What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

For the serious discussion of weighty matters and worldly issues. No off-topic posts allowed.

Moderators: Azrael, Moderators General, Prelates

webgrunt
Posts: 123
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2011 4:04 pm UTC

What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby webgrunt » Tue May 10, 2011 7:02 pm UTC

For this thread, let's please agree to consider evil the perpetration of violence against people for reasons other than actual self-defense--in other words, violence against the innocent.

"All that is necessary for evil to exist is for men who think themselves good to try to fight it."

The intent of the above quote is to claim that much evil is committed in the act of trying to fight evil. For example, a country may invade another country with the intent of fighting evil, but the result of the invasion may cause much more evil than it prevents--or there may not be any evil there to begin with, only the perception of it by the government of the aggressor nation.

Do you think the quote above effectively communicates the general idea that some evil is created as the direct result of an attempt to fight evil?
Last edited by webgrunt on Tue May 10, 2011 7:09 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Lazar
Landed Gentry
Posts: 2151
Joined: Tue Dec 29, 2009 11:49 pm UTC
Location: Massachusetts

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Lazar » Tue May 10, 2011 7:08 pm UTC

webgrunt wrote:Do you think the quote above effectively communicates this idea?

No, because the quote is more absolute than the idea that you've expressed. The quote indicates that well-intentioned intervention is the one and only necessary precondition for evil to exist (which... makes you a pacifist, and also seems a bit circular), whereas what you've written afterwards is that well-intentioned intervention may or may not result in some evil happening.

Do you think the quote above effectively communicates the general idea that some evil is created as the direct result of an attempt to fight evil?

Still no, because the quote isn't expressing that idea, but rather a more extreme one (which can probably be disproven). It seems like you're just trying too hard to imitate Burke's well-known quote about good men doing nothing.
Exit the vampires' castle.

User avatar
Aaeriele
Posts: 2124
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:30 am UTC
Location: San Francisco, CA

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Aaeriele » Tue May 10, 2011 7:30 pm UTC

Lazar wrote:Still no, because the quote isn't expressing that idea, but rather a more extreme one (which can probably be disproven). It seems like you're just trying too hard to imitate Burke's well-known quote about good men doing nothing.


^
Vaniver wrote:Harvard is a hedge fund that runs the most prestigious dating agency in the world, and incidentally employs famous scientists to do research.

afuzzyduck wrote:ITS MEANT TO BE FLUTTERSHY BUT I JUST SEE AAERIELE! CURSE YOU FORA!

webgrunt
Posts: 123
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2011 4:04 pm UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby webgrunt » Tue May 10, 2011 7:30 pm UTC

Lazar wrote:
webgrunt wrote:Do you think the quote above effectively communicates this idea?

No, because the quote is more absolute than the idea that you've expressed. The quote indicates that well-intentioned intervention is the one and only necessary precondition for evil to exist (which... makes you a pacifist, and also seems a bit circular), whereas what you've written afterwards is that well-intentioned intervention may or may not result in some evil happening.

Do you think the quote above effectively communicates the general idea that some evil is created as the direct result of an attempt to fight evil?

Still no, because the quote isn't expressing that idea, but rather a more extreme one (which can probably be disproven). It seems like you're just trying too hard to imitate Burke's well-known quote about good men doing nothing.

Thank you. I'm trying to show the double-edgedness of his quote.

I believe that most of the great evils (the holocaust, Stalin's massacres, Mao's massacres, etc.) were perpetrated by people who were simply trying to fight evil.

I'm not trying to say that violence should never be used to fight evil, only that a great deal of, possibly most, organized violence against innocents is simply men (who believe they are good) doing what they think must be done to prevent the success of evil. Maybe that last sentence there will have to be the quote, although it's much less rhythmic and doesn't reflect the one attributed to Burke very well.

Goplat
Posts: 490
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 11:41 pm UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Goplat » Tue May 10, 2011 7:54 pm UTC

webgrunt wrote:For this thread, let's please agree to consider evil the perpetration of violence against people for reasons other than actual self-defense--in other words, violence against the innocent.
Sounds good to me.

"All that is necessary for evil to exist is for men who think themselves good to try to fight it."

The intent of the above quote is to claim that much evil is committed in the act of trying to fight evil. For example, a country may invade another country with the intent of fighting evil, but the result of the invasion may cause much more evil than it prevents--or there may not be any evil there to begin with, only the perception of it by the government of the aggressor nation.
The problem here is the leaders of the invading country are not good people trying to fight evil. That's just what they tell the ignorant masses. They know perfectly well that the evil they were looking for probably doesn't exist; they're just out to enrich their buddies in the energy and defense industries.

A tiny amount of evil is committed by actual good people trying to fight evil. A large amount is committed by people who just claim to be such but are really just looking out for their own interest at others' expense (i.e. governments), and the majority is committed by people who don't even claim to be good (i.e. criminals).

joek
Posts: 95
Joined: Tue Apr 21, 2009 4:33 pm UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby joek » Tue May 10, 2011 8:36 pm UTC

webgrunt wrote:I believe that most of the great evils (the holocaust, Stalin's massacres, Mao's massacres, etc.) were perpetrated by people who were simply trying to fight evil.


Hmm, I'm not convinced that Stalin's massacres of political opponents, nor the Holocaust, could reasonably be described as an attempt to fight evil. I don't know much about Mao, but both Hitler and Stalin's aims were more personal gain than the elimination of evil. Stalin was only aiming to keep himself in power - not even, like Lenin in the civil war, ensure the continuation of the communist state - while Hitler's aim was to 'cleanse' the world of 'subhuman' races. Hardly attacks on evil.

