What does being "evil" really mean? Can someone be vicious or cruel without being evil?
It's been weighing on my mind. I often try to rationalize the actions of others which is one of my weaknesses. My fiance often tells me that's the reason people hurt me.
I am not talking about being cruel once or someone who does something vicious unknowingly. If someone is constantly being cruel to his sibling, is that being evil? Does the level of cruelty define how evil he is? What makes someone evil?
A good book that defines evil is M. Scott Peck's, People of the Lie. He describes those few he labels as "evil." Interestingly, most of these people were not his patients, but were the parents of his patients. I think you might gain some insight from the book. You can find it at your local library.
Primarily, Peck describes evil as the complete absence of empathy, which extends to cruelty, in the form of humiliation or rationalizing one's actions, which can destroy the spirit of another. (my paraphrasing)
Personally, I see evil as that which makes a mockery of love for one's own (supposed) glory or self-justification. For example, Peck tells of parents who had two sons. One committed suicide with his own rifle. For Christmas later that year, the parents gave the other son the very same rifle. When asked why they did so, by the psychiatrist whom the living son was seeing for depression, the parents simply said, "Well, it's a perfectly good gun, and he should be happy to have it." "What difference does it make whose rifle it was?" "He should be thankful." "Money doesn't grow on trees."
Peck stated that he felt an actual physical presence of evil. He would have preferred to leave the room, so strong was his revulsion. He concluded that the parents were evil. Peck also alluded to the parents' pure narcissism.
Wow! Big question! I shall try and express my own views on this, though I have to say Savvydating did a marvelous job!
I think the true nature of what we might call "evil" is not a description of an event but rather of intention. That is to say, an evil act is as follows: To knowingly cause harm or suffering for ones own gratification.
I think true evil is not in a lack of empathy - because this is mere psychopathy - a mental illness of sorts. True evil is in pure egocentric sadism. The one committing the act is not unable to empathize with their victim - in fact they have gone way over the other side and actually take visceral pleasure through identifying with the pain and misery they are inflicting. They do not lack the ability to empathize because their identification with the suffering that they are causing along with the narcissistic delight of knowing they have made it happen is what gives them their pleasure.
I dunno - this is just my thoughts as of this moment. Fully open to debate of course...
Interesting that M. Scott Peck 'felt' the evil in a person. I've had that experience. It is quite different from the feeling one's gets from the standover merchant or power-over-others-type bully.
I recall some years ago coming out of my place of work which was at Sydney Airport way back in the 1960s, to stroll past a man who was hovering across the street from the door of the International Terminal. He was obviously trying not to be noticed but at the same time watching that entrance like a hawk.
As I walked past him it was as if he were enveloped in an invisible cloak of evil. It sort of sent a shudder through me as I passed by. I felt pretty certain that he was a 'hitman' or 'assassin' - something of that nature, waiting to locate somebody he intended to injure in some way, if not kill them.
It is something I've never experienced before or since, but it is not something I imagined or rationalized, for I had no reason whatsovever to do so. To me, that man was an embodiment of evil intent.
Rationalization normally leads to misinterpretation.
From Merriam-Webster -
1 : morally bad ▪ an evil villain ▪ evil spirits ▪ evil deeds
2 a : causing harm or injury to someone ▪ She drank an evil potion.
2 b : marked by bad luck or bad events ▪ The city has fallen on evil days/times.
2 c : very unpleasant or offensive ▪ an evil smell ▪ an evil temper
2 d : showing that something bad will happen ▪ It was an evil omen.
Based on this standard definition, someone that is vicious or cruel is evil.
I have been engaged in deterrence activities over 40 years and I can tell you that this definition is the only way to describe an individual that is vicious or cruel.
I have met thousands of vicious or cruel individuals and they all possess the same characteristics.
1. They Always Deny-Deny-Deny
2. They Persistently Blame-Blame-Blame
3. They Never Accept Responsibility
4. They Always Destroy Opposition through lies
5. They Continually exert Divide and Conquer
6. They Take Hypocrisy to an Art Form
7. They Spin the Truth
8. They Control every level of Education
9. They hide Unethical, Immoral and Illegal behavior
10. They Promise-Promise-Promise to be better while making life more miserable.
11. They Hide their intentions by Promoting Restrictions while striking out at others.
12. They constantly declare their opposition as Racists.
13. They continually Peddle Divisiveness creating hate between groups.
14. They promote themselves as a Prima Donna.
15. They apply an invisible hocus-pocus when they are discovered or ratted out.
16. They are the first to ask for forgiveness and tolerance when found out.
17. They never change their demeanor regardless of situation-always "top dog" declaring "I win-you lose".
18. They lack the ability to show love because they are always apologizing and yet never forgiving.
19. It is never their fault, regardless of the truth.
20. They Lie-Lie-Lie in an attempt to get what they want.
Evil is not normally graded on levels of cruel because those who are damaged and hurt feel evil, not a level of evil.
