Parasitic Evil and Independent Good

[Stepping away from the cultural commentary and scientific or political headlines. This is a philosophy lesson, drawn heavily from 4th century metaphysics. I hope you enjoy this blast from the past, repackaged and reapplied for today]

Evil seems to be real, yet in what sense can we say it “exists”?

Some, of course, say evil has neither existence nor reality. That position is logically possible, and some (otherwise) smart people have advocated it before. But it’s counterintuitive, morally bankrupt, and repugnant to our moral senses when faced with its full implications. One has every freedom to deny the existence or reality of evil. And, by implication, he or she is thereby refusing the privilege [responsibility?] of naming as”evil” the Holocaust, female-genital mutilation, or chatel slavery. But such brave souls should know that they are likely stifling in themselves the very epistemic senses that lead everyone around them to shutter at such hubris. Suppressing knowledge, even if its the amorphous categories of moral knowledge, is hardly laudible and likely misleading. And even though its possible for most people in the world to unite in error, if they unite in disagreeing with you, you might want to check your figures again lest their many minds caught a detail your single mind didn’t.

It is fairly safe then, at least by the limited evidence found in the general consensus of most of the world’s population, that evil is in some sense an existing reality. We are left then to explain how such apparent existence occurs.

One of the classic, and I think, strongest answers to this question is the “privation definition.”

The essence of the privation definition is that every evil exists parasitically, corrupting its host. The host can be thought of as some kind of goodness. That goodness can occur with agents–such as human beings, in which case it is moral goodness and evil would be some kind of compromise or corruption of that moral goodness. Agents can be “good” insofar as that are and do whatever they are SUPPOSED to be or do. If people are supposed to exercise justice, the good moral agent exercises justice.

Or the host goodness can occur as a non-agent like a weather pattern, a tree, or a tiger. Goodness, in that case, is a kind of “ontological goodness” not unlike that described in Genesis 1-2 where God looks on his creation and calls it “good”–even before he made human agents and before any angels or demons are named among creation. This “ontological goodness” refers to the positive existence of things (ie: they add something to the universe). Insofar as they are and add what they should, they are “good.” In the case of ontological goodness, evil would happen when an otherwise “good” natural phenomenon goes wrong, such as a deadly tornado, a tree-fungus, or a tiger attack.

That groundwork having been laid, we can get to the heart of my concern here. Evil is parasitic precisely because goodness is independent.

Put another way, there seem to be independent goods but no independent evils. That is, there are good things that have no need of a more basic evil thing among its causes. A loving man and loving wife can, theoretically, be perfectly committed to each other in love and responsibility and give birth to a cherished little baby. There is no need for “evil” to enter the scenario. But, every evil has some more basic good that it requires in its causal set, such as a good material cause or a good efficient cause. If that baby is born blind, that would be a natural evil–which could not exist if there were no good baby to corrupt (a material cause). You might call this unequal relation a conditional relation (symbolized in logic with the horseshoe). In contrast, we may look at the Taoist or yin-yang view of morality. By the Taoist view, evil and good are more comparable to a biconditional relation, wherein the two parties relate equally and exactly too to each other. For a Yin-yang view to work, good must be just as dependent on evil as evil is to good. But from the baby example, and the examples below we see that it clearly is not.

If a man murders an innocent person, it would have to be voluntary to qualify–legally–as murder. But volition is a good thing (ie: we can roughly translate it as “freedom”). But volition does NOT require murder. Hence, the evil of murder requires a good efficient cause in the form of volition though volition does not require any such evil.

If there were no sexuality (good) there would be no rape (bad), whereas, there is no need for rape to have sexuality. Hence rape requires a good formal cause (ie: healthy sexuality) which does not itself require the evil of rape.

There is no arrogance (bad) without valuing one’s self (good), but valuing one’s self does not require arrogance. Arrogance thus requires a good abstract material cause of valuing one’s self which does not, in turn, require manifestation as arrogance.

There is no football injury (a bad thing) without the sport of football (a good thing), but the sport of football does not require an injury. Hence, football injuries require a good concrete material cause in the sport of footbal though football does not itself require any injuries.

Pretty much every evil I think of operates like this. So the philosophical “privation” definition of evil is fairly defensible when we consider good and evil, not simply as contrasts, but rather with consideration for their causal dependence.

Evil thus proves to be a parasite. Both evil and goodness exist and are real, but evil is always dependent whereas goodness can be independent.

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38 replies
  1. Lion IRC says:

    I think evil exists in the same sense that stupidity exists.

    If you reckon that Gods’ laws are purely for our benefit (not His) then it would be stupid of us to to not pay attention to them.

    What is satan if not just plain foolish for not cooperating with the inevitable.

    We see a lot of atheists using “face palm” icons in response to the theists with whom they dont seem to be making any “progress”.

    But might not God – the Highest intellgence – also put His hand on His disbelieving and shaking head then smile at the manifestation of free will exhibited by some atheists?

    Isnt it the LEAST astute sheep which wanders furthest from the (logical) security of the Shepherds protection? With the benefit of hindsight, we look at the prodigal son in terms of his wisdom in coming to his senses. But the initial foolishness (rather than evil) is clear for all to see.

