Q&A: What is evil and can you describe it in your own terms? Would you like to have a philosophical discussion about it and compare your definition of it to others? Is the concept of evil based on moral relativism?
THE CORRECT ANSWER
As always, I’ll ‘science it’ and provide the analytic answer.
Evil < Immoral < unethical < bad (undesirable) <- Amoral -> good (desirable) > Ethical > Moral > Virtuous
The human brain uses only three chemicals to provide us with incentives. These were necessary before we developed agency (choice and consciousness). And once we evolved agency all we have done is increase the complexity of the circumstances we can predict and choose from. The most important of these chemicals is the one that encourages us to preserve or acquire calories in time with the energy we possess given the returns that those calories will provide. We maintain intuitionistic measures of our energy level, our inventory of assets, our inventory of opportunities, our inventory of cooperative debts (others have invested in us), and credits (we have invested in others). And human cognition accounts for caloric opportunities, gains, and costs, with extraordinary precision.
One of the most surprising assets we possess is our self-image and social status (our market value in cooperation with others). Because the highest returns always are provided through cooperation. And this cooperation – voluntary cooperation that is in our interests – is the reason for human exceptional success in relation to other creatures. The degree of cooperation and what we cooperate to produce also determines the relative condition of groups of people (classes, nations, civilizations).
As such bad refers to the imposition of costs upon the inventories of others: energies, assets, opportunities, and credits. And good refers to the increase in inventory, energy, assets, opportunities, and credits (or decrease in debts).
- Bad = Minor imposition of costs (by accident or ignorance)
- Unethical = Obtaining benefits or escaping losses by direct interpersonal Imposition of costs, by taking advantage of asymmetry (differences ) in knowledge (taking advantage of others’ ignorance).
- Immoral = Obtaining benefits or escaping losses by indirectly by taking advantage of others’ ignorance of your actions.
- Evil = Imposition of costs directly or indirectly, even if not beneficial to you, for no other reason than to cause them harm, especially by taking advantage of their trust.
- Amoral = no effect on the inventory of others.
- Good = Minor contribution of benefit to self or others (by accident or ignorance)
- Ethical = Obtaining benefits or escaping losses by direct interpersonal voluntary exchange of costs, by forgoing the opportunity of taking advantage of asymmetry (differences ) in knowledge (taking advantage of others’ ignorance).
- Moral = Obtaining benefits or escaping losses indirectly by forgoing taking advantage of others’ ignorance of your actions.
- Virtuous = Bearing of costs for the benefit of others even if not beneficial to you, for no other reason than to improve others’ condition, especially by rewarding their trust.
MORAL ABSOLUTISM VS RELATIVISM
The Measurement of Morality: as I’ve just illustrated, Morality is absolute. Morality is knowable, it is measurable, and it is purely empirical, and it is a physical law of nature, and natural law of cooperation – without which man could not exist as a species dependent upon a cooperative, division of labor across the associative, cooperative, reproductive, productive, and predatory spectrum.
That said, all human action takes place within a set of Laws, Institutions, traditions, and Norms. And while any given moral question can be answered as an absolute in isolation, or as a property of a set of related activities – what constitutions the criminal and the ethical (interpersonal) is always the same. But what constitutes moral (extra-personal) may be dependent upon many debts and credits organized into a portfolio we call norms. Or to maintain our use of economic and accounting terms, we must look at the ledger or balance sheet not just the transaction itself in isolation.
The ‘hard’ examples are suicide, euthanasia, abortion, capital punishment, and war.
- Suicide is not a crime in and of itself. But it may impose costs upon others.
- Euthanasia is a killing (murder). But it may create conditions where disabled, sick, elderly, or undesirables, are pressured into suicide or euthanasia against their will, which violates the first principle of natural law: Self Determination.
- Abortion is a killing (murder). But in its absence, we create horrid lifetime conditions for unwanted children, and entrap the young in poverty, and deprive women of self-determination.
- Capital punishment is murder. But in it’s absence, we fail to pay restitution for heinous crimes, and we fail to protect others from repeated crimes or career criminals.
- Warfare is murder. But in its absence we may be conquered, deprived, tortured, murdered, genocided, or worse.
Some seemingly obvious examples are bride theft. While this may seem horrendous to us, in civilizations where women are a household labor force and must be ‘purchased’ from the family as compensation for the loss, ‘kidnapping a bride’ (having sex, and therefore taking the woman off the market for marriage) is a means by which two people in love can marry and begin a family without paying an unreasonable price set by her parents. The parental setting of price does not outweigh the individual’s right to self-determination. Instead, the purpose is to ensure that daughters who ARE paid for go to families with means, so that the girls do not suffer poverty.
MORALITY IS ABSOLUTE
So, morality is always absolute and decidable as a test of the SUM of the credits and debits. It is just not a simple binary choice independent of context. That said each and EVERY SINGLE CONTEXT can be disambiguated and decided by the simple test of RECIPROCITY: self-determination limited to voluntary fully informed, warrantied exchange.