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What's Wrong With "Evil"?

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  • Christopher Bobo
    ... founded upon this premise. I don t object to America s economic, military and cultural dominance but I do object to Bush s assertion that terrorists are
    Message 1 of 7 , Feb 6, 2002
      Tommy said:
      >>My attacks on the nonsense coming out of Bush's America are precisely
      founded upon this premise. I don't object to America's economic,
      military and cultural dominance but I do object to Bush's assertion
      that "terrorists are evil" as that would imply that he and his
      henchmen are party to a universal perspective. Which from my
      admittedly limited perspective it is quite clear that they are not.<<

      Tommy has oftened deplored Bush's use of the word "evil" to describe the terrorists responsible for the events of 9/11. In Tommy's view, to describe people as "evil" de-legitimizes their point of view, and for that reason it is wrong.

      Yet "evil" is a legimate word in the English language. The Encarta Dictionary defines it as meaning: e·vil [v'l ] adjective 1. morally bad: profoundly immoral or wrong;

      2. harmful: deliberately causing great harm, pain, or upset This evil act is clearly the work of terrorists.; 3. devilish: connected with the Devil or other powerful destructive forces evil spirits ; 4. causing misfortune: characterized by, bringing, or signifying bad luck an evil omen ; 5. malicious: characterized by a desire to cause hurt or harm an evil mood;
      6. disagreeable: very unpleasant What an evil smell!

      All of these various meanings seem to be perfectly apt descriptions for the perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And what's more, their point of view is utterly illegitimate. So I find no bases for faulting President Bush for his word choice. Indeed, he should be commended for the accuracy of his description. Terrorists, like any other mass-murderers, are evil. And one need not claim to occupy a "universal perspective" to see that something is evil, one need only understand the meaning of ordinary English words.

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Tommy Beavitt
      Sent: Tuesday, February 05, 2002 3:10 AM
      To: Sartre@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [Sartre] THE EXISTENTIAL NEWS - Vol. 1, #1

      At 1:53 pm -0800 3/2/02, Lewis Vella wrote:
      >But unlike what Tommy
      >Beavitt at [Sartre@yahoogroups] suggested on Jan 29, I
      >don't see these stages to be understood as some kind
      >of chronological order of initiation to suit
      >conveniently man's earthly purposes. In fact, in the
      >higher stages I don't think time is even relevant. And
      >should the Eastern idea of reincarnation lend us some
      >creedence, then it is also possible that some souls do
      >not experience all the stages in a single lifetime,
      >that death is not necessarily trancendence, but maybe
      >merely transference. Also, I find Beavitt's idea of
      >transcendence, as something more appropriate for the
      >dead to contemplate, to be a very anthropomorphic view
      >of the divine, a view that gives itself over better to
      >the idea of good and evil and monotheism, rather that
      >a timeless, all-consuming, pantheistic consciousness
      >encapsulating all within and without.

      Hello Lewis, and thanks for your interesting post.

      I am interested in your disagreement with my interpretation of
      Kierkegaard's idea of stages. You say that you "don't see these
      stages to be understood as some kind of chronological order of
      initiation to suit conveniently man's earthly purposes" but I am
      wondering how you can know in the philosophical sense what other
      context they can be understood in? It has always been my contention
      that by deconstructing and analysing the different perspectives
      offered by people including oneself one can tend towards an
      appreciation of the existence of what might be termed a universal
      perspective. I am guessing that we would both tend to think of God in
      terms of a universal perspective.

      What excites me about Sartre's ideas of what existentialism means is
      that it gives me a handle on this problem. Because I am a human, that
      is always going to be my perspective. No matter how much I
      deconstruct my own perspective both on myself and on "external"
      reality I will always be stuck with my perceptual and sensory
      apparatus which will necessarily colour what I see.

      I believe that what we refer to as wisdom is what comes gradually as
      we get to know ourselves. Paradoxically, the further we go into the
      project of knowing ourselves the less it becomes apparent there
      actually is to know. I do find some agreement in your ideas and mine
      as I think that "getting to know the divine" will become increasingly
      less coloured by my undoubted "anthropomorphism" as I become
      increasingly aware of how little there is to get to know about
      myself. How I rationalise death is that it is the point at which
      there is nothing more of myself to get to know, I have entirely
      deconstructed my own perspective, therefore there is no difference
      between me and the universe. Death may be transference but not of
      what I am refering to as "me". In what you refer to as the "higher"
      stages I agree that time becomes irrelevant. Equally, it is obvious
      that neither you nor I are at such a higher stage yet.

      I don't therefore entirely disagree with your conception of a
      "timeless, all-consuming, pantheistic consciousness encapsulating all
      within and without" but I doubt that you are able to escape the
      limitations of your perceptual apparatus any more than I can. I
      entirely agree with you that my idea of transcendence is "more
      appropriate for the dead to contemplate": the trouble is that the
      dead will not be of much use to the ideas advanced within this
      philosphical forum for the simple reason that they do not have a
      voice.

      It may be though that by accustoming ourselves to the limitations
      currently inherent in our ability to attain to an universal
      perspective we will at least learn to place such a caveat before any
      announcements or actions that might erroneously indicate to others a
      belief that we are already party to such an universal view.

      My attacks on the nonsense coming out of Bush's America are precisely
      founded upon this premise. I don't object to America's economic,
      military and cultural dominance but I do object to Bush's assertion
      that "terrorists are evil" as that would imply that he and his
      henchmen are party to a universal perspective. Which from my
      admittedly limited perspective it is quite clear that they are not.

      regards

      Tommy


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Tommy Beavitt
      ... Chris, What you say makes a lot of sense. It is true that, by the definition you quote from the Encarta Dictionary, terrorists (and in particular, those
      Message 2 of 7 , Feb 7, 2002
        At 11:11 am -0800 6/2/02, Christopher Bobo wrote:
        >Yet "evil" is a legimate word in the English language. The Encarta
        >Dictionary defines it as meaning: e·vil [v'l ] adjective 1.
        >morally bad: profoundly immoral or wrong;
        >
        >2. harmful: deliberately causing great harm, pain, or upset This
        >evil act is clearly the work of terrorists.; 3. devilish:
        >connected with the Devil or other powerful destructive forces evil
        >spirits ; 4. causing misfortune: characterized by, bringing, or
        >signifying bad luck an evil omen ; 5. malicious: characterized by
        >a desire to cause hurt or harm an evil mood;
        >6. disagreeable: very unpleasant What an evil smell!

        Chris,

        What you say makes a lot of sense. It is true that, by the definition
        you quote from the Encarta Dictionary, terrorists (and in particular,
        those who were responsible for 9/11) are evil. Moreover, my Chambers
        English Dictionary (which I actually prefer to the Oxford, even
        though the Oxford is generally considered to be the most
        authoritative source of "standard", "queen's" english) almost
        completely agrees, defining evil as "that which produces unhappiness
        or calamity".

        The difficulty comes in deciding what has actually *produced* the
        unhappiness (ie. the prima causae, if we subscribe to causality,
        which presumably we must in order to settle on the agent responsible,
        whom we are defining as "evil".) It is here that the question of
        perspective comes into play.

        From an European perspective, the primary cause of 11/9 might seem to
        be composed of factors including: religious fanaticism, American
        arrogance/unilateralism/exceptionalism, western economic exploitation
        in general, the lack of democracy in middle eastern countries partly
        itself caused by geopolitics involving oil extraction, a
        post-imperial power vacuum, Zionism, etc. So it is simplistic and, in
        this case, damaging to pick one from the bunch and settle on it as
        being the one sole cause.

        I can see why your arguments tend to drift in this direction. You
        are, after all, a professional attorney. It has to be possible to
        determine prima causae for your work to have any meaning. When a
        court pronounces an accused to be guilty then the corporate reality,
        to which we all subscribe to a greater or lesser extent in order to
        be considered sane, immediately colludes in the judgement and desists
        from questioning it. The mechanics by which this happens is called
        "due process". It is probably our best attempt at justice in this
        temporal realm.

        The land within which a judgement can be enforced on pain of contempt
        charges is called a jurisdiction. When we inhabit a jurisdiction we
        quickly become aware of its parameters. We all collude in it because
        we can see that it is our best bet, even to the extent of ourselves
        accepting a guilty verdict and serving time as sentenced. Many
        criminals even express contrition for the crimes of which they have
        been convicted and by this means tend to be rehabilitated back to
        within the relative freedom of the corporate or consensus reality
        more quickly. It may even be that they are being 'sincere' in this;
        or, as sincere as it will ever be possible for them to be.

