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axis of evil

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  • charlesbricebroadway
    AXIS OF EVIL Just as a target is not set up to be missed, in the same way nothing bad by nature happens in the world. --EPICTETUS Currently, the phrase axis
    Message 1 of 5 , Mar 3, 2002
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      AXIS OF EVIL

      "Just as a target is not set up to be missed, in the same way nothing
      bad by nature happens in the world."--EPICTETUS

      Currently, the phrase "axis of evil" is making the rounds. It has
      joined the term "evil empire" (Ronald Reagan's line concerning the
      Soviet Union) as being a famous term for the enemies of the United
      States. These lines are powerful because they inspire emotions and
      policies as only morally unambiguous terms can. Morality is often
      subordinated to the self-interests of those who moralize. But the
      right wing is not alone in this. Those who oppose affirmative action
      are called racists. Those who oppose abortion are called Nazis. Those
      who oppose homosexuality are called homophobes. Those who eat meat
      are called murderers. But all of these lines make two assumptions.
      The first is that evil exists. The second is that everyone who
      disagrees with me is evil. Stoicism takes a different view. There is
      no such thing as an evil person.

      Epictetus wrote:

      When someone acts badly toward you or speaks badly of you, remember
      that he does so or says it in the belief that it is appropriate for
      him to do so. Accordingly he cannot follow what appears to you but
      only what appears to him, so that if things appear badly to him, he
      is harmed in as much as he has been deceived. For if someone thinks
      that a true conjunctive proposition is false, the conjunction is not
      harmed but rather the one who is deceived. Starting from these
      considerations you will be gentle with the person who abuses you. For
      you must say on each occasion, "That's how it seemed to him."

      Here Epictetus points out that people can only respond to what seems
      reasonable to them. The reason why a criminal robs is because he sees
      this as being the most reasonable action to do. The reason why Hitler
      pursued a policy of genocide against the Jews is because he truly
      believed that they were a menace to the Aryan race. The reason why
      people today look negatively upon Hitler is because they truly
      believe that he was evil. But is this the case?

      Much of the problems we face today can be placed in three categories.
      The first category are problems that occur "naturally". These would
      be items such as a hurricane or a dead battery. These do not cause
      distress to the Stoic because they are part of the natural order. The
      same wind that blows down a house is also the wind that powers
      sailboats and windmills. There is no volition involved here nor any
      plot to specifically deprive us of any preferred indifferents. They
      are simply the consequences of the natural order. Understanding this,
      we see there is no superior logic behind getting upset over these
      things. If we discover we have cancer, this should not disturb us.
      Instead, we should seek to understand what causes cancer and work to
      fix it. The mutations that cause cancer are also the mutations that
      work to form new species. Similarly, pain is unpleasant but very
      useful in preventing further injury or even death. It would be unwise
      to wish for a painless existence because it would only lead to a life
      of disfigurement or pain. How can we call these things evil?

      The second class of problems are those that are self-generated. For
      instance, I may have left the lights on in my car causing a dead
      battery the next day when I prepare to leave for work. These are
      known as mistakes. They happen and are also part of the natural
      order. We tend to be less distressed over these things because we
      realize that the consequences of our actions were unintended. If we
      knew the outcome of a particular action, we would work to act
      differently. But since we are often bombarded by many decisions day
      after day, we make mistakes. We overlook. We screw up. But is this
      evil? I do not think so.

      The third class of problems are those that are generated by other
      people. These include the screwups of others. If we can overlook our
      own mistakes, it would be reasonable to overlook the mistakes of
      others. We are often more censorious of the failings of others when
      we are very often forgiving of our own failings even when the actions
      and consequences are identical.

      But under the third class of problems is a subset. What about those
      actions which are done to deliberately harm another person? For
      instance, if a baseball was accidentally knocked into a car window at
      a little league baseball game, this seems less serious than if a
      baseball was intentionally thrown through the same window. The only
      thing that is different is the intention of the thrower.

      Without a doubt, people do things to intentionally harm other people.
      For instance, police sharpshooters train to kill people. This is
      their job. Their duty is to inflict harm on other people trying to
      inflict harm upon others. They are justified in this action because
      it is reasonable.

      But what about the person who snaps and goes into a public place with
      guns blazing? We call these people "psychos" and "maniacs". They are
      irrational. But are they? Let's say you are a member of Delta Force
      and go into a house filled with Al Qaeda with guns blazing. You learn
      later that it was the wrong house. Is this rational or irrational
      behavior? This will depend upon who you are.

      People like the Unabomber or even Harris and Klebold firmly believed
      that what they were doing was "right" or what I would say
      is "rational." They are no different from the schizophrenic who
      believes that the CIA is tracking them down to kill them. They truly
      believed in what they were doing.

      The Spanish Inquisition is a wonderful case in point. It was bloody
      and torturous. But the powers in charge there believed that they were
      doing their victims a favor. The inquisitors feared for the immortal
      souls of the people than came before them. Since the soul matters
      more than the body and no torture can compare to the agonies of Hell,
      the Spanish Inquisition went to work recognizing no boundary. They
      were doing God's work.

      People tend to consider things evil that are outside of their self-
      interest. For instance, fundamentalists consider homosexuality to be
      evil because the Bible says so. It is in their self-interest to see
      that the Bible is vindicated and respected because they wish to live
      according to God's laws and earn the favor of the Almighty.
      Conversely, the homosexual does not see his sexual preference to be
      evil because he has hurt no one, and it feels good to him. He wishes
      to push his agenda as well because he wants to live a life of peace
      and harmony and without fear or shame.

      Who is right in these issues? I do not know in any dogmatic way
      except to say that the person's position that is closest to the truth
      is the one that is most correct. The only problem is our
      understanding of what is true or false. Ultimately, all philosophical
      problems are problems of epistemology.

      When George W. Bush says that a regime like North Korea is evil, he
      points to their possession of nuclear weapons and the proliferation
      of other weapons as his evidence. But the United States has engaged
      in much of the same activity. Ultimately, the reason is a difference
      in politics. North Korea is communist and dictatorial. They oppose
      the self-interest of the United States and are enemies.

      Is it reasonable to demonize those who oppose us? I think not. What
      surprises most people when they come face to face with their enemies
      is how utterly normal they are. For instance, Hitler in home movies
      is a smiling, warm, and congenial sort of man. People liked him. But
      to say these things is to risk falling prey to some of the same sort
      of demonization. When we demonize, we distort. When we distort, we
      fall into less rational behavior. Wouldn't it be more rational to say
      that those who oppose us simply follow a self-interest that conflicts
      with our own?

      The popular view of evil is that so-called evil people do things
      purely for the pleasure of doing something bad. They want to do evil
      solely for the sake of evil. But is this possible? Let's consider the
      case of the Marquis de Sade.

