At a dinner conversation last night, someone seeded the discussion with a common parlor-game question. Although it isn’t a complicated topic, I thought it would serve as an example of how to translate archaic moral speech into contemporary language by applying propertarian reasoning. Now, I’ve shortened it a bit, and probably done a disservice by doing so, but otherwise it would take ten pages to get to the conclusion.
QUESTION: “WHAT IS EVIL?”
1) Analyze the Question: The question itself is misleading – the phrasing is a parlor trick. It takes advantage of the victim’s susceptibility to historical and moral Framing: the victim naturally desires to answer the question as stated even though the use of the generic verb ‘is’ frames the answer. Many Victorian parlor tricks posed false moral dilemmas as a means of providing entertainment. This question is constructed in that same manner. The question should instead be phrased as either “Define Evil” or more thoroughly “Given that we use the term evil in a variety of contexts what does the term mean in those contexts – i.e.: subjective analysis. Given the set of meanings in those contexts, are any or all of those meanings impossible or self-contradictory? i.e.: objective analysis. And of what remains, can such a thing as evil exist?”
2) Explore Evolutionary History: What can we learn from the evolution of the term?
There is a term we call “Evil”.
The term has an etymology – a history – a time at which it was invented.
The meaning of the term was originally political – to denote ‘a competing way of life against our interests’.
The term was then expanded by analogy to address individual actions.
The term was then anthropomorphically expanded by analogy to cover random (natural) events.
The term was then applied as a criticism of monotheistic divinity in order to illustrate a self contradiction.
The term is now – post Darwin and under democratic secular socialism– becoming loaded and archaic.
Like most things, understanding something’s history tells us far more than understanding its current state.
3) Collect All Possible Examples: What are all the examples we can think of, or find that refer to the term in context? Both in-group (culture) and out-group?
Answer: Murder. Sibling murder. Killing an ant. Undermining institutions. Creating a moral hazard. Selling an immoral product. Plotting terrorism. What about the DC sniper versus the top military sniper? The list is long, and I’m not going to be creative here, other that to suggest that any inventory of examples we create has to be fairly large, and cover the individual, institutional, local political, cultural-political, and geo-political spectrums if this exercise will have any value.
4) Determine Population Dimension: Does the term apply to individuals or groups or both?
Answer: Both. From our examples, it applies to both individuals and groups of both actors and victims.
5) Determine Time Dimension: What about different economic eras? Are ‘evil and immoral’ considered to be different under hunter-gathering, agrarian, manorial, industrial, urban technological eras?
Answer: yes. Markedly so. Hunter gatherer, agrarian, industrial, and urban ethics are markedly different.
6) Separate Actions from Actors from Consequences: What is the difference between an evil person and an evil action, or an evil semi-autonomous process (a virus, or a viral meme)?
Answer: A person is evil with intention and repetition. An action produces evil results regardless of intention, and is evil only by analogy. A process produces evil results but is only evil by analogy.
7) Separate Subjective from Objective: Emotions – how do emotions play into determining ill mannered, unethical, immoral and evil actions, individuals and groups??
a) Emotions are descriptions of changes in state of perception of an individual’s assets. Moreover, they are reactions to descriptions of changes in state of capital. (Yes, really.) Nothing more. Given the differences in knowledge and experience (and intelligence) emotions are subjective descriptions of the perception of each individual’s inventory.
b) Empathy is an ability to imitate the express of the change in state of other individuals. It is pre-verbal communication of changes in property (capital).
8) Narrow the definition until it is exclusive: What can we learn by determining what is not considered ‘Evil’, or which is covered by other terms?
What ‘bad actions’ are not classified as evil?
Answer? Accidents. And errors that are not repeated.
9) Determine Limits Of The Cases: What is the difference between ill mannered, unethical, immoral, and evil actions? Are displays of bad manners evil? Is someone unethical classifiable as evil? Is someone immoral classifiable as evil? Aren’t unethical and immoral lower bars than evil? Why?
Answer: because we are all unethical and immoral at times, but evil we tend to think of ‘evil’ as repetitive systemic and intentional.
But let’s look at this carefully: lets say we have a diamond ring dealer that preys upon the dreams of the poor by selling them low-downpayment engagement rings at very high interest rates. (This example is from real life.) Then when they default on the payments he reposesses the ring, pulls the diamond for resale and melts it down. What about the mortgage broker who sold all those mortgages before the crash to people who couldn’t afford them? What about the marxist who, despite the evidence of near genocidal consequences, still advocates marxism? What about the christian scientist who prays rather than takes a child to the hospital? What about the mother who advocates avoiding shots for her children? What is the difference between stealing water, and poisoning a well?
10) Further Refine into a spectrum: What is unique to ‘Evil’ that is not unique to ill-mannered, unethical, and immoral actions?
Answer: Knowledge (intent), Destruction, and Frequency (repetition).