    What starts off as the “problem” of free will (which is actually an amazing gift from a loving God) gradually turns into the problem of stupidity and then finally, the problem of evil when the foolishness finally becomes selfishness. A selfishness which, when helped by another even MORE stupid one – satan – becomes hardened in the heart.

    A foolish sheep which, on account of its pride and indifference to the flock, selfishly ignores or runs from the calling of The Shepherd will be equally IGNORANT of the risks lurking like wolves over the horizon,

    Lion (IRC)

    Reply
  2. TobyR. says:

    I don’t think your baby analogy is clear at all. What makes blindness evil?

    If we remove intelligent beings from existence, then what makes anything evil at all? Are tornadoes really evil? Is a black hole evil? If a tornado picks up a rabbit and kills it by slapping it against a tree is that evil? What makes the presupposition of good or evil anything but subjective speculation? You talk about “ontological goodness” and quote genesis but if we assume no intelligent life existing then there is nothing “evil.”

    I contend that good and evil do not exist in nature, but only in the mind. These terms are just a subjective value given to events. The value is derived from fear of death and pain and the desire for longevity. Notice how all of your examples threaten life, either directly or indirectly. Murder is a direct threat to life. Rape, blindness, football injuries, are all things that can end in death or threaten longevity. Arrogance . . . I don’t know. I guess it could be a form of blindness too. It’s a bit of a handicap.

    This in no way implies that “by implication, he or she is thereby refusing the privilege [responsibility?] of naming as”evil” the Holocaust, female-genital mutilation, or chatel slavery.”

    The Holocaust (or any genocide) isn’t evil to those committing it. In fact I’m sure those nazi bozos thought that they were protecting themselves and future generations from their irrational fear of death by jews, gypsies, gays, blacks, etc.

    Evil, in my view, can be distilled to anything that threatens continued existence. I’d add the usurping of one’s personal freedom to that as well.

    Good and evil only exist as words in the mind to place subjective value on persons, places, or things.

    I find the word “privation” funny. What should be it’s opposite, deprivation, mean essentially the same thing.

    Are parasites evil? A parasite is a thing that uses up its prey/host until injury or death. Then we humans could be said to be parasites.

    Reply
  3. Luke says:

    I think there is a distinct difference between good as an adjective and good as a noun.

    Let me rewrite part of this post, to illustrate what I mean.

    I boldly say that there is no such thing as yellow. Yellow does not exist. Things can be yellow, but yellow cannot be a thing — it doesn’t exist.

    So…

    Some, of course, say yellow has neither existence nor reality. That position is logically possible, and some (otherwise) smart people have advocated it before. .. One has every freedom to deny the existence or reality of yellow. And, by implication, he or she is thereby refusing the privilege [responsibility?] of naming as ”yellow” the house at 447 Main Street. But such brave souls should know that they are likely stifling in themselves the very epistemic senses that lead everyone around them to shutter at such hubris.

    See what I mean?

    I can say that yellow does not exist.

    And I can say that the house at 447 Main Street is yellow.

    It’s not illogical for me to say both of those things, and I think 99.9% of people would agree with both of those statements.

    Language is important and a word as a noun is used differently and has a different meaning then a word as an adjective.

    Reply
  4. John Ferrer says:

    Luke,

    I’m not quite sure what you are getting at, but if I am right in my guess you are suggesting that I am claiming that evil does not exist yet some “things” can still be called “evil.”

    I argue that evil does exist, it is real, but it’s a dependent reality as opposed to metaphysically independent things. An apple is “independent,” but its redness is not independent. The apple must first exist for the apple’s redness (a property of the apple) to exist. But both the apple and it’s redness are real existing things. For you to say that yellow does not exist, but yet something manifests it as a property is metaphysically incoherent. Those are two mutually exclusive claims that cannot possible be true in the same sense at the same time. This is not linguistics (ie: adjective versus noun) this is metaphysics I”m asserting. And making the distinction between a noun and an adjective doesn’t matter here. Your example, interestingly enough is an adjective in both cases. One’s a nominal adjective and the other is a descriptive adjective. But even then, a nominal versus an adjectival word–both are communicating a metaphysical something that cannot be reduced to linguistics.

    Evil is real, and exists, but it is perpetually dependent on some more basic good to have already existed. Every evil that we can think of is some sort of Good-gone-wrong.

    Going back to your first sentence, I don’t see what importance there is in predicating good as noun versus good as an adjective. I readily admit both, and dont’ see why that matters for my argument.

    Also, I wonder why you tend to illustrate moral issues with non-moral valuations and non-moral physical claims. Sure, that tactic can help sometimes. But the illustrations risk a category mistake by treating moral and non-moral realities univocally.

    Reply
  5. Luke says:

    John,

    Sorry, I understand almost nothing of your post.

    I think the problem begins here:

    You said:I’m not quite sure what you are getting at, but if I am right in my guess you are suggesting that I am claiming that evil does not exist yet some “things” can still be called “evil.”

    That is not at all what I was suggesting and your guess is completely wrong.

    I think you misunderstood my post (it probably wasn’t clear, so the fault is more with me than with you).