User avatar
TheGrammarBolshevik
Posts: 4878
Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:12 am UTC
Location: Going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Tue May 10, 2011 9:09 pm UTC

"All that is necessary for violence against the innocent to exist is for men who think themselves good to try to fight it."

Rewrite the quote for your unconventional definition of evil and it no longer sounds terribly interesting.
Nothing rhymes with orange,
Not even sporange.

User avatar
Aaeriele
Posts: 2124
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:30 am UTC
Location: San Francisco, CA

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Aaeriele » Tue May 10, 2011 9:20 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:"All that is necessary for violence to exist is for men to try to fight."


FTFY. Yay tautology.
Vaniver wrote:Harvard is a hedge fund that runs the most prestigious dating agency in the world, and incidentally employs famous scientists to do research.

afuzzyduck wrote:ITS MEANT TO BE FLUTTERSHY BUT I JUST SEE AAERIELE! CURSE YOU FORA!

Abgrund
Posts: 46
Joined: Tue May 03, 2011 1:16 am UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Abgrund » Tue May 10, 2011 10:45 pm UTC

"All that is essential for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" -Edmund Burke

User avatar
Aaeriele
Posts: 2124
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:30 am UTC
Location: San Francisco, CA

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Aaeriele » Tue May 10, 2011 10:50 pm UTC

Abgrund wrote:"All that is essential for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" -Edmund Burke


Thank you Ted, that was the joke.
Vaniver wrote:Harvard is a hedge fund that runs the most prestigious dating agency in the world, and incidentally employs famous scientists to do research.

afuzzyduck wrote:ITS MEANT TO BE FLUTTERSHY BUT I JUST SEE AAERIELE! CURSE YOU FORA!

webgrunt
Posts: 123
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2011 4:04 pm UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby webgrunt » Tue May 10, 2011 11:38 pm UTC

joek wrote:
webgrunt wrote:I believe that most of the great evils (the holocaust, Stalin's massacres, Mao's massacres, etc.) were perpetrated by people who were simply trying to fight evil.


Hmm, I'm not convinced that Stalin's massacres of political opponents, nor the Holocaust, could reasonably be described as an attempt to fight evil. I don't know much about Mao, but both Hitler and Stalin's aims were more personal gain than the elimination of evil. Stalin was only aiming to keep himself in power - not even, like Lenin in the civil war, ensure the continuation of the communist state - while Hitler's aim was to 'cleanse' the world of 'subhuman' races. Hardly attacks on evil.

Only from your perspective. Stalin believed he was the best person for the job, therefore to him, anyone trying to remove him was evil and needed to be fought. Hitler's goal as you stated can very clearly be seen as fighting evil if you simply look at it from his perspective. He was trying to cleanse the world of subhuman races that caused (so he believed) most of the evil in the world.

No, I think you'll see I'm right if you try stepping out of your own perspective and looking at it from the viewpoint of those who committed the biggest atrocities. Now, I'm not saying their viewpoint is correct or even valid. What I'm saying is that I believe these mass killings were basically the result of people doing what they thought was the right thing to do--they were trying to prevent evil from succeeding.
Last edited by webgrunt on Tue May 10, 2011 11:47 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

webgrunt
Posts: 123
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2011 4:04 pm UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby webgrunt » Tue May 10, 2011 11:43 pm UTC

Goplat wrote:
webgrunt wrote:For this thread, let's please agree to consider evil the perpetration of violence against people for reasons other than actual self-defense--in other words, violence against the innocent.
Sounds good to me.

"All that is necessary for evil to exist is for men who think themselves good to try to fight it."

The intent of the above quote is to claim that much evil is committed in the act of trying to fight evil. For example, a country may invade another country with the intent of fighting evil, but the result of the invasion may cause much more evil than it prevents--or there may not be any evil there to begin with, only the perception of it by the government of the aggressor nation.
The problem here is the leaders of the invading country are not good people trying to fight evil. That's just what they tell the ignorant masses. They know perfectly well that the evil they were looking for probably doesn't exist; they're just out to enrich their buddies in the energy and defense industries.

A tiny amount of evil is committed by actual good people trying to fight evil. A large amount is committed by people who just claim to be such but are really just looking out for their own interest at others' expense (i.e. governments), and the majority is committed by people who don't even claim to be good (i.e. criminals).

I see your point, but I disagree. I firmly believe that many of the atrocity-perpetrating leaders do convince themselves that they are firmly in the right. It's surprisingly easy for even highly intelligent people to delude themselves into believing absurd things, and thinking that what benefits you personally is what benefits everyone personally is a common self-delusion--especially when you are in a position to bring about what you think benefits you personally!

User avatar
Aaeriele
Posts: 2124
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:30 am UTC
Location: San Francisco, CA

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Aaeriele » Wed May 11, 2011 12:01 am UTC

Believing yourself to be good does not necessarily mean you are good in a way that could be morally justified by a rational being.

Also, it's generally considered good form to edit your existing post rather than posting twice in a row.
Vaniver wrote:Harvard is a hedge fund that runs the most prestigious dating agency in the world, and incidentally employs famous scientists to do research.

afuzzyduck wrote:ITS MEANT TO BE FLUTTERSHY BUT I JUST SEE AAERIELE! CURSE YOU FORA!

