Do Good & Evil exist outside of Human society?

Do Good & Evil exist

  • Yes

    Votes: 77 38.3%
  • No

    Votes: 120 59.7%
  • There is only Good

    Votes: 4 2.0%
  • There is only Evil

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    201

Kehengto

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Personally this question boils down to a theology perspective. Looking at the human race, every civilization had a measure of what was good and what was evil, but at the core there was a moral sense that developed it.

Personally I believe there is an absolute measure to which is good and which is evil by which all will need to account. (For an expounding of this please PM me and I would glad to discuss this further on a one on one basis.)

That said, the lines can be blurred or even forgotten if an absolute is not established or not recognized. So I can understand the issue because of that.

To quote ceasar: "what is truth?"

In essence the question of good and evil revolve around that question. If truth is relative, then so is good and evil. With no absolute who can say which is which?

In regards to the original question: I voted yes, and as soon as I find resources to support my stance I shall cite them.
 
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names

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I agree with kehengto. I have a book called In Praise of Meekness, Essays on Ethics and Politics. If you ever want to read up on it, somewhere in this book it mentions that theology of past civilizations suggested good and evil existed. Thus sprang the idea. Norberto bobbio uses his arguments to suggest a lot of the time as a central theme morals are the government's priority, he uses this as supporting background info on where people made judgments based on values. In other words if the end justifies the means in cases of driscrimination of the weak and oppressed.
 

max929

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I've been thinking about motives, about protagonists and antagonists, and about good and evil.

I'm confused. Are good and evil absolute or are they relative? And if they are relative, then how can they exist at all when the most common assumed definition for both of them entails being the opposite of the other?

Everything I come up with as an example of pure evil turns out not to be when attributed to nature (you try).

So what is evil? What is good? Do they exist outside of society, outside of consciousness?

Any thoughts?

Good and Evil are relative. They depend on each other to define one another. You cannot measure good without first measuring evil, and vice versa

If you accept that answer the next question you have to ask is how do you want to quantify your measurements...from a utilitarian prospective or an isolationist view point? Is it the greatest good for the most or the greatest good for the individual...

Lastly, good and evil are strictly human constructs. They are abstract and intangible. They are hypotheticals we have to imagine for them to exist. They don't exist in the universe...for example, if an asteroid hits earth and kills all the life on it, the universe didn't intend to kill all life, that is just what happened...a mathematical equation of velocity+mass+trajectory=boom
 

Abacas

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I don't think so that, Good and Evil exist out side of our society. As these are always with us and between us. Infect, goods and evils are someone out of us, as people do have different nature, behavior, ethics, code of conduct and values. Which actually sometime act as good or evil.
 

StevenHarvey1990

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I love these debates.

I'm going to say neither good nor evil exist. Not limited to existence outside humanity. I don't believe they exist. Period. The key here is belief. There is no right answer or wrong answer.

This is purely a hypothetical but let's say ... I go out of my house now and butcher the first person I see. Who's to say that is 'evil' or 'wrong'?

Doesn't matter the reason, who it was, how I did it, if I ate their ear or whatever.

Only PEOPLE would give that action or series of actions a meaning or describe it a certain way. Generally speaking that would be described as sick, disturbed, criminal and evil.

My point is no matter who or how many people say "Oh that's evil" or "That's proof that evil exists" it doesn't make them right, or by contrast wrong.

We are animals. Sophisticated or civilised, yes. We all have primal urges and desires, be they sexual or otherwise. Look at the Oedipus complex (not saying I believe it). Many would deem a Mother/Son or Father/Daughter sexual relationship 'wrong'. If and I stress IF it's a natural instinct as Freud would suggest then what is so wrong? Are the people who repress these natural urges not wrong then?

The same could be argued with someone like Ed Gein. Is he wrong? Is he really evil?

My opinion ... No!

Like someone said it's all relative or subjective. One mans definition or more importantly opinion is not right or wrong it's just an opinion or belief.

There can be no correct answer is where to leave it I think. One of those topics, like many philosophical topics, that can only go round in circles.
 

anne_tedeton

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Oh, man. I love debates like these.

