Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Nor iron bars a cage

Is there a fundamental definition of evil? Are there things which objectively possess this property independent of the perception of man? CS Lewis, when he was an atheist, found to his surprise that the concepts of good and evil couldn't be banished by the simple expedient of declaring the world meaningless.

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. ... Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too--for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist--in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless -I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality--namely my idea of justice--was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.

The inescapability of having to choose a standard or axioms -- even provisionally -- is the fracture line at the base of moral relativism and multiculturalism. When Richard Dawkins claims that "better many worlds than one god" or a lesser light makes the more pedestrian, but logically equivalent argument of "who’s to judge who’s right or wrong?", they are making statements that cannot be assigned a consistent truth value. After all, Richard Dawkins undoubtedly believes that he is right; and that his argument contains more intrinsic worth than a character string composed at random by typing monkeys. He could hardly agree to the proposition that it is better to have many monkeys than one Dawkins. And if it is true that no one can judge "who's right or wrong" then who can judge the truth of that assertion itself?

It is this illusory attempt to escape from the need to believe in something -- even provisionally -- that explains why all attempts to enforce an equivalency among all ideas and cultures inevitably creates a fascistic kind of monoculture itself. Belief, denied the front entrance as principle, often smuggles itself in via the backdoor as fascism.

The investigations by the British Columbia Human Rights into the politically incorrect writings of Mark Steyn are a case in point. The idea that all cultures are to be respected transforms itself into the conclusion that the culture in which Mark Steyn can write must be suppressed. Yet ironically the attack on dissenting opinion is justified by appealing to the very culture which is to be suppressed. The Atlantic recalls that during the 1990s Salman Rushdie argued against a British ban on a Pakistani film that depicted him as an alcoholic, lecherous Rambo-like Jewish tool who is eventually hunted down by heroic international Jihadis but who is ultimately destroyed by flying, lightning-bolt spitting Korans. Excerpts from this classic film are shown below.

Rushie argued against the film's ban because it violated a fundamental taboo -- against suppressing speech -- within his own culture. Readers will notice we've arrived at a place almost as murky as the one C.S. Lewis was trying to understand. Fortunately Lewis' framework for making sense of a universe populated by both good and evil can shed light on our more limited problem of figuring out the relationship between freedom and anti-freedom within the framework of freedom itself. The key concept Lewis introduces is one of choice. Not the notion of choice as the fictional ability to do anything without paying a price or suffering the consequences: that is a counterfeit idea of choice composed of the shadows of multiculturalism. But of choice as inherent human ability to select between right and wrong and face the consequences.

It's not necessary to dwell on Lewis' idea of good and evil as a kind of broken symmetry to arrive at the counterintuitive idea that freedom is the outcome of a willingness to assume the consequences for choices. This relationship between consequence and choice is at the kernel of the commonplace expression that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty". Western society is free to allow every manner of expression only for so long as it is willing to pay the price of doing so. Salman Rushdie's "freedom" to let a Pakistani Jihadi call for his death is based on his willingness to defend that freedom as a fugitive and to struggle on its behalf.

Consider for a moment why Mark Steyn is a "free" man. It is only partly because he is a citizen of Canada but mostly due to his willingness to write without fear; or perhaps more accurately, in despite of it. Anyone who has struggled against tyranny understands this relationship intuitively. Whether you are in the Warsaw Ghetto, the French underground or in safehouse in Sampaloc district in Manila, freedom is always within your reach, if you are willing to pay the price.

Any writer can be as free as Mark Steyn or Salman Rushdie. Our civilization only offers the possibility of being free; and to choose right instead of wrong. No bureaucracy can guarantee it for us. Lewis understood that if one were looking for legitimate reasons to become an atheist, a release from the burden of choice was not one of them. Good and evil, right and wrong were not things you could wholly avoid on the path of life. He wrote:

I know someone will ask me, 'Do you really mean, at this time of day, to re-introduce our old friend the devil-hoofs and horns and all?' Well, what the time of day has to do with it I do not know. And I am not particular about the hoofs and horns. But in other respects my answer is 'Yes, I do.' I do not claim to know anything about his personal appearance. If anybody really wants to know him better I would say to that person, 'Don't worry. If you really want to, you will. Whether you'll like it when you do is another question.'