        To this extent you and I no doubt agree.

        Where disagreement remains is where we might find the parameters of
        this "jurisdiction" you and I both find ourselves in with regard to
        the definition of the word, "evil".

        Even this caveat is only good for a strictly legalistic
        interpretation of the word, which seeks by "due process" to establish
        prima causae. When it comes to morality or justice, it will be even
        harder to find common ground.

        This is why I would much prefer the leaders of a country to whom my
        country is allied to desist from using such a word while at the same
        time steadfastly rejecting, via unilateralism and exceptionalism,
        possible discussion of the context or jurisdiction within which the
        word may be held to have valid meaning.

        If, on the other hand, we are talking about "might is right" then let
        us not beat about the bush (if you will pardon the pun)

        If coming right out with "might is right" seems to entail burning the
        final bridges of diplomacy then I suggest that continued use of the
        word "evil" to describe Uncle Sam's erswhile enemies is also
        profoundly undiplomatic, and that the interests of civilisation would
        be better served by dropping it forthwith.

        best wishes

        Tommy Beavitt
      • Claude Caspar
        Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Evil Evil is serious unjustified harm inflicted on sentient beings. Two types of evil can be distinguished: ’natural
        Message 3 of 7 , Feb 7, 2002
          Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

          Evil

          Evil is serious unjustified harm inflicted on sentient beings. Two types of
          evil can be distinguished: ’natural evil’, which is the product of nonhuman
          agency, and

          ’moral evil’, which is the product of human agency. Moral thinking tends to
          focus on moral evil, and three main interpretations of it have been made.
          One, initiated

          by Socrates, holds moral evil to be deviation from the good; another,
          favoured by Stoic-Spinozists, views it as illusory; the third, made
          originally by Leibniz, sees it

          as a contrast necessary for the existence of the good. A realistic account
          must face the fact that moral evil does exist, and much of it is due to
          common human vices,

          which coexist with virtues in human character. It is primarily the
          proportion of the mixture, not the knowledge and intentions of agents, that
          determines how much

          evil will be caused by specific individuals in specific contexts.

          1 The nature of evil

          Evil is the most severe condemnation our moral vocabulary allows. Murder,
          torture, enslavement and prolonged humiliation are some examples of it. Evil
          must involve

          harm, and it must be serious enough to damage its victims’ capacity to
          function normally (see Suffering). Furthermore, the harm must be
          unjustified, since not even

          serious harm is in itself necessarily evil, as it may be just punishment for
          crimes committed or the only means of preventing even greater harm (see
          Crime and punishment

          §2). What harm is justified is one of the fundamental questions of moral
          philosophy. The competing answers to it, however, share the key idea of a
          moral equilibrium. In

          general terms, harms that tend to maintain the moral equilibrium are
          justified, while those that tend to produce a disequilibrium are
          unjustified. The generality of this

          explanation allows for disagreements about what count specifically as harms,
          and about how the moral equilibrium can be best maintained.

          Evil may be the product of human or nonhuman agency. Inclement weather that
          causes crop failure and widespread starvation is an example of the latter,
          and it is usually

          described as natural evil. Evil caused by human beings, such as torturing an
          innocent person, is moral. This traditional distinction between natural and
          moral evil is

          useful, but it should not be drawn too sharply because human beings may be
          natural agents, as carriers of a disease, for instance, and evil caused by
          natural agency may

          warrant moral opprobrium, if it was preventable and those responsible for
          doing so failed. Moral thinking nevertheless tends to focus on moral evil,
          since it is much

          more likely to be within human control than natural evil.

          The primary subjects to which moral evil (simply ‘evil’ from now on) may be
          ascribed are human actions. Intentions, agents, and institutions may also be
          evil, but only

          in a derivative sense. For intentions are evil if they lead to evil actions;
          agents are evil if the preponderance of their actions are evil; and
          institutions are evil if they regularly

          prompt agents representing them to perform evil actions. In its primary
          sense, therefore, evil is connected essentially with causing serious
          unjustified harm to sentient

          beings, and since the means by which this is done are human actions, an
          account of evil should begin by concentrating on them.

          It is clear that evil actions are widespread, and that they are responsible
          for much suffering. The obvious explanation of this fact is that human
          beings are motivated by

          greed, cruelty, envy, rage, hatred, and so forth, and evil actions are the
          manifestations of these vices. But this is unilluminating, unless it is
          combined with an explanation

          of why human beings possess and act on vices. To attribute vices to choice
          is a poor explanation, since many vices are the unchosen consequences of
          genetic

          predispositions and corrupting circumstances, and even if vices are the
          results of choices, the question of why vices rather than virtues are chosen
          remains (see Virtues

          and vices §4).

          2 Evil as deviation from the good

          The philosophically most influential explanation of evil is embedded in the
          Socratic view that no one does evil knowingly (see Socrates §6). The thought
          behind the

          apparently obvious falsehood of this claim is that human agents are normally
          guided in their actions by what seems to be good to them. The explanation of
          evil actions

          must therefore be either that the agents are ignorant of the good, and
          perform evil actions in the mistaken belief that they are good, or, while
          they know what the good is,

          they do evil unintentionally, through accident, coercion, or some incapacity
          (see Moral knowledge §1; Akrasia). The remedy for evil, consequently, is
          moral education

          that imparts genuine knowledge of the good and strengthens the intention to
          act on it.

          This Socratic view, however, is driven to rely on a metaphysical assumption
          about the nature of reality and its effect on human aspirations. For, since
          human experience

          of the world testifies that thorough knowledge of the good and good
          intentions are compatible with evil actions, it must be supposed that human
          experiences disclose

          only appearances, not reality. The metaphysical assumption that needs to be
          made, therefore, is: first, that beyond human experiences of the world that
          appears to

          contain chaos and evil, there is a suprasensible true reality, in which a
          moral order prevails; and second, that good lives for human beings depend on
          learning to live in

          conformity to this order, rather than being led astray by deceptive
          appearances. Plato’s Socrates explains evil, therefore, as a deviation from
          the good due to a human

          defect in cognition or intention that leads to mistaking appearance for
          reality.

          This metaphysical assumption and the explanation of evil implied by it has
          passed from Greek thought to Christian theology chiefly through the works of
          Augustine and

          Aquinas. Christianity attributes to an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good
          God the creation of the moral order that permeates reality, and it explains
          the prevalence of evil

          by the corrupting influence of original sin, which leads human beings to
          choose evil over the good, and thereby wilfully or weakly pit themselves
          against God’s moral

          order (see Sin §2). Although Christian thinking about evil has dominated
          Western thought between the Greeks’ time and ours, it nevertheless must be
          seen, if we ignore

          some twists and turns of theological sophistication, as a particular
          adaptation and elaboration of the metaphysical assumption and explanation of
          evil first advanced by

          Plato’s Socrates.

          This metaphysical assumption, however, cannot be reasonably maintained in
          the light of well-known objections, which can only be stated here without
          elaboration. First,

          any evidence that may be cited in favour of the supposed existence of a
          moral order in a supposed suprasensible reality beyond the world as it
          appears to normal human

          observers must be derived from the world as it appears to normal human
          observers, since, as a matter of logic, there is no other possible source of
          evidence. The

          evidence derived from appearances, however, cannot reasonably be taken to
          point to any suprasensible order in reality because the most such evidence
          can imply is that

          human knowledge of the world as it appears is limited and fallible. It is
          logically impossible for evidence to support inferences about what may lie
          beyond all possible

          evidence. Second, if, undeterred by this logical obstacle, defenders of the
          metaphysical assumption pursue their speculations about the implications of
          the evidence, they

          must recognize that evidentially unsupported implications can be derived
          both in favour of and against their assumption. If the existence of a moral
          order in suprasensible

          reality is inferred from observed instances of apparent goodness, then the
          existence of an evil order in suprasensible reality must be analogously
          inferrable from observed

          instances of evil. There is, consequently, no more reason to think of evil
          as deviation from the good than there is to think of the good as deviation
          from evil. Third, even

          if it is assumed for the sake of argument that the metaphysical assumption
          is defensible, it accounts only for moral evil, caused by human failure, and
          not for natural evil,

          whose occurrence cannot be attributed to human agency.