User avatar
Metaphysician
Posts: 519
Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2011 10:58 pm UTC
Location: WV, The Tenth Circle of Hell

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Metaphysician » Wed May 11, 2011 12:02 am UTC

webgrunt wrote:
joek wrote:
webgrunt wrote:I believe that most of the great evils (the holocaust, Stalin's massacres, Mao's massacres, etc.) were perpetrated by people who were simply trying to fight evil.


Hmm, I'm not convinced that Stalin's massacres of political opponents, nor the Holocaust, could reasonably be described as an attempt to fight evil. I don't know much about Mao, but both Hitler and Stalin's aims were more personal gain than the elimination of evil. Stalin was only aiming to keep himself in power - not even, like Lenin in the civil war, ensure the continuation of the communist state - while Hitler's aim was to 'cleanse' the world of 'subhuman' races. Hardly attacks on evil.

Only from your perspective. Stalin believed he was the best person for the job, therefore to him, anyone trying to remove him was evil and needed to be fought. Hitler's goal as you stated can very clearly be seen as fighting evil if you simply look at it from his perspective. He was trying to cleanse the world of subhuman races that caused (so he believed) most of the evil in the world.

No, I think you'll see I'm right if you try stepping out of your own perspective and looking at it from the viewpoint of those who committed the biggest atrocities.


Hitler and Stalin were not trying to fight evil. They were trying to preserve their power and expand their empires. When I put myself in Hitler or Stalin's shoes I can even more clearly see that their actions were a direct result of their hunger for power or their fear of losing power. Hitler used the cause of creating a master race for the good of humanity to implement the classic fascist tactic of using nationalism to unite the majority of the populace against a perceived threat (in this case anybody the slightest bit different.) Jews were targeted because they were for the most part upper middle class, non-working class and easy to cast as the enemy of the working man and they were some of the Nazi party's most powerful opponents. Blacks (or African-Germans?) were targeted because at the time they competed for the jobs of the working class majority. Every decision that was made by Hitler was made for the sake of expediency in his attempt to consolidate power. Even if Hitler did start to believe his own propaganda and start attempting to actually create a master race, this was because he was deluded. So, his murders were the result of the rise of a deluded, power hungry, madman to power. Now, was he fighting a righteous cause in his twisted mind? Maybe he was, but to say that he was a good person, with good intentions trying to fight evil, is retarded.

Stalin is also very difficult to defend because it was pretty clear by the time Stalin came into power that the political system was corrupt, broken, the people poor and repressed. The violence, bloodshed and chaos had not lead to the improvement of the state of the people. Stalin was not a true believer, he was a propagandist and ruthless political animal that did everything he could to hang on to power at the expense of millions of lives. He never took one action that was truly aimed at improving the lives of the common man. Your statement might fly for Lenin as he was actually a revolutionary and may have actually believed he was doing good though it did not turn out so well.

The problem with your statement is that you are only defining the term evil and not the term good so everybody is going to read their own meaning into the term good and nobody will agree with what you say because they will all understand it differently.
What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.
-Kurt Vonnegut

User avatar
VannA
White
Posts: 1446
Joined: Thu Sep 21, 2006 1:57 am UTC
Location: Sydney, Australia
Contact:

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby VannA » Wed May 11, 2011 4:00 am UTC

webgrunt wrote:For this thread, let's please agree to consider evil the perpetration of violence against people for reasons other than actual self-defense--in other words, violence against the innocent.


Are you using violence only in a physical sense?

And how are you then defining good?

Given that your subsequent posts are using good in a subjectivie sense, this should then dictate a change in definition of 'evil' for every person involved.
Furthermore, in all cases you've then listed, people undertook actions against people they did not hold as innocent, and were acting in defense of their position, or the people they represented.
Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy.

The Mighty Thesaurus
In your library, eating your students
Posts: 4399
Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2007 7:47 am UTC
Location: The Daily Bugle

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Wed May 11, 2011 5:58 am UTC

You heard it here first, folks - killing cats and destroying great works of art isn't evil.

Aaeriele wrote:Also, it's generally considered good form to edit your existing post rather than posting twice in a row.

FaiD is a way of life.
LE4dGOLEM wrote:your ability to tell things from things remains one of your skills.
Weeks wrote:Not only can you tell things from things, you can recognize when a thing is a thing

Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam

Goplat
Posts: 490
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 11:41 pm UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Goplat » Wed May 11, 2011 6:20 am UTC

I took that opening sentence as meaning "consider this to be a kind of evil", not "consider evil to be defined as this".

Czhorat
Posts: 365
Joined: Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:28 pm UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Czhorat » Wed May 11, 2011 4:17 pm UTC

webgrunt wrote:For this thread, let's please agree to consider evil the perpetration of violence against people for reasons other than actual self-defense--in other words, violence against the innocent.

"All that is necessary for evil to exist is for men who think themselves good to try to fight it."

The intent of the above quote is to claim that much evil is committed in the act of trying to fight evil. For example, a country may invade another country with the intent of fighting evil, but the result of the invasion may cause much more evil than it prevents--or there may not be any evil there to begin with, only the perception of it by the government of the aggressor nation.

Do you think the quote above effectively communicates the general idea that some evil is created as the direct result of an attempt to fight evil?


I have no idea what you're really getting at here, unless you're deliberately building a strawman. By your logic, the correct response to a perceived evil is... to do nothing? I think that's how evil is allowed to flourish.