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Blogger Matt said...

I know at least one other person who would agree with Wretchard.

" practical definition of freedom would be completely without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all the others are based."

Terry Pratchett
"Going Postal"

6/11/2008 06:47:00 PM  
Blogger Benj said...

Good critique of Dawkins here...

6/11/2008 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Is there a fundamental definition of evil? Are there things which objectively possess this property independent of the perception of man?

Evil is the lack of the good. You cannot possess a negative. A room may contain light, but it cannot contain dark, it can only be in the state of lacking light. We say things that are possess being. But things which are not do not possess non-being. All of these basic things should have been beaten into you by the nuns, Wretchard.

6/11/2008 07:25:00 PM  
Blogger mercutio said...

Americans subscribe to a political philosophy that declares (at least in the 'Declaration') that certain rights are 'inalienable.' That is to say, these rights (among these life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness) are not ones that we can set aside, even if we might want to do so. Well, we can set them aside, but in doing so we would become less than human. We would become alien to ourselves.

The Canadian hearings seem to indicate how eagerly we might be willing to set aside our liberties. And how willing we might be to live in, at least in 'Declaration' terms, a diminished condition of freedom, and a diminished human being-ness.

6/11/2008 07:40:00 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

Evil is a FORCE, which makes it more than just the lack of the good. It is not a vacuum. And since evil also has an organic basis, as well as being a spiritual reality, we have to graduate from the realm of Plato's ideas. Yes, evil lacks good, but it also perverts good. It has a cosmic significance, so it cannot just be a lack of the good. It opposes something. And possessing a clear existence across dimensions, and a will of its own, we can say that it has agency.

There. I've identified myself more with the Thomistic rather than the Augustinian tradition. Aristotle over Plato, any day.

6/11/2008 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger Coyotl said...

The conservative thinker Eric Voegelin thought that evil lay in attempts to enforce the divine upon the natural order, to "immanetize the Christian eschaton," a line the WFB often invoked. Some might see the efforts to re-engineer foreign societies in our image in a similar light. Speaking of which, Wretchard what do you think of growing opposition in Iraq to the American status of forces agreement, a public clamor that seems to be in sync with Iran's Ayatollah Khamanei.

"The Americans are making demands that would lead to the colonization of Iraq," said Sami al-Askari, a senior Shiite politician on parliament's foreign relations committee who is close to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "If we can't reach a fair agreement, many people think we should say, 'Goodbye, U.S. troops. We don't need you here anymore.' " . . .In Iraq, the willingness to consider calling for the departure of American troops represents a major shift for members of the U.S.-backed government. Maliki this week visited Iran, where Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, urged him to reject any long-term security arrangements with the United States.

Neocon Max Boot expresses his deep concerns here:,0,5671685.story

6/11/2008 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger RDS said...

Evil is the lack of the good.

I might agree about dark/light, but Evil is definitely more than just the lack of Good; one might say that's like the difference between amoral (a condition lacking Good, but perhaps in some blameless, neutral, state-of-Nature) and immoral (derived from an active Evil).

6/11/2008 07:57:00 PM  
Blogger Alex Sloat said...

I think it's possible to boil down a functional atheist morality in terms of pure sociology if you're so inclined. The golden rule and similar philosophy are not hard to derive from what is necessary for the good function of society, and you could even pass them off as pure parental indoctrination at that point - decency towards others is a beneficial meme in societal evolution. On top of that, they're generally preferred even at the personal level, unless you're a powerful individual - if you're a jackass, people won't like you, and your life will be worse for it. Lewis raises an interesting point here, but I'll disagree that it's a fatal one.

