Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Evil is a term describing that which is morally bad, corrupt, wantonly destructive, selfish, and wicked. It is one half of the duality of good and evil expressed, in some form or another, by many cultures. It describes a hierarchy of moral standards with regard to human behaviour; evil being the least desired, while love is usually the most praised. In essence "evil" is a term for those things which (either directly or causally) bring about withering and death- the opposite of life. In casual or derogatory use, the word "evil" can characterize people and behaviours that are hurtful, ruinous, or disastrous.
A similar term, malice (from the Latin mal meaning "bad") describes the deliberate human intent to harm and be harmful. "Evil," by contrast, tends to represent a more elemental concept; a disembodied spirit that is natural and yet abominable. Wheras "malice" belongs to the specific, "evil" is the foundation for malice.
Another definition of evil describes it as death and suffering, whether it results from human or from other natural causes (e.g., earthquakes, famine). In other words, it is not merely the intention to do evil, but the end result, namely, harm to others, that is evil. And, as Plato observed, there are relatively few ways to do good, but there are countless ways to do evil, which can therefore have a much greater impact on our lives, and the lives of other beings capable of suffering. For this reason, some philosophers (e.g., Bernard Gert, Michael E. Berumen) maintain that not causing and preventing evil are more important than promoting good in formulating moral rules and in conduct. From a physical standpoint, "evil" could be defined as increasing entropy when the cost outweighs the benefit.


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