This is a hard question, because the definitions of good and evil are different across cultures. What is socially acceptable (good) in one culture may be abhorrent in another, and our concepts of good and evil aren't static. They change and evolve over time. Some things that were considered to be good hundreds of years ago are considered evil now. In first-world countries, we typically don't stone people who have affairs anymore. The rules have changed. They never stop changing.

Of course, it could be argued that our morals are wrong, but given that good and bad are dependant upon culture, that argument can get a bit tricky.

There's also the problem of some people having no innate moral compass. Whether you argue for nature or nuture, some people just have no distinction between good and evil. You could argue that good and evil are simply split into reward/punishment, but that's more of an end result of behavior.

Even that becomes tricky. Psychology steers away from labelling people and behaviors as good or evil. You're either "normal" or "mentally ill." And if sociopathy, a personality disorder, is considered a mental illness, well, that makes things even trickier, doesn't it?

But there are certain irredeemable behaviors that remain somewhat static across time and culture--murder, cannibalism, rape, incest, stealing, lying, etc. Given that there's general agreement surrounding particular behaviors, it could be argued that a predominant "evil" does exist. "Good" seems to be the means of resistance. As to which is humanity's natural state...well, that's a whole different argument.

If you really want to give yourself nightmares, Lars von Trier's Antichrist posits something truly upsetting--that humanity was not created by God, but by the devil. The film goes waaaay beyond the concept of original sin. I needed brain bleach after watching it because the content was so disturbing, but that particular idea was the most upsetting part of the whole film.

TL;DR I personally think good and evil are socially determined concepts. We can't be fully certain as to whether morality is a part of a person's natural state, but we can agree that certain behaviors are either acceptable or unacceptable.
 

BoltzmannBrain

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I am pleasantly surprised to see such a debate exists on a writing forum. As a cognitive scientist in training, this question is of quite some interest to me.
Personally, I am a moral relativist. There is no inherent morality, only the values we choose for ourselves.
 

GroundSquirrel

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What we deem good or evil are personal and societal norms. Most Westerners nowadays would feel that killing a child because of physical and/or mental abnormalities is an evil, however that's exactly what the Spartans did.
Many still look at homosexuality as a sin or an evil, but many of us see that it's a natural occurrence in the natural world and, thus, not an evil. Unless we're going to start labeling natural occurrences as evil.
 

robjvargas

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Good and Evil, the general ideas, are universal. The devil... ahem... is in the details.

I think all species with any level of self-awareness understand that there are personal and societal priorities. The priorities *should* represent the survival and even the flourishing of the society. That would be good. The personal, where it interferes with the societal, that's evil.

Of course, that doesn't mean that society is right. I'm just saying that the society will normalize certain things, and that normalization will be perceived as good.
 

marinapr9

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What we deem good or evil are personal and societal norms. Most Westerners nowadays would feel that killing a child because of physical and/or mental abnormalities is an evil, however that's exactly what the Spartans did.
Many still look at homosexuality as a sin or an evil, but many of us see that it's a natural occurrence in the natural world and, thus, not an evil. Unless we're going to start labeling natural occurrences as evil.

Societal beliefs, traditions, mind sets, religions etc aren't the essence of what is dark and light in human nature. Good and Evil, I believe, exists in us all regardless of our upbringing and outside influences. You just can't pigeonhole it.
 

robjvargas

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Are they?

I'm sure plenty of cultures don't have a concept of evil.

At least, not in the Christian sense.

That's the details thing I mentioned. If we're limiting to a strictly christian view, I agree with you.

But I think all societies see a "good" and an "evil," whatever the definitions of those may be.
 

Once!

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Interesting question.

I think there has been an evolutionary process from "good and bad" to "good and evil".

At its simplest and most personal level, something is good if it makes an individual happy. It puts food in our bellies, it gives us lots of opportunities for bedroom Olympics, it allows us to bring up kids, it keeps us warm and safe. Or, as Conan and Genghis would have it, what is best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentations of their spouses or significant others.