6/11/2008 08:06:00 PM  
Blogger randian said...


6/11/2008 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

I thought the film clip from International Guerillas was a hoot, especially since parts of it were apparently shot in southern Luzon. You can see the unmistakable outline of Mayon Volcano in the background.

Another unforgettable scene is the opening musical number featuring an exotic dancer, such as are featured in Jihadi movies, and men in suits and open-necked shirts twirling bandannas.

6/11/2008 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"Whether you are in the Warsaw Ghetto, the French underground or in safehouse in Sampaloc district in Manila, freedom is always within your reach, if you are willing to pay the price."

It took me several readings to unpack what you were getting at here. Probably because I didn't immediately get the reference in the post's title (and thus read you post without its thematic guidance).

What Wretchard is getting at here is the freedom of the mind and of the conscience. That's nice. But freedom of the body from physical restraint is also important. This is a freedom given to Candadian Wahabis but denied Mr. Rushdie or the members of the French Underground. Although no government can force on someone the freedom Wretchard is talking about, they can be pretty good at the freedom of the body. Three cheers for the 4th Amendment.

I only point this out because Wretchard says that "No bureaucracy can guarantee [freedom] for us." The 4th Amendment does exactly that, and has been pretty successful at it for over 200 years. I wouldn't want anyone to get an impression otherwise.

6/11/2008 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Churchill Quotes:

I hope I shall never see the day when the forces of right are deprived of the right of force.

Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others.

If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival. There may even be a worse case: you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.

Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

Nations which go down fighting rise again, those who surrender tamely are finished.

We cannot guarantee victory, but only deserve it.[2]

In war: resolution. In defeat: defiance. In victory: magnanimity. In peace: goodwill.

If you are going through hell, keep going.

Success is never final.

6/11/2008 08:27:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

The snake has been put back into the garden. From the BBC Cuba to abandon salary equality:

Cuba is to abolish its system of equal pay for all and allow workers and managers to earn performance bonuses, a senior official has announced.

Vice-Minister for Labour Carlos Mateu said the current system - in place since the communist revolution in 1959 - was no longer "convenient".

I say if the universe is meaningless, pay everyone the same.

The BBC reports the "equal wage" for everyone is about twenty dollars a month. That sounds pretty convenient to me. True, they're really putting that old saw "People prefer equality to liberty" to the test. Personally, if I were a Cuban I would take 500 dollars worth of liberty over 20 dollars worth of equality anytime. But that is just me.

Of course the inequality came through special access to nice apartments and cars and 25 cent a pound coffee for all those regime toadies. Now they will get to collect 90 percent of the bonuses, too. After all, the toadies are designing the system.

The Castro Regime found that you couldn't just banish wage differentials, but if you have an efficient police state you can do a passable imitation of doing so for about 50 years -- at least enough to impress Hollywood leftists. It's like thinking the special effects are real. Where'd they find such a big ape to play Kong? How'd they make everyone so equal?

Now comes the twenty year period of fitful quasi-commie reform, leading to total collapse and the sudden reintroduction of payer at civic gatherings. You can see it coming in the rear view mirror.

6/11/2008 08:37:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

Oops. It should read: "reintroduction of prayer at civic gatherings."

6/11/2008 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Carson said...

"Is there a fundamental definition of evil? Are there things which objectively possess this property independent of the perception of man?"

If you believe in existence without without God, then you marvel at how the world accelerates (for lack of a better world) where conditions develop to produce not just complex elements, not just life, but such extraordinary entities that coordinate to reflectively better understand it all and go on to further the trend in developing ever greater organizational structures. Your morality would perhaps extend from identifying variations of that as “the good” through our nature, experience and reason. If not, you'd identify good as “Godly” through revelation.

Ether way, evil is that which opposes it.