    Since you’re writing in response to your understanding of my post, and I have no idea what that understanding is (except that based on the one fact you revealed, your understanding is very different from what I intended), I don’t have the capacity to make sense of the rest of your post. Sorry.

    I think part of the problem is that I commented here, not in response to your argument, but in response to an argument which referenced your work here.

    I think that caused confusion, and I was not clear in my intentions. Sorry about that. I understand very well that you believe in evil is real, etc, etc. Feel free to ignore this post, or if you wish continue the private conversation you began with me before posting this public reply, we can do that as well.

    John said:Your example, interestingly enough is an adjective in both cases. One’s a nominal adjective and the other is a descriptive adjective.

    John, I used it 3 times.

    The first time I used the word yellow though, it was not as a nominal adjective. I used it as a noun. If you would like me to explain to you how I meant the word, we can talk about it. But yes, I know what a nominal adjective is (just because English is not my first language doesn’t mean I am ignorant to its structures), and it is not how I used the word yellow.

    A nominal adjective refers to a class of objects.

    For example, the sick (such as when we pray for “the sick”), refers to a group of people who have one illness or another.

    The poor (such as when we pray for “the poor”), refers to a group or class of people who have little money at their disposal.

    When I said “yellow” I was not referring to a group or class of object or people which reflect the color we know as yellow.

    To be honest, I don’t understand how you would have thought that is what I intended.

    I am not 100% positive on this point, but I am fairly sure that nominal adjectives are always preceded by a determiner (e.g. the poor). If you can think of an example that doesn’t include this, please let me know because now I am curious.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  6. Luke says:

    John,

    Sorry, I understand almost nothing of your post.

    I think the problem begins here:

    You said: I’m not quite sure what you are getting at, but if I am right in my guess you are suggesting that I am claiming that evil does not exist yet some “things” can still be called “evil.”

    That is not at all what I was suggesting and your guess is completely wrong.

    I think you misunderstood my post (it probably wasn’t clear, so the fault is more with me than with you).

    Since you’re writing in response to your understanding of my post, and I have no idea what that understanding is (except that based on the one fact you revealed, your understanding is very different from what I intended), I don’t have the capacity to make sense of the rest of your post. Sorry.

    I think part of the problem is that I commented here, not in response to your argument, but in response to an argument which referenced your work here.

    I think that caused confusion, and I was not clear in my intentions. Sorry about that. I understand very well that you believe in evil is real, etc, etc. Feel free to ignore this post, or if you wish continue the private conversation you began with me before posting this public reply, we can do that as well.

    John said:Your example, interestingly enough is an adjective in both cases. One’s a nominal adjective and the other is a descriptive adjective.

    John, I used it 3 times.

    The first time I used the word yellow though, it was not as a nominal adjective. I used it as a noun. If you would like me to explain to you how I meant the word, we can talk about it. But yes, I know what a nominal adjective is (just because English is not my first language doesn’t mean I am ignorant to its structures), and it is not how I used the word yellow.

    A nominal adjective refers to a class of objects.

    For example, the sick (such as when we pray for “the sick”), refers to a group of people who have one illness or another.

    The poor (such as when we pray for “the poor”), refers to a group or class of people who have little money at their disposal.

    When I said “yellow” I was not referring to a group or class of object or people which reflect the color we know as yellow.

    To be honest, I don’t understand how you would have thought that is what I intended.

    I am not 100% positive on this point, but I am fairly sure that nominal adjectives are always preceded by a determiner (e.g. the poor). If you can think of an example that doesn’t include this, please let me know because now I am curious.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  7. John Ferrer says:

    Luke,

    Lets do some basic metaphysics to hopefully clear a few things up.

    1) substances–the “stuff” that exists as a substratum in which properties and relationships inhere. Or more simply, it would be the “house” in your illustration.
    2) properties–things true of the substance by itself. Or more simply, this would be the “yellow” in your illustration.
    3) relations–the relationships between substances, between properties, or between a substance and a property. Or more simply, this is how the house can BE yellow.

    It is also basic metaphysics to admit that all of these exist in a meaningful way, though they have their own respective kinds of existence.

    When you were making a distinction between adjectival and nominal “yellow” (or “good”) that seemed to obscure the simple fact that “yellow” falls under property, it is empirically sensible (it is seen), and raises absolutely no existential problems for most empiricists (and you seem to presuppose empiricism given your definition of “existence” requires a thing be empirically sensible [ie: the five senses]). So I’m not sure what you mean when you say “yellow does not exist.” I don’t think you really believe that, or if you do, I don’t understand how your explanation or argument is supposed to support such a belief.

    As for the “independent” and “dependent” distinction, that is critical to my “privation definition” of evil and worth defending. When I say “independent” good I am not talking about how some good got here, nor what keeps it here. I’m talking about a stand-alone good, a substantive good. I am also assuming that “being” is good, and “non-being” is, in some sense, bad. I could defend these theologically, but for ease of explanation, I’ll just assume them here.