Unless you think that fighting against Nazis, for instance, makes you "just as bad as they are"

webgrunt
Posts: 123
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2011 4:04 pm UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby webgrunt » Wed May 11, 2011 5:23 pm UTC

Metaphysician wrote:(irrelevant junk snipped to save space)Now, was he fighting a righteous cause in his twisted mind? Maybe he was, but to say that he was a good person, with good intentions trying to fight evil, is retarded.

As is using a straw man argument and utterly failing to get the picture. Ignored.

Czhorat
Posts: 365
Joined: Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:28 pm UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Czhorat » Wed May 11, 2011 5:34 pm UTC

webgrunt wrote:
Metaphysician wrote:(irrelevant junk snipped to save space)Now, was he fighting a righteous cause in his twisted mind? Maybe he was, but to say that he was a good person, with good intentions trying to fight evil, is retarded.

As is using a straw man argument and utterly failing to get the picture. Ignored.


In what way do you think Metaphysician didn't address your OP? I think he was 100% on-target, and used real historic examples. If your idea won't fit things which actually happened, might it be possible that it's a poor idea?

User avatar
Yakk
Poster with most posts but no title.
Posts: 11053
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2007 7:27 pm UTC
Location: E pur si muove

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Yakk » Wed May 11, 2011 5:35 pm UTC

webgrunt wrote:
Metaphysician wrote:(irrelevant junk snipped to save space)Now, was he fighting a righteous cause in his twisted mind? Maybe he was, but to say that he was a good person, with good intentions trying to fight evil, is retarded.

As is using a straw man argument and utterly failing to get the picture. Ignored.

If metaphysician's argument is a straw man argument, then define "good" in the context of your post.

If we define "good" broadly enough (as in: anything someone wants to do is "good" from their perspective), then the conditional part of your statement is ... basically true of any and all actions anyone ever does. With your definition of "evil" being an action, then we can prove your claim true as "In order for (an action by a person) to occur, some person has to try to do (an action)", where "trying to do good" is "trying to do anything", and "evil" is just some subset of actions by people.

Is that your argument? If not, please provide a definition of "good" that is less broad than "any action that anyone wants to do".

Secondly, do I really want to post in this thread, and have it mess up my egosearch?
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

Last edited by JHVH on Fri Oct 23, 4004 BCE 6:17 pm, edited 6 times in total.

User avatar
Metaphysician
Posts: 519
Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2011 10:58 pm UTC
Location: WV, The Tenth Circle of Hell

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Metaphysician » Wed May 11, 2011 6:04 pm UTC

You can't go around accusing people of using straw man arguments when the original statement is so ill defined. If you don't define your terms, people will argue against them according to how they understand it. Don't blame me for misunderstanding what you say when you're the one that's communicating so poorly. 169

webgrunt wrote:For this thread, let's please agree to consider evil the perpetration of violence against people for reasons other than actual self-defense--in other words, violence against the innocent.

"All that is necessary for evil to exist is for men who think themselves good to try to fight it."

The intent of the above quote is to claim that much evil is committed in the act of trying to fight evil. For example, a country may invade another country with the intent of fighting evil, but the result of the invasion may cause much more evil than it prevents--or there may not be any evil there to begin with, only the perception of it by the government of the aggressor nation.

Do you think the quote above effectively communicates the general idea that some evil is created as the direct result of an attempt to fight evil?


You have only defined evil in this. You have not defined the terms "good" or "innocent". The validity of the statement hinges on these meanings. Your proposition is incredibly vague and the vagueness extends to the implications as well.

In your examples, (Hitler, Stalin, Mao) do they have the same definition of evil that you do? If they do not have the same definition as you, what is their definition? Also, since we are supposed to evaluate your statement based on the definitions you gave, if the example subjects do not hold the same definition then the example can have no bearing on the correctness of the statement since the "it" that they are fighting refers back to the "evil" used previously in the statement.

EDIT: I also still fail to see how my argument was a straw man in the first place. I dealt directly with the statements made in the OP. Again, definitions are important.
What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.
-Kurt Vonnegut

webgrunt
Posts: 123
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2011 4:04 pm UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby webgrunt » Wed May 11, 2011 6:15 pm UTC

Czhorat wrote:
webgrunt wrote:For this thread, let's please agree to consider evil the perpetration of violence against people for reasons other than actual self-defense--in other words, violence against the innocent.

"All that is necessary for evil to exist is for men who think themselves good to try to fight it."

The intent of the above quote is to claim that much evil is committed in the act of trying to fight evil. For example, a country may invade another country with the intent of fighting evil, but the result of the invasion may cause much more evil than it prevents--or there may not be any evil there to begin with, only the perception of it by the government of the aggressor nation.

Do you think the quote above effectively communicates the general idea that some evil is created as the direct result of an attempt to fight evil?


I have no idea what you're really getting at here, unless you're deliberately building a strawman. By your logic, the correct response to a perceived evil is... to do nothing? I think that's how evil is allowed to flourish.

Unless you think that fighting against Nazis, for instance, makes you "just as bad as they are"



Your claim that my argument leads to the conclusion that "the correct response to evil is to do nothing" is based on a non-sequitur.

The bottom line here (to what I'm saying) is that most if not all of the atrocities in history were the result of people believing that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing, and, considering themselves good men, did what they felt they had to do to fight evil. Whether or not they were deluded isn't even relevant.

Now, you're apparently thinking that if this is true, then it implies that fighting evil is bad. If that's what you think, you're wrong. The fact that most evil is committed for a certain reason does not mean that anything done for that reason is evil or that nothing should be done for that reason. To draw that conclusion from what I'm saying seems, frankly, bizarre.