6/11/2008 08:57:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

I think the legal freedoms, like any inheritance of value, requires upkeep to maintain. Whether the inheritance is an investment portfolio, vintage car, a great family name or anything else, its continuation depends on the willingness of the inheritors to keep it ticking over. And sometimes, as with great fortunes, it's very magnificence makes the heirs lazy and lulls them into believing it will last forever.

But nothing inherited lasts forever. Each succeeding generation must make the legacy their own by re-earning it in their own way.

6/11/2008 09:00:00 PM  
Blogger Pangloss said...

Freedom, also known as Liberty and Free Will, is granted to us by the Creator and is inseperable from our humanity. But as W demonstrates Freedom has associated Responsibility. One of our freedoms is the ability to mortgage our freedoms to others in return for promises of good behavior. Conversely, when someone else has traded away your freedom, sometimes it falls to you to seize your freedom back from the tyrant who holds it.

Tyranny, slavery, theft, destruction of the family, murder, lies, these are evil. Knowledge of their evil is inbuilt in humans. You might even say God-given.

6/11/2008 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

Evil is the opposite of good. But that's of little use, as both are abstractions.
It is evil (slightly) to run a stop sign or overeat, and good (somewhat) to pee in the toilet without splashing over the side or to refrain from shooting friends in the face by accident.
But surely there is a categorical moral difference between Dick Cheney, for example, and the typical scofflaw motorist, if not between the VP and a guy who pisses on your bathroom floor.
Invariably, when politicians and pundits refer to evil, they are attempting to camouflage bad deeds by pointing to something worse.
Thinking about evil is, for many, a reasonable intellectual calisthenic, but of no practical or moral use. The same can be said for attempts to define love or infinity or art.
It is practical and, even, morally hygienic, to carefully identify the political use of evil as a brand name as in "Evil Empire'' or "Great Satan" or "Axis of Evil.''
These constructions promote the idea that evil is some kind of enigmatic or spiritual force gripping both individuals and societies both with and without their approval and/or knowledge. That idea is the engine of a crooked logical train that inevitably intends to drag along its very own evil deeds.
One such locomotive was deployed to rationalize giving aid and comfort to radical Islamists in Afghanistan. These people were clearly not kind Christian gentlemen looking for a safe place to pray and brush their teeth. They were terrorists with a totalitarian agenda, suicidal tendencies and no dental whatsoever.
Yet some politicians and their supporters, to this day, pat themselves in back for having supported these terrorists because the terrorists, bad as they were, were fighting EVIL.
Had the Soviets merely been the ``not good'' guys, of course, it might have seemed hypocritical, and dumb, to help the ``not good'' totalitarian Islamists and the nuke-building Pakistani allies.
So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut wrote…
And goes again in Iraq. We're told that Saddam was evil and, therefore, any amount of the merely bad is acceptable as a way to eliminate him. The promise being that by eliminating Saddam, we have eliminated the evil.
History shows precisely the opposite. Eliminating bad only improves the situation when you're in a position to make sure you've banished it thoroughly enough and, more important, can replace it with something better.

``To do evil that good may come of it is for bunglers in politics as well as morals.'' William Penn

6/11/2008 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Robert Louis Stevenson took a friend through the slums of east London and asked "Do you believe in the Devil now?"
Evil is like obscenity; whether we can define it,we sure know it when we see it.Liberals and sniffing sensitive souls can't call Zarqawi setting off an IED where kids are playing "evil" because that would be mean and insufficiently culturally aware.
Some whack job young turd in Tucson just ambushed a cop with a head shot. Before the funeral is a memory, the cry comes to understand the poor confused shooter. I say what's to understand. He's an evil bastard who should get a quick jury verdict of Murder One and a shot of strycnine. Dawkins is the deluded one. Maybe he'll wake up when Evil mugs him or maybe he won't.

6/11/2008 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger Barry Meislin said...

Ought one pity those who believe that evil and good are mere abstractions?

Hold them in contempt?

