, lets think about concepts of good and evil. Everyone has the capacity for evil. True or false?

Sometimes, an evil act (such as murder) can become good depending on the circumstances. Right or wrong?

Can it be said, that there is no good and evil? That evil is something that dwells in all of us, and that all we lack is the justification? Once our minds have justified an evil act, we are able to over-ride our sense of good and evil and commit that act with relative impunity from self condemnation.

Could justification, lead by circumstance, be the reason so many languish in prison?

Murder is never good, only justified in certain circumstances. Murder can’t be the right thing, only morally permissible when alternatives cannot solve the situation. For example, killing someone in self-defense isn’t good, but it is morally permissible if the attacker was trying to kill you or others. Things that are wrong can become morally permissible if the circumstances are correct, but not right.

Eamon

All I know FightingFat, that when one tries to eradicate evil, there is a very fine line before one becomes evil. One must be very rooted in prayer and have a deep spiritual life to boot…not to be ‘infected’ by the very same evil one is fighting against. It is a fact in spiritual life…:hmmm:

Blessings,
Shoshana

Fighting fat,

Good and evil is not a concept. It’s the reality and truth.

Pio

I am not sure, that yin/yang equals good/bad.
It is more like, when yin and yang are balanced, then it is good. If not, it’s bad.

For once I agree with AnAtheist. I not certain that yin-yang corresponds to good-evil.

If you are thinking of a kind of dualism which suggests good and evil as two equally matched forces (that, is the evil force is as evil as the good is good) I would recommend C.S. Lewis’ treatment of it which I believe is in Mere Christianity (someone please correct me if I’m wrong). His point is that dualism does not really make sense because the idea that there is evil for evil’s sake does not make sense. That is, when evil seeks to gain something, it is trying to acquire a good. So evil is better viewed as spoiling the good.

Scott

[quote=FightingFat]Now, lets think about concepts of good and evil. Everyone has the capacity for evil. True or false?
[/quote]

True. Everyone (i.e., human beings) has the capacity for evil because we have free will.

[quote=FightingFat]Sometimes, an evil act (such as murder) can become good depending on the circumstances. Right or wrong?
[/quote]

Wrong!!! Murder is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being and can never be justified. It is important to distinguish murder from “killing.” One of the great tragedies of English Christianity is the mistranslation of the commandment which actually reads “Thou shalt not murder.” If you kill someone in defense of yourself or another, it is not murder. Nothing that is evil can ever become good. We can only acknowledge a mitigation of culpability. Stealing is always evil. If one steals because they are starving and need to get food, their culpability is lessened because of their need. However, their culpability is not eradicated because what they have done is STILL an inherently evil act for which they must repent.

[quote=FightingFat]Can it be said, that there is no good and evil? That evil is something that dwells in all of us, and that all we lack is the justification? Once our minds have justified an evil act, we are able to over-ride our sense of good and evil and commit that act with relative impunity from self condemnation.
[/quote]

Good and Evil are absolute realities. Good - or holiness - is forming and following your conscience. Ultimately, this means learning what God wants and following His teachings. Evil is choosing to do something you know is wrong. Ultimately this means rejecting God.

Since we are not our own ultimate judge, our ability to rationalize our evil acts to the point where we have no self-condemnation is irrevelant. It is only in cases of invincible ignorance (a very strict standard) that one is not condemned of evil. Simply saying to yourself that something is not wrong is not enough. The one who steals and says there is nothing wrong with stealing is usually being dishonest because they feel that they have been wronged if someone steals from them. If they truly believed that there was nothing wrong with stealing, then they would never have a problem when people stole from them. Likewise the murder who tries to protect his own life by lying and hiding from justice. If they truly believed that there is nothing wrong with one person taking the life of another, then not only would they not hide form capture, they would plead guilty and blythely accept the death penalty.