          3 Evil as illusory

          TThe Stoic-Spinozistic view attempts to avoid these objections by denying
          the reality of evil. It acknowledges that evil appears to exist, but its
          appearance is said to be an

          illusion to which human beings succumb through misdirected desires (see
          Spinoza 1677). Such desires cannot be satisfied because they are contrary to
          the moral order

          of reality, which need not be supposed to be suprasensible. If the
          misdirection of these desires is recognized, then the unavoidable experience
          of frustration they cause

          will be seen as emotional detritus that has been misidentified as evil. The
          advantage of the Stoic-Spinozistic view is that if evil were indeed illusory
          rather than real, then

          the objection to the Socratic view that it is incapable of explaining the
          reality of evil would be met (see Spinoza, B. de §10; Stoicism §19).

          The Stoic-Spinozistic view is undoubtedly right in that what appears to be
          evil may not be and that greater self-knowledge and self-control make it
          possible to avoid

          much unnecessary suffering caused by mistaking for evil the frustration of
          misdirected desires. This view, however, is advanced not merely as a
          proposal for alleviating

          some instances of evil, but as an explanation of all evil. And as such, it
          is a failure for several reasons.

          First, it cannot reasonably be held that all desires are misdirected, for
          human nature requires having and satisfying some desires. Rightly directed
          desires, however, are

          often frustrated, their frustration often results in serious unjustified
          harm, and that is real evil which cannot be alleviated by growth in
          self-knowledge and self-control.

          Second, the distinction between real and illusory evil rests on moral
          beliefs, which may be true or false. This view is committed to holding that
          beliefs about the

          occurrence of evil are always false. For if some were true, not all evil
          could be illusory. If, on the other hand, beliefs about the occurrence of
          evil were always false, then

          the belief that torturing innocent people is evil, for instance, would also
          be false. It is, however, a precondition of morality, and indeed of
          civilized life, that such basic

          moral beliefs are regarded as true. The view that all evil is illusory,
          therefore, is incompatible with human nature, morality, and civilized life.

          4 Evil as a contrast necessary for the good

          Another attempt to account for evil is the Leibnizian view that recognizes
          its reality, but argues that the evil that exists is the minimum necessary
          for the existence of the

          good, which far outweighs the amount of evil there is (see Leibniz 1710).
          Evil is thus seen as the cost of the great benefits the good provides (see
          Leibniz, G.W. §3).

          The assumption behind this view is that the good could exist only in
          contrast with evil. But whatever is true of phenomena requiring contrasting
          aspects, it is not true of

          good and evil. It is absurd to suppose that there can be kindness only if
          there is cruelty, or freedom only if there is tyranny. Defenders of this
          view therefore tend

          towards an epistemological sense of the contrast: evil is said to be
          required so that the good could be appreciated as good. The difficulty with
          this is that even if a

          contrast were necessary for appreciation, drawing it would not require the
          existence of evil. The good could be properly appreciated even in contrast
          with imaginative

          depictions of evil. It is, for instance, unnecessary to have people actually
          drawn and quartered in order to maintain a lively appreciation of one’s good
          health. Nor is it

          required for the appreciation of the good that it be contrasted with evil,
          since the neutral or the indifferent would serve as a contrast just as well.
          People’s dying in their

          sleep, without being tortured to death, is sufficient to enhance one’s
          appreciation of the good of being alive.

          5 Facing evil

          It will perhaps be apparent that the various attempts to account for evil
          are not among the highest achievements of Western philosophy. All the
          surveyed accounts begin

          with the assumption that the good is primary and then vainly struggle to
          explain the prevalence of evil. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the
          history of this subject is

          riddled with bad arguments and sentimentalism. A reasonable account of evil
          must acknowledge the reality and prevalence of evil. It must recognize that
          much evil that

          prevents the wellbeing of humanity is caused by human beings who are not
          moral monsters but ordinary people going about their ordinary lives. The
          character of such

          people includes virtues and vices, and a struggle between them (seeVirtues
          and vices §5). Depending on the hardships they face, the traditions and
          institutions that guide

          their conduct, and their capacity, opportunity, and motivation for moral
          reflection, sometimes their virtues and sometimes their vices prevail. Human
          nature is mixed; it is

          neither simply good, nor simply evil. It is primarily the proportion of the
          mixture, not the knowledge and intentions of agents, that determines how
          much evil will be

          caused by specific individuals in specific contexts. The search for a
          metaphysical explanation for this banal fact is a diversion from the morally
          necessary task of

          decreasing evil by improving the conditions and character of individual
          moral agents.

          JOHN KEKES

          AND

          Evil, problem of

          In this context, ‘evil’ is given the widest possible scope to signify all of
          life’s minuses. Within this range, philosophers and theologians distinguish
          ‘moral evils’ such

          as war, betrayal and cruelty from ‘natural evils’ such as earthquakes,
          floods and disease. Usually the inescapability of death is numbered among
          the greatest

          natural evils. The existence of broad-sense evils is obvious and spawns a
          variety of problems, most prominently the practical one of how to cope with
          life and the

          existential one of what sort of meaning human life can have.

          Philosophical discussion has focused on two theoretical difficulties posed
          for biblical theism. First, does the existence of evils show biblical theism
          to be logically

          inconsistent? Is it logically possible for an omnipotent, omniscient and
          perfectly good God to create a world containing evil? One classical response
          to this,

          following Leibniz, is to argue that such a God would create the best of all
          possible worlds, but that such a world may contain evil as an indispensable
          element.

          Alternatively, evil may be an unavoidable consequence of the boon of free
          will, or it may be part of a divine plan to ensure that all souls attain
          perfection.

          The second difficulty for biblical theism is, even if we grant logical
          consistency, does evil (in the form, for instance, of apparently pointless
          suffering) nevertheless

          count as evidence against the existence of the Bible’s God? One frequent
          theistic response here is to argue that the apparent pointlessness of evil
          may be merely a

          result of our limited cognitive powers; things would appear the same to us
          whether or not there were a point, so it is not legitimate to argue from the
          evidence.

          1 Problems of evil

          The so-called ‘logical’ problem of evil rests on the contention that the
          following two claims of biblical theism:

          (I) God exists, and is essentially omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly
          good; and

          (II) evil exists,

          combine with the following plausible attribute analyses:

          (P1) a perfectly good being would always eliminate evil so far as it could;

          (P2) an omniscient being would know all about evils; and

          (P3) there are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do,

          to form an inconsistent quintet, so that the conjunction of any four entails
          the denial of the fifth; most notably the conjunction of (P1)-(P3) with
          either of (I) or (II) entails

          that the other is false.

          Such an argument can be taken aporetically, as a challenge to propose more
          subtle alternatives to (P1)-(P3), but it has usually (in analytical
          philosophy of religion since

          the 1950s) been advanced ‘atheologically’ as an argument against the
          existence of God (see Atheism §4; Natural theology §5). Likewise important
          is the distinction

          between the abstract problem, which takes ‘evil’ in (II) to refer generally
          to some evil or other (say the pain of a single hangnail), and the concrete
          problem, which

          construes (II) as shorthand for the existence of evils in the amounts and of
          the kinds and with the distribution found in the actual world. While the
          abstract problem

          raises a question of conceptual interest, it is the concrete version that
          gives the issue its bite.

          Bold responses deny (P3), maintaining variously that God cannot overcome
          certain natural necessities (like Plato’s Demiurge), that he cannot conquer
          his evil twin (as in

          Manichean dualism), or even that he lacks the power to compel at all (see
          Process theism §2). Some reject (P2), observing that many evils arise from
          free choice, while

          future contingents are in principle unknowable (see Omniscience §4). (P1) is
          the most obviously vulnerable because it is contrary to the common intuition
          that ignorance

          and weakness excuse, and is best replaced with:

          (P4) it is logically impossible for an omniscient, omnipotent being to have
          a reason compatible with perfect goodness for permitting (bringing about)
          evils.

          Rebuttals seek to counterexemplify (P4) by identifying logically possible
          reasons available even to an omniscient, omnipotent God.

          2 Logically necessary connections with greater goods

          Since omnipotence is not bound by causally necessary connections, it is
          natural to look for reasons among the logically necessary connections of
          evils with greater

          goods. Because the piecemeal approach of correlating distinctive sorts of
          good with different kinds of evil (for example, courage with danger,
          forgiveness with injury)

          threatens to be endless, it seems advantageous to identify a single
          comprehensive good that logically integrates all ills. One promising
          strategy takes its inspiration from

          Leibniz and develops his ‘best of all possible worlds’ (‘BPW’) theodicy in
          terms of contemporary possible-worlds semantics (see Leibniz, G.W. §3; Modal
          logic,

          philosophical issues in §1). If a possible world is a maximal consistent
          state of affairs, each of infinitely many constitutive details is essential
          to the possible world of

          which it is a part. Assuming (P5) that possible worlds as wholes have values
          (P6) that can be ranked relative to one another and (P7) that the value
          scale has a maximum

          (P8) occupied by one and only one world, one can interpret divine creation
          in terms of actualizing a possible world and reason (P9) that necessarily an
          essentially

          omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good God would actualize the best.
          Given the further controversial claim that:

          (P10) the BPW contains instances of evil as logically indispensable
          components,

          it follows that the desire to create the BPW is a reason compossible with
          perfect goodness for God not to prevent or eliminate all instances of evil.