    So if a house is “good” (or at least morally neutral) since it’s a being, it can have properties that are real, and do exist AS properties (yellow is not a substance but a property–you seem to grant existence only to substances and that threatens radically eliminate most of reality and make your epistemology sparse and inept with most of what exists). It would be some kind of “evil” to take away the being of that house, say through a hurricane, or a drunk driver plowing through the living room wall. These diminish the being of that house.

    Incidentally, all evil things are relations or properties (never a substance) that militate against some good substance. In that sense, evil always has contingent existence, requiring some good substance to play the role of its host.

    I think your illustration was confusing me because I think both senses of yellow that you referred to seem to exist, both are empirically discernable, both pose no problems for most atheistic-agnostic-scientistic metaphysics, and I thought I was donning a fairly non-contraversial view in believing that properties and substances exist, and yet you were asserting that one sense of “yellow” doesn’t really exist???

    Reply
  8. Nathan Barley says:

    “In that sense, evil always has contingent existence, requiring some good substance to play the role of its host.”

    Isn’t that purely a metaphorical or semantic claim? One person might argue that a law enabling gay marriage in one country is evil, another might claim that a law AGAINST gay marriage in another country is evil, and each will see the law in the other country as being a good.

    Regardless of who is right, what is the ‘good substance’ that is hosting the evil in either case? And whatever it is, wouldn’t that mean that in the other country the situation is reversed and the evil is in fact hosting the good?

    “all evil things are relations or properties (never a substance) that militate against some good substance”

    So a torture device isn’t an opposite to a pleasure device? On the one hand the evil is just a property of a substance, whereas on the other the substance itself is good? Does this distinction exist in John Ferrer’s subjective point of view, or is it a logical truth?

    Reply
  9. Luke says:

    John,

    I responded to you privately — in the way you began this conversation — as you’ve probably seen. This conformed with a request I made in my post in a way which I thought was pretty clear.

    I think all we have here is some confusion based upon the way we are using terms, which was the only point of my post. As I stated several times, my post was not in response to your argument.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  10. johnferrer says:

    Nathan, I think you are shooting right past the point I was making. You are arguing practical ethics and, perhaps, epistemology. When I’m making a metaphysical claim about the nature of good and evil (what they are), not about a particular disputed case of “evil/good”.

    The “substance” in the case you cite would be marriage. Supposing that marriage is basically a good thing that, when misused or abused, is made into an evil thing. Marriage does not have to end in divorce, or spousal abuse, or some other kind of evil. But for either of those evils to exist, there must first be a substantial, concrete, relationship called marriage to have already existed.

    I’m not proposing that good or evil are relative, but can safely say that with some issues we are not sure who is in the right. We would agree that a marriage between an adult male and a 6 year old boy is evil, not because marriage (as an institution) is evil, but because that particular kind of marriage would be a wrong ordering and corrupted form of marriage. We could probably agree that marriage is a “good” thing, and it is only evil when it’s performed wrongly. Do you agree?

    A torture device is not a “substantial” evil in the sense that I mean. It is “evil” in a real and meaningful sense, but it’s not like the wood and chains and ropes themselves are “evil,” they are just arranged to be used for an evil purpose. If the device were removed from it’s evil use and instead, put into a museum or reinterpreted into a cool dining table those would be good.

    Reply
  11. Dan says:

    I guess my only problem is:why is something “good” because it exists and “evil” when it is used incorrectly or broken/corrupted? Wouldn’t the words “whole” or “complete’ be better used in this discussion. I get that things are good/evil when dealing with moral issues like the “Holocaust, female-genital mutilation, or chatel slavery, ” but saying that something is good because it exists is a stretch in my mind.

    Reply
  12. Dan says:

    I get that what you’re saying is (in my own words) for something to be broken there first has to be something to break. I just have a hard time tying in good/evil here.

    Reply
  13. Toby R. says:

    “Nathan, I think you are shooting right past the point I was making. You are arguing practical ethics and, perhaps, epistemology. When I’m making a metaphysical claim about the nature of good and evil (what they are), not about a particular disputed case of “evil/good”.”

    Epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy. I think the rift here is subjective word twisting. You’re subjectively defining things as “good” and “evil”.

    “I argue that evil does exist, it is real, but it’s a dependent reality as opposed to metaphysically independent things.”

    And how do we know what his good? Hmm? If there is not opposite by which to judge a thing, then how does one arrive at something being good? There is only the property and the non-property. The having and the not having. You have a dollar. Gee, that dollar is good. Think of all the things it could do for you. You don’t have a dollar. Not having that dollar is evil. Think of all of the things you’re missing out on now. You have a light. Gee, light is good. Think of all of the things you can see. The sun explodes and you have no light. Gee, not having light is evil. So all you’re saying is that by virtue of something–ANYTHING–existing, it’s good. The not having of that thing is evil.