I'm not drawing a conclusion about how evil should be handled, because I expect you to be able to deal with that question yourself without needing my input. What I'm doing here is illustrating a data point: the underlying cause of or justification for great evil is usually good intentions. Are those good intentions misguided? Of course, but that's irrelevant to my point.

If you require that I provide some moral to this, it would be that use of military force for just purposes requires a great deal more objectivity than has been shown in the past and present. Part of delusion's nature is it masquerades as knowledge--people who are deluded never think they are. I expect that it is more difficult for a national leader to be objective, because they feel a responsibility to see things from the perspective of those who empower them (and probably to some extent, the rest of their nation.)

webgrunt
Posts: 123
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2011 4:04 pm UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby webgrunt » Wed May 11, 2011 6:19 pm UTC

Czhorat wrote:
webgrunt wrote:
Metaphysician wrote:(irrelevant junk snipped to save space)Now, was he fighting a righteous cause in his twisted mind? Maybe he was, but to say that he was a good person, with good intentions trying to fight evil, is retarded.

As is using a straw man argument and utterly failing to get the picture. Ignored.


In what way do you think Metaphysician didn't address your OP? I think he was 100% on-target, and used real historic examples. If your idea won't fit things which actually happened, might it be possible that it's a poor idea?

I never said Hitler was a good person. I said he believed that he was. He was trying to rid the world of what he saw as the source of most of its problems, thereby eliminating evil and making the world a better place. Seems simple enough.

User avatar
Yakk
Poster with most posts but no title.
Posts: 11053
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2007 7:27 pm UTC
Location: E pur si muove

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Yakk » Wed May 11, 2011 6:21 pm UTC

How is "did Stalin think he was doing good" not a relevant question? Why did you respond to someone asking this question with (I ignore you, because your statements are not relevant)?
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

Last edited by JHVH on Fri Oct 23, 4004 BCE 6:17 pm, edited 6 times in total.

User avatar
Aaeriele
Posts: 2124
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:30 am UTC
Location: San Francisco, CA

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Aaeriele » Wed May 11, 2011 6:23 pm UTC

webgrunt wrote:he believed that he was. He was trying to rid the world of what he saw as the source of most of its problems, thereby eliminating evil and making the world a better place.


[citation needed]
Vaniver wrote:Harvard is a hedge fund that runs the most prestigious dating agency in the world, and incidentally employs famous scientists to do research.

afuzzyduck wrote:ITS MEANT TO BE FLUTTERSHY BUT I JUST SEE AAERIELE! CURSE YOU FORA!

User avatar
Metaphysician
Posts: 519
Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2011 10:58 pm UTC
Location: WV, The Tenth Circle of Hell

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Metaphysician » Wed May 11, 2011 6:36 pm UTC

It's still a preposterous statement.

Evil=Violence against the innocent.

Thus, in order for evil to be fought, it must exist before one tries to fight it. If evil exists before one tries to fight it, then there must be something else that spurs evil.
What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.
-Kurt Vonnegut

Czhorat
Posts: 365
Joined: Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:28 pm UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Czhorat » Wed May 11, 2011 6:38 pm UTC

webgrunt wrote:I never said Hitler was a good person. I said he believed that he was. He was trying to rid the world of what he saw as the source of most of its problems, thereby eliminating evil and making the world a better place. Seems simple enough.


If your point is "everyone can self-justify their own actions" I suppose that's likely true. I don't see it as being a very useful statement.

Even if we accept as a given that Hitler thought he was doing "good", I'd counter that Ghandi thought he was doing "good" when he opposed British control of India, as did FDR when he brought the US into World War II, as did President Obama when he ordered the attack on Osama bin Laden's compound, as did former President Clinton when he intervened militarily to prevent ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, as did former President George W Bush when he ordered the invasion of Iraq.

Your definition doesn't seem to draw a distinction between the above, and therefore doesn't seem all that useful to me.

User avatar
Metaphysician
Posts: 519
Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2011 10:58 pm UTC
Location: WV, The Tenth Circle of Hell

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Metaphysician » Wed May 11, 2011 6:49 pm UTC

Czhorat wrote:
webgrunt wrote:I never said Hitler was a good person. I said he believed that he was. He was trying to rid the world of what he saw as the source of most of its problems, thereby eliminating evil and making the world a better place. Seems simple enough.


If your point is "everyone can self-justify their own actions" I suppose that's likely true. I don't see it as being a very useful statement.

Even if we accept as a given that Hitler thought he was doing "good", I'd counter that Ghandi thought he was doing "good" when he opposed British control of India, as did FDR when he brought the US into World War II, as did President Obama when he ordered the attack on Osama bin Laden's compound, as did former President Clinton when he intervened militarily to prevent ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, as did former President George W Bush when he ordered the invasion of Iraq.

Your definition doesn't seem to draw a distinction between the above, and therefore doesn't seem all that useful to me.


This is a good point. The original quote though has nothing to do with self justification, it deals with what "is necessary for evil to exist" and is patently wrong.
What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.
-Kurt Vonnegut

FrancovS
Posts: 59
Joined: Fri Apr 16, 2010 1:47 am UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby FrancovS » Wed May 11, 2011 11:37 pm UTC

webgrunt wrote:For this thread, let's please agree to consider as evil the perpetration of violence against people for reasons other than actual self-defense--in other words, violence against the innocent.