At this level, something is bad if it stops you from being happy. Hunger, disease, an absence of rumpy-pumpy, not safe, not warm. Dead.

These definitions are modified when we start to exist as a group of people rather than as individuals. A "good" person helps other people to be happy. They contribute to group happiness, food, sex, warmth, shelter and so on. A "bad" person does not contribute.

When our thinking about group interactions becomes more complex we start to elaborate on what we mean by a bad person. We define degrees of "badness", from a misguided person who makes a mistake all the way through to a person who deliberately goes against the best interest of others.

And from this we get the concept of evil. A very very bad person.

This means that someone can be both good and evil. As the cliché goes, one person's freedom fighter is another person's terrorist.

Does good and bad exist outside humanity? I think it does, but again it depends on your perspective. When a shark takes a seal, the shark community will see it as a good thing; the seal community will see it as bad. The definition of good and bad will vary depending on whether you are inside someone else's belly or they are in yours.
 

kobold

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Killer whales, too, devour seals, yet, after feeding, have been observed (and filmed) returning a last seal unharmed to the shore where it was first taken, all the while tossing it back and forth in what would seem to be a cruel form of play. Find it if you can; it looks like kids at 'catch'.

And the open mouth of a killer whale would seem to resemble a toothy grin. That doesn't mean the animal is happy, or even that it could formulate in its brain the concept of happiness (or anything else).

A dog can look as though it's smiling, but that doesn't mean it isn't about to bite you.

How's that for muddying the waters? Pun intended.
 

Pallandozi

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Everything I come up with as an example of pure evil turns out not to be when attributed to nature (you try).

I interpreted the poll question a bit differently.

I looked at it in the context of non-human sentient species (aliens), and whether they would have an analogous concept, and whether there would be a correlation between an alien would think of as "good" and what a human would think of as "good".

I'd say societies which don't frown upon wide spread mass destruction of their fellow citizens are less likely to survive than societies that do frown upon it, so strictly from evolutionary pressures you'd be likely to see some similarities.
 

JohnLine

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By my own personal definition of good and evil they do. I define evil as destroying a larger whole in order to obtain a fraction of it, and good as contributing something to a whole to make it greater.

So a cat feeding its child is creating a larger whole. A wolf hunting rabbits to extinction is destroying a larger whole for a meal.

Same goes with people. If someone invests in a company they believe in, they are doing good. If a corporate raider sells off pieces of a profitable (and otherwise good company) they are doing evil. Someone who pollutes to make themselves money, at the expense of their children’s environment is evil.

Does this extend beyond sentient life? Is a black hole that sucks in a solar system evil? How about a virus that destroys more complicated organisms? Or a computer virus? How about a computer program that hogs resources (like crypto-mining?)

By this definition is there evil in mathematics? Is a divide by zero evil?
 

dickson

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in short, no.

I was once asked what the absence of evil was. Like this. "What, then, you un-Christian ...what, then, is the absence of evil."

And, being so witty, I said: "The absence of good." Ha-HA! I still believe that to an extent.

I think that good/evil are silly, perhaps arbitrary abstractions. But I also think they can be useful in creating happy and/or peaceful living situations.

Relativism is easy. Nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so. It means to some extent that anything goes (but some might say that there should be a recognition that anything goes for any-one). We create contexts/civilizations in our own heads: our own self-created contexts (none exist, really, but let's pretend) allow us never to be wrong. Whatever. Easy.

I believed in relativism for a while.

Then my queer mentor took me to Germany, to Berlin (see, he's a filmmaker) where hundreds of thousands of people were marched to their deaths, by nazis. Isn't what those people did evil? If so, were the people themselves evil? By God, they were Absolutely Evil, right? And perhaps in hell now?

But why? How?

This sort of absolutism is wishful thinking, and revealing of us. What does it say about we who wish for others eternal suffering? Hmm?


What else? There's more egocentrism: what benefits me, or pleasures me is good. What harms me, or causes me grief is evil.