          (P10) contradicts our prima facie intuition that the BPW should be
          homogeneously good. Defenders of BPW approaches (see Chisholm 1968)
          distinguish two ways in

          which value-parts may be related to value-wholes. The one presupposed by the
          critics is simply additive: negatively and positively valued parts simply
          ‘balance off’ one

          another and the inclusion of any ‘minuses’ inevitably lowers the value
          total. By contrast, parts may be integrated into wholes by relations of
          organic unity, in such a way

          that the positive value of the whole may defeat the negative value of the
          part (for example, the way the beauty of Monet’s design defeats the ugliness
          of some colour

          patches). (P10) envisages the defeat of evil within the context of the
          possible world as a whole.

          Leibniz thought he could prove the necessity of (P10) on the basis of his a
          priori arguments for the necessity of (I) and (P9); he believed that (P10)
          followed from the

          fact that God had actualized this world. Yet (P10) seems to fall into that
          class of propositions that are logically possible if and only if logically
          necessary. Those who

          recognize no sound demonstrations of (I) are left to claim that (P10) is
          epistemically possible. Since the atheologian is in the same epistemic
          predicament with respect to

          (P10), this epistemic defence would be sufficient ceteris paribus to
          discharge the burden of proof imposed on the theist by the argument from
          evil.

          This BPW approach makes several other debatable value-theory assumptions.
          Augustine’s notion (contra P8) that many alternative worlds have maximum
          value imposes

          no damage. Aquinas’ insistence (contra P7) that for every collection of
          creatures there is a better one would not be crippling if every possible
          world above a certain

          value-level included evil. The rejection of (P5) and (P6), however, would be
          fatal for BPW approaches. Some question whether our comparative evaluations
          of

          small-scale states of affairs (for example, Jones’ enjoying a symphony as
          better than his experiencing excruciating pain) is good evidence that the
          values of maximal

          states of affairs form a hierarchy. More fundamentally, some have argued
          (contra P5) that states of affairs are not intrinsically good or bad,
          although they can be good or

          bad for certain persons or projects and can ground different moral
          evaluations by particular agents. Anti-consequentialists in ethics also
          challenge whether (P9) follows

          from (P5)-(P8) (see Consequentialism). Deontologists would let justice to
          individuals trump putative increases in the value of states of affairs (see
          Deontological ethics).

          Could creating the BPW be a reason compossible with perfect goodness for
          permitting suffering and degradation for the relatively innocent? Even if
          such

          value-maximizing were compatible with perfect goodness, it is not obviously
          required. For example, divine goodness is often interpreted as grace, a
          disposition to show

          favour independently of merit.

          Finally, this modified Leibnizian approach entails divine determinism,
          because in choosing which of infinitely many fully determinate possible
          worlds to actualize, God is

          deciding on each and every detail. Some find this theologically
          objectionable, either because it seems incongruous for God to hold created
          persons responsible to

          himself for actions he determined, or because it fails to put enough
          distance between evil and divine aims.

          3 Free-will defences

          The last-mentioned worries are well accommodated by the other main
          traditional theme - that (some or all) evil originates in the wrong or evil
          choices of free creatures.

          Free-will approaches contend that:

          (A1) created free will is a very great good, whether intrinsically or as a
          necessary means to God’s central purposes in creation;

          (A2) God cannot fulfil his purposes for and with free creatures without
          accepting the possibility that some will misuse their freedom, thereby
          introducing evil into the

          world.

          In classical developments of this defence, (A1) is supposed to be a reason
          compossible with perfect goodness for making free creatures, while (A2) is
          compatible with

          the claim that evil is not necessary to the perfection of the universe or
          any other divine purpose. Some or all evil is not something God causes or
          does, but something he

          allows, a (perhaps) known but unintended side effect of his aims. The
          introduction of evil into the world is explained by the doctrine of ‘the
          Fall’, according to which

          God made angelic and human free agents in naturally optimal condition and
          placed them in utopian environments. God wanted them freely to choose what
          is right or

          good, but some angels and the primordial humans Adam and Eve chose what is
          wrong, thereby actualizing the possibility of evil.

          Contemporary attention (beginning with Plantinga) has turned away from
          free-will defences based on the principles of double effect and
          doing-allowing - the principle

          that agents are not as responsible for the known but unintended side effects
          of their actions as they are for their chosen means and ends; that they are
          not as responsible

          for what they allow as for what they do - to others that reconnect with
          possible-worlds semantics (see Double effect, principle of). Once again, God
          creates by

          actualizing a possible world, but freedom is now taken to be incompatible
          with determinism, with the consequence that God and free creatures
          collaborate in determining

          which possible world becomes actual. Created freedom does not so much
          ‘distance’ God from evils as limit which worlds God can create. As with BPW
          approaches,

          God evaluates possible worlds as to their global features - (P5) and (P6)
          are assumed true, although not necessarily (P7) and (P8) - but this time he
          evaluates those that

          are a function of created incompatibilist-free choice: for example, a very
          good world with the optimal balance of created moral goodness over moral
          evil.

          In defence of (A2), both classical and possible-worlds approaches appeal
          first to the notion that not even God can cause someone else’s
          incompatibilist-free choices.

          To the objection that God should use his foreknowledge to actualize only
          incompatibilist-free creatures who will never sin, free-will defenders reply
          that such

          foreknowledge is not prior in the order of explanation to God’s decision to
          create. To the suggestion that God should use his middle knowledge of what
          free creatures

          would do in particular circumstances, some (notably Plantinga 1974) grant
          that such counterfactuals of freedom can be true, but argue that it is
          logically possible that all

          incompatibilist-free creatures be ‘transworld depraved’ - that is, that no
          matter which combinations of individuals and circumstances God actualized,
          each would go

          wrong at least once - and logically possible that any world containing as
          much moral goodness as the actual world would also include at least as much
          moral evil as the

          actual world contains. Thus, it is logically possible that God could not
          create a world with a better balance of moral good over moral evil - which
          would be a reason

          compossible with perfect goodness for his not doing so.

          This ingenious argument is controverted both by those who agree and those
          who deny that counterfactuals of freedom can be true. Among the former,
          Suárez (§1)

          defends middle knowledge but arguably finds transworld depravity impossible
          because of God’s necessary resourcefulness, which he takes to have the
          following

          implication: necessarily, for any possible person and any situation in which
          they can exist, there are some helps of grace that would (should God supply
          them) win the

          creature over without compromising its incompatibilist freedom. Others
          (notably R.M. Adams 1977) wonder what could make such counterfactuals true
          about creatures

          considered as merely possible. Incompatibilist freedom rules out divine
          choices or any native features of the creative will. To appeal to a
          contingent condition (habitudo,

          or primitive property) independent of both is too close for comfort to the
          ancient doctrine of fate that falls alike on the gods and their creatures,
          and contradicts

          traditional Christian views of divine providence (see Providence §1). To
          maintain that counterfactuals of freedom are true although there is nothing
          to make them true

          violates a correspondence theory of truth (see Truth, correspondence theory
          of). Denying truth to such counterfactuals of freedom does not automatically
          put (A2) clear

          of the objection from omniscience, however, if God could know about merely
          possible creatures what they probably would do in any given circumstance.
          But the

          meaning and ground of such probability assessments is at least as
          problematic as that of the original counterfactuals (see R.M. Adams 1977,
          1985).