That's what you meant, right? In this case, it is pretty clear that one can do evil without claiming to be fighting against it, so the quote should be "For evil to exist, it is enough...". Now, taking way to many liberties: considering evil as "the concept of evil", the quote can suggest that a passable universal definition of evil is "something that should be fought". Which gives you an insight on how "fighting evil" can justify pretty anything.

User avatar
CorruptUser
Posts: 8881
Joined: Fri Nov 06, 2009 10:12 pm UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby CorruptUser » Wed May 11, 2011 11:50 pm UTC

"Evil" is NOT contained in "violence"; it is possible to be nonviolently evil. For example, theft. The grand example, Madoff. Madoff did more harm than most serial murders could ever hope to achieve, without punching babies and/or kicking puppies.

Also, Westboro Baptist Church. Tell me they aren't evil, please try. A bunch of lawyers founded a "church", where they do the most offensive stuff imaginable, then just wait for people to "violate their constitutional rights". Those types of people do more harm than any mugger, sociopath, rapist, etc, could do, simply because they break the system. The law ends up being reformed for those cases, but the more the law is twisted, the easier it becomes to eliminate liberties for everyone else*.


*That's why in Britain, they have ASBO's, where the protection of the law is removed for certain court-ordered individuals, rather than eliminating the protections for all. They are usually ignored, but it's still better than changing the law entirely.

User avatar
Iulus Cofield
WINNING
Posts: 2917
Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 9:31 am UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Iulus Cofield » Thu May 12, 2011 10:32 am UTC

Aaeriele wrote:
webgrunt wrote:he believed that he was. He was trying to rid the world of what he saw as the source of most of its problems, thereby eliminating evil and making the world a better place.


[citation needed]

:P Hitler's intentions are well documented. The idea of him trying to conquer the world, while understandable, isn't true. Ever wonder why he decided to launch a massive bombing campaign on Britain rather than a full invasion? It wasn't just overconfidence or Goerring's persuasive arrogance, Hitler wanted to batter the British enough to force a quick peace so he could focus on his real goal of taking "lebensraum" from Russia. My citation for that is a book on WWII, that I can't be bothered to find on my bookshelf at this late hour.

User avatar
Lazar
Landed Gentry
Posts: 2151
Joined: Tue Dec 29, 2009 11:49 pm UTC
Location: Massachusetts

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Lazar » Thu May 12, 2011 10:42 am UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:Ever wonder why he decided to launch a massive bombing campaign on Britain rather than a full invasion?

I think he went with bombing because full invasion simply wasn't a realistic option. Most historians agree that Operation Sealion would have been a catastrophe for the Germans, probably hastening the Allied victory.

It wasn't just overconfidence or Goerring's persuasive arrogance, Hitler wanted to batter the British enough to force a quick peace so he could focus on his real goal of taking "lebensraum" from Russia. My citation for that is a book on WWII, that I can't be bothered to find on my bookshelf at this late hour.

He certainly viewed the war against Britain and France as a regrettable distraction from his agenda in the East, but I don't think anyone's been able to say with confidence what his plans were for the world outside of Europe.
Exit the vampires' castle.

MrConor
Posts: 101
Joined: Sun Jan 02, 2011 10:19 am UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby MrConor » Thu May 12, 2011 1:33 pm UTC

webgrunt wrote:
Goplat wrote:
webgrunt wrote:For this thread, let's please agree to consider evil the perpetration of violence against people for reasons other than actual self-defense--in other words, violence against the innocent.
Sounds good to me.

"All that is necessary for evil to exist is for men who think themselves good to try to fight it."

The intent of the above quote is to claim that much evil is committed in the act of trying to fight evil. For example, a country may invade another country with the intent of fighting evil, but the result of the invasion may cause much more evil than it prevents--or there may not be any evil there to begin with, only the perception of it by the government of the aggressor nation.
The problem here is the leaders of the invading country are not good people trying to fight evil. That's just what they tell the ignorant masses. They know perfectly well that the evil they were looking for probably doesn't exist; they're just out to enrich their buddies in the energy and defense industries.

A tiny amount of evil is committed by actual good people trying to fight evil. A large amount is committed by people who just claim to be such but are really just looking out for their own interest at others' expense (i.e. governments), and the majority is committed by people who don't even claim to be good (i.e. criminals).

I see your point, but I disagree. I firmly believe that many of the atrocity-perpetrating leaders do convince themselves that they are firmly in the right. It's surprisingly easy for even highly intelligent people to delude themselves into believing absurd things, and thinking that what benefits you personally is what benefits everyone personally is a common self-delusion--especially when you are in a position to bring about what you think benefits you personally!


I'm just going to leave this here, since it's very much relevant to the thread. I don't know how many of you will have read Dr Altemayer's The Authoritarians, but if you do you'll note that the worst consequences seem to occur when a large number people of an authoritarian mindset (who do need to be convinced they are in the right, but once they are will act very aggressively towards outgroups) are led by people classed as 'social dominators' (who most certainly do not need to be convinced they are in the right but will manipulate others for personal gain). It's a very good book, considering that it's being given out for free.

collegestudent22
Posts: 256
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2009 5:36 am UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby collegestudent22 » Fri May 13, 2011 10:15 am UTC

Goplat wrote:
"All that is necessary for evil to exist is for men who think themselves good to try to fight it."