      De Sade is considered by many to be the most evil man that ever
      lived. Much of this is a distortion since his own life bears only a
      faint resemblance to the cruelties presented in his writings. Of
      course, if French authorities refused to intervene, would de Sade
      have pursued his debauchery to its full extent? Others have, so it is
      not far from the mark to consider that de Sade would have done so.

      The Marquis wrote of sexual battery, rape, coprophagy, torture,
      dismemberment, and murder. He believed that some people were
      predators and others were prey. He believed it was his role to
      fulfill his duty as a predator. Even here, we get some small glimmer
      of rational thought that is similar to Stoicism.

      For de Sade, his life was lived as a sacrilege. Much of his writing
      includes blasphemy and his actions seem directed towards offending
      the Christian deity. This is odd considering that de Sade was an
      atheist. Why try to offend a deity that does not exist? But de Sade
      is more complex than this like most people are.

      I can only speculate, but I suspect that the Marquis de Sade fell
      prey to a lecherous priest in his early years. As the victim, de Sade
      was filled with both contempt for himself, the Church, and God.
      Struggling to find peace with what occurred to him, de Sade accepted
      the natural order as he perceived it. To him, it is better to be the
      victimizer than the victim. Instead of complaining of fate, we must
      embrace it in its true form. But is nature the way that de Sade
      perceived it? I think not.

      I could be wrong on this stuff since I can only speculate. I find it
      interesting that many of the characters in his works are debauched or
      foolish clergymen. I will let the members of the Stoics group here
      fill in the details if they know of any additional information that I
      have overlooked since I am writing this from the top of my head.

      We can see from this that logic plays a role in the conclusions of
      one man. I do not believe this absolves him of the responsibilities
      of his actions nor are we to pity him as some victim. I will have
      more on the cult of victimization in a future post that will
      highlight this further.

      Instead of seeing people as evil, it is more appropriate to see them
      as mistaken or misguided. Their thinking is erroneous. They have
      drawn the wrong conclusions. We must also realize that we are prone
      to the same errors. For instance, Marcus Aurelius persecuted
      Christians. Aside from this, we consider him a remarkable man. How
      can someone of such noble character and virtue and forbearance not
      tolerate a religion that was itself similar in many ways to Stoic
      philosophy? The answer is simple. He made a mistake.

      Can we change people simply by instilling in them right reason? I
      think it would be wise to do so, but I think we are mistaken if we
      think that we can root out misguided thinking by merely instilling
      correct thinking through lecturing or rote memorization or
      propaganda. I think Socrates had the wisest course. He simply pulled
      it out of the people he taught. In essence, he taught nothing. People
      were simply made to reason. With Socrates, they were led to examine
      themselves, their lives, and their thinking.

      True wisdom comes from the willingness to admit error. It comes from
      being ready to admit that we are prone to error. How is George W.
      Bush any different with his "evil axis" speech than the government
      leaders of Iran who refer to the U.S. as the "Great Satan"? It seems
      to me that it would be more prudent to be rational and refrain from
      such distortions.

      Obviously, force may be the only thing that some people listen to.
      For instance, I do not think Osama Bin Laden would ever sit down for
      a philosophical discussion with the United States no matter how
      sincere the US may be. It is almost impossible to reason with those
      so misguided that they even distrust reason itself. Socrates could
      not convince Athenian democrats that he was not a threat to their way
      of life. The Athenians were reasonable people, yet they made a huge
      mistake with Socrates. In hindsight, one could make the argument both
      from Socrates and Marcus Aurelius that capital punishment is not
      prudent for no other reason than it is a permanent solution to what
      may be a mistaken problem.

      In conclusion, there is no such thing as an evil person. People we
      consider to be evil are ones that are misguided by their own faulty
      conclusions concerning the natural order. By calling these people
      evil, we only compound the problem by fostering even more faulty
      conclusions. Instead, it is more reasonable to acknowledge this and
      act appropriately. I do not think this will mean an end to war or
      prisons. But I do think it will end much of the internal distress and
      anger many people feel. Because we feel that people have wronged us,
      we wish to react in the same way as the one who has wronged us. But
      Marcus Aurelius cautions against this. Though people may intend to
      hurt us, they do it with good intentions in mind. Often, they may be
      responding to the demonizing that others have done where we are
      portrayed as the evildoers. Or they may think they are living as
      nature intended. They are only responding to a faulty proposition. If
      we respond the same way, we only reinforce that same faulty thinking.

      Live with honor,
      Charles Broadway
    • Gerold Reimondo
      Mr. Broadway has made some interesting points in his discussion of the Axis of Evil comment. It has been noted before that apparently irrational behavior on
      Message 2 of 5 , Mar 3, 2002
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        Mr. Broadway has made some interesting points in his discussion of the "Axis
        of Evil" comment. It has been noted before that apparently irrational
        behavior on the part of disturbed, angry or even mentally ill individuals is
        logical given the basic postulates upon which the individual is acting. The
        problem, as he has noted, is that they are reasoning from faulty
        propositions. Unfortunately, it seems to me that there is a longing on the
        part of people for certainty. People want "objective" and eternal criteria
        upon which to base moral judgments in particular. Thus, their propositions
        become axiomatic and not subject to logical challenge. Living in the Bible
        belt of the United States, I encounter the attitude that the moral guidance
        of the Bible cannot be open to question because it is the Word of God, which
        we know to be true because God, through human intermediates, wrote the
        Bible. Any attempt to challenge this position by reason is simply met with
        hostility and an admonition that "You must except Jesus Christ as your
        personal savior and have faith". I can imagine that similar situations
        exist for most other revealed religions like Islam and Hinduism. Until
        people are willing to base moral or ethical decisions on a non-divinely
        inspired analysis of what would be beneficial for the community and all of
        its members, I think that the problem of "Evil" is going to be a permanent
        thorn in the side of the human species.

        Let me say that, while I do not often comment on this forum, I do read all
        the discussions and have found it very helpful in my quest to live an
        honorable life based on reason.

