This is a more complex topic than I can cover in a few words, but I just wanted to touch on the concept of evil. I often wonder where evil comes from or what evil actually is. If you don’t think too much about it, what is evil? Evil I would say is when a horrible act occurs. This could be a natural disaster like an earthquake that kills thousands of people, or it could be an act committed by someone – like that of a serial killer. These two different types of situations, without thinking too much about them, I would categorize as evil. In the first case I would be describing the scenario as evil – and I would say that if evil exists as a concept, removed from human actions, then it would be the perpetrator of this act. In the second scenario, I would be classing the serial killer themselves as evil because they had brought extreme hurt and suffering to this world and to their fellow humans.
However, when I think about evil in more detail it starts to become far more complex. Recently I talked about how we can define morality, and also about how morality is relative to each individual and that it is based on our experiences in life and what we know and understand.
In light of this information, I would suggest that perhaps evil is not something that describes a human being, but rather something that describes something non-tangible. Evil describes the act itself. This leads me to think whether evil is just a term made up by humans to describe something that is evil to us as a race, or if it is something that exists. And this also makes me think about things that exist but are not tangible.
So, a little more detail – lets assume that we are all on a journey. We all think that the actions we take are just, until we learn otherwise. We have all surely been there – where we are adamant that we are in the right about something even when others say we are not. And sometimes, further down the line, we learn that actually we were not in the right – perhaps we didn’t realize it at the time, perhaps we had to have another future life experience before we realized the wrong that we had committed in the original situation. Once we learn from these mistakes, we grow as a person and we probably wouldn’t commit the same act again, knowing now that it was wrong. Or more accurately, knowing why it was wrong and understanding it was better not to do it.
If we assume that is true in everyday life, then we could also assume that the same holds true for more serious crimes and even perhaps for people who commit acts of crime knowing they are wrong – even in these scenarios the criminal could be committing the act knowing its wrong, but at the same time having another motive that holds more weight than the breaking of moral code in committing the act itself. For example, lets take someone who is very poor – to the point where they cannot feed themselves or their family. They might go out and steal food, they might know full well that it is wrong, but they might accept the committing of that morally wrong act in order to feed their family – a morally just act. And they might happily make that trade off.
Now, if we assume that we are all logical people and that we do the things we do for a reason even if the reason is misinformed then we could say that evil does not life within us. For example, would anyone ever commit a purely evil act for the sake of being evil, with no other context? I don’t think they would. Would someone commit an evil act through hatred? Yes, quite possibly. But then, that has context – where does that hatred come from? That hatred is really the driving force for the immoral act, and so the source of that hatred would lead us back to the source of the evil.
And if we were to follow that chain of evil acts to the source where would we end up? Would the source be a person who has purely evil intentions with no cause, no reason, no context? I can’t imagine that being the case. Because as humans I don’t think we ever commit any act, or have any thought, without some reason, some motivation. Otherwise the world would be chaos – if we just randomly decided to do anything at any point in time we would be living in complete chaos and the world would collapse.
If this is the case then it means that evil is a non-tangible entity that is created somehow through the actions that we take, even if we don’t realise it.
This puts me in mind of someone called Richard Kuklinski. I watched a documentary about this person a while back. There are several documentaries on this person in fact, and you can look them up for yourself. However, in this documentary Richard spoke about his past, his upbringing and the events that ultimately lead to him becoming a contract killer.
Let me say that I am not siding with this person, or justifying any of their acts in any way. But I am using it to serve as a case in point. Richard apparently grew up in a very hostile environment; his father was abusive to his mother and his siblings. In fact, his father apparently beat his younger brother to death in front of Richard when he was a child. As a result of this, Richard grew up knowing nothing but violence. He also had to effectively survive in that environment and as a result grew up thinking that life was about survival – about kill or be killed. And as he went out into the world, he believed that all of the world was like his home and so he acted accordingly.
This puts in mind the beginnings of humanity – when we lived either on our own, or in very small groups, and when anyone outside of those groups was considered an enemy. I imagine life was a little bit like this for Richard. And yes, the difference today is that we can understand the emotions of others and we can see when we are causing hurt. However, what if you have not experienced any of them emotions when growing up? What if you don’t know about kindness, hurtfulness, empathy, pain and so on? After-all, those things are not ingrained in us when we are born, we are taught them, and we learn them as we grow up.
So my point here is this – I believe that there are probably causes to all actions. If you trace back any action I think you will always find a cause. This goes hand in hand with the principle of cause and effect. If something occurs there is always a cause behind it. If you know any situation where this does not hold true, please comment about it below. So that means evil is not inherent within us, it is perhaps not even grown within us, but rather it is grown over time and perhaps even over generations. Does this mean that evil is a thing within itself – that it does not need a body in which to house itself, but rather it can survive through several generations? And as such, is evil perhaps a “living” thing in its own right, a conscious thing?