The intent of the above quote is to claim that much evil is committed in the act of trying to fight evil. For example, a country may invade another country with the intent of fighting evil, but the result of the invasion may cause much more evil than it prevents--or there may not be any evil there to begin with, only the perception of it by the government of the aggressor nation.
The problem here is the leaders of the invading country are not good people trying to fight evil. That's just what they tell the ignorant masses. They know perfectly well that the evil they were looking for probably doesn't exist; they're just out to enrich their buddies in the energy and defense industries.


I vehemently disagree with this. While I think the war in Iraq and Afghanistan was a mistake, Saddam and the Taliban could easily be defined as evil - both killed many of their own people for political and fundamentalist reasons.

webgrunt wrote:I never said Hitler was a good person. I said he believed that he was. He was trying to rid the world of what he saw as the source of most of its problems, thereby eliminating evil and making the world a better place. Seems simple enough.


Good, by definition (as opposed to your definition of evil), is the "attempted prevention or absence of violence against the innocent". Western militaries, since the Geneva Convention, have done so, minimizing the collateral damage caused by war with new technologies and tactics. So, de facto, they are the "good" guys.

Those who truly think of themselves as good would minimize collateral damage and the hurting of innocents. Thus, the violence against the innocent has another source. And that source is those that are evil - bin Laden, Hitler, Qaddafi, Saddam, Stalin, etc.

Eowiel
Posts: 163
Joined: Sat Jun 12, 2010 5:57 pm UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby Eowiel » Fri May 13, 2011 11:37 am UTC

collegestudent22 wrote:Good, by definition (as opposed to your definition of evil), is the "attempted prevention or absence of violence against the innocent". Western militaries, since the Geneva Convention, have done so, minimizing the collateral damage caused by war with new technologies and tactics. So, de facto, they are the "good" guys.

Those who truly think of themselves as good would minimize collateral damage and the hurting of innocents. Thus, the violence against the innocent has another source. And that source is those that are evil - bin Laden, Hitler, Qaddafi, Saddam, Stalin, etc.


As corruptUser pointed out, evil is broader than violence. You can be evil without ever commiting any violence. Also, the reason why the Western militaries adhere to the rule to minimalize civilian deaths is in a large part explainable by the fact that they are able to do so with minimal cost. I doubt the rule would still be followed in a war were the existence of any Western was really threatened, I'm sure they would rationalize pretty fast that targetting civilians would be neccesary for the greater good, their existence.

And that's often exactly what happens when someone does evil, they rationalise that "innocents" must die for the greater good or that the "innocents" are not innocent.

According to your definition of evil, the allies were evil during WWII, so who do you think was the "other source" you were speaking about?

collegestudent22
Posts: 256
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2009 5:36 am UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby collegestudent22 » Fri May 13, 2011 11:47 am UTC

Eowiel wrote:I doubt the rule would still be followed in a war were the existence of any Western was really threatened, I'm sure they would rationalize pretty fast that targetting civilians would be neccesary for the greater good, their existence.


Then you are dealing with self-defense on a national scale, not irrational violence against innocents. As for the extension of evil, the original quote and the OP's version of it are pretty closely tied to war, not all kinds of evil.

According to your definition of evil, the allies were evil during WWII, so who do you think was the "other source" you were speaking about?


Hitler's Germany and Imperial Japan started the war (thereby committing crimes against peace by starting a war of aggression and territorial advancement, as defined by the 1907 Hague Convention), and committed some horrible atrocities against innocents - the Holocaust, Bataan Death March, and the Nanjing Massacre are quite obviously the biggest ones.

User avatar
hawkinsssable
Promoted
Posts: 216
Joined: Fri May 06, 2011 7:46 am UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby hawkinsssable » Fri May 13, 2011 2:06 pm UTC

Goplat wrote:The problem here is the leaders of the invading country are not good people trying to fight evil. That's just what they tell the ignorant masses. They know perfectly well that the evil they were looking for probably doesn't exist; they're just out to enrich their buddies in the energy and defense industries.
collegestudent22 wrote: I vehemently disagree with this. While I think the war in Iraq and Afghanistan was a mistake, Saddam and the Taliban could easily be defined as evil - both killed many of their own people for political and fundamentalist reasons.


The funny thing is that the Soviet Union proclaimed a very similar set of goals to the US when they invaded Afghanistan- and, you know, gave a fairly decent attempt at providing education and development and all sorts of nice stuff- but the idea that they were doing so for altruistic, kind- hearted reasons was NEVER taken seriously by the US press. And quite rightly so. On the other hand, the Soviet newspapers tended to take Soviet officials at their word (though still printing a fair few opinions critical of the invasion).

Now that the US (and Australia) are involved, the media in our respective countries take the claims that the invasions were well- intentioned completely seriously.

I believe this has everything to do with the way that news is generated and and very, very little to do with how genuine our leaders are. And I also think that it doesn't take a particularly close examination of US foreign policy to realise that if they truly had the goal of fighting the maximum feasible amount of 'evil' (as defined as 'violence against the innocent'), the shape of US foreign policy would be very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very different.

webgrunt wrote:I see your point, but I disagree. I firmly believe that many of the atrocity-perpetrating leaders do convince themselves that they are firmly in the right. It's surprisingly easy for even highly intelligent people to delude themselves into believing absurd things, and thinking that what benefits you personally is what benefits everyone personally is a common self-delusion--especially when you are in a position to bring about what you think benefits you personally!


I agree with this, but I also believe that atrocity- perpetrating leaders are not put into a position to be able to commit atrocities by themselves. There are probably millions of people with some disturbing, racist beliefs that would do horrible things to a lot of people if they were ever put in charge of a government. I think people selfishly following their own interests helps account for a good portion of the evil usually attributed to evil leaders.

