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What Is Good And What Is Evil?

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What makes a person evil? What makes a person good? How does that differ from our perception of evil in today’s society? Is it possible to have evil in a world that God created? In the Bible “evil” is equated with “wrong” or “bad” and is not limited as a label to be reserved for the worst of the bad or wrong actions to which we are prone (Stone, 2017); but what exactly draws the line between “bad”, “very bad”, and “truly evil”? We can probably agree that spanking one’s child is not as bad or evil as raping a child. However, there is a gray zone in between those three (bad, very bad, and truly evil) that we can’t agree on because people seem to have different opinions on what evil belongs in what category.

Why did God create evil? If God planned everything, why did He plan for really bad things to happen? If God is real, and God created everything, why did He create evil? Why did a loving God create a world in which evil exists? Why did God give man freedom to commit evil acts? Surely, an all-knowing God of love would not allow evil to exist in His world. These are the most common questions we face that concern the problem of evil. Although evil is here and it is real, it is also temporary. Evil will eventually be destroyed (Revelation 21:5). If good exists evil can not because evil is nothing more than the absence of good, and if God is good, then all he created has to be good. So if there is a such thing as evil in the world then that must mean evil is the absence of good. Evil is a side effect of love. Suffering and death are a side effect of evil (Romans 5:12). God says in His Bible that this side effect is only for a time. Evil serves the limited purpose of establishing real love relationships between creation and the Creator, and evil will be done away with after that purpose is achieved. How could God allow for love without the potential for evil? (All About, n/d)

A common belief was that God uses natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes to punish mankind for their sins. Susan Neiman helps us distinguish between natural evil and moral evil. Reminding us that earthquakes and floods had in the past been seen as natural evils. Neiman, just like Leibniz believes there is no real evil and if we knew how the world really works as God knows, we would be able to see that we live the best of all possible worlds. A lot of Orthodox religious people view natural evil as either God’s punishment for committing some type of moral evil. I remember when I lived in the Middle East in 2004 and that big tsunami/earthquake hit Indonesia, a lot of Islamic people were saying it was God’s punishment for all the naked tourists on the beaches. Neiman argues that it is hard to come away with a view of a God who is both omnipotent and benevolent. She believes if you’re going to retain a faith in God we have to drop the idea of God’s omnipotence.

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Fun fact Neiman also believes President Donald Trump is evil. She says the cruelty, the violence, greed, selfishness, racism, sexism, nativism, the bigotry, the destruction, the lying, the assault on reality, the contempt for human dignity and civil rights, rejection of the rule of law and democracy, the summoning and mainstreaming of chaos and nihilism and a panoply of other social pathologies are more than the absence of good, they are evil (Devega, 2019).