Pray for their dessicated souls?

Chuckle at their confusion. Or sigh.

Or just thank them for having the courage(!) to illuminate the emptiness within....

Mere abstractions....

(One might have thought that we've already been there, done that....)

6/11/2008 11:36:00 PM  
Blogger mouse said...

When Love with unconfinèd wings
Hovers within my gates,
And my divine Althea brings
To whisper at the grates;
When I lie tangled in her hair
And fetter’d to her eye,
The birds that wanton in the air
Know no such liberty.

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.

First and last verse. The key is love. Who gives a rat's bottom if you've got freedom or choice if it isn't the freedom to make a choice toward something that is loved?

Both Styne and Rusdie love truth as they see it. Because it's truth it must be expressed. The particular civil freedom they seek is one that will protect their private freedom; if all have that freedom, they have that freedom. A man who makes the choice to face possible severe consequences in the defense of that concept (notably Rusdie) does not do it simply because he has made pragmatic or societal judgments, he does it because within that concept he... lies tangled in Althea's hair.

I would note that within that kind of love there is a sense of lightness, immanence, and eternity. It's this emotion that convinces the lover that his love is true. (Lovelace, incidentally, was in jail because he had expressed his love for his king). I would also note, unfortunately, that this sense of immanence, eternity, and "truth" is also held within pure hatred. The man who hates is a man of power. That's because evil, in fact, is real. It is an agent, and it is eternal.

6/12/2008 12:08:00 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Isaiah in a Zoroastrian mood--

Isaiah 45:7 >>

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.
GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)
I make light and create darkness. I make blessings and create disasters. I, the LORD, do all these things.

King James Bible
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

American King James Version
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

American Standard Version
I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil. I am Jehovah, that doeth all these things.

Bible in Basic English
I am the giver of light and the maker of the dark; causing blessing, and sending troubles; I am the Lord, who does all these things.

Douay-Rheims Bible
I form the light, and create darkness, I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord that do all these things.

Darby Bible Translation
forming the light and creating darkness, making peace and creating evil: I, Jehovah, do all these things.

English Revised Version
I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I am the LORD, that doeth all these things.

Webster's Bible Translation
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

World English Bible
I form the light, and create darkness. I make peace, and create calamity. I am Yahweh, who does all these things.

Young's Literal Translation
Forming light, and preparing darkness, Making peace, and preparing evil, I am Jehovah, doing all these things.'

Psalm 104:20 You appoint darkness and it becomes night, In which all the beasts of the forest prowl about.
Psalm 105:28 He sent darkness and made it dark; And they did not rebel against His words.

Isaiah 31:2 Yet He also is wise and will bring disaster And does not retract His words, But will arise against the house of evildoers And against the help of the workers of iniquity.

Isaiah 42:16 "I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, In paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them And rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, And I will not leave them undone."

Isaiah 47:11 "But evil will come on you Which you will not know how to charm away; And disaster will fall on you For which you cannot atone; And destruction about which you do not know Will come on you suddenly.

Amos 3:6 If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it? (NASB ©1995)

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

form Ge 1:3-5,17,18 Ps 8:3 104:20-23 Jer 31:35 2Co 4:6 Jas 1:17

create darkness Ex 10:21-23 14:20 Jer 13:16 Eze 32:8 Joe 2:2 Am 4:13 Na 1:8 Jude 1:6,13

I make Peace Isa 10:5,6 Job 2:10 34:29 Ps 29:11 75:7 Ec 7:13,14 Jer 18:7-10 51:20 Eze 14:15-21 Am 3:6 5:6 Ac 4:28

Geneva Study Bible
I form the {h} light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

(h) I send peace and war, prosperity and adversity, as in Am 3:6.

Wesley's Notes

45:7 Light - All mens comforts and calamities come from thy hand.

