On evil

Everyone is talking about evil now. There are wars and rumors of wars. As is usual in wars, humans are being butchered. It’s a digital age, and video of some of the butchery makes its way to your feed. Can’t you see the evil that lies in the heart of these people?

No, actually, you can’t. What is evil? Classically it’s a privation of a good that ought to be there, but this is thin gruel in such a barbaric age as ours. Let me try a different approach. Evil is a sense that there is something wrong, that it shouldn’t have happened that way, whatever it is.

But this is magical thinking. If you, as all right-thinking people are today, are a secular and scientific person, evil is inaccessible to you. You might as well say that the lion that eats the antelope is evil, or that the mold grows on your bread is evil, or that an earthquake is evil. These are not evils, they are just the way things are. Similarly, hearing about beheaded babies isn’t evil, it’s just the way things are in a war. The human animal goes to war in the same way that the lion eats the antelope or forcibly mates with the lioness.

But, you say, there is evil! You just know it!

There is a way for evil to make sense as a concept. It’s if the world as it is really isn’t the way it should be. In other words, the world has fallen from a primordial good state. If this is the case, we can say that something is evil, in that it is far from the good state.

Evil is either a religious concept, or it is nothing at all.

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