For example, a person attacked by a violent group feels evil much the same way that a young child feels it when bullied. The physical measure may be different, but the feeling of evil remains much the same. This is due to the effect known as "scale of fear".
In both cases the person forms a fear of returning evil that will be focused upon them.
The "fear factor" spurs "flight or fight" in individuals.
The evil one chases and harms
My short answer here (as none can top what's been said here) would be that one can only be evil if one's intentions are evil. I tend to get very annoyed by people who don't know what I'm saying, or even just being crowded. But if I do bark at people and perhaps intimidate them, it could be for the better.
I wouldn't say my dad was evil but he got annoyed with me a lot when I was much younger, but every time he got into my face and pointed at me, or shouted at me, I'd learn the lesson and not repeat it again. His intentions were good, but his methods were bold. Whether you consider that evil is opinion, and even though I hate such methods of being taught, I can't deny its effectiveness.
What does evil really mean may require a trip to Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy or read Augustine's works. Essentially some say evil is the absence of God or nothingness. The arguments get long and so forth since God is omnipotent and etc. Then, it may become arguments or discussions focused between good and evil, which is really an emphasis on bad with a synonym. That leads into your next question.
Is bad evil while presuming vicious and cruel are bad? Arguments along the philosophical debates would say "No, bad is not evil" since it "does" exist. If evil is the absence of God or nothingness, bad does occur or exist, then it cannot be evil. Or, bad does have moral consequences.
Hinduism, Buddhism, and etc. have differing views. An example is Buddhist placing demons at the four corners of a building seeking protection. Suffering is the focus rather than evil within many other religions and philosophies.
tim (place normal opinion disclaimer here)
It depends on your definition of "evil" and your definition of "cruelty."
Tough love can be viewed as "cruelty" by the recipient. They may later mature to see the wisdom of it, so it no longer is viewed as cruel.
True evil is selfish. It comes from ego. And ego is very clever about hiding its tracks. It can justify its evil and make it seem necessary, like America's wars of aggression labeled as "peace-keeping actions," or "making the world safe for democracy." Such lies are common with ego and they work well with those who view the world from their own ego.
Ego is vulnerable. Ego hungers to be right all the time. Ego is easily bruised when found to be wrong.
Ego is both perpetrator and victim. Ego is the mass murderer and the suicide perpetrator. Ego is also the little old lady who goes to church every Sunday, but despises the cross-dressing teen who sits in the back.
Ego is the Pharisee who showed off their generosity and suffered during their fasting so that all knew they were "doing good."
On the other side of things, God has given us a great deal that some have labeled as "cruel" and even "evil." It's not, though. For example, Noah's Flood was only an act of love. How can we say this?
Genesis 1:26 tells us that God created us in His image and likeness. I need to point out here, though, that God is not Homo sapiens! During the Flood, none of God's children were harmed; only their temporary human bodies were destroyed.
Get to know ego and all its wily tricks. As Jesus said, you can know a tree by the fruit it bears. Ego is always selfish in one fashion or another. Even in their generosity, the Rockefellers were always public about their philanthropy. And they have given humanity a great deal of evil. To them, you and I are "useless eaters" consuming their precious resources. They want to implant tracking chips in our bodies and to enslave us (see Aaron Russo's last interview, available on YouTube). They helped, or at least knew about, 9/11 more than a year before it happened, and viewed it as a great boon to their plans.
Humility is the antidote to ego. Add love, and you have a powerful combination. These lead to miracles.
I don't know if we have time to fully cover the meaning. It is so deep. There are so many different levels and degrees, not to mention personal ideas of what it means. Ethics covers so many varied discussions on the topic, it makes your head spin. If it hurts someone, with intent, then it is evil - in my opinion.
That's a good question! I really appreciate it! I am kinda evil without being vicious and cruel! being evil doesn't mean that you are vicious and cruel! being evil means that you are annoying and doesn't care about what people says and think about you
It is quite fashionable today to say that evil does not exist at all. Everything is situational & morally relative. However, EVIL does exist in all of ITS myriad forms. read more
This hub is in response to this question. Please CHECK out this hub, read, and leave comments, thank you ever so kindly.
Read and commented. You haven't commented on my response to your forum..what gives? )
I did, your answer is indeed eloquent and each person has his/her perspective regarding the issue of evil and it meaning regarding the human condition.
I totally agree with your response. Some people, because of inherent flaws in their characters, become evil although they were reared in the very best of environment while others raised in hellish conditions refuse to let such evil affect them.
Cardisa, this is an excellent question, made me think. I again offer you a multitude of thanks for stopping by, reading, and responding to my hub. You are indeed a gracious hubber. Much appreciation again.
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