        Gerold

        -----Original Message-----
        From: charlesbricebroadway <charlesbricebroadway@...>
        To: stoics@yahoogroups.com <stoics@yahoogroups.com>
        Date: Sunday, March 03, 2002 12:12 PM
        Subject: [stoics] axis of evil


        >AXIS OF EVIL
        >
        >"Just as a target is not set up to be missed, in the same way nothing
        >bad by nature happens in the world."--EPICTETUS
        >
        >Currently, the phrase "axis of evil" is making the rounds. It has
        >joined the term "evil empire" (Ronald Reagan's line concerning the
        >Soviet Union) as being a famous term for the enemies of the United
        >States. These lines are powerful because they inspire emotions and
        >policies as only morally unambiguous terms can. Morality is often
        >subordinated to the self-interests of those who moralize. But the
        >right wing is not alone in this. Those who oppose affirmative action
        >are called racists. Those who oppose abortion are called Nazis. Those
        >who oppose homosexuality are called homophobes. Those who eat meat
        >are called murderers. But all of these lines make two assumptions.
        >The first is that evil exists. The second is that everyone who
        >disagrees with me is evil. Stoicism takes a different view. There is
        >no such thing as an evil person.
        >
        >Epictetus wrote:
        >
        >When someone acts badly toward you or speaks badly of you, remember
        >that he does so or says it in the belief that it is appropriate for
        >him to do so. Accordingly he cannot follow what appears to you but
        >only what appears to him, so that if things appear badly to him, he
        >is harmed in as much as he has been deceived. For if someone thinks
        >that a true conjunctive proposition is false, the conjunction is not
        >harmed but rather the one who is deceived. Starting from these
        >considerations you will be gentle with the person who abuses you. For
        >you must say on each occasion, "That's how it seemed to him."
        >
        >Here Epictetus points out that people can only respond to what seems
        >reasonable to them. The reason why a criminal robs is because he sees
        >this as being the most reasonable action to do. The reason why Hitler
        >pursued a policy of genocide against the Jews is because he truly
        >believed that they were a menace to the Aryan race. The reason why
        >people today look negatively upon Hitler is because they truly
        >believe that he was evil. But is this the case?
        >
        >Much of the problems we face today can be placed in three categories.
        >The first category are problems that occur "naturally". These would
        >be items such as a hurricane or a dead battery. These do not cause
        >distress to the Stoic because they are part of the natural order. The
        >same wind that blows down a house is also the wind that powers
        >sailboats and windmills. There is no volition involved here nor any
        >plot to specifically deprive us of any preferred indifferents. They
        >are simply the consequences of the natural order. Understanding this,
        >we see there is no superior logic behind getting upset over these
        >things. If we discover we have cancer, this should not disturb us.
        >Instead, we should seek to understand what causes cancer and work to
        >fix it. The mutations that cause cancer are also the mutations that
        >work to form new species. Similarly, pain is unpleasant but very
        >useful in preventing further injury or even death. It would be unwise
        >to wish for a painless existence because it would only lead to a life
        >of disfigurement or pain. How can we call these things evil?
        >
        >The second class of problems are those that are self-generated. For
        >instance, I may have left the lights on in my car causing a dead
        >battery the next day when I prepare to leave for work. These are
        >known as mistakes. They happen and are also part of the natural
        >order. We tend to be less distressed over these things because we
        >realize that the consequences of our actions were unintended. If we
        >knew the outcome of a particular action, we would work to act
        >differently. But since we are often bombarded by many decisions day
        >after day, we make mistakes. We overlook. We screw up. But is this
        >evil? I do not think so.
        >
        >The third class of problems are those that are generated by other
        >people. These include the screwups of others. If we can overlook our
        >own mistakes, it would be reasonable to overlook the mistakes of
        >others. We are often more censorious of the failings of others when
        >we are very often forgiving of our own failings even when the actions
        >and consequences are identical.
        >
        >But under the third class of problems is a subset. What about those
        >actions which are done to deliberately harm another person? For
        >instance, if a baseball was accidentally knocked into a car window at
        >a little league baseball game, this seems less serious than if a
        >baseball was intentionally thrown through the same window. The only
        >thing that is different is the intention of the thrower.
        >
        >Without a doubt, people do things to intentionally harm other people.
        >For instance, police sharpshooters train to kill people. This is
        >their job. Their duty is to inflict harm on other people trying to
        >inflict harm upon others. They are justified in this action because
        >it is reasonable.
        >
        >But what about the person who snaps and goes into a public place with
        >guns blazing? We call these people "psychos" and "maniacs". They are
        >irrational. But are they? Let's say you are a member of Delta Force
        >and go into a house filled with Al Qaeda with guns blazing. You learn
        >later that it was the wrong house. Is this rational or irrational
        >behavior? This will depend upon who you are.
        >
        >People like the Unabomber or even Harris and Klebold firmly believed
        >that what they were doing was "right" or what I would say
        >is "rational." They are no different from the schizophrenic who
        >believes that the CIA is tracking them down to kill them. They truly
        >believed in what they were doing.
        >
        >The Spanish Inquisition is a wonderful case in point. It was bloody
        >and torturous. But the powers in charge there believed that they were
        >doing their victims a favor. The inquisitors feared for the immortal
        >souls of the people than came before them. Since the soul matters
        >more than the body and no torture can compare to the agonies of Hell,
        >the Spanish Inquisition went to work recognizing no boundary. They
        >were doing God's work.
        >
        >People tend to consider things evil that are outside of their self-
        >interest. For instance, fundamentalists consider homosexuality to be
        >evil because the Bible says so. It is in their self-interest to see
        >that the Bible is vindicated and respected because they wish to live
        >according to God's laws and earn the favor of the Almighty.
        >Conversely, the homosexual does not see his sexual preference to be
        >evil because he has hurt no one, and it feels good to him. He wishes
        >to push his agenda as well because he wants to live a life of peace
        >and harmony and without fear or shame.
        >
        >Who is right in these issues? I do not know in any dogmatic way
        >except to say that the person's position that is closest to the truth
        >is the one that is most correct. The only problem is our
        >understanding of what is true or false. Ultimately, all philosophical
        >problems are problems of epistemology.
        >
        >When George W. Bush says that a regime like North Korea is evil, he
