Good and Evil
Post Reply
 
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Votes - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
08-02-2011, 09:16 AM
Good and Evil
Hey.

Statement: Good and evil are Theistic constructs.

That's my premise. Feel free to comment on it.

Question: Is there a place for the Theistic constructs of good and evil in a secular world?

Statement: Based on several things that I've read on this site (no citations given) that the idea of evil has carried over from the Theistic world into the Atheist world.

Question: Should this construct have been carried over and continued to be relied upon to explain behaviour or should it be discarded?

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
08-02-2011, 10:16 AM
RE: Good and Evil
(08-02-2011 09:16 AM)Ghost Wrote:  Statement: Good and evil are Theistic constructs.

That's my premise. Feel free to comment on it.

I'm not sure where the idea that good and evil are theistic constructs came from. You indicate you've read that here but I don't recall that being the position. I think the view is that the theistic construct is on the idea of eternal salvation or eternal punishment.

I guess my comment is I don't quite follow the opening premise as I'm an atheist and I believe that there can be evil in the world. I suppose you can argue that what I'm really commenting on is immorality or antisocial/psychotic behavior as opposed to genuine "evil" and that is actually a theistic concept wrapped up in the concept of punishment and order. It basically comes down to definitions, I guess. I see the word "evil" as having become similar to the word "Xerox", which once referred to copies made by a specific company's product but now is a common term for a copy regardless of whose product you use. Common usage of the word "evil" has certainly shifted to a more secular usage then what is probably originally intended. In that sense, I don't see any issue with it's continued usage (although I do think it's been diluted, but that's another issue).

Shackle their minds when they're bent on the cross
When ignorance reigns, life is lost
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
08-02-2011, 11:08 AM
RE: Good and Evil
I don't believe there is good or evil in this world. Everyone makes choices. Like for example a lot of people think Hitler is EVIL. Yet, under Hitler's own mind. He was doing the right thing to protect his people. Under his level he was doing a service of good.

The same with religion. The Westboroh church believes they are doing a good work and not evil.

Good and evil are not theistic concepts. It's how people use their views to judge others on how they think some is good or evil.

[Image: buddhasig.png]
“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” ~ Gautama Buddha
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
08-02-2011, 11:19 AM
RE: Good and Evil
Good and evil are abstract concepts we add to behavior based on how it affects society.
Any social species have "laws" they follow - are they theists ?
See the Silverfox Project for the evolution of morality.
Theistic concepts of good and evil aren't unique to theism so some of them belong , others don't.
As for the construct of good/evil it can be kept as long as people don't view it as an absolute.

Atheism is a religion like OFF is a TV channel !!!

Proud of my genetic relatives Big Grin
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
08-02-2011, 12:30 PM
RE: Good and Evil
(08-02-2011 09:16 AM)Ghost Wrote:  Statement: Good and evil are Theistic constructs.

That's my premise. Feel free to comment on it.

Well, they're definitely constructs of something, but I'd say that they're social constructs rather than strictly theistic ones. Maybe at some point religion held ultimate power over the decision of what was good and what was evil, but it certainly doesn't any more.

Quote:Question: Is there a place for the Theistic constructs of good and evil in a secular world?

Depends. There are too many religious sects with too many different concepts of good and evil to make a sweeping statement like "theistic morality cannot exist in a secular world". I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest to find out that there's a religious sect - even a major one - which has the exact same thoughts on morality that I do.

The ones which are based on literal interpretation of holy texts, though, no. As far as I'm aware, fundamentalist interpretations of holy texts' moral prescriptions always lead to a rather warped view on the world. Again, though, it's entirely possible that there's a decent holy text out there.

"Owl," said Rabbit shortly, "you and I have brains. The others have fluff. If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest - and when I say thinking I mean thinking - you and I must do it."
- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
08-02-2011, 01:36 PM
RE: Good and Evil
I don't think there are such things as "good" and "evil". These things aren’t black and white but mere shades of gray. the correct shade can only be determined by the correct context.
example:
  • I beat a man up: (really dark gray)
  • I beat a man up: It was self defence (dark gray)
  • I beat a man up: It was self defence, I was armed with a gun (I could have shot him) (gray)
  • I beat a man up: it was self defence, I was armed with a gun (I could have shot him) I am an actor in a movie, it was fake (light light gray)

I think the real "contribution" of theism on morality is the fact that they often oversimplify it to a level of black/white, good/evil, heaven/hell.

Observer

Agnostic atheist
Secular humanist
Emotional rationalist
Disclaimer: Don’t mix the personal opinion above with the absolute and objective truth. Remember to think for yourself. Thank you.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
08-02-2011, 02:50 PM
RE: Good and Evil
I often cringe when I use the word Evil because it always makes me see a theistic definition. Yet the word Good can be used by me in a thousand different forms. So perhaps Evil should be defined as the most immoral .