[quote=FightingFat]Could justification, lead by circumstance, be the reason so many languish in prison?
[/quote]

The reason that so many languish in prison is more likely the failure of our society to resist the temptation of Modernism. One of the classical errors of modernism is the very question you pose about the existence of good and evil.

Can you give me an example of when rape is good?

Evil is a parasite on the good.

Go to this website for discussion of Evil.
newadvent.org/cathen/05649a.htm :yup:

[quote=Matt16_18]Can you give me an example of when rape is good?

Evil is a parasite on the good.
[/quote]

Not really what I was getting at. More if a husband convinced himself it was his right, I’m sure you could imagine a circumstance where a husband forced himself on his wife. It may not be objectively good, or right, but he would have justified it to himself in order that it might be doable…If you see what I mean.
:slight_smile:

[quote=FightingFat]Not really what I was getting at. More if a husband convinced himself it was his right, I’m sure you could imagine a circumstance where a husband forced himself on his wife. It may not be objectively good, or right, but he would have justified it to himself in order that it might be doable…If you see what I mean.
[/quote]

No, I don’t see what you mean. Hitler could justify in his own mind the evil he unleashed, but just because he could make a bunch of excuses for what he did, it doesn’t turn his evil into a good.

If rape is objectively wrong, then there must be some standard of right and wrong by which we know that rape is an evil. That standard has to exist independent of our knowledge, otherwise, one cannot say that rape is objectively evil.

In the case of rape, we need to acknowledge that sex is a gift from God, a good. Rape is an abuse of the good of sexuality. In this way, rape is a parasite on the good, because it can only exist by being an abuse of the good. The good of sex can exist independently of the abuse of sex, but the abuse of sex cannot exist independently of sex itself. All evil is dependent upon a good that it seeks to abuse. That is why evil is a parasite, it can’t exist without there being first a good that can be abused.

Have you ever read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity? This book would give you the answers to the questions that you are asking.

[quote=FightingFat]Not really what I was getting at. More if a husband convinced himself it was his right, I’m sure you could imagine a circumstance where a husband forced himself on his wife. It may not be objectively good, or right, but he would have justified it to himself in order that it might be doable…If you see what I mean.:slight_smile:
[/quote]

I think I see what you mean, but I disagree with the conclusions you seem to reach in post #1.

[quote=FightingFat in Post #1]Sometimes, an evil act (such as murder) can become good depending on the circumstances. Right or wrong?
[/quote]

Just because a husband has convinced himself that what he is doing is good (based on his misconceptions of his rights as a husband) doesn’t mean that what he has done has, in fact, become good. Quite the contrary. If he is a Catholic, he could only come to this conclusion by ignoring (or being ignorant of) other Catholic teaching about the inherent dignity of every human person and the duties and responsibilites of both husbands and wives within the sacramental bonds of marriage. Additionally, I find it doubtful that the husband would hold quite the same view if he considered how he would feel if he was in his wife’s posistion. Therefore, even if he has rationalized that what he is doing is right, he really doesn’t believe it – he really knows that forcing himself upon her against her will is objectively wrong!

What about relating it to a subect closer to home. Like the Iraq conflict. There are hundreds of innocents been killed, we justify it by saying it is in the cause of freedom; so is it right or wrong?

Does it depend on what side of the arguement you are on? Or whether you can convince yourself of the justification?

[quote=FightingFat]What about relating it to a subect closer to home. Like the Iraq conflict. There are hundreds of innocents been killed, we justify it by saying it is in the cause of freedom; so is it right or wrong?

Does it depend on what side of the arguement you are on? Or whether you can convince yourself of the justification?
[/quote]

Unless you are arguing that war is inherently evil, which is not Catholic teaching, I think that you are drifting off topic a bit here. Nevertheless, I will attempt an answer.

To deliberately kill innocents is not the same as knowng that innocents will unfortunately die in the process of trying to save them. Remember that murder is the deliberate killing of an innocent person and is always evil. However, killing in defense of oneself or another is not the deliberate killing of an innocent person and, therefore, is not only not evil, but is sometimes required. If you are fighting to preserve your life and, in doing so, you kill the one attacking you, you have not committed an evil act because someone who attacks you and threatens your life is not innocent.