        >points to their possession of nuclear weapons and the proliferation
        >of other weapons as his evidence. But the United States has engaged
        >in much of the same activity. Ultimately, the reason is a difference
        >in politics. North Korea is communist and dictatorial. They oppose
        >the self-interest of the United States and are enemies.
        >
        >Is it reasonable to demonize those who oppose us? I think not. What
        >surprises most people when they come face to face with their enemies
        >is how utterly normal they are. For instance, Hitler in home movies
        >is a smiling, warm, and congenial sort of man. People liked him. But
        >to say these things is to risk falling prey to some of the same sort
        >of demonization. When we demonize, we distort. When we distort, we
        >fall into less rational behavior. Wouldn't it be more rational to say
        >that those who oppose us simply follow a self-interest that conflicts
        >with our own?
        >
        >The popular view of evil is that so-called evil people do things
        >purely for the pleasure of doing something bad. They want to do evil
        >solely for the sake of evil. But is this possible? Let's consider the
        >case of the Marquis de Sade.
        >
        >De Sade is considered by many to be the most evil man that ever
        >lived. Much of this is a distortion since his own life bears only a
        >faint resemblance to the cruelties presented in his writings. Of
        >course, if French authorities refused to intervene, would de Sade
        >have pursued his debauchery to its full extent? Others have, so it is
        >not far from the mark to consider that de Sade would have done so.
        >
        >The Marquis wrote of sexual battery, rape, coprophagy, torture,
        >dismemberment, and murder. He believed that some people were
        >predators and others were prey. He believed it was his role to
        >fulfill his duty as a predator. Even here, we get some small glimmer
        >of rational thought that is similar to Stoicism.
        >
        >For de Sade, his life was lived as a sacrilege. Much of his writing
        >includes blasphemy and his actions seem directed towards offending
        >the Christian deity. This is odd considering that de Sade was an
        >atheist. Why try to offend a deity that does not exist? But de Sade
        >is more complex than this like most people are.
        >
        >I can only speculate, but I suspect that the Marquis de Sade fell
        >prey to a lecherous priest in his early years. As the victim, de Sade
        >was filled with both contempt for himself, the Church, and God.
        >Struggling to find peace with what occurred to him, de Sade accepted
        >the natural order as he perceived it. To him, it is better to be the
        >victimizer than the victim. Instead of complaining of fate, we must
        >embrace it in its true form. But is nature the way that de Sade
        >perceived it? I think not.
        >
        >I could be wrong on this stuff since I can only speculate. I find it
        >interesting that many of the characters in his works are debauched or
        >foolish clergymen. I will let the members of the Stoics group here
        >fill in the details if they know of any additional information that I
        >have overlooked since I am writing this from the top of my head.
        >
        >We can see from this that logic plays a role in the conclusions of
        >one man. I do not believe this absolves him of the responsibilities
        >of his actions nor are we to pity him as some victim. I will have
        >more on the cult of victimization in a future post that will
        >highlight this further.
        >
        >Instead of seeing people as evil, it is more appropriate to see them
        >as mistaken or misguided. Their thinking is erroneous. They have
        >drawn the wrong conclusions. We must also realize that we are prone
        >to the same errors. For instance, Marcus Aurelius persecuted
        >Christians. Aside from this, we consider him a remarkable man. How
        >can someone of such noble character and virtue and forbearance not
        >tolerate a religion that was itself similar in many ways to Stoic
        >philosophy? The answer is simple. He made a mistake.
        >
        >Can we change people simply by instilling in them right reason? I
        >think it would be wise to do so, but I think we are mistaken if we
        >think that we can root out misguided thinking by merely instilling
        >correct thinking through lecturing or rote memorization or
        >propaganda. I think Socrates had the wisest course. He simply pulled
        >it out of the people he taught. In essence, he taught nothing. People
        >were simply made to reason. With Socrates, they were led to examine
        >themselves, their lives, and their thinking.
        >
        >True wisdom comes from the willingness to admit error. It comes from
        >being ready to admit that we are prone to error. How is George W.
        >Bush any different with his "evil axis" speech than the government
        >leaders of Iran who refer to the U.S. as the "Great Satan"? It seems
        >to me that it would be more prudent to be rational and refrain from
        >such distortions.
        >
        >Obviously, force may be the only thing that some people listen to.
        >For instance, I do not think Osama Bin Laden would ever sit down for
        >a philosophical discussion with the United States no matter how
        >sincere the US may be. It is almost impossible to reason with those
        >so misguided that they even distrust reason itself. Socrates could
        >not convince Athenian democrats that he was not a threat to their way
        >of life. The Athenians were reasonable people, yet they made a huge
        >mistake with Socrates. In hindsight, one could make the argument both
        >from Socrates and Marcus Aurelius that capital punishment is not
        >prudent for no other reason than it is a permanent solution to what
        >may be a mistaken problem.
        >
        >In conclusion, there is no such thing as an evil person. People we
        >consider to be evil are ones that are misguided by their own faulty
        >conclusions concerning the natural order. By calling these people
        >evil, we only compound the problem by fostering even more faulty
        >conclusions. Instead, it is more reasonable to acknowledge this and
        >act appropriately. I do not think this will mean an end to war or
        >prisons. But I do think it will end much of the internal distress and
        >anger many people feel. Because we feel that people have wronged us,
        >we wish to react in the same way as the one who has wronged us. But
        >Marcus Aurelius cautions against this. Though people may intend to
        >hurt us, they do it with good intentions in mind. Often, they may be
        >responding to the demonizing that others have done where we are
        >portrayed as the evildoers. Or they may think they are living as
        >nature intended. They are only responding to a faulty proposition. If
        >we respond the same way, we only reinforce that same faulty thinking.
        >
        >Live with honor,
        >Charles Broadway
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
        >
        >
      • charlesbricebroadway
        I think the reason the President and many others resort to morally unambiguous notions is merely for the sake of convenience. It s a lot easier to think in
        Message 3 of 5 , Mar 3, 2002
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          I think the reason the President and many others resort to "morally
          unambiguous" notions is merely for the sake of convenience. It's a
          lot easier to think in terms of good guys versus bad guys than to
          resort to reason. As Dr. Garrett pointed out, there seems to be a
          longing for theocracy among many of his students. Or as Bertrand
          Russell put it, "People would rather die than think."