    Suppose we have a gun. Is that gun evil? No. Suppose a guy/gal takes that gun and shoots someone in the foot. Is that gun evil now? Is there anything that makes that gun evil? Is getting shot in the foot evil? What makes something evil? What is evil outside of the mind? Black holes? Rust? Darkness? Lady Gaga? What? What’s evil? Enlighten us. I propose that the only thing you can tell us is evil is something that your “good book” sky god tells us is evil. Like eating pork or shellfish and mixing meat and dairy. Imagine the universe devoid of thinking life (I hesitate to say intelligent), then once you have that in mind, tell me what is evil in that universe. Is there anything? If not, doesn’t that point you to the idea that the concept of good and evil are human creations? Because once you add people the universe everything suddenly gets cloudy. Imagine we destroy a lifeless planet with a huge bomb. No emotional response from you huh? Now throw in some thinking people and suddenly that planet has gained some sort of goodness (unless of course it’s a planet of muslims, which this website often points out is a false religion and cause for all of the ills in our American world).

    I contend that the only thing “good” in your mind is humanity. And the only reason any of us think that is a good thing is because we’re naturally biased because we happen to be human. The “evil” of Hitler and the 3rd Reich only matter in that it scares that stuffing out of each of us because we don’t want to die. It doesn’t matter that those people were a different color or believed something different, that crap doesn’t matter. The thing that matters most is that we don’t want that to happen to us. That’s the ultimate morality: I want to live until I die of old age . . . or disease . . . or in the midst of frantic reproduction. We care what happens to others because we want an old age death for ourselves and if we can keep tyrants or disease or “evil things” from happening to other people, maybe we (or someone else) can keep it from happening to us. Tada! Evil is merely death, which we fear. Or in your metaphysical, epistemological, philosophical way of putting it: the corruption of life; the degradation of life; anything that effects life negatively. It’s quite shallow and you’re making it way too deep.

    Reply
  14. Nathan barley says:

    Good and evil are both adjectives. Like ugly, nice, clever. One can see ‘evil invaded our town’, but then you are talking metaphorically. You have not shown that evil is a special case, or only exists as a corruption of good, any more than ugly is a corruption of beauty.

    Reply
  15. Nathan Barley says:

    “But for either of those evils to exist, there must first be a substantial, concrete, relationship called marriage to have already existed.”

    Abuse does not require marriage to exist.

    This is all entirely a matter of perspective. In technology, ‘good’ is generally an improvement on something that already exists. ‘Good’ is a correction of the ‘bad’. The latter isn’t a corruption of the good.

    The history of mankind is one of dis-satisaction with a present situation and aiming to improve it. If we were satisfied with caves we’d never have invented houses. We start with the ‘bad’ and we try to make it better. It’s not true to say that the bad couldn’t exist without the good. The cave wasn’t a corruption of a house. The house was an improvement on the cave.

    Similarly, while you could argue that slavery couldn’t exist without a concept of freedom, one could equally say that freedom is just the absence of enslavement (metaphorical or otherwise).

    “If the device were removed from it’s evil use and instead, put into a museum or reinterpreted into a cool dining table those would be good.”

    All you’re doing there is showing that a device designed for bad can be used for something good. But the reverse is also true.

    Reply
  16. John Ferrer says:

    Toby, if you are objecting to my theory, then rather than ask a metaphysical claim (what is good) to BE an epistemic one (how we know good) how about offering a metaphysical objection or offering a stronger theory that explains more, and resolves more problems in moral theory than mine does. I’m entertaining suggestions.

    Oh, and I see no reason to think that I’m doing any “subjective word twisting.” I’m being very clear and forthright while pointing to an explanatory scenario that is commonly accessible to all of us (ie: objective, not subjective). Your accusation comes off as presumptuous rhetoric rather than pointed and factual disagreement.

    to make a claim of radical subjectivism/relativism (which I think is what you are doing), you’ll have to rebut the points of evidence I raise in my article. In the article I imply the question: Why should I think your metaphysical theory about morality is better than the vast majority of people in the world who do believe that some things are just plain objectively evil?

    Nathan, spousal abuse DOES require a marriage to exist.

    Your example of “good” technology is an instrumental/functional use of “good” not a moral sense.

    As for slavery and freedom, I’d suggest that freedom is our basic endowed right as humans–it is both good and natural. It is slavery that is unnatural and evil. Do you disagree with me on this? If freedom is natural and proper, and slavery is unnatural and improper then NO we cannot say that freedom is JUST the absence of slavery. True, there is an absence of slavery in freedom but freedom is more than that. Freedom is a basic human right, and slavery does not directly address that right but only it’s muting or limited expression. Slavery cannot ever touch, tamper, or steal someone’s right to freedom, it can only coerce it’s limited expression. Meanwhile people do not have some innate duty to slavery which freedom steals from them. Your proposed counterexample is a disanalogy.

    Reply
  17. Nathan Barley says:

    “Nathan, spousal abuse DOES require a marriage to exist.”

    Right, but abuse does not. You don’t need to be married to a partner to abuse them. Unless you know differently.

    “It is slavery that is unnatural and evil.”

    I certainly view it as evil. But can you define ‘unnatural’? And as I said, slavery can be used in more ways than just the ‘shackles on the hands’ variety.

    Note I’m not making a ‘moral relativism’ argument here. I agree that slavery is evil. I agree that marriage should be a good. I’m against abuse too.

    But I still don’t see you coming up with a new definition of good and evil that isn’t simply adjectives describing things you see as negative and positive. Saying ‘evil is a corruption of good’ is just a point of view, a way of looking at things. Good could quite equally be seen as a correction of evil.