Sometimes, war is the only means to protect the very innocents you mention and, yet, some of them will likely die as a result of the war itself. This is one of the factors that goes into the just war doctrine.

The principle of just war is really the same principle that applies very clearly to individuals - but taken to a societal level. Imagine a bus full of children has been taken hostage. The driver threatens to kill them all. After unsuccessful negotiations and examining possible ways of saving them, you determine that the only way is to kill the driver. However, in doing so, you know that the bus will crash and that some of the children will likely die as a result. In this case, there is no sin in killing the driver because you are trying to save all the children. Even if you know that saving them all is not likely or possible, that is what you would like to do.

It is true that hundreds of innocents have died as a result of the war in Iraq. However, it is also true that steps have been and continue to be made to keep the number of innocent deaths to a minimum. If this war had been fought with the technology available in World War II, for example, the number of innocent deaths would have been much much higher. This is because guided smart bombs can be used instead of carpet bombing. Thousands upon thousands of innocents died in the allied carpet bombing of axis cities and yet, for some reason, very very few argue that we were wrong to fight the Nazis. (This is different than debates about how and why the various countries got involved in the war. Even those I have read who say that wrong things were done in that aspect say that fighting the Nazis was a just and righteous thing to do because they were evil.)

It is also true that hundreds, if not thousands, of innocents were being killed by Saddam in times of peace so it can hardly be argued that their lives would have been preserved if we had not gone to war. It is also true that most of the innocents killed have been killed by the terrorists and insurgents on suicide missions. One cannot be blamed for the tactics of one’s enemies in war. Terrorists target innocents because their goal is to terrorize. That in itself is a reason to fight them.

While there is nothing wrong with being a consciencious objector, it is ultimately the governments involved that determine whether the criteria of a just war have been met. At least, this is Catholic teaching.

Interesting…

So, we agree that partaking in an action that will result in the death of an innocent child is wrong- evil, but it is ok if the result protects more innocent children?

So is that you justifying it in your mind?

[quote=FightingFat]Interesting…

So, we agree that partaking in an action that will result in the death of an innocent child is wrong- evil, but it is ok if the result protects more innocent children?

So is that you justifying it in your mind?
[/quote]

No, you are misunderstanding me. It is wrong - evil - to DELIBERATELY take the life of an innocent person. However, in the case of the Iraq war, the death of innocents is an unavoidable consequence but is not itself willed or even a desired outcome. It is the intent behind the act that makes the determination. In the latter case, if you would have preserved the life of the innocent if possible, then it clearly isn’t your intent to kill them but to battle the evil you are fighting.

This is not a matter of justifying it in my mind. This is unchanging and unchangable Catholic doctrine.

Let me give another example of my point here.

Scenario one: A man hears someone break into his house and then sees a shadowy figure pointing a gun straight at him. He grabs his own gun and kills the person only to discover, later, that it was a child with a toy gun. A child too young to fully realize the nature of his game and was, therefore, innocent. One who did not intend to actually rob or kill anyone. Just to be perfectly clear.

Scenario two: A man deliberately shoots a child whom he knows is not threatening him in any way.

In both scenarios, an innocent person was killed.

In Scenario one, there was no evil committed. The man did not know that the person he was shooting was innocent but thought that the person was threatening his life. It was an objectively good thing for him to act to preserve his own life. Even though the actual outcome is horrifying, the act was not evil because the man did not intend to kill an innocent person.

Scenario two is clearly a description of an evil act - murder. It was the deliberate killing of an innocent person.

[quote=FightingFat]I’m thinking out loud here, anyone want to join in?