Ignorance is pervasive, so a single instance that one learns from is not evil, but accidental. Repetitive actions can no longer be made in ignorance.
11) Identify Remaining Causal Dimensions: Are any of the properties we have discovered possible to express in consolidated form as a continuum?
Yes, the following continuum can be composed from the discussion:
a) ACTORS: Individual->Group->ExtraGroup->”Nature”
b) VICTIMS: Individual->group->Humanity->Life->Universe
c) KNOWLEDGE: Accidental/Made_In_Ignorance->Intentional/Made_With_Knowledge->Systemic/Habitual/Made_Without_Intent
e) FREQUENCY: OneTime->Repetitive->Pervasive
12) Graph Dimensions: Is it possible to graph these continuum in order to show their dependence upon one another (taking into consideration that more than three dimensions is difficult for humans to comprehend.)
Answer: Yes. We can create six or eight before they become repetitive.
[Graph any two axis, and then attempt to add third, then repeat permutations until all are covered.]
What do these graphs tell us about objective evil? And about evil by analogy?
a) To the actor(s), knowledge is the only relevant criteria for determining whether he is objectively evil or not.
b) To the victim, capital is only relevant if a transfer or destruction of capital is created. Meaning that there is a standard that must be met in order to qualify as ‘evil’.
c) To the victim, the actor’s knowledge is only relevant if frequency is repetitive and the actor is a group or individual.
Therefore, the necessary and sufficient definition of the term ‘Evil’ consists of repetitive transfer or destruction of capital.
(NOTE: This definition applies to the divinity argument as well, since by definition, the divine is all powerful and eternal and therefore repetitive.)
P.1) ‘Evil’ is an archaic term that refers to the repetitive and therefore willful or systemic destruction of capital – individual or social, by individuals, groups, or ‘nature’. Conversely, ‘Good’ is an archaic term that refers to the repetitive and therefore willful or systemic accumulation of capital – individual or social, by individuals groups or ‘nature’.
P.2) ‘Immoral’ is a term that refers to anonymous involuntary transfers of capital because of informational asymmetry. Conversely, ‘Moral’ is a term that refers to refraining from conducting anonymous involuntary transfers of capital due to informational asymmetry.
P.3) ‘Unethical’ is a term that refers to non-anonymous involuntary transfers of capital because of informational asymmetry. Conversely, ‘Ethical’ is a term that refers to refraining from non-anonymous involuntary transfers of capital because of informational asymmetry.
P.4) ‘Ill-mannered’ is a term that refers to the non-anonymous failure to contribute to normative capital – privatization (theft) of social capital stored in norms. Conversely, ‘well-mannered’ is a term that refers to the non-anonymous contribution to normative capital by habitual demonstration of adherence to norms.
a) ‘Capital’ consists of life, body, several property, communal (shareholder) property, informal institutions (morals, ethics, manners, myths), formal institutions (laws, government).
b) ‘Transfers’ consists of the movement capital from one set of one or more people to another set of one or more people.
c) The normative composition of capital, property, and institutions varies from social group to social group.
d) The primary purpose of ‘manners’ is ‘Signaling’. (i.e.: class status and demonstrated fitness to the group for the purpose of mate selection and association, and pedagogy through imitation.)
NOTE: I am unsure whether ‘capital’ in these contexts also includes opportunities. I think that ‘opportunities’ may be forced expressly outside of all ethical systems that allow for competition (research and development). Any ethical system that did not allow for competition would not survive contact with those that do. In this sense, it is possible to have ‘bad’ ethical systems and ‘good’ ethical systems depending upon one’s time preference.
1) I believe it will not be possible to define Good and Evil, Moral, and Immoral, Ethical, and Unethical, or well-mannered, and Ill-mannered, by any other form of demarcation that would not be answered by this set of propositions.
‘Evil’ is an archaic term that is heavily loaded with mystical connotations– primarily because it has been politically loaded by the consumer class’ public intellectuals in their desire to undermine the social and political status of the church so that they could obtaining status through control of the public dialog. (Which in itself is an economic and political process.)
Evil exists as an objective political and economic classification of human actions and effects. Groups can be classified as evil, and individuals can be classified as evil, if they take actions that produce outcomes that systemically or repeatedly transfer or destroy capital. Abstract entities (nature, god) an be classified as evil by analogy because they destroy capital. Ideas can be classified as evil, and abstract processes can be classified by analogy as evil if they produce outcomes that systematically or repeatedly transfer or destroy capital.
i.e. Marxism is evil. It may be the ultimate evil that man has yet discovered, since it destroys the institutions that make cooperation in a division of labor possible. Its arguable either way whether, as Nietzsche stated, that the most evil person in history is Zoroaster. And from both an eastern and western perspective, if not Zoroaster, then at least Abraham is a candidate for the most evil person in history. But the monotheistic religions pale compared to the deadliness of Marxism.