    “If freedom is natural and proper, and slavery is unnatural and improper then NO we cannot say that freedom is JUST the absence of slavery.”

    Why not?

    Reply
  18. Luke says:

    Nathan said:Slavery can be used in more ways than just the ’shackles on the hands’ variety.

    JJR said:Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains

    Reply
  19. TobyR. says:

    “to make a claim of radical subjectivism/relativism (which I think is what you are doing), you’ll have to rebut the points of evidence I raise in my article. In the article I imply the question: Why should I think your metaphysical theory about morality is better than the vast majority of people in the world who do believe that some things are just plain objectively evil?”

    I fail to see the evidence you say you raise. Are you talking about the analogies? All I’m getting is that you’re saying that evil is a corruption of good and evil isn’t independent of good. Your analogies are what I refer to as subjective definition manipulation. They’re just not good examples. The blind baby thing? You’re subjectively labeling a natural occurrence of blindness as evil. What’s evil in this picture? The sperm, the egg, a virus or bacteria?

    ““good” natural phenomenon goes wrong, such as a deadly tornado, a tree-fungus, or a tiger attack.”

    You are deciding that these things are “evil.” These things have no moral value. If they do then your god is the creator of evil. He/she/it created everything. That means he/she/it created the evil tree-fungus and tornado and tiger. Bad, bad, evil god!

    “Why should I think your metaphysical theory about morality is better than the vast majority of people in the world who do believe that some things are just plain objectively evil?”

    Because they very often do not agree on what is and isn’t evil. History does not bear out any religion having cornered the market on morality. The very book you base your life on is rife with things you would never agree with and do not now follow. Owning slaves, how to beat them, how your wife is property, stoning gay people, etc. History points more towards subjective morality based on culturally accepted ideas or fears than some objective pie-in-the-sky morality.

    Reply
  20. Tim D. says:

    The very book you base your life on is rife with things you would never agree with and do not now follow. Owning slaves, how to beat them, how your wife is property, stoning gay people, etc. History points more towards subjective morality based on culturally accepted ideas or fears than some objective pie-in-the-sky morality.

    Don’t forget incest. WOW, is there a TON of incest in the Old Testament. I’m reading it again now to refresh my memory, and in Genesis alone there are so very many counts of people marrying/sexing their brothers, sisters, cousins, and parents. Yeesh. If any of this were true, the lack of genetic diversity would have rendered us all inbred to the point of mass mental retardation and deformity.

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  21. Nathan Barley says:

    “would have rendered us all inbred to the point of mass mental retardation and deformity”

    Perhaps that DOES accurately describe us, only we don’t realise it!

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  22. Tim D. says:

    Perhaps that DOES accurately describe us, only we don’t realise it!

    *lol* Indeed! The thought had occurred to me.

    My favorite instance so far is when Abraham and Sarah go to meet Abimalech, and Abraham tells everyone that Sarah is his “sister” (when she’s actually his wife). Abimalech takes her for himself (for some apparently unexplained reason), and God gets pissed at him (for taking on a married woman) and throws down some mild vengeance by closing the wombs of all of Abimalech’s women. God talks to Abimalech and tells him what’s going on, Abimalech then goes to Abraham and basically says, “WTF dude? What did we do to you? I’m getting cursed by God because you lied to us.” And Abraham says, “I told you she was my sister because I was afraid you’d kill me and take her if I told you she was my wife.”

    After a short back-and-forth, Abraham’s funniest defense is, and I quote, “Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife.”

    Wow. That’s some good old-fashioned traditional marriage fer ya! From when the tradition was still young.

    Reply
  23. Tim D. says:

    The same basic story occurs two more times in the Torah.

    I know….I’ve already read the second incarnation. I was reading it and thinking, “Haven’t I heard this before?” And I actually had to flip back because I thought I had accidentally backtracked somewhere….weird 0.0 And isn’t it the same guy (Abimalech) in both cases?

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  24. Nathan Barley says:

    Off topic, but an interesting story:

    More than 25 000 Finns quit the state church in the week following a televised debate on gay rights, in a spontaneous protest movement against the church’s conservative stance.

    “We only realised the next morning that 220 people had quit the Church during the television programme itself, which is double the number for an ordinary day,” Petri Karisma, spokesperson for an online service that facilitates resignations from the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church, told AFP.

    The unprecedented exodus rapidly gained speed, with daily figures skyrocketing into the thousands.

    The trigger for the wave of departures was a two-hour debate televised by national public broadcaster YLE on October 12, in which politicians, church officials, and advocates argued over gay rights, homosexual marriage and adoption rights.

    According to Karisma, the opinions voiced by several church officials did not vary significantly from previous statements, “but the ordinary public probably heard this for the first time and thought: ‘Holy cow! Can people seriously think like this?’.”

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  25. Tim D. says:

    Off topic, but an interesting story:

    Good for them for actually putting their feet down and saying enough’s enough, instead of just compromising….again….like so many others.

    (Catholics, I’m looking at you!)