What else? Simone Weil once said that goodness is in absorbing suffering, while evilness is in passing it on. I like that, but there's still this business of 'othering' that bugs me so.

What else? I think from the POV of, say, the universe, good and evil are human abstractions. If they exist, humans are made up of both. It might be that we can all find things we hate about ourselves. Things we'd call evil. And likewise, we still might defend our existence as if it is good! Is it more than self-preservation? Are we more than animals? More on that...

now: Well my take is that civilization (collective ID) deems what is to be done and what isn't. What isn't (violation of mores, norms; i.e., tabooooos) is other'd, is evil. A sociologist, historian, anthropologist, etc could tell you why this happens, or why what I've written is utterly wrong. Perhaps there are good reasons, for example, that Murder is widely known as ... ha ... taboo? Evil? Wrong?

We are, in part, animals. It could seem that our entire civilization is darwinian: we only use our reason to more effectively fulfill our desires. Will and power decide what is good and what is evil. But I don't personally believe that. My take is that there are elements of humanity (empathy, understanding, awareness, love) that make us capable of examining what brings the most happiness to the most people. But does that make these elements Good, really? No, I don't think so. Yet, "good or evil" does not dictate what I do. I personally (as an example) see suffering, feel it, and try to fill it. That is, as you might suggest, what I believe is human -- nothing good, bad, but human.




AMC
The universe has a POV?
 

dickson

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Somehow this parts of this thread have entangled the question of the existence of good and evil with the notion of eternal punishment, as posited in versions of Christianity of an apocalyptic bent. Surely that is a narrow view of Christianity, and doesn’t necessarily translate to other religious traditions at all.

But. There’s the old saw that tells us ‘Hell is meant for someone else’. I never believed that; I knew Hell was meant for me, because I was different. I’ll have none of that. Hard to think of a greater evil than a cosmos that tortures people for eternity, whatever they did in a finite lifetime.

I’ve long felt that there is no great evil that does not have at its root a failure of the imagination. Vengeful fantasies of eternal torture fit the bill in my book. Not least because they always seem to apply to The Other Person, and never to the one you see in the mirror.
 

Kendall_Jackson

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Well, this is an interesting subject....though I fear there is no one answer. Personally I do not believe in absolute Good and absolute Evil. No one is that good or that evil. I see life more in shades of grey. You can certainly be a good person, but if one digs enough, he will find something that is not as nice.
That being said, good and evil tend to be from a person's view. One would see another as good but his friend would see him as evil. It is a matter of perspective. There are multiple examples for this but I do not want to expand the post too much
 

pich313

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If something exists in one place, it is reasonable to believe it could exist elsewhere. Evil and good are heavily influenced by a person’s makeup and reasoning, not just their societal environment.

As far as them being opposites, all opposites have something in common. Right and left, up and down are directions. In, out, here, there are all locations. Evil and good are a state of someone’s thought/action/being.

Also, it’s nice to see that no one has voted for “There is only evil.”
 

Kaaba

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It is my opinion that, while an individual's (animal or human, by my best guess) motion is largely determined by the sensations and emotions evolution has granted, there are available ethical truths that could tenuously be applied to most if not all situations.

Looking back, I see things becoming more chaotic the further from now it gets, into an infinity of chaos. That chaos promoted infinite opportunity for evolution because change was always there. And now, humans think and experience love.

To a loveless sociopath, fairness provides a way of unifying every loveless sociopath against any individual or small group intent on usurping the "rights" of the sociopath. And human beings for the most part have evolved some amount of social love that the concept of fairness could be plugged into.

All intelligent beings potentially become a single military under the banner of fairness. The remaining debate is what then is fair?

Fairness is the closest I've come to a "moral absolute," and its potency is greater the more universally it is applied. So, I'm impartial whether that which is unfair is defined as "evil," and that which is fair is defined as "good".

Civilization, at the end of the day, comes down to competing wants. And most civilians only kind of even know what it is they want. Fairness seems mathematically to me to be the best method of empowering the individual and the group to work together to obtain selfless and selfish happiness.