The Beauty of The Scientific Method , is the Anticipation of a Better Explanation.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
08-02-2011, 05:16 PM
RE: Good and Evil
Hey, erbody.

Thanks for the responses. Just a clarification. I'm not asking if any particular sect's version of what things are good and what things are evil should cross over. I'm asking if the very notion of good and evil, the claim that good and evil exist, should cross over.

Just as one simple example (please don't take this to be the extent of what I'm talking about). Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 people. You could very easily say he did it because he's evil. Or you could say that he was a sociopath. If you take the clinical route, there's no room for an idea like evil. Evil doesn't play into it at all.

Hey, Unbeliever.
Quote:Maybe at some point religion held ultimate power over the decision of what was good and what was evil, but it certainly doesn't any more.

This is pretty much what I'm talking about. Good and evil have origins in Theism just like, as The Observer points out, heaven and hell. But heaven and hell never made the crossover from the Theistic domaine to the Atheistic domain. So why has an idea like good an evil crossed over? They were used in Theism to explain behaviour. "Why did Bill do X?" Answer: "Because he was evil." So do good and evil, as explainers of behaviour (or I guess of occurences as well "The town is beset by evil") belong in the secular world.

Hey, galgamesh731.

No, they aren't Theists, but law isn't a synonymn for good and evil. You can have laws without the idea of good and evil. One might say that we need laws, say, like anti-murder laws, to stop evil people from murdering, but that, again, is what I'm talking about. By that rationale, the reason these people are murdering in the first place is because they are evil.

Hey, Doc.

I'm pickin up what you're putting down. I like what Daniel Quinn says on the subject.
Quote: If a fox is stalking a pheasant, it's in the hands of God whether she will catch the pheasant or the pheasant will escape. If God gives the fox the pheasant, then this is good for the fox but evil for the pheasant. If God allows the pheasant to escape, then this is good for the pheasant but evil for the fox. There's no outcome that can be good for both. The same is true in every area of the world's governance. If God allows the valley to be flooded, then this is good for some but evil for others. If God holds back the flood then this too will be good for some but evil for others.
-SOURCE

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
08-02-2011, 05:39 PM
RE: Good and Evil
(08-02-2011 05:16 PM)Ghost Wrote:  This is pretty much what I'm talking about. Good and evil have origins in Theism just like, as The Observer points out, heaven and hell. But heaven and hell never made the crossover from the Theistic domaine to the Atheistic domain.

I'm not entirely convinced that they are theistic in origin. I think it started out as just another idea, but very early on got seized upon by religion, which used the idea of a god to explain the ideas of "good" and "evil".

But the end result is the same, so it's really just a tangential point. Moving on...

Quote:So why has an idea like good an evil crossed over?

Because it was never entirely religious. Nonreligious people can still think that certain actions are good or evil.

The cross-over is in name only. In theism, good and evil are absolutes. In a secular setting, good and evil are social descriptions only. "Good" and "evil" are used to describe things which benefit or harm society, respectively, rather than actions which are cosmically right.

The actual concept didn't cross over. A concept which already existed snatched the words because they were simple, already-crafted descriptors.

Quote:So do good and evil, as explainers of behaviour (or I guess of occurences as well "The town is beset by evil") belong in the secular world.

Well, no. Not in that sense. As I said above, in a secular setting, good and evil describe things which benefit or harm society rather than cosmic morals. If you really wanted to, you could still describe Dahmer as evil in a secular setting, since he harmed society so greatly, but few people would because of the theistic baggage it carries.

"Owl," said Rabbit shortly, "you and I have brains. The others have fluff. If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest - and when I say thinking I mean thinking - you and I must do it."
- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
08-02-2011, 05:47 PM
RE: Good and Evil
(08-02-2011 05:39 PM)Unbeliever Wrote:  Because it was never entirely religious. Nonreligious people can still think that certain actions are good or evil.

The cross-over is in name only. In theism, good and evil are absolutes. In a secular setting, good and evil are social descriptions only. "Good" and "evil" are used to describe things which benefit or harm society, respectively, rather than actions which are cosmically right.

The actual concept didn't cross over. A concept which already existed snatched the words because they were simple, already-crafted descriptors.

This was where I was going. The words are mere descriptions of an action or a concept that exists independently of theism. You don't need belief in a god to realize that certain things are immoral. Whether you use the exact word "good" or "evil" is irrelevant as they are, at least to the secular, concepts and not absolutes.

Shackle their minds when they're bent on the cross
When ignorance reigns, life is lost
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply
Forum Jump: