Re: The nature of evil
- From: ijdavis@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Ian Davis)
- Date: Wed, 17 Feb 2010 02:28:22 +0000 (UTC)
In article <Xns9D21CBA9D4924NoIdentity@xxxxxxxxxxxx>,
jeb <jeb@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
ijdavis@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Ian Davis) wrote in
In article <Xns9D218D0EE6D5ANoIdentity@xxxxxxxxxxxx>,
jeb <jeb@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Peck tried to define the word in a useful fashion, and I
think he did a reasonable job. A vague, subjective, Ian
Davis specific notion of the word "evil" is something
undefined, and therefore for now mostly useless as a means
of communication. At least I wouldn't know how to discuss
it with you.
It might be useless if I were trying to tell you what evil
was, but it is not useless to explore an issue without
apriori having a clear idea as to how the issue will
unfold. I've found that others are capable of telling me
much that I can't find words for myself.
What I wrote wasn't intended as a jab at you. I could have
used my own name rather than yours, and it would have had
similar intent. One of the most spectacularly problematic
words in the English language is "love." Everybody "knows"
what love means, but what they think they know is mostly
vague and private. That caues all sorts of communication
failures that could theoretically be avoided if people were
talking about the same idea when they used the word.
I wasn't in any way offended. I was simply trying to point out
that your take on evil would interest me just as much as my own,
and that I really didn't have an entirely satisfactory concept
of it myself.
The word evil has generally been rejected by the scientifc
community (assuming for the moment psychiatry is science)
because it has been an impossibly vague term with a strong
Kind of like the way time is rejected by some in the physics
community because it is such a subjective concept easily
discussed in terms of how it is percieved, but near impossible
to discuss in terms of what it actually is.
I'm really not sure about that at all. My respect for good
isn't devoid of meaning and I'm not sure "good" exists
except in human minds. So be it. How can the possibility
that good only exists in human minds diminish its value or
It doesn't. I was more concerned with the question of
choosing between good and bad, than in notions of goodness
and badness. I like goodness in others and dislike
badness. But logically why should I be what I like in
others. Why should I choose to be good rather than choose
to be self serving (if self serving stands in opposition to
goodness). Logically, why is the neocon argument wrong, if
good and bad are simply human constructs with no reality in
the objective universe.
I don't know that there are logical answers to those
questions, only human ones. Plato tried to answer some of
them. His reasoning was interesting, but ultimately not as
convincing as that which is intuitively sensed. We act and
choose, not completely out of logic but out of the whole
milieu of our mental and physical makeup. Our wiring seems to
dispose us to some common conclusions about right and wrong
that are transcultural, and not dismissable as mere personal
proclivity. There is some recent evidence (if I understand
what the speaker said correctly) that altruism is an
evolutionary advantange wired into our genes.
Our genes would have us produce babies.. realising the
price of giving in to our genes we invented various forms
of birth control. Some things are hard wired into us but
I think the choice as to behaviour, pretty much choice
rather than hard wiring. Yes I think most have a compass
which tells us right from wrong, and says this way of behaving
desirable -- this way less so, and perhaps we find ourselves
coerced into conforming to the resulting patterns of behaviour.
But we have the freedom to rebel. Why is it not the smartest
who rebel, and the dumbest who do not? How can I defend the
not rebelling to those who do?
The neocons assume humans to be less than what they are. They
assume them to be programmable machines who can be rewired at
their will to accept whatever reality they want to create.
While they are arguably correct about the gullibility of some
humans, they are quite wrong in their simplistic judgment of
both human capability and substance. It's not that I have
that much faith in human nature, but in the long run (past my
lifetime) if we survive as a species, I think the human
spirit and potential will not be so easily managed.
They are the epitome of evil in both Peck's definition and
any I would come up with on my own. It is an effort to
deliberately malform human beings to bend them to their own
Does that encompass cruelty for the sake of cruelty. Of murder
for the sake of profit or pleasure? If I seek to present ideas
here which depart from most peoples am I as consequence
deliberately seeking to malform others.. I've a sense of
layers of an onion skin.. what does one mean by malform?
Perhaps seeking absolute measures for how this universe
unfolds or imagining there is some "best" way in which it
"aught" to unfold is unsupportable, but it is certainly
possible that the universe is a lot more absolute than most
imagine. You are absolutely at only one place in it at any
one time.. you absolutely remember pasts and yet as
absolutely do not remember futures. We are absolutely time
machines moving from cradle to grave, and you absolutely
will experience the best moment of your life and the worst.
The earth has fairly absolutely been going round the sun
since first were both formed. There is an absolute limit to
how far you can see into the night sky, etc. etc.