Scofield Reference Notes

[1] create evil

Heb. "ra" translated "sorrow," "wretchedness," "adversity," "afflictions," "calamities," but never translated sin. God created evil only in the sense that He made sorrow, wretchedness, etc., to be the sure fruits of sin.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

7. form . create-yatzar, to give "form" to previously existing matter. Bara, to "create" from nothing the chaotic dark material.

light . darkness-literally (Ge 1:1-3), emblematical also, prosperity to Cyrus, calamity to Babylon and the nations to be vanquished [Grotius] . Isaiah refers also to the Oriental belief in two coexistent, eternal principles, ever struggling with each other, light or good, and darkness or evil, Oromasden and Ahrimanen. God, here, in opposition, asserts His sovereignty over both [Vitringa].

create evil-not moral evil (Jas 1:13), but in contrast to "peace" in the parallel clause, war, disaster (compare Ps 65:7; Am 3:6).

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

45:5-10 There is no God beside Jehovah. There is nothing done without him. He makes peace, put here for all good; and creates evil, not the evil of sin, but the evil of punishment. He is the Author of all that is true, holy, good, or happy; and evil, error, and misery, came into the world by his permission, through the wilful apostacy of his creatures, but are restrained and overruled to his righteous purpose. This doctrine is applied, for the comfort of those that earnestly longed, yet quietly waited, for the redemption of Israel. The redemption of sinners by the Son of God, and the pouring out the Spirit, to give success to the gospel, are chiefly here intended. We must not expect salvation without righteousness; together the Lord hath created them. Let not oppressors oppose God's designs for his people. Let not the poor oppressed murmur, as if God dealt unkindly with them. Men are but earthen pots; they are broken potsherds, and are very much made so by mutual contentions. To contend with Him is as senseless as for clay to find fault with the potter. Let us turn God's promises into prayers, beseeching him that salvation may abound among us, and let us rest assured that the Judge of all the earth will do right.