          --- In stoics@y..., "Gerold Reimondo" <grj@e...> wrote:
          > Mr. Broadway has made some interesting points in his discussion of
          the "Axis
          > of Evil" comment. It has been noted before that apparently
          irrational
          > behavior on the part of disturbed, angry or even mentally ill
          individuals is
          > logical given the basic postulates upon which the individual is
          acting. The
          > problem, as he has noted, is that they are reasoning from faulty
          > propositions. Unfortunately, it seems to me that there is a
          longing on the
          > part of people for certainty. People want "objective" and eternal
          criteria
          > upon which to base moral judgments in particular. Thus, their
          propositions
          > become axiomatic and not subject to logical challenge. Living in
          the Bible
          > belt of the United States, I encounter the attitude that the moral
          guidance
          > of the Bible cannot be open to question because it is the Word of
          God, which
          > we know to be true because God, through human intermediates, wrote
          the
          > Bible. Any attempt to challenge this position by reason is simply
          met with
          > hostility and an admonition that "You must except Jesus Christ as
          your
          > personal savior and have faith". I can imagine that similar
          situations
          > exist for most other revealed religions like Islam and Hinduism.
          Until
          > people are willing to base moral or ethical decisions on a non-
          divinely
          > inspired analysis of what would be beneficial for the community and
          all of
          > its members, I think that the problem of "Evil" is going to be a
          permanent
          > thorn in the side of the human species.
          >
          > Let me say that, while I do not often comment on this forum, I do
          read all
          > the discussions and have found it very helpful in my quest to live
          an
          > honorable life based on reason.
          >
          > Gerold
          >
          > -----Original Message-----
          > From: charlesbricebroadway <charlesbricebroadway@y...>
          > To: stoics@y... <stoics@y...>
          > Date: Sunday, March 03, 2002 12:12 PM
          > Subject: [stoics] axis of evil
          >
          >
          > >AXIS OF EVIL
          > >
          > >"Just as a target is not set up to be missed, in the same way
          nothing
          > >bad by nature happens in the world."--EPICTETUS
          > >
          > >Currently, the phrase "axis of evil" is making the rounds. It has
          > >joined the term "evil empire" (Ronald Reagan's line concerning the
          > >Soviet Union) as being a famous term for the enemies of the United
          > >States. These lines are powerful because they inspire emotions and
          > >policies as only morally unambiguous terms can. Morality is often
          > >subordinated to the self-interests of those who moralize. But the
          > >right wing is not alone in this. Those who oppose affirmative
          action
          > >are called racists. Those who oppose abortion are called Nazis.
          Those
          > >who oppose homosexuality are called homophobes. Those who eat meat
          > >are called murderers. But all of these lines make two assumptions.
          > >The first is that evil exists. The second is that everyone who
          > >disagrees with me is evil. Stoicism takes a different view. There
          is
          > >no such thing as an evil person.
          > >
          > >Epictetus wrote:
          > >
          > >When someone acts badly toward you or speaks badly of you, remember
          > >that he does so or says it in the belief that it is appropriate for
          > >him to do so. Accordingly he cannot follow what appears to you but
          > >only what appears to him, so that if things appear badly to him, he
          > >is harmed in as much as he has been deceived. For if someone thinks
          > >that a true conjunctive proposition is false, the conjunction is
          not
          > >harmed but rather the one who is deceived. Starting from these
          > >considerations you will be gentle with the person who abuses you.
          For
          > >you must say on each occasion, "That's how it seemed to him."
          > >
          > >Here Epictetus points out that people can only respond to what
          seems
          > >reasonable to them. The reason why a criminal robs is because he
          sees
          > >this as being the most reasonable action to do. The reason why
          Hitler
          > >pursued a policy of genocide against the Jews is because he truly
          > >believed that they were a menace to the Aryan race. The reason why
          > >people today look negatively upon Hitler is because they truly
          > >believe that he was evil. But is this the case?
          > >
          > >Much of the problems we face today can be placed in three
          categories.
          > >The first category are problems that occur "naturally". These would
          > >be items such as a hurricane or a dead battery. These do not cause
          > >distress to the Stoic because they are part of the natural order.
          The
          > >same wind that blows down a house is also the wind that powers
          > >sailboats and windmills. There is no volition involved here nor any
          > >plot to specifically deprive us of any preferred indifferents. They
          > >are simply the consequences of the natural order. Understanding
          this,
          > >we see there is no superior logic behind getting upset over these
          > >things. If we discover we have cancer, this should not disturb us.
          > >Instead, we should seek to understand what causes cancer and work
          to
          > >fix it. The mutations that cause cancer are also the mutations that
          > >work to form new species. Similarly, pain is unpleasant but very
          > >useful in preventing further injury or even death. It would be
          unwise
          > >to wish for a painless existence because it would only lead to a
          life
          > >of disfigurement or pain. How can we call these things evil?
          > >
          > >The second class of problems are those that are self-generated. For
          > >instance, I may have left the lights on in my car causing a dead
          > >battery the next day when I prepare to leave for work. These are
          > >known as mistakes. They happen and are also part of the natural
          > >order. We tend to be less distressed over these things because we
          > >realize that the consequences of our actions were unintended. If we
          > >knew the outcome of a particular action, we would work to act
          > >differently. But since we are often bombarded by many decisions day
          > >after day, we make mistakes. We overlook. We screw up. But is this
          > >evil? I do not think so.
          > >
          > >The third class of problems are those that are generated by other
          > >people. These include the screwups of others. If we can overlook
          our
          > >own mistakes, it would be reasonable to overlook the mistakes of
          > >others. We are often more censorious of the failings of others when
          > >we are very often forgiving of our own failings even when the
          actions
          > >and consequences are identical.
          > >
          > >But under the third class of problems is a subset. What about those
          > >actions which are done to deliberately harm another person? For
          > >instance, if a baseball was accidentally knocked into a car window
          at
          > >a little league baseball game, this seems less serious than if a
          > >baseball was intentionally thrown through the same window. The only
          > >thing that is different is the intention of the thrower.
          > >
          > >Without a doubt, people do things to intentionally harm other
          people.
          > >For instance, police sharpshooters train to kill people. This is
          > >their job. Their duty is to inflict harm on other people trying to
          > >inflict harm upon others. They are justified in this action because
          > >it is reasonable.
          > >
          > >But what about the person who snaps and goes into a public place
          with
          > >guns blazing? We call these people "psychos" and "maniacs". They
          are
          > >irrational. But are they? Let's say you are a member of Delta Force
          > >and go into a house filled with Al Qaeda with guns blazing. You
          learn
          > >later that it was the wrong house. Is this rational or irrational
          > >behavior? This will depend upon who you are.
          > >
          > >People like the Unabomber or even Harris and Klebold firmly
          believed
          > >that what they were doing was "right" or what I would say
          > >is "rational." They are no different from the schizophrenic who
          > >believes that the CIA is tracking them down to kill them. They
          truly
          > >believed in what they were doing.
          > >
          > >The Spanish Inquisition is a wonderful case in point. It was bloody
          > >and torturous. But the powers in charge there believed that they
          were
          > >doing their victims a favor. The inquisitors feared for the
          immortal
          > >souls of the people than came before them. Since the soul matters
          > >more than the body and no torture can compare to the agonies of
          Hell,
          > >the Spanish Inquisition went to work recognizing no boundary. They