          Even if (A2) were unproblematic, it could still be asked whether (A1)
          necessarily constitutes a reason compossible with perfect goodness for
          allowing evils. Two

          dimensions of divine goodness may be distinguished: ‘global’ goodness and
          goodness to individual created persons. The possible-worlds approaches cite
          global

          features - ‘the best of all possible worlds’, ‘a world a more perfect than
          which is impossible’, ‘a world exhibiting a perfect balance of retributive
          justice’, ‘a world with

          as favourable a balance as God can get of created moral good over moral evil
          ’ - by way of producing some generic and comprehensive reason for allowing
          evil. But

          worlds with evils in the amounts and of the kind and with the distribution
          found in the actual world contain horrendous evils - evils the participation
          in (the doing or

          suffering of) which gives one prima facie reason to doubt whether one’s life
          could (given their inclusion in it) be a great good to one on the whole -
          unevenly distributed

          among humans and uncorrelated with variations in desert. Even if horrors
          thus apportioned were epistemically compatible with global perfections,
          these defences of

          divine goodness as a producer of global perfection would not so much
          guarantee as raise doubts about God’s goodness to individual participants in
          horrors. Divine

          goodness to them would require God to defeat the disvalue of horrors not
          only within the context of the world as a whole, but also within the
          framework of the

          individual participant’s life. Nor will precise individual retribution fit
          this bill where the perpetrators of horrors are concerned. ‘Balancing’
          horror with horror only

          deepens the difficulty. Some Christians bite this bullet, insisting that
          decisive defeat of evil is promised only to the obedient, while the wicked
          can expect the reverse, a

          decisive defeat of positive meaning in their lives in the form of eternal
          damnation. Others insist that the doctrine of hell only makes matters worse
          by giving rise to a

          specialized version of the problem of evil (see Hell).

          4 Divine goodness to creatures

          Soul-making theodicies try to fill the explanatory gap regarding divine
          goodness to individual created persons by adding further hypotheses as to
          what they might get out

          of existence in an environment in which they are so vulnerable to sin,
          suffering and horrors. Some versions stipulate:

          (A3) God’s purpose in creation culminates in a process of spiritual
          development in which autonomous created persons with their own free
          participation are perfected,

          and transformed from self-centred to other-centred, God-centred, Christlike
          or otherwise virtuous souls; and

          (A4) environmental evils are permitted because they create an environment
          favourable to soul-making.

          (A3) is compatible both with the notion that humans are initially created
          with mature unobstructed agency and so are fully responsible for their
          choices, and with the

          alternative idea (retrieved from Irenaeus by Hick (1966)) that human agency
          began immature, so that sin was to be expected in the course of the
          ‘growing-up’ process.

          The idea is that life in a world with evils such as this is, or with created
          cooperation can be, ‘good for the soul’.

          Establishing (A4) is difficult thrice over because: (i) the task shatters
          into piecemeal cataloguing, with separate demonstrations for each sub-type
          of environmental evil;

          (ii) relevant necessary connections with the soul-making environment can be
          hard to show; and (iii) experience makes it prima facie implausible that a
          world with evils

          such as ours is a good classroom for the soul. In response to (ii), some
          (notably Hick 1966) ingeniously contend that ‘dysteleological’ evils lend an
          air of mystery which

          is itself favourable to soul-making. Others (for example, Stump 1985) modify
          (A4) to acknowledge that some environmental evils are consequences of sin.

          Where God’s soul-making purpose succeeds, it is easy to see how the painful
          journey is worth the individual’s while. What about where it fails? Some
          (especially

          Swinburne 1983) reply that the dignity of self-determination is enough,
          whatever the outcome. The credibility of this contention varies with one’s
          estimate of the

          robustness of human nature as well as one’s conception of the natural or
          punitive consequences of repeated bad choices. Pessimists argue that
          ante-mortem

          participation in horrors makes a mockery of human self-determination; a
          fortiori, so does decisive personal ruin in hell.

          Others (notably Hick 1966) embrace a doctrine of universal salvation: if
          ante-mortem horrors remain undefeated between birth and the grave, education
          will continue after

          death, probably in a series of careers, until the soul is perfected and
          brought into intimacy with God. Thus, God does guarantee each created person
          an overall existence

          that is a great good to them on the whole, one in which participation in
          horrors is balanced by the incommensurate goodness of intimacy with God. Are
          such horrors

          likewise defeated within the context of the individual’s existence? The
          stout of heart might say ‘yes’, because participation in horrors that remain
          undefeated within the

          individual’s ante-mortem career contributes to the sense of mystery that
          makes a positive contribution to the soul-making of others. Since one is at
          least the agent-cause

          of the willy-nilly sacrifice of one’s ante-mortem good, participation in
          horrors would constitute some sort of shift from self- to other- or
          God-centredness after all. Even

          if this putative positive dimension of participation in horrors is swamped
          by its negative aspect when considered within the framework of the
          individual’s ante-mortem

          career, it provides a means for participation in horrors to be integrated
          into the overall development that gives positive meaning to the individual’s
          life and thus defeated

          within the context of the individual’s existence as a whole.

          Some (notably M.M. Adams) contend, on the contrary, that divine goodness to
          created persons would do more to lend positive meaning to any careers in
          which they

          participate in horrors. The sacrifice involved in participation in horrors
          is pedagogically inept as a first lesson because it can damage the person so
          much as to make

          much further ante-mortem progress from self- to other- or God-centredness
          virtually impossible. This combines with the delay in gratification to
          another or perhaps

          many lives later to de-emphasize the importance of this life, leaving the
          impression that it would have been better skipped by those whose spiritual
          development was

          significantly set back through participation in horrors. To give this life,
          or any career involving participation in horrors, positive significance,
          some parameter of positive

          meaning other than contribution to soul-making must be found. Given two
          further assumptions - that divine metaphysical goodness is infinite, and
          that intimacy with God

          is incommensurably good for created persons - the mystical literature
          suggests several ways for participation in horrors to be integrated into the
          created person’s

          relationship with God, ranging from divine gratitude for one’s earthly
          career to various types of mystical identification between God and creatures
          in the midst of

          horrors. Because the identification occurs in this life and divine gratitude
          is for this life, they add positive significance to this life even where the
          creature has no

          ante-mortem but only postmortem recognition of these facts.

          5 Methodological notes

          Much contemporary discussion of BPW and free-will defences has addressed
          itself to the logical problem of evil because we seem epistemically in a
          better position to

          assess the compossibility of logically possible reasons with various
          conceptions of perfect goodness than to pronounce on what God’s actual
          reasons are. In identifying

          logically possible defeaters, many of the earlier discussions (including
          those by Pike (1963) and Plantinga (1974)) confine themselves to a
          religion-neutral value theory,

          the better to answer the atheologian on their own turf. By contrast,
          soul-making, mystical and other explanatory theodicies draw on the resources
          of revelation for their

          speculations about God’s actual reasons for the evils of this world and
          usually address their remarks in the first instance to the believing
          community. The distinction

          between these approaches blurs when attention is riveted on the concrete
          logical problem of evil - that is, on the logical compossibility of God with
          evils in the amounts

          and of the kinds and with the distribution found in the actual world. In so
          far as the consistency of actual religious belief is at stake, it becomes
          highly relevant to test the

          reasons supplied by revelation for logical compossibility with the existence
          of evils and the goodness of God. Where they pass, they can be advanced as
          solving the

          concrete logical problem of evil, whether or not their truth can be proved
          to the atheologian.

          Once the wider resources of the religions under attack are allowed to
          interpret (I) and (II), it becomes clear that explanatory reasons come in
          two broad types: reasons

          why God causes or permits evils, and does not prevent or eliminate them; and
          explanations as to how God could be good to created persons despite their
          participation

          in evil. Reasons-why identify some great-enough good with which evils are
          necessarily connected, while reasons-how specify ways God could defeat evils
          in which the

          created person has participated and thus give that person a life that is a
          great good to them on the whole. Much philosophical discussion (Swinburne is
          particularly

          insistent on this point) presupposes that the problem cannot be solved
          without sufficient reasons-why. The criticized religions arguably take a
          mixed approach.

          Assuming that what perfect goodness can permit or cause is a function of
          what it can defeat, they combine partial reasons-why with elaborate
          scenarios by which God

          defeats even the worst horrors.

          6 The evidential problem of evil

          Recently many philosophers (notably Rowe, Alston, van Inwagen and Wykstra)
          have concluded that the most serious version of the problem of evil concerns
          not the

          logical but the evidential relation between (I) and (II). The mere logical
          possibility that a student has broken all four limbs and been hospitalized
          for a heart attack will win

          them no extension of essay deadlines if the tutor can see that the student
          is in fact physically sound. Likewise, the evidential argument contends,
          many actual evils - such

          as the slow, painful death of a fawn severely burned in a forest fire
          started by lightning - appear pointless, in the sense that our composite
          empirical evidence constitutes

          strong reason to believe they have no point. But an omniscient, omnipotent
          being could have prevented some of them, while a perfectly good being would
          not allow or

          cause any of them it could avoid. Therefore, (II) concretely construed
          constitutes decisive evidence against (I).

