Wednesday, April 29, 2015

581: First steps into Evil...

"If there is one human experience ruled by myth it is certainly that of evil. One can understand why: 
the two major forms of experience — moral evil and physical evil — both contain an enigmatic element in whose shadow the difference between them tends to vanish" 
A quote from the “The encyclopedia of religion (Vol. 5). New York: Macmillan. (1987)
When you shoot someone, we call it murder, an act of evil. When someone is struck by lightning and dies, we tend to ask, “Why him? What fore?”
A next step is the question “Who caused that lightning?” Although nowadays we tend to ask “What caused the lightning?”
Yet, two dead and in both cases we experience the feeling of injustice. How to get a philosophical hold on evil?
Maybe there is an interesting starting point. David Hume (1711 - 1776) writes in his “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion”: 
‘Epicurus’ old questions are not yet answered. Is he (God) willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. 
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence, then, is evil?’ 
This is a famous quote,  very popular in atheist circles, of course. Google images on “Epicurus” or “atheism Epicurus” and you get thousands of hits.
The work of Hume illustrates a shift in perceptions of the nature of the problem in the eighteenth century. 
Up to the rationalist Enlightenment, in theistic traditions the main challenge presented by the problem of evil was to defend the coherence of theism, as a matter of understanding. 
That is, theologians put all their energy in finding explanations why god allows evil and why this is not a logical contradiction: god + evil.
This still is an issue and the big hero in this debate today is the 82 years old protestant theologian Alvin Plantinga.  (Btw. his parents were immigrants from the Netherlands:-)
We’ll get back to him.
After the Enlightenment, with the rise of a more widespread atheism, the problem of evil challenges the existence of a sovereign and good god as a matter of credibility.
A short sidetrack. What you see here is a shift to the option of atheism and secularism. This has lead to the serious change of dominance of the church and religion in Europe.
It is interesting to notice, that such a shift in perceptions never seem to have taken place in the Islamic world,
which, if you leave politics aside, appears still lead to an effort to adjust reality to islamic religious beliefs, where in the Western world has happened the opposite.
To begin with, it is important to note that there are at least two concepts of evil: a broad concept and a narrow concept. 
Evil in the broad sense has been divided into two categories: natural evil and moral evil. 
Natural evils are bad states of affairs which do not result from the intentions or negligence of moral agents. Hurricanes and toothaches are examples of natural evils. 
By contrast, moral evils do result from the intentions or negligence of moral agents. Murder and lying are examples of moral evils.
Since the narrow concept of evil involves moral condemnation, it is appropriately ascribed only to moral agents and their actions.
It focuses on the most morally despicable sorts of actions, characters, events, etc. Evil in this narrower sense is more often meant 
when the term ‘evil’ is used in contemporary moral, political, and legal contexts.
I think this is a good starting point…thank you …the floor is yours.

