Are you a good person? I’ve asked this before in a previous post, where if you were to ask the average person on the street whether they believed they were good or not, the safe odds are usually that they believe that they are. As I’ve said before, most people don’t go through life trying to be inherently bad.
But what about evil? The word is thrown around a lot, usually by people who have had some wrong inflicted on them by someone else, but can a person genuinely and truly be evil? The Oxford Dictionary defines evil as “profoundly immoral and wicked”, with other sources citing the term “evil” with colourful adjectives such as “wicked”, “disastrous”, “harmful” and “injurious”. My favourite is the term “imputed bad conduct”. The point is that all of it is meant to refer to people.
First and foremost, I wouldn’t be the researcher and eternal student of life that I am if I didn’t take a moment to try and put a defined explanation on evil from someone else’s perspective than my own. According to an article posted by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Evil in the broad sense has been divided into two categories: natural evil and moral evil. Natural evils are bad states of affairs which do not result from the intentions or negligence of moral agents. Hurricanes and toothaches are examples of natural evils. By contrast, moral evils do result from the intentions or negligence of moral agents. Murder and lying are examples of moral evils.”
I like this explanation, because it shows that bad things can often happen without the necessarily bad intentions of people, or of people BEING bad. The article was actually quite an interesting read and goes into deeper detail. Here it is, if you want to give it a read: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/concept-evil/
If you were to search your thoughts for a moment, I’m sure that we could all conjure up the name of a person or persons that we consider to be evil. Dictators, murderers, terrorists, that lady who lets her poodle crap on my lawn every morning… Plenty of examples would fit the bill. But is it possible that BEING evil isn’t actually a thing?
I’ve spent most of my life studying and believing that the universe as a whole contains a balance. Newton’s Third Law is a good example of this, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Although this is primarily meant to refer to motion and physics, I believe it very much applies to every thing in general. Because Newton’s Third Law sounds suspiciously a lot like some aspects of karma.
The universe always tries to find a balance; light and dark, hot and cold, black and white, matter and anti-matter… Depending on your school of thought, there are plenty of other examples you can find. But I provide these examples because for the most part, one is an absence of the other. For example, darkness isn’t a thing. It’s simply the absence of light. Cold isn’t a thing, it’s simply the absence of heat and so on and so forth.
So with that line of thinking in mind, is it possible that evil is not a thing but simply the absence of good? This would have some pretty deep implications as the concept applies to people, as it would mean that a person simply lacks the goodness necessary to fit the standard as opposed to necessarily being evil themselves.
I don’t think that this moral definition will ever be changed, as it is the nature of people to consider anyone who does something intentionally bad to be categorized as evil. But sometimes we need to consider the perspective. I can almost promise you that for the most part, both sides of a violent conflict likely believes themselves to be right and the other side is evil. As Winston Churchill said, “History is written by the victors.” ☯