          Once again, replies could take the piecemeal approach, trying to show for
          each type of very intense suffering that it has a discernible point after
          all. It would not be

          necessary to complete the process to undermine the evidential argument.
          Success with some important cases would increase the probability that
          defeating goods are also

          present in other cases where we have not discovered any (see Suffering §4).

          The favourite response (for example, by Wykstra, Alston and van Inwagen)
          attacks the argument at its epistemological foundations. The contention is
          that our

          composite empirical evidence could constitute strong reason to believe some
          actual evils pointless only if our cognitive powers would afford access to
          any point such

          evils might have were they to have one. If things would seem roughly the
          same to us (that is, if our evidence would be roughly the same) whether or
          not such evils had a

          point, the fact that we detect no point is not good evidence that there is
          no point. In particular, we are in no position to see that many instances of
          intense suffering are

          not explained by some of the reasons appealed to in traditional theodicies.

          Defenders of the evidential argument (notably Rowe) grant the appeal of the
          underlying evidential principle, but relocate the disagreement in the
          richness of the

          theological hypothesis on which one draws. They argue that if one restricts
          oneself to a straightforward philosophical reading of (I), then it is likely
          that the situation with

          regard to intense suffering would be different in ways discernible by us.
          Expanded theism might import assumptions about the hiddenness of divine
          providence, mystical

          identification with suffering creatures, etc., but deploying these resources
          in the evidential debate carries a cost, because the prior probability of
          expanded theism is

          lower than that of (I).

          This last point holds only if the richer theological theory is advanced as
          true. If instead it is used, as with the logical problem, to generate
          possible - this time not merely

          logically but epistemically possible - explanations, then no dilution in
          prior probabilities need be accepted. And once again, the more epistemically
          possible explanations

          there are, the greater the probability that the suffering in question is not
          pointless.

          See also: Evil; God, arguments for the existence of; Goodness, perfect;
          Holocaust, the; Liberation theology; Religion and epistemology

          MARILYN McCORD ADAMS

          Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Version 1.0, London: Routledge




          -----Original Message-----
          From: Tommy Beavitt [mailto:tommy@...]
          Sent: Thursday, February 07, 2002 9:31 AM
          To: Sartre@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: Re: [Sartre] What's Wrong With "Evil"?


          At 11:11 am -0800 6/2/02, Christopher Bobo wrote:
          >Yet "evil" is a legimate word in the English language. The Encarta
          >Dictionary defines it as meaning: e·vil [v'l ] adjective 1.
          >morally bad: profoundly immoral or wrong;
          >
          >2. harmful: deliberately causing great harm, pain, or upset This
          >evil act is clearly the work of terrorists.; 3. devilish:
          >connected with the Devil or other powerful destructive forces evil
          >spirits ; 4. causing misfortune: characterized by, bringing, or
          >signifying bad luck an evil omen ; 5. malicious: characterized by
          >a desire to cause hurt or harm an evil mood;
          >6. disagreeable: very unpleasant What an evil smell!

          Chris,

          What you say makes a lot of sense. It is true that, by the definition
          you quote from the Encarta Dictionary, terrorists (and in particular,
          those who were responsible for 9/11) are evil. Moreover, my Chambers
          English Dictionary (which I actually prefer to the Oxford, even
          though the Oxford is generally considered to be the most
          authoritative source of "standard", "queen's" english) almost
          completely agrees, defining evil as "that which produces unhappiness
          or calamity".

          The difficulty comes in deciding what has actually *produced* the
          unhappiness (ie. the prima causae, if we subscribe to causality,
          which presumably we must in order to settle on the agent responsible,
          whom we are defining as "evil".) It is here that the question of
          perspective comes into play.

          From an European perspective, the primary cause of 11/9 might seem to
          be composed of factors including: religious fanaticism, American
          arrogance/unilateralism/exceptionalism, western economic exploitation
          in general, the lack of democracy in middle eastern countries partly
          itself caused by geopolitics involving oil extraction, a
          post-imperial power vacuum, Zionism, etc. So it is simplistic and, in
          this case, damaging to pick one from the bunch and settle on it as
          being the one sole cause.

          I can see why your arguments tend to drift in this direction. You
          are, after all, a professional attorney. It has to be possible to
          determine prima causae for your work to have any meaning. When a
          court pronounces an accused to be guilty then the corporate reality,
          to which we all subscribe to a greater or lesser extent in order to
          be considered sane, immediately colludes in the judgement and desists
          from questioning it. The mechanics by which this happens is called
          "due process". It is probably our best attempt at justice in this
          temporal realm.

          The land within which a judgement can be enforced on pain of contempt
          charges is called a jurisdiction. When we inhabit a jurisdiction we
          quickly become aware of its parameters. We all collude in it because
          we can see that it is our best bet, even to the extent of ourselves
          accepting a guilty verdict and serving time as sentenced. Many
          criminals even express contrition for the crimes of which they have
          been convicted and by this means tend to be rehabilitated back to
          within the relative freedom of the corporate or consensus reality
          more quickly. It may even be that they are being 'sincere' in this;
          or, as sincere as it will ever be possible for them to be.

          To this extent you and I no doubt agree.

          Where disagreement remains is where we might find the parameters of
          this "jurisdiction" you and I both find ourselves in with regard to
          the definition of the word, "evil".

          Even this caveat is only good for a strictly legalistic
          interpretation of the word, which seeks by "due process" to establish
          prima causae. When it comes to morality or justice, it will be even
          harder to find common ground.

          This is why I would much prefer the leaders of a country to whom my
          country is allied to desist from using such a word while at the same
          time steadfastly rejecting, via unilateralism and exceptionalism,
          possible discussion of the context or jurisdiction within which the
          word may be held to have valid meaning.

          If, on the other hand, we are talking about "might is right" then let
          us not beat about the bush (if you will pardon the pun)

          If coming right out with "might is right" seems to entail burning the
          final bridges of diplomacy then I suggest that continued use of the
          word "evil" to describe Uncle Sam's erswhile enemies is also
          profoundly undiplomatic, and that the interests of civilisation would
          be better served by dropping it forthwith.

          best wishes

          Tommy Beavitt







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          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Christopher Bobo
          Hi Tommy: Just a brief historical remark. The last time a U.S. President declared something evil--Ronald Reagan declaring the Soviet Union and Evil
          Message 4 of 7 , Feb 7, 2002
            Hi Tommy:

            Just a brief historical remark. The last time a U.S. President declared something evil--Ronald Reagan declaring the Soviet Union and Evil Empire--there was just as much uproar and outcry. Of course, he was right--just a Bush about Al Qaeda. Reagan stuck to his guns and I hope Bush will too. We vanquished the Soviets and we'll take care of Al Qaeda too, diplomatic niceties aside. I really think I've come to the view that the Europeans should calm down, stop carping, get out of the way, and let America do the heavy historical lifting.

            Tell me, if we have to look at this complex picture of poverty, exploitation, etc as causes of terrorism--would the Africans, Asians, Indians etc. also be justified in your mind in employing terrorism to address their grievances?

            Regards,
            Chris

            ----- Original Message -----
            From: Tommy Beavitt
            Sent: Thursday, February 07, 2002 9:08 AM
            To: Sartre@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: Re: [Sartre] What's Wrong With "Evil"?

            What you say makes a lot of sense. It is true that, by the definition
            you quote from the Encarta Dictionary, terrorists (and in particular,
            those who were responsible for 9/11) are evil. Moreover, my Chambers
            English Dictionary (which I actually prefer to the Oxford, even
            though the Oxford is generally considered to be the most
            authoritative source of "standard", "queen's" english) almost
            completely agrees, defining evil as "that which produces unhappiness
            or calamity".

            The difficulty comes in deciding what has actually *produced* the
            unhappiness (ie. the prima causae, if we subscribe to causality,
            which presumably we must in order to settle on the agent responsible,
            whom we are defining as "evil".) It is here that the question of
            perspective comes into play.

            From an European perspective, the primary cause of 11/9 might seem to
            be composed of factors including: religious fanaticism, American
            arrogance/unilateralism/exceptionalism, western economic exploitation
            in general, the lack of democracy in middle eastern countries partly
            itself caused by geopolitics involving oil extraction, a
            post-imperial power vacuum, Zionism, etc. So it is simplistic and, in
            this case, damaging to pick one from the bunch and settle on it as
            being the one sole cause.