    Also off-topic but interesting….I was asked what was reading at work today (I was reading the OT again), and this girl I work with ended up getting into a conversation with me about the aforementioned story with Abraham, Sarah and Abimalech. I said I thought it was odd that they just thought incestuous marriage was normal and okay, and she said, “well, that kind of thing was okay back then.” I said, “But why is that? What reason is there that applies to incest TODAY, that wasn’t also true back then?” If it’s about genetic diversity and mutation, that would also apply back then, unless there was some *drastic* and off-scale evolutionary mutation that occurred in the last 6000 years or so, that somehow caused us to lose the ability to inbreed effectively. If it’s anything else, then it’s based on social or cultural norms, which means that it’s a subjective moral judgment that could very well change again in the future. Unless it’s just because God said it was okay, which means that God’s ruling has changed since then….which proves that God’s ruling, were he to exist, *would* be considered “arbitrary,” since he can apparently change it at will for no discernable reason.

    Modern biology seems more than enough to prove that the events of the OT are, by and large, basically impossible.

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  26. Toby R. says:

    “Modern biology seems more than enough to prove that the events of the OT are, by and large, basically impossible.”

    Abso-floggin’-lutely. Now that I think about it, it might be why most christian’s don’t see anything wrong with only giving out tiny new testaments (with pslams and proverbs). I think the general consensus is, “Oh, well, all the rest of that is rot that I don’t care to think about . . . but it’s still the UNERRING WORD OF GOD!”

    Has anyone else heard the “genetically pure” argument? It’s argued that it was okay for them to inbreed back then because they’re genes were more pure. As someone in the American 1930’s would say (in a noir crime novel), “Absolute tommyrot!”

    Reply
  27. Tim D. says:

    Has anyone else heard the “genetically pure” argument? It’s argued that it was okay for them to inbreed back then because they’re genes were more pure.

    I’ve never heard that….but that’s even more unlikely, because inbreeding doesn’t work well because of the diversity of the genes, not because they’re “impure” or “corrupted” (whatever that means); this would suggest the existence of some ideal standard of genes that have long since been “corrupted,” which would *still* be a problem because even if we could define “purity,” it would not change the fact that there’s no diversity. In fact, the word “pure” would only seem to suggest even further dilution, which would imply even more problems with inbreeding.

    Unless one meant to imply that “purity” somehow overrides the natural tendency of genes to “go bad” (for lack of a better term) when they’re diluted like that. In which case I would have to ask that person, “what about animals? Was there a ‘perfect’ form of every single kind of animal that was ‘corrupted’ across time?” There’s just no clean answer to this problem.

    Reply
  28. Dan says:

    I’ve heard of that argument before. Even if it were true that the genes were “pure” at the begining, you still have to explain the fact that all of the inbreeding took place again with EVERY species on the planet after noah and the flood.

    Reply
  29. Toby R. says:

    It’s a foolish argument because if they were so genetically pure, then we wouldn’t see the variety of people we do today. Two people’s genes could not spawn the amount of diversity . . . uh oh . . . without some kind of evolution.

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  30. Tim D. says:

    So we had another conversation today….this one was about Cain, Abel and Seth. I finished Genesis over lunch today (gonna start Exodus tonight….my friend at work says it’s a lot “better” than Genesis, somehow :D), and as I was going back over it and taking notes, I noticed something odd in the way Cain reacts to God when he first kills Abel and is cursed/marked.

    Okay, first off, as I understand it, Adam and Eve were the very first humans of any race/ethnicity. There were no sisters or brothers of Adam and Eve, and there were no other contemporaries — everybody’s supposed to have come from Adam and Eve, right? Am I correct so far?

    Okay, so they have Cain and Abel. Neither of those children have any of their own children between the time they are born and the time that Cain kills Abel. So at this point in the story, the *only* living humans are supposed to be Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel (though right after he’s cursed, Cain “knows his wife intimately” and produces a child, Enoch).

    But before he has Enoch — right after he kills Abel — Cain is marked by God. Cain pleads with God and says the following: “My punishment is too great to bear! Since you are banishing me today from the soil, and I must hide from Your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, whoever finds me will kill me.”

    Okay, so now I must ask: Who does he think is going to kill him? Abel is dead and never produced any children, so there’s no fear of a reprisal from his offspring; Cain himself has yet to produce any children, and if he had, it’s debatable that they would kill him for such a thing. Is he afraid that Adam and Eve will kill him?

    You could say that Adam and Eve had more children somewhere in between, and that in that time there’s another population of people, or something….but aside from all the issues that creates, it’s already established in the very next chapter that Seth was the son which immediately succeeded Cain and Abel (“God has given me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him”)! And there is no mention of a daughter of Adam and Eve.

    I have asked several people about this problem, and I have heard only one satisfactory answer….I’m kind of curious what the Christianfolk here would have to say about it?

    Reply
  31. Tim D. says:

    P.S. One proposed solution was that God created some other population “off-screen” at some point between the creation of Adam and Eve and the death of Abel. But that creates another problem as well because it would mean that Adam and Eve were not the true common ancestors of all humans, because there would have to have been a parallel geneology somewhere else in the world. So what’s the deal?