Take Hitler, the rise of the Nazi party, and the running of the death camps (according to my very shonky understanding of German history). At a time when a huge proportion of Germans were absolutely dirt poor, there were two attractive ideologies floating around-communism (as represented by the German Communist Party and a bunch of communist independents) and, well, a facist, anti- communist ideology blaming everything on the Jews (as represented by Hitler and the Nazi party.) Who do you think the business interests of the time threw their weight behind, and offered their considerably support to?

And who do you think maintained the machinery that tracked the Jewish prisoners and marked them for execution? IBM, not the German government.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that evil state actions can often be traced down to a lot of little selfish decisions by a lot of little selfish individuals, and that focusing on individuals who might honestly believe they're doing good isn't necessarily that productive.

collegestudent22 wrote:Good, by definition (as opposed to your definition of evil), is the "attempted prevention or absence of violence against the innocent". Western militaries, since the Geneva Convention, have done so, minimizing the collateral damage caused by war with new technologies and tactics. So, de facto, they are the "good" guys.


Explain to me exactly how the no- fly zones in the Vietnam War (vast civilian areas that could be bombed at will), or the 1991 comprehensive economic sanctions against Iraq (which ultimately killed an estimated 500,000 children alone)- two pick just two of the most obvious examples- are consistent with "minimizing collatoral damage... with new technologies and tactics."
Reason has always existed, but not always in a reasonable form.

collegestudent22
Posts: 256
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2009 5:36 am UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby collegestudent22 » Sat May 14, 2011 7:04 am UTC

hawkinsssable wrote:
Goplat wrote:The problem here is the leaders of the invading country are not good people trying to fight evil. That's just what they tell the ignorant masses. They know perfectly well that the evil they were looking for probably doesn't exist; they're just out to enrich their buddies in the energy and defense industries.
collegestudent22 wrote: I vehemently disagree with this. While I think the war in Iraq and Afghanistan was a mistake, Saddam and the Taliban could easily be defined as evil - both killed many of their own people for political and fundamentalist reasons.


The funny thing is that the Soviet Union proclaimed a very similar set of goals to the US when they invaded Afghanistan- and, you know, gave a fairly decent attempt at providing education and development and all sorts of nice stuff- but the idea that they were doing so for altruistic, kind- hearted reasons was NEVER taken seriously by the US press.


The US has no history of up and murdering their own people or innocents in nearby countries for political disagreement, either.

collegestudent22 wrote:Good, by definition (as opposed to your definition of evil), is the "attempted prevention or absence of violence against the innocent". Western militaries, since the Geneva Convention, have done so, minimizing the collateral damage caused by war with new technologies and tactics. So, de facto, they are the "good" guys.


Explain to me exactly how the no- fly zones in the Vietnam War (vast civilian areas that could be bombed at will)


You seem to have a lack of understanding of how the Vietnam War was conducted and what a no-fly zone is. To put it succinctly, the Vietnam War was mainly lost BECAUSE the bombs were controlled, not by those that found the targets, but by talking heads in Washington D.C. A no-fly zone is only patrolled by fighter aircraft to shoot down enemy aircraft - in Vietnam, mostly to ward off any potential interference from the USSR.

the 1991 comprehensive economic sanctions against Iraq (which ultimately killed an estimated 500,000 children alone)


Saddam killed those children. Not any sanctions. Increased child mortality was observed in Iraq's (government controlled) south and center, but not in the (then independent) north, where child mortality decreased (wonder why?). In fact, it was the necessary items for survival (food/medicine) that were EXEMPT from the sanctions.

User avatar
hawkinsssable
Promoted
Posts: 216
Joined: Fri May 06, 2011 7:46 am UTC

Re: What do you think of this quote about "evil"?

Postby hawkinsssable » Sat May 14, 2011 3:05 pm UTC

collegestudent22 wrote:You seem to have a lack of understanding of how the Vietnam War was conducted and what a no-fly zone is. To put it succinctly, the Vietnam War was mainly lost BECAUSE the bombs were controlled, not by those that found the targets, but by talking heads in Washington D.C. A no-fly zone is only patrolled by fighter aircraft to shoot down enemy aircraft - in Vietnam, mostly to ward off any potential interference from the USSR.


Sorry, I incredibly clumsily mis- typed. Too much Libya in the news lately. Substitute "free- fire zones" for "no- fly zones".

As a sidenote, that's an... incredibly interesting account of why the Vietnam War was lost.

collegestudent22 wrote:Saddam killed those children. Not any sanctions. Increased child mortality was observed in Iraq's (government controlled) south and center, but not in the (then independent) north, where child mortality decreased (wonder why?). In fact, it was the necessary items for survival (food/medicine) that were EXEMPT from the sanctions.


Ostensibly exempt, but with a very very narrow definition of 'necessary for survival' that excluded a lot of things that WERE necessary for survival. It's been well documented by a lot of people, and Joy Gordon has a neat little summary of it here.

collegestudent22 wrote:The US has no history of up and murdering their own people or innocents in nearby countries for political disagreement, either.


... really? You honestly, honestly believe that the support the US provided to a whole slew of Latin American dictators isn't comparable with "up and murdering innocents in nearby countries for political (/economic) disagreement"?
Reason has always existed, but not always in a reasonable form.


Return to “Serious Business”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 11 guests