            I can see why your arguments tend to drift in this direction. You
            are, after all, a professional attorney. It has to be possible to
            determine prima causae for your work to have any meaning. When a
            court pronounces an accused to be guilty then the corporate reality,
            to which we all subscribe to a greater or lesser extent in order to
            be considered sane, immediately colludes in the judgement and desists
            from questioning it. The mechanics by which this happens is called
            "due process". It is probably our best attempt at justice in this
            temporal realm.

            The land within which a judgement can be enforced on pain of contempt
            charges is called a jurisdiction. When we inhabit a jurisdiction we
            quickly become aware of its parameters. We all collude in it because
            we can see that it is our best bet, even to the extent of ourselves
            accepting a guilty verdict and serving time as sentenced. Many
            criminals even express contrition for the crimes of which they have
            been convicted and by this means tend to be rehabilitated back to
            within the relative freedom of the corporate or consensus reality
            more quickly. It may even be that they are being 'sincere' in this;
            or, as sincere as it will ever be possible for them to be.

            To this extent you and I no doubt agree.

            Where disagreement remains is where we might find the parameters of
            this "jurisdiction" you and I both find ourselves in with regard to
            the definition of the word, "evil".

            Even this caveat is only good for a strictly legalistic
            interpretation of the word, which seeks by "due process" to establish
            prima causae. When it comes to morality or justice, it will be even
            harder to find common ground.

            This is why I would much prefer the leaders of a country to whom my
            country is allied to desist from using such a word while at the same
            time steadfastly rejecting, via unilateralism and exceptionalism,
            possible discussion of the context or jurisdiction within which the
            word may be held to have valid meaning.

            If, on the other hand, we are talking about "might is right" then let
            us not beat about the bush (if you will pardon the pun)

            If coming right out with "might is right" seems to entail burning the
            final bridges of diplomacy then I suggest that continued use of the
            word "evil" to describe Uncle Sam's erswhile enemies is also
            profoundly undiplomatic, and that the interests of civilisation would
            be better served by dropping it forthwith.

            best wishes

            Tommy Beavitt


            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • james tan
            bush described n. korea, iraq, and iran as axis of evil . while i can understand why he used that word evil on the teleban and the al-qeda network (bush
            Message 5 of 7 , Feb 7, 2002
              bush described n. korea, iraq, and iran as "axis of evil". while i can
              understand why he used that word "evil" on the teleban and the al-qeda
              network (bush just looked at what they did without attemmpting to see the
              origin of it as tommy would; for tommy, is it less "evil" if we can
              understand the origin of their "evil" actions?), and while i understand
              these three countries are building weapons of mass destruction that has the
              capacity to destroy civilised world, are iraq, iran, and n. korea as
              dangerous as the axis powers of 60 yrs ago? is the usa about to adopot a
              policy of "unconditional surrender" towards them? if so, what was washington
              doing talking to teheran after sep 11, seeking its cooperation in the afgan
              campaign? what was the former clinton adminstratoin doing seeking better
              relations with n. korea, a policy the current adminstration has not
              altogether foreclosed? is the usa looking for war, after the victory at the
              teleban? is the usa being careful with words when she used something like
              "axis" and "evil"?

              james.


              From: "Christopher Bobo" <cbobo@...>
              Reply-To: Sartre@yahoogroups.com
              To: "Sartre_yahoogr" <Sartre@yahoogroups.com>
              Subject: Re: [Sartre] What's Wrong With "Evil"?
              Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 17:54:20 -0800

              Hi Tommy:

              Just a brief historical remark. The last time a U.S. President declared
              something evil--Ronald Reagan declaring the Soviet Union and Evil
              Empire--there was just as much uproar and outcry. Of course, he was
              right--just a Bush about Al Qaeda. Reagan stuck to his guns and I hope Bush
              will too. We vanquished the Soviets and we'll take care of Al Qaeda too,
              diplomatic niceties aside. I really think I've come to the view that the
              Europeans should calm down, stop carping, get out of the way, and let
              America do the heavy historical lifting.

              Tell me, if we have to look at this complex picture of poverty,
              exploitation, etc as causes of terrorism--would the Africans, Asians,
              Indians etc. also be justified in your mind in employing terrorism to
              address their grievances?

              Regards,
              Chris

              ----- Original Message -----
              From: Tommy Beavitt
              Sent: Thursday, February 07, 2002 9:08 AM
              To: Sartre@yahoogroups.com
              Subject: Re: [Sartre] What's Wrong With "Evil"?

              What you say makes a lot of sense. It is true that, by the definition
              you quote from the Encarta Dictionary, terrorists (and in particular,
              those who were responsible for 9/11) are evil. Moreover, my Chambers
              English Dictionary (which I actually prefer to the Oxford, even
              though the Oxford is generally considered to be the most
              authoritative source of "standard", "queen's" english) almost
              completely agrees, defining evil as "that which produces unhappiness
              or calamity".

              The difficulty comes in deciding what has actually *produced* the
              unhappiness (ie. the prima causae, if we subscribe to causality,
              which presumably we must in order to settle on the agent responsible,
              whom we are defining as "evil".) It is here that the question of
              perspective comes into play.

              From an European perspective, the primary cause of 11/9 might seem to
              be composed of factors including: religious fanaticism, American
              arrogance/unilateralism/exceptionalism, western economic exploitation
              in general, the lack of democracy in middle eastern countries partly
              itself caused by geopolitics involving oil extraction, a
              post-imperial power vacuum, Zionism, etc. So it is simplistic and, in
              this case, damaging to pick one from the bunch and settle on it as
              being the one sole cause.

              I can see why your arguments tend to drift in this direction. You
              are, after all, a professional attorney. It has to be possible to
              determine prima causae for your work to have any meaning. When a
              court pronounces an accused to be guilty then the corporate reality,
              to which we all subscribe to a greater or lesser extent in order to
              be considered sane, immediately colludes in the judgement and desists
              from questioning it. The mechanics by which this happens is called
              "due process". It is probably our best attempt at justice in this
              temporal realm.

              The land within which a judgement can be enforced on pain of contempt
              charges is called a jurisdiction. When we inhabit a jurisdiction we
              quickly become aware of its parameters. We all collude in it because
              we can see that it is our best bet, even to the extent of ourselves
              accepting a guilty verdict and serving time as sentenced. Many
              criminals even express contrition for the crimes of which they have
              been convicted and by this means tend to be rehabilitated back to
              within the relative freedom of the corporate or consensus reality
              more quickly. It may even be that they are being 'sincere' in this;
              or, as sincere as it will ever be possible for them to be.

              To this extent you and I no doubt agree.

              Where disagreement remains is where we might find the parameters of
              this "jurisdiction" you and I both find ourselves in with regard to
              the definition of the word, "evil".

              Even this caveat is only good for a strictly legalistic
              interpretation of the word, which seeks by "due process" to establish
              prima causae. When it comes to morality or justice, it will be even
              harder to find common ground.

              This is why I would much prefer the leaders of a country to whom my
              country is allied to desist from using such a word while at the same
              time steadfastly rejecting, via unilateralism and exceptionalism,
              possible discussion of the context or jurisdiction within which the
              word may be held to have valid meaning.

              If, on the other hand, we are talking about "might is right" then let
              us not beat about the bush (if you will pardon the pun)

              If coming right out with "might is right" seems to entail burning the
              final bridges of diplomacy then I suggest that continued use of the
              word "evil" to describe Uncle Sam's erswhile enemies is also
              profoundly undiplomatic, and that the interests of civilisation would
              be better served by dropping it forthwith.

              best wishes

              Tommy Beavitt


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]









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            • Tommy Beavitt
              At 12:56 pm -0500 7/2/02, Claude Caspar wrote, with regard to the ... I think maybe the bit where I am getting stuck is in the concept of innocence. Is
              Message 6 of 7 , Feb 8, 2002
                At 12:56 pm -0500 7/2/02, Claude Caspar wrote, with regard to the
                distinction between natural and moral evil:
                >Evil caused by human beings, such as torturing an
                >innocent person, is moral.

                I think maybe the bit where I am getting stuck is in the concept of
                innocence. Is innocence not simply a synonym for ignorance?

                The agent who bear arms in a cause, like a soldier or a terrorist,
                has an explicit part in a war. As he or she cuts throats or drops
                daisy cutters s/he can see the evil that is being done.

                On the other hand, the investment banker, general or religious
                inciter who clinches a deal, plots a strategy or exhorts believers to
                martyrdom causes thousands to suffer or die with a motion of his hand
                but is not present at their deaths. Can he excuse himself and plead
                "innocence" when the balance of power shifts and retribution is
                demanded?

                And then there are the men, women and children on whose behalf these
                decisions are ostensibly made, who watch TV, demand retribution,
                teach their children the names and descriptions of those whom they
                must distrust and hate.

