We talked recently about evil and what it is and what it isn't.
There can be a natural evil - something like a natural disaster (like we have seen so vividly in Haiti in the past week that may have killed almost 200,000 people and possibly left a million people homeless); diseases like cancer, AIDS, etc; accidents or other things that don't seem to have an intent to do harm but just happen (an agentless cause).
- 4th hour broke this one down to discuss a thing like lung cancer. If lung cancer is caused by someone's smoking habit, then it can be considered evil. The cigarettes themselves, however, cannot be thought of as evil, because they needed to be used in order to become toxic. If a person develops lung cancer b/c he/she lives in a high pollution area and has lived w/ heavy smokers his/her entire life, then the person wouldn't be considered evil. An evil has been done to him/her by another person's free will (the smoker, the polluting company).
- 5th hour broke it down with the atomic bomb - we tried to figure out if an object itself could be evil w/o an agent to use it. Discussing the atomic bomb, I think we came to the conclusion that there had to be some agent who needed to enforce his/her will upon the atomic bomb to make it do his/her bidding. Otherwise, the bomb could be used as a planter, couch, etc. without such an agent and therefore isn't evil.
Then there are moral evils. These have an agent as the cause or someone or something doing the evil with intent. We tried to break things down to universals - is there a universal evil in every society? Wikipedia broke the nature of moral evil down into 4 groups:
"Views on the nature of evil tend to fall into one of four opposed camps:
Moral absolutism holds that good and evil are fixed concepts established by a deity or deities, nature, morality, common sense, or some other source;
Amoralism claims that good and evil are meaningless, that there is no moral ingredient in nature;
Moral relativism holds that standards of good and evil are only products of local culture, custom, or prejudice;
Moral universalism is the attempt to find a compromise between the absolutist sense of morality, and the relativist view; universalism claims that morality is only flexible to a degree, and that what is truly good or evil can be determined by examining what is commonly considered to be evil amongst all humans. Author Sam Harris notes that universal morality can be understood using measurable (i.e. quantifiable) metrics of happiness and suffering, both physical and mental, rooted in how the biology of the brain processes stimuli." 1
As we had mentioned in the past unit, St. Augustine thought that evil was not doing God's will. Judaism believes (correct me if I'm wrong) that evil results when one forsakes God.
Then there is the problem of evil - why does it exist at all? This is the school of thought that if God (or any all knowing, all powerful good diety) existed, why would that diety allow evil to exist? If it did allow evil to exist, then is the diety really good and/or all powerful? There are many ways to look at this - see Problem of evil - here - and here - and here - for ideas. Some religious types think that this argument is so corrosive that they devote a lot of energy to debunking it - they think it might lead to atheism.
C.S. Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia, wrote this about his early athiest days:
"My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?... Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too--for the argument depended on saying the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies" 3
Occam's Razor is an idea credited to 14th Century friar William of Ockham which states that the conclusion based on the fewest assumptions is most likely the right one. 2
Questions (pick 3 of 4 questions to answer):
1. Is it better to prevent evil than to promoting good when making rules or standards to live by? Why?
2. Do you agree with the problem of evil - that a benevolent, omnipotent diety wouldn't allow evil? Why or why not?
3. Are we making this more complicated than it has to be? Or should we just reduce it to the simplest explanation (Occam's razor - see above)?
4. If we as humans can conceive of evil or evil acts and thoughts, does that mean we are evil by nature? Why or why not?
Due Thursday, January 21. 200 words minimum.
1. Evil, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil
2. Occam's Razor http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor
3. Problem of Evil http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_evil
4. Problem of Evil http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-problem-of-evil.htm
5. Problem of Evil http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/
6. Problem of Evil