A few people claim to remember futures and some have lost the
capability to remember pasts. Our ability to perceive may
have some absolute limits, but that limit does not imply that
reality is limited by either our senses or our ability to
conceive or understand it. Assume for the moment, you had no
senses at all. You would be quite hemmed in by your lack of
ability to detect the world, or perhaps even your existence.
You would not be able to conceive of the world that others
could see you existing in, yet to them, with functional sense
organs, you would both exist as part of their world as they
Absolute reality has no obligation to either be
understandable or comprehendable by humans. Much of what we
think we know about reality is based on concepts, and not
direct perception. Our judgments and concepts are rational
within our frame of perception, but they can only be proved
to be consistent, not correct in any absolute sense of the
world. If you had a sense organ that could perceive gravity
rather than light, you would live in world where every body
extended infinitely with only changes in density to mark
position. Your concepts about the world would be quite
different from those you hold now.
Certainly so. But we seem able to make enormous strides in
understanding things we have never seen. All of particle
physics, describes the properties of particles in exquisite
detail and yet we have never actually seen these particles,
we have no idea (as far as I know) of how energy becomes
matter or matter energy, etc. We have all the numbers
but we have no idea why the numbers we have are the
numbers that are (beyond the anthropomorphic principle
that if they were even slightly different we wouldn't
be here to know them).
Perhaps our problem with good and evil is we lack other
sentient races to compare notes with. If all races
pretty much agreed on the outline of what was good and
what was evil, that would be evidence that perhaps the
concepts were more than mere human ones. Even if there
was 100% contradiction so that our good was anothers
evil, and v.v. that too would be interesting. So: would
you expect another sentient species to also share similar
concepts about good and evil and struggle with much the
same philosophical questions about the nature of good
Physicis is how human beings perceive and conceptualize the
world. We can judge the model's consistency, but most
physicists will acknowledge that they don't know if their
models describe reality or not. Its the best we human beings
probably can do.
Certainly true. But a model such as the standard model with
its enormous power of predicting accurately is unlikely to
be that wrong. Consider the missing neutrino problem.
Originally believing that the suns core had certain properties
physicists made ball-park estimates of the number of neutino's
emitted per second, and from this the number they expected to
actually detect per second. They however saw only about 1/3
the predicted electron neutrinos. This discrepancy bugged
people for many years, until it was proposed that electron
neutrino's produced by the sun might change into mu and tau
neutrino's in transit to earth. When they started experiments
that detected all three flavours of neutrino, the discrepancy
vanished and they saw the predicted number of neutrinos,
suggesting that they understood the physics of the suns
core, the ways to detect neutrino's, and now also understood
that neutrino's have potential to change their weight in
transit to one of three weights, as consequence of interaction
with other matter. It would be enormously hard to throw away
all we now know as being wrong, and starting from scratch
invent entirely independent explanations for life the universe
and everything. So hard in fact that our explanations are
probably close to factual.
Does it not trouble you that all you do will amount to
nothing more than a butterfly's wing beating, far enough
into the future. Do you imagine you will change the world
one good deed at a time or is it simply if all you do ends
up being pointless you'd rather be chooser of the pointless
things you do.
I run that risk that what good I attempt to do may be
pointless, and be nothing more than a butterfly's wing
beating. The universe might be pointless. But even if that's
the case, why not be good rather than evil?
I see a symmetry between your question and mine.. for mine
is "why be good rather than evil?" Are these the same
question or opposite questions?
But I don't think it's probably pointless, though it's only
an intuition, not something provable in any material or
logical way. When I choose to do good for myself or others,
then at least I act in accordance with highest and best
potential I have. It may very well do good in a way that
transcends my personal existence. So I choose to act in a
manner that at least has potential for adding good to the
world and the life of others. And that choice has been
convincingly more satisfactory and meaningful than the
existential anxiety of trying to aggrandize myself by what I
can acquire and possess.
You and I start from the same intuition. It is because I
don't think the universe probably pointless, that I seek
to find why it is not, or why it might be at least imagined
to not be pointless.
It doesn't seem pointless to me for while it exists which is
a very long time indeed, I think all done is not as we imagine
it relegated to the dustbin of history, but eternally part of
the very fabric of this universe -- as much a reality within
the 4 dimensional space-time manifold as the present moment.
Your arguments are very close to my own, but you say we do
good to create good futures -- I say we do good to leave
good pasts behind us. The good you do isn't good if it
doesn't create some desired good future. The good I do
is free from this restriction. Your good gets erased
by history .. mine eternally part of history.
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