                Let us suspend our moral scepticism for a moment, placing to one side
                the question of whether or not it can be said that one side is in the
                right, and consider the innocence or degrees of involvement in evil
                of these three classes of persons.

                Do we say that the soldier may be tortured if he has fought on the
                wrong side or used unconventional methods while the religious leader
                may not?

                And what of those citizens who vote for or follow leaders who say,
                "extirpate evil"? Are they less enmeshed in, more innocent to evil
                than others who are caused to bear arms as a result of their
                political choices or fervour? When it is their own fellow citizens
                who are being extirpated based on some prior definition of evil such
                as belonging to a banned terrorist organisation or working for global
                corporations in the World Trade Centre do they not experience the
                extirpation as the evil itself?

                Who are the innocent if not the ignorant?

                Tommy
              • james tan
                bill, it is the way evil is used by the bush team which seems to give them the moral justification to engage in events that may disrupt peace. it is one
                Message 7 of 7 , Feb 11, 2002
                  bill,

                  it is the way "evil" is used by the bush team which seems to give them the
                  moral justification to engage in events that may disrupt peace. it is one
                  thing to use it on the 911 terrorist attack, quite another on countries like
                  n. korea, etc. how u attribute will decide how u will act on it.

                  james.


                  From: "Bill Harris" <bhvwd@...>
                  Reply-To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
                  To: <existlist@yahoogroups.com>
                  Subject: Re: [existlist] What's Wrong With "Evil"?
                  Date: Fri, 8 Feb 2002 09:33:09 -0600

                  James, Not much philosophy in that post. perhaps philosophy might be
                  related to real world diciplines I.E. politics. Speaking from inside the
                  bushes so to speak it is better to whisper with caution. You more free
                  beings outside the empire might do the world a service by speaking out yet
                  you could be entertaining special ops people for who has defined terrorism?
                  Hegemony in the hands of a fair player like Clinton was of less concern
                  than the present situation. One man one vote democracy has been dead here
                  since the Kennedy assination. Bush is a team player, you just dont
                  understand what team he is playing for or how it will affect you. It will
                  affect You. Bill
                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: "james tan" <tyjfk@...>
                  To: <Sartre@yahoogroups.com>
                  Sent: Thursday, February 07, 2002 8:37 PM
                  Subject: [existlist] What's Wrong With "Evil"?


                  >
                  > bush described n. korea, iraq, and iran as "axis of evil". while i can
                  > understand why he used that word "evil" on the teleban and the al-qeda
                  > network (bush just looked at what they did without attemmpting to see the
                  > origin of it as tommy would; for tommy, is it less "evil" if we can
                  > understand the origin of their "evil" actions?), and while i understand
                  > these three countries are building weapons of mass destruction that has
                  the
                  > capacity to destroy civilised world, are iraq, iran, and n. korea as
                  > dangerous as the axis powers of 60 yrs ago? is the usa about to adopot a
                  > policy of "unconditional surrender" towards them? if so, what was
                  washington
                  > doing talking to teheran after sep 11, seeking its cooperation in the
                  afgan
                  > campaign? what was the former clinton adminstratoin doing seeking better
                  > relations with n. korea, a policy the current adminstration has not
                  > altogether foreclosed? is the usa looking for war, after the victory at
                  the
                  > teleban? is the usa being careful with words when she used something like
                  > "axis" and "evil"?
                  >
                  > james.
                  >
                  >
                  > From: "Christopher Bobo" <cbobo@...>
                  > Reply-To: Sartre@yahoogroups.com
                  > To: "Sartre_yahoogr" <Sartre@yahoogroups.com>
                  > Subject: Re: [Sartre] What's Wrong With "Evil"?
                  > Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 17:54:20 -0800
                  >
                  > Hi Tommy:
                  >
                  > Just a brief historical remark. The last time a U.S. President declared
                  > something evil--Ronald Reagan declaring the Soviet Union and Evil
                  > Empire--there was just as much uproar and outcry. Of course, he was
                  > right--just a Bush about Al Qaeda. Reagan stuck to his guns and I hope
                  Bush
                  > will too. We vanquished the Soviets and we'll take care of Al Qaeda too,
                  > diplomatic niceties aside. I really think I've come to the view that the
                  > Europeans should calm down, stop carping, get out of the way, and let
                  > America do the heavy historical lifting.
                  >
                  > Tell me, if we have to look at this complex picture of poverty,
                  > exploitation, etc as causes of terrorism--would the Africans, Asians,
                  > Indians etc. also be justified in your mind in employing terrorism to
                  > address their grievances?
                  >
                  > Regards,
                  > Chris
                  >
                  > ----- Original Message -----
                  > From: Tommy Beavitt
                  > Sent: Thursday, February 07, 2002 9:08 AM
                  > To: Sartre@yahoogroups.com
                  > Subject: Re: [Sartre] What's Wrong With "Evil"?
                  >
                  > What you say makes a lot of sense. It is true that, by the definition
                  > you quote from the Encarta Dictionary, terrorists (and in particular,
                  > those who were responsible for 9/11) are evil. Moreover, my Chambers
                  > English Dictionary (which I actually prefer to the Oxford, even
                  > though the Oxford is generally considered to be the most
                  > authoritative source of "standard", "queen's" english) almost
                  > completely agrees, defining evil as "that which produces unhappiness
                  > or calamity".
                  >
                  > The difficulty comes in deciding what has actually *produced* the
                  > unhappiness (ie. the prima causae, if we subscribe to causality,
                  > which presumably we must in order to settle on the agent responsible,
                  > whom we are defining as "evil".) It is here that the question of
                  > perspective comes into play.
                  >
                  > From an European perspective, the primary cause of 11/9 might seem to
                  > be composed of factors including: religious fanaticism, American
                  > arrogance/unilateralism/exceptionalism, western economic exploitation
                  > in general, the lack of democracy in middle eastern countries partly
                  > itself caused by geopolitics involving oil extraction, a
                  > post-imperial power vacuum, Zionism, etc. So it is simplistic and, in
                  > this case, damaging to pick one from the bunch and settle on it as
                  > being the one sole cause.
                  >
                  > I can see why your arguments tend to drift in this direction. You
                  > are, after all, a professional attorney. It has to be possible to
                  > determine prima causae for your work to have any meaning. When a
                  > court pronounces an accused to be guilty then the corporate reality,
                  > to which we all subscribe to a greater or lesser extent in order to
                  > be considered sane, immediately colludes in the judgement and desists
                  > from questioning it. The mechanics by which this happens is called
                  > "due process". It is probably our best attempt at justice in this
                  > temporal realm.
                  >
                  > The land within which a judgement can be enforced on pain of contempt
                  > charges is called a jurisdiction. When we inhabit a jurisdiction we
                  > quickly become aware of its parameters. We all collude in it because
                  > we can see that it is our best bet, even to the extent of ourselves
                  > accepting a guilty verdict and serving time as sentenced. Many
                  > criminals even express contrition for the crimes of which they have
                  > been convicted and by this means tend to be rehabilitated back to
                  > within the relative freedom of the corporate or consensus reality
                  > more quickly. It may even be that they are being 'sincere' in this;
                  > or, as sincere as it will ever be possible for them to be.
                  >
                  > To this extent you and I no doubt agree.
                  >
                  > Where disagreement remains is where we might find the parameters of
                  > this "jurisdiction" you and I both find ourselves in with regard to
                  > the definition of the word, "evil".
                  >
                  > Even this caveat is only good for a strictly legalistic
                  > interpretation of the word, which seeks by "due process" to establish
                  > prima causae. When it comes to morality or justice, it will be even
                  > harder to find common ground.
                  >
                  > This is why I would much prefer the leaders of a country to whom my
                  > country is allied to desist from using such a word while at the same
                  > time steadfastly rejecting, via unilateralism and exceptionalism,
                  > possible discussion of the context or jurisdiction within which the
                  > word may be held to have valid meaning.
                  >
                  > If, on the other hand, we are talking about "might is right" then let
                  > us not beat about the bush (if you will pardon the pun)
                  >
                  > If coming right out with "might is right" seems to entail burning the
                  > final bridges of diplomacy then I suggest that continued use of the
                  > word "evil" to describe Uncle Sam's erswhile enemies is also
                  > profoundly undiplomatic, and that the interests of civilisation would
                  > be better served by dropping it forthwith.
                  >
                  > best wishes
                  >
                  > Tommy Beavitt
                  >
                  >
                  > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > _________________________________________________________________
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