6/12/2008 01:06:00 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

The teaching of Boehme about the Ungrund was not all immediately worked out, and was as yet not there in the "Aurora". It was chiefly revealed in the "De signatura Rerum" and in the "Mysterium magnum". It answers the need of Boehme to penetrate the mystery of freedom, the origin of evil, the struggle of darkness and light. In Chapter III of the "De signatura Rerum", which is entitled "Vom grossen Mysterio aller Wesen" {"Of the Great Mystery of All Being"}, Boehme says: "Ausser der Natur ist Gott ein Mysterium, verstehet in dem Nichts; denn ausser der Natur ist das Nichts, das ist ein Auge der Ewigkeit, ein ungruendlich Auge, das in nichts stehet oder siehet, denn es ist der Ungrund; und dasselbe Auge ist ein Wille, verstehet ein Sehnen nach der Offenbarung, das Nichts zu finden" {"For out of nature is God a Mysterium, i.e. the Nothing; for from out of nature is the Nothing, which is an eye of eternity, a groundless eye, which stands nowhere nor sees, for it is the Ungrund and the selfsame eye is a will, i.e. a longing for manifestation, to discern the Nothing"}.19 The Ungrund thus is the Nothing, the groundless eye of eternity, yet together with this it is will, without foundation, unfathomable and indeterminate will. But this -- is a Nothing, which is "ein Hunger zum Etwas" {"an hunger to be something"}.20 And together with this the Ungrund is freedom.21 Within the darkness of the Ungrund there is ablaze a fire and this is freedom, a freedom meonic with potential. According to Boehme, freedom is contrary to nature, but nature has issued forth from freedom. Freedom is a semblance of the Nothing, but from it issues something. The hunger of freedom, of the groundless will to something has to be satisfied: "das Nichts macht sich in seiner Lust aus der Freiheit in der Finsterniss des Todes offenbar, denn das Nichts will nicht ein Nichts sein, und kann nicht ein Nichts sein" {"The Nothing loves to make itself manifest from out of freedom in the deathly darkness, for then the Nothing wills not to be the Nothing, and cannot be the Nothing"}.22 The freedom of the Ungrund is neither light, nor darkness, neither good, nor evil. Freedom lies within the darkness and thirsts for the light. And freedom is the cause of light. "Die Freiheit ist und stehet in der Finsterniss, und gegen der finstern Begierde nach des Lichts Begierde, sie ergreifet mit dem ewigen Willen die Finsterniss; und die Finsterniss greifet nach dem Lichte der Freiheit und kann es nicht erreichen, denn sie schleusst sich mit Begierde selber in sich zu, und macht sich in sich selber zur Finsterniss" {"Freedom exists and is set within the darkness, and over against the dark desire is still yet the desire for light, it seizes the darkness with the eternal will; and the darkness aspires after the light of freedom and cannot attain it, for then it passes with desire over into itself, and attains in itself but to the darkness"}.23 Boehme apophatically and as an antinomy describes the mystery, transpiring in the depths of being, at that depth, which is contiguous with the primordial Nothing. In the darkness there is kindled a fire and a glimmer of light, the Nothing comes to be something, the groundless freedom gives rise to nature. And two processes occur: "Die Freiheit [...] ist des Lichts Ursache, und die Impression der Begierde ist der Finsterniss und der peinlichen Quaal Ursache. So verstehet nun in diesen zwei ewige Anfaenge, als zwei Principia: eines in der Freiheit im Lichte, das andre in der Impression in der Pein und Quaal der Finsterniss; ein jedes in sich selber wohnend"{"Freedom [...] is the cause of the light. And the impression made of the desire is the cause of darkness and painful torment. So there arises now in this two eternal points of departure, as two principles: one in freedom in the light, the other in the impression made in the pain and torment of the darkness; ; each living in itself"}.24 Freedom, as the Nothing, as meonic, possesses in itself no substantial essence.25 Boehme was perhaps the first in the history of human thought to have seen, that at the basis of being and prior to being lies a groundless freedom, the passionate desire of the Nothing to become something, the darkness, within which would blaze the fire and light, i.e. he was the originator of an unique metaphysical voluntarism, unknown to Medieval and ancient thought.26 Will, i.e. freedom, is at the origin of everything. But Boehme thinks it is so because the conjectured Ungrund, the groundless will lies within the depths of the Divinity, and prior to the Divinity. The Ungrund is also the Divinity of apophatic theology and is together with this an abyss, a free Nothing deeper than God and outside God. In God there is a nature, a principle distinct from It. The Primal-Divinity, the Divine Nothing -- is on the other side of good and evil, of light and darkness. The Divine Ungrund -- is somehow prior to the arising within eternity of the Divine Trinity. God arises, realises Himself from out of the Divine Nothing. This is a path of thought about God akin to that, whereupon Meister Eckhardt makes a distinction between the Godhead (Gottheit) and God (Gott). God, as the Creator of the world and of man, corresponds with the creation, He arises from the depths of the Godhead, the unfathomable Nothing. This is an idea that lies deep down within German mysticism. Such a path of thinking about God inevitably involves an apophatic theology. Everything, that Boehme says concerning the Divine Ungrund, relates to the apophatic, the negative theology, and not to the kataphatic positive theology. The Nothing is deeper and more primieval than anything that is, the darkness27 is deeper and more primordial than light, freedom is more primordial and deeper than any nature. The God of kataphatic theology is already something and He as such signifies a thinking about a second-level aspect: "und der Grund derselben Tinctur ist die goettliche Weisheit; und der Grund der Weisheit ist die Dreiheit der ungruendlichen Gottheit, und der Grund der Dreiheit ist der einige unerforschliche Wille, und des Willens Grund ist das Nichts" {"And the ground of the selfsame tincture is the Godly wisdom, and the ground of the Wisdom is the Trinity of the ungrounded Godhead, and the ground of the Trinity is the one unfathomable Will, and the ground of the Will is the Nothing"}.(Italics mine. N.B.)28 This also is a theogonic process, a process of the birthing of God within eternity, within eternal mystery, which is described in accord with the method of apophatic theology. And this therefore is all the less heretical, than it would seem to the exclusive adherents of the kataphatic, i.e. rationalising theology. The pondering of Boehme lies deeper than all the second-tier rationalising kataphatics. Boehme opens out a path from the eternal foundation for nature, from the free will of the Ungrund, i.e. the ungroundedness without foundation, which is the natural ground of the soul.29 Nature always is secondary and derivative in aspect. Nature is not the will, is not freedom. Freedom is uncreated. "Wenn ich betrachte, was Gott ist, so sage ich: Er ist das Eine gegen der Kreatur, als ein ewig Nichts; er hat weder Grund, Anfang noch Staette; und besitzet nicht, als nur sich selber: er ist der Wille des Ungrundes, er ist in sich selber nur Eines: er bedarf keinen Raum noch Ort: er gebaeret von Ewigkeit in Ewigkeit sich selber in sich: er ist keinem Dinge gleich oder aehnlich, und hat keinen sonderlichen Ort, da er wohne: die ewige Weisheit oder Verstand ist seine Wohne: er ist der Wille der Weisheit, die Weisheit ist seine Offenbarung" {"When I ponder, what God is, I then say: He is the One in contrast to the creature, as an eternal Nothing; He has neither a ground, a beginning nor state; and is of naught, save only of Himself: He is the Will of the Ungrund, He is in Himself only One, He occupies no space nor place: from eternity in eternity in Himself He comes to be: He is like or similar to no thing, and hath no particular place, which He inhabits: the eternal Wisdom or Intelligibility is His habitation: He is the Will of the Wisdom, the Wisdom is of His manifestation"}.30 God comes about to be everywhere and always, He is both the foundational ground and the groundlessness.