Another philosopher that had interesting believes about what is good and what is evil was Mencius. Mencius believed human nature is good. He believed that man is born with innate “seeds” to do good, “seeds” which must be developed or cultivated to the full effectiveness, and that this cultivation means “to do something for it,” on the one hand and “never make it grow” on the other (Hwang). He claims that an environment can change human nature from good to bad. As soon as a person falls under their own standards as a person, they are a disgrace to themselves as well as to everyone else. Keeping this in mind, because he believes that everyone is born with a ‘good’ mind, the only way to destroy that is yourself. Regardless of the experiences that life throws at you, it’s up to you to make sure you do not fall victim to the negative aspects that could alter your non-evil mind. Without knowing what is considered truly evil or good, no one can judge others or even themselves for that matter. One’s actions are judged by all, and if society has outlined something such as killing to be wrong, then the actions of a killer are evil. Usually when someone commits a crime, they had to have thought about it first, so it’s safe to say that thoughts are just as evil as actions. The constant repeating of ones evil actions are also considered wrong or immoral. No one wakes up one day and decides to do something wrong unless they have gone through the experience of seeing someone else doing it or being taught it first hand. Therefore, once you are lucky enough to be given the opportunity to make a suitable life for yourself, it is up to what information humans attain to decide what type of person they turn out to be; good or bad. Plato’s idea of universal goodness and evil however are quite different from the views of both Mencius and Hsun Tzu (Simon, 2016). Mencius compares human nature to flowing water which helps him to explain how the environment affects human nature.. He rejects it by remarking that human nature flows to the good, just as water’s nature flows down. It’s possible to make people bad, just as it is possible to make water flow up – but neither is a natural process or end. ‘Although man can be made to become bad, his nature remains as it was.’ (Richey, n/d). Hsun Tzu compares human nature to piece of wood, and this helps him to show how education changes a man. Mencius defines “good” as the capacities inside us: a heart of compassion; a heart of reverence and a heart of right and wrong; and he define evil as the lost of these capacities. Hsun Tzu defines “good” as the change of against our human nature our animal desires, obey the moral rule in our society. He defines “evil” as the human nature. Mencius uses young men were good in good time, but young men will become cruel and evil in the bad time, because the situation was changed. Hsun Tzu uses the example of a rich man becomes “bad” which means that the rich kid is driven by the emotion desire; on the other hand he uses another example of kids will wait until his elders start to eat as a “good” example. Hsun Tzu believed that human nature is good and evil. Hsun believed that human nature is all about desires and bad behaviors come from our human nature. In some ways terms “evil” and “good” still apply today. Because we still define people with humanity as good man; people who are against the moral rule in our society as a bad man. But there are differences between the definition in the past and nowadays. People won’t define a man who eats before his elders as a bad man.

The last philosopher that made good points on good and evil is Kant’s theory. According to Kant, we have a morally good will only if we choose to perform morally right actions because they are morally right. On Kant’s view, anyone who does not have a morally good will has an evil will. There are three grades of evil which can be seen as increasingly more evil stages of corruption in the will. First there is frailty. A person with a frail will attempts to perform morally right actions because these actions are morally right, but she is too weak to follow through with her plans. Instead, she ends up doing wrong due to a weakness of will. The next stage of corruption is impurity. A person with an impure will does not attempt to perform morally right actions just because these actions are morally right. Instead, she performs morally right actions partly because these actions are morally right and partly because of some other incentive, e.g., self-interest. Someone with an impure will perform morally right actions, but only partly for the right reason. Kant believes that this form of defect in the will is worse than frailty even though the frail person does wrong while the impure person does right. Impurity is worse than frailty because an impure person has allowed an incentive other than the moral law to guide her actions while the frail person tries, but fails, to do the right thing for the right reason.

So what do we mean with Good and Evil? According to Psychology Today ‘Good’ means a lack of self-centeredness. It means the ability to empathize with other people, to feel compassion for them, and to put their needs before your own. It means, if necessary, sacrificing your own well-being for the sake of others’. It means benevolence, altruism and selflessness, and self-sacrifice towards a greater cause — all qualities which stem from a sense of empathy. It means being able to see beyond the superficial difference of race, gender, or nationality and relate to a common human essence beneath them. Evil people are those who are unable to empathize with others. As a result, their own needs and desires are of paramount importance. They are selfish, self-absorbed, and narcissistic. In fact, other people only have value for them to the extent that they can help them satisfy their own desires or be exploited. This applies to dictators like Stalin and Hitler, and to serial killers and rapists. They can’t sense other people’s emotions or suffering, can’t see the world from other people’s perspectives, and so have no sense of their rights. Other human beings are just objects to them, which is what makes their brutality and cruelty possible.

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What Is Good And What Is Evil? (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 4, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/what-is-good-and-what-is-evil/
“What Is Good And What Is Evil?” Edubirdie, 18 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/what-is-good-and-what-is-evil/
What Is Good And What Is Evil? [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/what-is-good-and-what-is-evil/> [Accessed 4 Feb. 2023].
What Is Good And What Is Evil? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 18 [cited 2023 Feb 4]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/what-is-good-and-what-is-evil/
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