          > >were doing God's work.
          > >
          > >People tend to consider things evil that are outside of their self-
          > >interest. For instance, fundamentalists consider homosexuality to
          be
          > >evil because the Bible says so. It is in their self-interest to see
          > >that the Bible is vindicated and respected because they wish to
          live
          > >according to God's laws and earn the favor of the Almighty.
          > >Conversely, the homosexual does not see his sexual preference to be
          > >evil because he has hurt no one, and it feels good to him. He
          wishes
          > >to push his agenda as well because he wants to live a life of peace
          > >and harmony and without fear or shame.
          > >
          > >Who is right in these issues? I do not know in any dogmatic way
          > >except to say that the person's position that is closest to the
          truth
          > >is the one that is most correct. The only problem is our
          > >understanding of what is true or false. Ultimately, all
          philosophical
          > >problems are problems of epistemology.
          > >
          > >When George W. Bush says that a regime like North Korea is evil, he
          > >points to their possession of nuclear weapons and the proliferation
          > >of other weapons as his evidence. But the United States has engaged
          > >in much of the same activity. Ultimately, the reason is a
          difference
          > >in politics. North Korea is communist and dictatorial. They oppose
          > >the self-interest of the United States and are enemies.
          > >
          > >Is it reasonable to demonize those who oppose us? I think not. What
          > >surprises most people when they come face to face with their
          enemies
          > >is how utterly normal they are. For instance, Hitler in home movies
          > >is a smiling, warm, and congenial sort of man. People liked him.
          But
          > >to say these things is to risk falling prey to some of the same
          sort
          > >of demonization. When we demonize, we distort. When we distort, we
          > >fall into less rational behavior. Wouldn't it be more rational to
          say
          > >that those who oppose us simply follow a self-interest that
          conflicts
          > >with our own?
          > >
          > >The popular view of evil is that so-called evil people do things
          > >purely for the pleasure of doing something bad. They want to do
          evil
          > >solely for the sake of evil. But is this possible? Let's consider
          the
          > >case of the Marquis de Sade.
          > >
          > >De Sade is considered by many to be the most evil man that ever
          > >lived. Much of this is a distortion since his own life bears only a
          > >faint resemblance to the cruelties presented in his writings. Of
          > >course, if French authorities refused to intervene, would de Sade
          > >have pursued his debauchery to its full extent? Others have, so it
          is
          > >not far from the mark to consider that de Sade would have done so.
          > >
          > >The Marquis wrote of sexual battery, rape, coprophagy, torture,
          > >dismemberment, and murder. He believed that some people were
          > >predators and others were prey. He believed it was his role to
          > >fulfill his duty as a predator. Even here, we get some small
          glimmer
          > >of rational thought that is similar to Stoicism.
          > >
          > >For de Sade, his life was lived as a sacrilege. Much of his writing
          > >includes blasphemy and his actions seem directed towards offending
          > >the Christian deity. This is odd considering that de Sade was an
          > >atheist. Why try to offend a deity that does not exist? But de Sade
          > >is more complex than this like most people are.
          > >
          > >I can only speculate, but I suspect that the Marquis de Sade fell
          > >prey to a lecherous priest in his early years. As the victim, de
          Sade
          > >was filled with both contempt for himself, the Church, and God.
          > >Struggling to find peace with what occurred to him, de Sade
          accepted
          > >the natural order as he perceived it. To him, it is better to be
          the
          > >victimizer than the victim. Instead of complaining of fate, we must
          > >embrace it in its true form. But is nature the way that de Sade
          > >perceived it? I think not.
          > >
          > >I could be wrong on this stuff since I can only speculate. I find
          it
          > >interesting that many of the characters in his works are debauched
          or
          > >foolish clergymen. I will let the members of the Stoics group here
          > >fill in the details if they know of any additional information
          that I
          > >have overlooked since I am writing this from the top of my head.
          > >
          > >We can see from this that logic plays a role in the conclusions of
          > >one man. I do not believe this absolves him of the responsibilities
          > >of his actions nor are we to pity him as some victim. I will have
          > >more on the cult of victimization in a future post that will
          > >highlight this further.
          > >
          > >Instead of seeing people as evil, it is more appropriate to see
          them
          > >as mistaken or misguided. Their thinking is erroneous. They have
          > >drawn the wrong conclusions. We must also realize that we are prone
          > >to the same errors. For instance, Marcus Aurelius persecuted
          > >Christians. Aside from this, we consider him a remarkable man. How
          > >can someone of such noble character and virtue and forbearance not
          > >tolerate a religion that was itself similar in many ways to Stoic
          > >philosophy? The answer is simple. He made a mistake.
          > >
          > >Can we change people simply by instilling in them right reason? I
          > >think it would be wise to do so, but I think we are mistaken if we
          > >think that we can root out misguided thinking by merely instilling
          > >correct thinking through lecturing or rote memorization or
          > >propaganda. I think Socrates had the wisest course. He simply
          pulled
          > >it out of the people he taught. In essence, he taught nothing.
          People
          > >were simply made to reason. With Socrates, they were led to examine
          > >themselves, their lives, and their thinking.
          > >
          > >True wisdom comes from the willingness to admit error. It comes
          from
          > >being ready to admit that we are prone to error. How is George W.
          > >Bush any different with his "evil axis" speech than the government
          > >leaders of Iran who refer to the U.S. as the "Great Satan"? It
          seems
          > >to me that it would be more prudent to be rational and refrain from
          > >such distortions.
          > >
          > >Obviously, force may be the only thing that some people listen to.
          > >For instance, I do not think Osama Bin Laden would ever sit down
          for
          > >a philosophical discussion with the United States no matter how
          > >sincere the US may be. It is almost impossible to reason with those
          > >so misguided that they even distrust reason itself. Socrates could
          > >not convince Athenian democrats that he was not a threat to their
          way
          > >of life. The Athenians were reasonable people, yet they made a huge
          > >mistake with Socrates. In hindsight, one could make the argument
          both
          > >from Socrates and Marcus Aurelius that capital punishment is not
          > >prudent for no other reason than it is a permanent solution to what
          > >may be a mistaken problem.
          > >
          > >In conclusion, there is no such thing as an evil person. People we
          > >consider to be evil are ones that are misguided by their own faulty
          > >conclusions concerning the natural order. By calling these people
          > >evil, we only compound the problem by fostering even more faulty
          > >conclusions. Instead, it is more reasonable to acknowledge this and
          > >act appropriately. I do not think this will mean an end to war or
          > >prisons. But I do think it will end much of the internal distress
          and
          > >anger many people feel. Because we feel that people have wronged
          us,
          > >we wish to react in the same way as the one who has wronged us. But
          > >Marcus Aurelius cautions against this. Though people may intend to
          > >hurt us, they do it with good intentions in mind. Often, they may
          be
          > >responding to the demonizing that others have done where we are
          > >portrayed as the evildoers. Or they may think they are living as
          > >nature intended. They are only responding to a faulty proposition.
          If
          > >we respond the same way, we only reinforce that same faulty
          thinking.
          > >
          > >Live with honor,
          > >Charles Broadway
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to
          http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
          > >
          > >
        • Fortunatus
          Hello, One brief comment, a bit off-topic. ... Hinduism isn t a revealed religion in the same sense as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. While similar
          Message 4 of 5 , Mar 3, 2002
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            Hello,

            One brief comment, a bit off-topic.

            > ...hostility and an admonition that "You must except Jesus Christ as your
            > personal savior and have faith". I can imagine that similar situations
            > exist for most other revealed religions like Islam and Hinduism.

            Hinduism isn't a revealed religion in the same sense as Judaism,
            Christianity, and Islam. While similar reactions do occur among Hindus,
            they are not nearly so prevalent as among the exclusivist monotheistic
            religions. Additionally, according to the various Hindu faiths, one has
            an infinite number of lives in which to discover truth.

            -Conrad
            --
            Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur.
            Ta i quetes Quenyanen séya vanima
          • R&F Bamford
            Well, I guess I have to hand it my Stoic card, because I don t agree with this. Well, much of it I don t. I am an atheist, and I don t like the word evil
            Message 5 of 5 , Mar 3, 2002
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              Well, I guess I have to hand it my Stoic card, because I don't agree with
              this. Well, much of it I don't.

              I am an atheist, and I don't like the word 'evil' because of all the
              religious baggage it carries, but I disagree that it doesn't exist. I would
              prefer a different term, perhaps something like 'ethical wrong,' but it
              would really mean the same thing as evil. You say tomato... yadda, yadda,
              yadda...

              One plus one equals three is a mistake. Leaving your car lights on to cause
              a dead battery is a mistake. Killing a pedestrian while drunk driving is a
              mistake (though one bad enough to warrant punishment, IMHO). But...
              Purposely harming or killing thousands of people, or even just one person,
              is not a mistake; it is evil. (or whatever term you may wish to use) I
              agree in that they've reached their decision to harm and kill other human
              beings because of faulty reasoning, but that does not excuse it, nor make it
              'not evil.' When one kills unnecessarily, one has crossed the line between
              error and evil.

              I strongly think it is 'evil' to harm or kill any person unnecessarily, and
              there is no excuse for it. Of course, this begs the question, "When is it
              necessary?" In a perfect world, where everyone was peaceful and rational,
              it would never be necessary. But obviously, we share the world with a lot
              of irrational people who let their passions control them, and would not
              hesitate to kill others for the most trifling of offense. I would say it is
              necessary ONLY for immediate self-defense (or defense of innocent others),
              and ONLY when there is no realistic non-lethal alternative at hand. For
              example, if someone is shooting at you with the obvious intent to kill you,
              and you have no means to stop him other than shooting back, then it is
              necessary. But if there is some realistic way to stop him without killing
              him, that should be tried first. (I wish someone would get around to
              perfecting a 'stun gun' that is as accurate and effective as lethal
              firearms. The world would be a much better place, I think.) Also, you
              should never kill someone because you think they will try to kill you in the
              future, no matter how strong the evidence. In other words, never take the
              first shot. Yes, this is a disadvantage in war, because it means you're
              always on the defensive rather than the offensive. But if no one took the
              first shot, there'd be no wars, would there?

              Of course, we can debate for hours about endless scenarios and what one
              should do in each. But the general rule is this: NEVER start a fight, but
              if someone else does, do your best to end it peacefully. If the attacking
              party won't let it end peacefully, then you have no choice but to do what
              you have to do to survive. If you MUST do violence to survive, do only as
              much as you must, and not an iota more.

              I like what Robert A. Heinlein once said... "Sin (evil) lies only in hurting
              other people unnecessarily. All other sins (evils) are invented nonsense."

              Regards,
              -Rick Bamford

              -----Original Message-----
              From: charlesbricebroadway [mailto:charlesbricebroadway@...]
              Sent: Sunday, March 03, 2002 1:07 PM
              To: stoics@yahoogroups.com
              Subject: [stoics] axis of evil


              AXIS OF EVIL

              "Just as a target is not set up to be missed, in the same way nothing
              bad by nature happens in the world."--EPICTETUS

              Currently, the phrase "axis of evil" is making the rounds. It has
              joined the term "evil empire" (Ronald Reagan's line concerning the
              Soviet Union) as being a famous term for the enemies of the United
              States. These lines are powerful because they inspire emotions and
              policies as only morally unambiguous terms can. Morality is often
              subordinated to the self-interests of those who moralize. But the
              right wing is not alone in this. Those who oppose affirmative action
              are called racists. Those who oppose abortion are called Nazis. Those
              who oppose homosexuality are called homophobes. Those who eat meat
              are called murderers. But all of these lines make two assumptions.
              The first is that evil exists. The second is that everyone who
              disagrees with me is evil. Stoicism takes a different view. There is
              no such thing as an evil person.

              Epictetus wrote:

              When someone acts badly toward you or speaks badly of you, remember
              that he does so or says it in the belief that it is appropriate for
              him to do so. Accordingly he cannot follow what appears to you but
              only what appears to him, so that if things appear badly to him, he
              is harmed in as much as he has been deceived. For if someone thinks
              that a true conjunctive proposition is false, the conjunction is not
              harmed but rather the one who is deceived. Starting from these
              considerations you will be gentle with the person who abuses you. For
              you must say on each occasion, "That's how it seemed to him."

              Here Epictetus points out that people can only respond to what seems
              reasonable to them. The reason why a criminal robs is because he sees
              this as being the most reasonable action to do. The reason why Hitler
              pursued a policy of genocide against the Jews is because he truly
              believed that they were a menace to the Aryan race. The reason why
              people today look negatively upon Hitler is because they truly
              believe that he was evil. But is this the case?

              Much of the problems we face today can be placed in three categories.
              The first category are problems that occur "naturally". These would
              be items such as a hurricane or a dead battery. These do not cause
              distress to the Stoic because they are part of the natural order. The
              same wind that blows down a house is also the wind that powers
              sailboats and windmills. There is no volition involved here nor any
              plot to specifically deprive us of any preferred indifferents. They
              are simply the consequences of the natural order. Understanding this,
              we see there is no superior logic behind getting upset over these
              things. If we discover we have cancer, this should not disturb us.
              Instead, we should seek to understand what causes cancer and work to
              fix it. The mutations that cause cancer are also the mutations that
              work to form new species. Similarly, pain is unpleasant but very
              useful in preventing further injury or even death. It would be unwise
              to wish for a painless existence because it would only lead to a life
              of disfigurement or pain. How can we call these things evil?

              The second class of problems are those that are self-generated. For
              instance, I may have left the lights on in my car causing a dead
              battery the next day when I prepare to leave for work. These are
              known as mistakes. They happen and are also part of the natural
              order. We tend to be less distressed over these things because we
              realize that the consequences of our actions were unintended. If we
              knew the outcome of a particular action, we would work to act
              differently. But since we are often bombarded by many decisions day
              after day, we make mistakes. We overlook. We screw up. But is this
              evil? I do not think so.

              The third class of problems are those that are generated by other
              people. These include the screwups of others. If we can overlook our
              own mistakes, it would be reasonable to overlook the mistakes of
              others. We are often more censorious of the failings of others when
              we are very often forgiving of our own failings even when the actions
              and consequences are identical.

              But under the third class of problems is a subset. What about those
              actions which are done to deliberately harm another person? For
              instance, if a baseball was accidentally knocked into a car window at
              a little league baseball game, this seems less serious than if a
              baseball was intentionally thrown through the same window. The only
              thing that is different is the intention of the thrower.

              Without a doubt, people do things to intentionally harm other people.
              For instance, police sharpshooters train to kill people. This is
              their job. Their duty is to inflict harm on other people trying to
              inflict harm upon others. They are justified in this action because
              it is reasonable.

              But what about the person who snaps and goes into a public place with
              guns blazing? We call these people "psychos" and "maniacs". They are
              irrational. But are they? Let's say you are a member of Delta Force
              and go into a house filled with Al Qaeda with guns blazing. You learn
              later that it was the wrong house. Is this rational or irrational
              behavior? This will depend upon who you are.