The Discussion

Max Chatnoir: If evil is something done by humans, then it has to be undone by humans.  I wouldn't regard natural disasters, as awful as they might be, as evil.
CB Axel: I agree. Nature isn't evil. Nature just is.
Max Chatnoir: As for a toothache, maybe if you have a kid whose parents won't take him to the dentist.
herman Bergson: Well that is some kind of problem, Max....
CB Axel: But even then, the toothache isn't evil. The parents might be.
Max Chatnoir: But in that case, it's not the tooth that is the evil agent, but the parents.
herman Bergson: Because a lot of people still believe that some natural disaster is the act of some fact god...
Max Chatnoir: LOL
CB Axel: jinx
CB Axel: Then God really hates mobile home parks.
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): like thunder is the work of Donar?
herman Bergson: In investigation evil we can't ignore the problem of evil....
herman Bergson: Yes Beertje...
herman Bergson: Just keep in mind....
Rae (raebyenary): the idea of god bringing down natural evil is still comparable to moral evil, because one would have to have a concept of morality to say that god is doing something unjust
herman Bergson: only 13 % of the population of this earth is secular
Rae (raebyenary): so both could be the same
herman Bergson: THAT , Rae is the big problem....!
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): why would god hate a mobile home park?
herman Bergson: Because when god is benevolent and he hurts his creation....that is very weird
CB Axel: I don't know, but he sure slams them with a lot of tornadoes.
Max Chatnoir: Seems simpler just to remove God from the equation, and try to improve weathercasting.
herman Bergson: That, Max, is exactly what some people do.....
herman Bergson: We'll get to that in future lectures
Max Chatnoir: My husband was talking about General Motors having bought up all the trolley system in some city and then let it deteriorate so they could sell more cars.  If they really did that, then that would strike me as a evil act.
herman Bergson: There you hit the nerve of capitalism, Max....
herman Bergson: What GEneral Motors did was NOT evil.....
Max Chatnoir: I do know that publisher buy up the rights for rival textbooks and then stop publishing them.  One of my favorite bio books was done in that way.
Max Chatnoir: I thought capitalism was about competition.  Killing the competition isn't competing.
herman Bergson: That too is NOT evil., Max...I have to disappoint you :-))
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): but is that evil Max?
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): evil
herman Bergson: I'll tel you why....
Rae (raebyenary): well, its more about the process of killing each other, the cycle of that
herman Bergson: No....wait....listen....
herman Bergson: The financial crisis of 2008 was mainly caused by banks and their actions....
Max Chatnoir: Of course that's a sensitive issue since I live in a city with no public transportation to speak of.
herman Bergson: endangering a whole society might be seen as evil...but it was not
herman Bergson: not a single banker was sentenced to prison...and I can tell you why...
herman Bergson: when asked...why did you sell these dangerous knew the risk....
herman Bergson: the answer always was...yes..but it was NOT against the law...
Max Chatnoir: so does being legal make something moral?
Rae (raebyenary): ^
herman Bergson: so buying manuscripts of competeting authors is NOT against the law....and thence in their eyes....not evil doing
CB Axel: So evil is in the eye of the beholder?
herman Bergson: That is the hot spot MAx....
Max Chatnoir: Well, I might not insist that it's evil, but it does strike me as unethical.
Rae (raebyenary): i believe they did know they were doing something unjust, they just used the law to justify it
CB Axel: Exactly, Rae.
herman Bergson: Exactlt Rae!
CB Axel: Or the lack of a law...of regulation.
herman Bergson: Tehy have no ethics....they just have targets to make
Max Chatnoir: Well, theoretically book publishers are doing a service, which doesn't mean that they should not get paid for it.
Rae (raebyenary): then perhaps evil is more about intention
Rae (raebyenary): good people can commit evil acts, but i think its truly evil if someone doesn’t recognize their wrongdoings, or knows that they are doing wrong and do not care
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): father forgive them because they don't know what they are doing???....
herman Bergson: Here we come to the issue of defining evil....
herman Bergson: some philosophers even suggest to drop the concept...
herman Bergson: But that is for next lectures :-)
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): IS has no evil acts?
Max Chatnoir: Well, a good start to the conversation!
herman Bergson: It is just about dropping the concept because it is outdated....and not applicable
herman Bergson: I didnt mean to drop the reality of evil doing :-)
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): ah
Rae (raebyenary): well, its obviously still applicable if we can compare the concept of evil to recent events
herman Bergson: It is a kinf of Wittgensteinian issue .....
Max Chatnoir: You mean don't worry about whether it is evil or not, just worry about trying to prevent behavior that damages other people?
herman Bergson: To begin with Max...
herman Bergson: but it is also a matter of semantics...
Rae (raebyenary): i think its an important chunk of morality...
Rae (raebyenary): should be discussed
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): someone whoe does damage to another person is evil?....
herman Bergson: When you use a concept ..everything that fits into the concept as referent has soemthing in least one trait...
herman Bergson: but as Wittgenstein pointed is a family resemblance....
Max Chatnoir: Evil is such a powerful word, but it does have some supernatural connotations.
herman Bergson: A has something in common with B and B wiC and D and D with K....
Max Chatnoir: Maybe we should work on encouraging human responsibility for human actions.
Rae (raebyenary): are supernatural topics no longer relevant, then?
herman Bergson: and we call them all 'evil'
Max Chatnoir: No, of course not.  I just think that when supernatural entities are introduced, human responsibility is diminished.
herman Bergson: on he contrary Rae if you mean religious topics...
Max Chatnoir: diminished.
herman Bergson: Depends on the gods Max...:-)
herman Bergson: The gods from the Olympus had little interest in the existence of individual persones....only in some persons
herman Bergson: while the christian god seems to be connected with every individual life
Max Chatnoir: Interesting distinction.
Max Chatnoir: Certainly some people claim that God tells them to do bad things, like bomb abortion clinics.
herman Bergson: One thing is clear.....we can not discuss the issue of Evil and ignore its relation to religions...
Max Chatnoir: I suppose not.
herman Bergson: But that isn’t a problem....
herman Bergson: religion is part of culture....
Max Chatnoir: and helps to define moral and immoral acts.
Rae (raebyenary): in an objective viewpoint, in their mind bombing abortion clinics, per your example, is not a bad thing
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): are religions the cause of evil?
herman Bergson: no Beertje for that you do not need religions...only humans
CB Axel: You don't need religion to define morality.
CB Axel: You need empathy.
herman Bergson: The issu e here is only how these humans interpret the quality and causes of their actions
herman Bergson: Frans van der Waal CB.....
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): i think we can learn a lot about evil..for instance how NOT to treat people
Rae (raebyenary): well, if the concept of what is evil is fluid, its hard to say how we SHOULD treat people
herman Bergson: That is the chapter ETHICS in this discourse, Rae :-)
Rae (raebyenary) nods
herman Bergson: I think we covered enough ground for today :-)
herman Bergson: Thank you all for the interesting discussion...
CB Axel: Thank you, Herman.
Rae (raebyenary): and thank you for hosting the class
herman Bergson: Class dismissed..^_^
Rae (raebyenary): :)
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): thank you Herman:)

.:Rae (raebyenary): well, off i go then

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