    Reply
  32. Ed says:

    There is a scene in the 1965 classic movie “Inherit the Wind;” where Spencer Tracy appears to be toying with Frederick March and his literal interpretation of the Bible when he poses the question quoted above, “Cain had a wife. Where did she come from?” This is a question that cynics have asked for years. The fact that many people believe that there is no mention of other people in the Bible up to that point has been a good reason for these people to interpret the Book of Genesis as well as the rest of the Bible as a group of symbolic faith stories. But these people probably haven’t read what the Bible actually says about the first humans.
    In this movie Frederick March is playing the prosecuting attorney in this dramatization of the “Scopes Trial,” the 1926 true story of a High School teacher who was put on trial by the state government for the crime of teaching Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in his science class. Unfortunately for this beleaguered teacher he taught science in a southern state, Tennessee, where the people were still living in 1826. The defense attorney (Tracy), has called March in this scene, whose character is named Colonel Matthew Brady, but in real life was two-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, to the witness stand as an expert on the Bible. When he asks March where Cain’s wife came from March struggles with the question and Tracy says, “Maybe God had another Creation over in the next county someplace. Is that possible?”
    Now we know Tracy’s character, who was actually atheist attorney Clarence Darrow in the real story, is being facetious. But a careful reading of Genesis reveals that is exactly what happened. God had another Creation over in another county some place, it doesn’t say exactly where, but it wasn’t in the same county as the Garden of Eden. On the sixth day of Creation (cf. Gen 1:31) God created two people: So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; (My emphasis) male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:27-28). These two people were created together and at the same time on the sixth day of Creation, we never get to find out what their names are, and there is no mention of them being put in the Garden of Eden, where they had to be warned about a particular type of tree that they shouldn’t eat from. The county these two were from must not have had have this “knowledge of good and evil tree” growing any place. As a matter of fact God told this couple they could eat whatever fruit or vegetable they wanted: God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of the earth, and every (My emphasis) tree with seed in its fruit; and you shall have them for food (Gen 1:29). God is clearly talking to two people at once here (Be fruitful and multiply), and when he warns Adam about the special tree (Gen 2:15) Eve hasn’t been created yet (cf. Gen 2:22). So this couple could not be Adam and Eve for we know Eve was formed from one of Adam’s ribs after he had been on earth a few days because the Bible tells us Adam was created on the third day of Creation.
    Most people think Adam was created on the sixth day of God’s creation but they haven’t read the text carefully. In Gen 2:4-8 it says: These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the LORD made the earth and heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground—then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
    The Bible says that Adam was created on the day that God made the earth and heavens and before there was any vegetation on the ground. The Bible says that was the third day: Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind bearing fruit with seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day (Gen 1:11-13). It is clearly impossible that Adam is one of those two people created together on day six of God’s Creation.
    Cain must have married (cf. Gen 4:17) a descendant of the people created over in the next county on day six because Eve didn’t have any daughters until after Cain was married and possibly not until he had been married for about eight hundred years (cf. Gen 5:4). This means Cain didn’t have to marry one of his sisters but the Bible is also telling us that we are not all descended from Adam. And of course that is the problem fundamentalist Christians have with Evolution which of course teaches us the same thing that is in the Bible: We are not all descended from one original set of parents. One could argue that we are all descended from Noah and he was descended from Adam. But the Bible shows that the Nephilim survived the flood even though they weren’t on the ark, (compare Gen 6:4 with Num 13:33) and if Goliath’s ancestors survived the flood maybe other people, that weren’t related to Adam, did too.
    Some of us could be descended from those two unnamed people over in that other county. And this county from what we can tell had “no knowledge of good and evil tree,” and no mention of this presumably happy couple’s disobedience to God.
    Many Christians believe that sin has been passed down through the generations from Adam because of his “original sin” of disobedience, to every person that has ever been born in the world through their parent’s act of knowing each other, as the Bible would put it. The argument for this supposedly comes from the beloved Apostle Paul in Romans 5:12: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned—The Bible says that Adam brought sin into the world, it says nothing about passing it on through one giant untraceable bloodline. Then Paul continues: Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgressions of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come (Rom 5:14). Many Christians interpret “the one who was to come” as Jesus, but it is obvious that when Paul mentions the sins of Adam he is not comparing him to Jesus, whom Paul claims was sinless, but to Adam’s own son Cain; like father like son.
    The story of Cain (which means “smith” in Hebrew) and Abel (which translates to “herdsman”) was at least 1000 years old and probably much older by the time it was written down by the authors of Genesis and by then it had lost most of its original meaning. The story was originally told to give a background to the constant feuding between the farmers and sheepherders of the Near East, but was misunderstood by the authors of Genesis as a didactic story about the first murder. The Garden of Eden and the Cain and Abel stories are a retelling of the Egyptian Creation myths and the battle between Set and Osiris and were influenced by the Sumerian myths about the shepherd Dumuzi.

    Reply
  33. Kyle says:

    A lot of moral relativists seem to be commenting. Gee, no wonder they don’t agree with this explanation. They don’t even believe good and evil even exist — it’s right there in the name, “relativistism!”

    Reply

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