              People like the Unabomber or even Harris and Klebold firmly believed
              that what they were doing was "right" or what I would say
              is "rational." They are no different from the schizophrenic who
              believes that the CIA is tracking them down to kill them. They truly
              believed in what they were doing.

              The Spanish Inquisition is a wonderful case in point. It was bloody
              and torturous. But the powers in charge there believed that they were
              doing their victims a favor. The inquisitors feared for the immortal
              souls of the people than came before them. Since the soul matters
              more than the body and no torture can compare to the agonies of Hell,
              the Spanish Inquisition went to work recognizing no boundary. They
              were doing God's work.

              People tend to consider things evil that are outside of their self-
              interest. For instance, fundamentalists consider homosexuality to be
              evil because the Bible says so. It is in their self-interest to see
              that the Bible is vindicated and respected because they wish to live
              according to God's laws and earn the favor of the Almighty.
              Conversely, the homosexual does not see his sexual preference to be
              evil because he has hurt no one, and it feels good to him. He wishes
              to push his agenda as well because he wants to live a life of peace
              and harmony and without fear or shame.

              Who is right in these issues? I do not know in any dogmatic way
              except to say that the person's position that is closest to the truth
              is the one that is most correct. The only problem is our
              understanding of what is true or false. Ultimately, all philosophical
              problems are problems of epistemology.

              When George W. Bush says that a regime like North Korea is evil, he
              points to their possession of nuclear weapons and the proliferation
              of other weapons as his evidence. But the United States has engaged
              in much of the same activity. Ultimately, the reason is a difference
              in politics. North Korea is communist and dictatorial. They oppose
              the self-interest of the United States and are enemies.

              Is it reasonable to demonize those who oppose us? I think not. What
              surprises most people when they come face to face with their enemies
              is how utterly normal they are. For instance, Hitler in home movies
              is a smiling, warm, and congenial sort of man. People liked him. But
              to say these things is to risk falling prey to some of the same sort
              of demonization. When we demonize, we distort. When we distort, we
              fall into less rational behavior. Wouldn't it be more rational to say
              that those who oppose us simply follow a self-interest that conflicts
              with our own?

              The popular view of evil is that so-called evil people do things
              purely for the pleasure of doing something bad. They want to do evil
              solely for the sake of evil. But is this possible? Let's consider the
              case of the Marquis de Sade.

              De Sade is considered by many to be the most evil man that ever
              lived. Much of this is a distortion since his own life bears only a
              faint resemblance to the cruelties presented in his writings. Of
              course, if French authorities refused to intervene, would de Sade
              have pursued his debauchery to its full extent? Others have, so it is
              not far from the mark to consider that de Sade would have done so.

              The Marquis wrote of sexual battery, rape, coprophagy, torture,
              dismemberment, and murder. He believed that some people were
              predators and others were prey. He believed it was his role to
              fulfill his duty as a predator. Even here, we get some small glimmer
              of rational thought that is similar to Stoicism.

              For de Sade, his life was lived as a sacrilege. Much of his writing
              includes blasphemy and his actions seem directed towards offending
              the Christian deity. This is odd considering that de Sade was an
              atheist. Why try to offend a deity that does not exist? But de Sade
              is more complex than this like most people are.

              I can only speculate, but I suspect that the Marquis de Sade fell
              prey to a lecherous priest in his early years. As the victim, de Sade
              was filled with both contempt for himself, the Church, and God.
              Struggling to find peace with what occurred to him, de Sade accepted
              the natural order as he perceived it. To him, it is better to be the
              victimizer than the victim. Instead of complaining of fate, we must
              embrace it in its true form. But is nature the way that de Sade
              perceived it? I think not.

              I could be wrong on this stuff since I can only speculate. I find it
              interesting that many of the characters in his works are debauched or
              foolish clergymen. I will let the members of the Stoics group here
              fill in the details if they know of any additional information that I
              have overlooked since I am writing this from the top of my head.

              We can see from this that logic plays a role in the conclusions of
              one man. I do not believe this absolves him of the responsibilities
              of his actions nor are we to pity him as some victim. I will have
              more on the cult of victimization in a future post that will
              highlight this further.

              Instead of seeing people as evil, it is more appropriate to see them
              as mistaken or misguided. Their thinking is erroneous. They have
              drawn the wrong conclusions. We must also realize that we are prone
              to the same errors. For instance, Marcus Aurelius persecuted
              Christians. Aside from this, we consider him a remarkable man. How
              can someone of such noble character and virtue and forbearance not
              tolerate a religion that was itself similar in many ways to Stoic
              philosophy? The answer is simple. He made a mistake.

              Can we change people simply by instilling in them right reason? I
              think it would be wise to do so, but I think we are mistaken if we
              think that we can root out misguided thinking by merely instilling
              correct thinking through lecturing or rote memorization or
              propaganda. I think Socrates had the wisest course. He simply pulled
              it out of the people he taught. In essence, he taught nothing. People
              were simply made to reason. With Socrates, they were led to examine
              themselves, their lives, and their thinking.

              True wisdom comes from the willingness to admit error. It comes from
              being ready to admit that we are prone to error. How is George W.
              Bush any different with his "evil axis" speech than the government
              leaders of Iran who refer to the U.S. as the "Great Satan"? It seems
              to me that it would be more prudent to be rational and refrain from
              such distortions.

              Obviously, force may be the only thing that some people listen to.
              For instance, I do not think Osama Bin Laden would ever sit down for
              a philosophical discussion with the United States no matter how
              sincere the US may be. It is almost impossible to reason with those
              so misguided that they even distrust reason itself. Socrates could
              not convince Athenian democrats that he was not a threat to their way
              of life. The Athenians were reasonable people, yet they made a huge
              mistake with Socrates. In hindsight, one could make the argument both
              from Socrates and Marcus Aurelius that capital punishment is not
              prudent for no other reason than it is a permanent solution to what
              may be a mistaken problem.

              In conclusion, there is no such thing as an evil person. People we
              consider to be evil are ones that are misguided by their own faulty
              conclusions concerning the natural order. By calling these people
              evil, we only compound the problem by fostering even more faulty
              conclusions. Instead, it is more reasonable to acknowledge this and
              act appropriately. I do not think this will mean an end to war or
              prisons. But I do think it will end much of the internal distress and
              anger many people feel. Because we feel that people have wronged us,
              we wish to react in the same way as the one who has wronged us. But
              Marcus Aurelius cautions against this. Though people may intend to
              hurt us, they do it with good intentions in mind. Often, they may be
              responding to the demonizing that others have done where we are
              portrayed as the evildoers. Or they may think they are living as
              nature intended. They are only responding to a faulty proposition. If
              we respond the same way, we only reinforce that same faulty thinking.

              Live with honor,
              Charles Broadway






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