:slight_smile:

Eastern philosophy tends to describe universal balance- ying and yang- good and evil in constant flux and always balanced. If you look at the ying/yang symbol, there is a bit of white in the black and a bit of black in the white…Nothing is absolute; masculine must contain some feminine and vice-a-versa.

Now, lets think about concepts of good and evil. Everyone has the capacity for evil. True or false?

Sometimes, an evil act (such as murder) can become good depending on the circumstances. Right or wrong?

Can it be said, that there is no good and evil? That evil is something that dwells in all of us, and that all we lack is the justification? Once our minds have justified an evil act, we are able to over-ride our sense of good and evil and commit that act with relative impunity from self condemnation.

Could justification, lead by circumstance, be the reason so many languish in prison?
[/quote]

Hello fighting fat,

Here is an excerpt that describes the yin-yang symbolism and Chinese philosophy well.

“The yin and yang represent all the opposite principles one finds in the universe. Under yang are the principles of maleness, the sun, creation, heat, light, Heaven, dominance, and so on, and under yin are the principles of femaleness, the moon, completion, cold, darkness, material forms, submission, and so on. Each of these opposites produce the other: Heaven creates the ideas of things under yang, the earth produces their material forms under yin, and vice versa; creation occurs under the principle of yang, the completion of the created thing occurs under yin, and vice versa, and so on. This production of yin from yang and yang from yin occurs cyclically and constantly, so that no one principle continually dominates the other or determines the other. All opposites that one experiences—health and sickness, wealth and poverty, power and submission—can be explained in reference to the temporary dominance of one principle over the other. Since no one principle dominates eternally, that means that all conditions are subject to change into their opposites.”

Richard Hooker

wsu.edu:8080/~dee/CHPHIL/YINYANG.HTM

Peace…

[quote=FightingFat]I’m thinking out loud here, anyone want to join in?

:slight_smile:

Eastern philosophy tends to describe universal balance- ying and yang- good and evil in constant flux and always balanced. If you look at the ying/yang symbol, there is a bit of white in the black and a bit of black in the white…Nothing is absolute; masculine must contain some feminine and vice-a-versa.

Now, lets think about concepts of good and evil. Everyone has the capacity for evil. True or false?

Sometimes, an evil act (such as murder) can become good depending on the circumstances. Right or wrong?

Can it be said, that there is no good and evil? That evil is something that dwells in all of us, and that all we lack is the justification? Once our minds have justified an evil act, we are able to over-ride our sense of good and evil and commit that act with relative impunity from self condemnation.

Could justification, lead by circumstance, be the reason so many languish in prison?
[/quote]

Hello fighting fat,

Here is an excerpt that describes the yin-yang symbolism and Chinese philosophy well.

“The yin and yang represent all the opposite principles one finds in the universe. Under yang are the principles of maleness, the sun, creation, heat, light, Heaven, dominance, and so on, and under yin are the principles of femaleness, the moon, completion, cold, darkness, material forms, submission, and so on. Each of these opposites produce the other: Heaven creates the ideas of things under yang, the earth produces their material forms under yin, and vice versa; creation occurs under the principle of yang, the completion of the created thing occurs under yin, and vice versa, and so on. This production of yin from yang and yang from yin occurs cyclically and constantly, so that no one principle continually dominates the other or determines the other. All opposites that one experiences—health and sickness, wealth and poverty, power and submission—can be explained in reference to the temporary dominance of one principle over the other. Since no one principle dominates eternally, that means that all conditions are subject to change into their opposites.”

Richard Hooker

wsu.edu:8080/~dee/CHPHIL/YINYANG.HTM

It should be noted that in Eastern philosophy and religion, such as in Buddhism and Taoism, the concept (truth) of impermanence has a huge effect. Impermanence is exactly what the word implies - the belief that everything observable changes. You are not the 6 year old kid you used to be. You grew up. Things that were once just seeds turn into flowers, trees, vegetables. Winter isn’t the year-round reality. Seasons change throughout the year and begin again the next year. You get the idea.

Peace…

Peace…

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.