Categories of evil

Thursday, November 21, 2019

6:10 a.m. Bueno, amigos, que tal?

Let’s continue to explore the question of whether your life matters to anybody but you, because if you are designed to do something, that is where you will find your satisfaction, like a born artist, painting. And if you know what you are designed to do – which means, what you are designed to be – then you have the master key to the question of what you should and should not encourage in your life.

Or, to put it in other words, we will know the difference between an application and a virus.

You will be better able to weigh the effects of given tendencies, put it that way. You will see whether the fruit is rotten or not.

Which lands us smack in the middle of the question of religious prohibitions.

You will remember, we delved extensively into the question of good and evil, logically separating out the various overlapping categories of “wrong” or “evil.” The scale extends from things that are evil in themselves all the way to things that are merely considered evil because they are disapproved or even merely because they have been forbidden.

“Dog trainers,” I thought as I wrote that graf. To some degree, arbitrary prohibitions (no meat on Fridays) may be put into place as a test of obedience.

Of course.

You say “of course,” but how many people ever think of it that way? Churches that set up arbitrary prohibitions merely add to the confusion between what is truly evil in itself, what leads to evil tendencies, and what is merely undesirable in itself, and what is merely prohibited by some authority, legitimately or not. Those are four very different characteristics, or qualities, and if I was not already familiar with the added clarity that comes with connection to the other side, this would show me. There isn’t anything in the dividing into four categories that I didn’t know, but it was never so crystal-clear as it became in writing it out.

Give us this much credit: That is why we have been encouraging people to practice ILC.

Well, I do, and mil gracias.

So, as you say, four categories of things, all commonly lumped as one, to the confusion of the observer.

  • Evil in itself. Deliberate cruelty, for instance.
  • Leading to evil tendencies. Bad habits, in other words. The road to hell, so to speak.
  • Undesirable. Or perhaps one might say, unedifying. Backbiting. Things that annoy people or lead to social friction.
  • Merely prohibited. No meat on Fridays. Walking outside of crosswalks. Not using seatbelts.

In actually thinking about these concepts (criticizing, looking for exceptions or invalidating examples) you will get the concepts. Merely accepting them will get you little or nothing.

Seemingly simple, this is nonetheless a powerful distinction, because once you see the situation clearly, you can see that there is no need to define evil out of existence merely for the sake of acquiring freedom from arbitrary or superstitious or tyrannical prohibitions.

Now, notice, the same action, even the same tendency, may fit into different categories in different circumstances. The way to light up the argument is to use a charged example, so let’s look at sex in this context.

For convenience, let us label the four conditions E1, E2, E3, and E4. E for “evil,” you understand. So E1 is pure evil, evil in itself, regardless of circumstance. What is called a “necessary evil” – killing in warfare, perhaps – is nonetheless recognized as evil. That is, the circumstances around killing may have everything to do with the guilt or lack of guilt of the killer, so that he may be in fact guilty of nothing; still the evil of the killing remains.

E2 is something that leads one toward evil, even though it per se may not be evil. An example, though a slippery one, might be hanging out with bad companions. Nothing wrong with the friendship in itself, but it may easily lead to evil. That is, it is in itself dangerous.

E3 is what is considered undesirable or unpalatable. Anti-social habits stemming from selfishness or carelessness, for instance. At one end, such habits tend toward E2, at the other, toward mere nuisance value. Office politics, selfishness, disruptive behavior – even, at the one end of the scale, littering, as an expression of lack of consideration for others. Certainly not serious, but illustrative.

E4 Merely prohibited. Things no one would even notice if they weren’t prohibited so that violating the prohibition is itself considered an offence. Resisting arrest. Underage drinking. Driving on the wrong side of the road.

But now, let’s use sex as a clarifying example. Here is a basic human drive, expressing in various ways, some of which are clearly good (and we won’t look at that here) and some of which shade into evil. Now, pay attention: We use sex as an example because it will hold people’s attention, but the larger point is that anything and everything in your lives may serve to offer you the same choices. Anything may be innocent, or may be unfortunate, or may be what is called an occasion of sin, or may be a form in which evil expresses. If you cannot entertain this thought, you will not be able to follow where we want to lead.

Rather than listing the four levels and fitting sex into each, we will do the opposite, showing how the same act may fit into different categories, depending upon how it is contexted.

Not sure that’s a word, but okay.

Two people connecting physically and emotionally via the sex act and all its ramifications. In itself certainly a good, indeed a blessing among so many lonely 3D lives. But you know how hedged around it has been, by prohibitions social and religious. It is not our purpose here to criticize any society or any religion, nor their rules around sex. Nor will you find it helpful, though you may find it comforting, to silently provide your own commentary if you aim at criticizing. There is always something to criticize, but that isn’t the point here. We are not speaking as social or religious reformers: We are trying to bring clarity to the question of evil by using a charged example.

Suppose two people engaged in sex, who are not religiously or socially sanctioned: that is, not wed either religiously or socially. Certainly this qualifies as E4, in that it contradicts prohibitions of sex outside marriage. (However, we recognize that the two may be in a society that does not have such prohibition, and may not be religious at all. We overlook this for the sake of the example.) Other than evil in the sense of E4, can they be said to be doing evil? That depends entirely upon whether the conditions justify judging them by the other three categories. Is their union undesirable? Does it lead to evil? Is it somehow evil in itself? No one can sensibly answer these questions with only the scant data we have given.

So now let’s say the lovers are underage teens. This may move beyond E4 into E3, undesirable, especially the younger they are. Social tastes differ, but most societies differentiate between adolescents and children, and have different values for each. So now is it E4 (“wrong” merely because arbitrarily forbidden), or E3, wrong because in itself undesirable? (And of course, who judges? But that is a practical question and this is a theoretical statement.)

So now, suppose the lovers are under-aged or, for that matter, of age, and somehow the allure of sex is leading them toward forms of behavior that are themselves dangerous. This is difficult to exemplify, but let us say, behavior that leads them to undervalue themselves, to objectify each other rather than relate as persons. This at least reaches E2, leading toward evil. Again, we feel obliged to repeat, we are not judging this or that sex practice nor this or that situation; we are setting out results and tendencies.

Finally, sex like anything else can express real evil. E1 sex would for instance objectify at least one of the partners, treat one or more as objects rather than as persons. Regardless of circumstances, you must feel that this is wrong. It may be mixed with many other psychological elements in any or all concerned, but in itself it is evil to treat a person as a thing.

And this will have to do for the moment.

Yes, 70 minutes. Thanks for all this.


One thought on “Categories of evil

  1. Yesterday was religion. Most of us thought we could revisit that subject and maybe be a bit more open minded. Today’s topic was sex. You could hear the crickets chirping, it got so quiet. So is tomorrow politics?

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