The Ungrund mustneeds first of all be understood as freedom, a freedom in the darkness. "Darum so hat sich der ewige freie Wille in Finsterniss, Pein und Quaal, sowohl auch durch die Finsterniss in Feuer und Lichte, und in ein Freudenreich eingefuehret, auf dass das Nichts in Etwas erkannt werde, und dass es ein Spiel habe in seinem Gegenwillen, dass ihm der freie Wille des Ungrundes im Grunde offenbar sei, denn ohne Boeses und Gutes moechte kein Grund sein" {"So therefore in the darkness doth the eternal free will have itself the pain and torment, just also as with the fire and light through the darkness, and it passes over into a kingdom of joy, so that the Nothing can be known as something, and that it should have a playing out in its opposition of wills, so that by it the free will of the Ungrund should have a ground upon which to manifest itself, for without the evil and the good it would have no ground upon which to be"}.31 Freedom is rooted in the Nothing, in the meonic, it is also the Ungrund, "Der freie Wille ist aus keinem Anfange, auch aus keinem Grunde in nichts gefasset, oder durch etwas geformet... Sein rechter Urstand ist im Nichts" {"The free will is from no sort of origin, likewise upon no sort of ground is it constituted, nor through anything is it formed... Its proper primal setting is in the Nothing"}.32 The free will has within it both good and evil, both love and wrath. "Darum hat der freie Wille sein eigen Gericht zum Guten oder Boesen in sich, er hat Gottes Liebe und Zorn in sich" {"The free will therefore hath its own court for the good and the evil within it, it has its proper path within it, it hath God's love and wrath within it"}.33 The free will likewise possesses within it both light and darkness. The free will in God is of the Ungrund within God, of the Nothing within Him. Boehme provides a profound interpretation to the truth about the freedom of God, which likewise the traditional Christian theology admits of. He teaches about a freedom of God, deeper than that of Dun Scotus. "Der ewige goettliche Verstand ist eine freier Wille, nicht von Etwas oder durch Etwas entstanden, er ist selbst eigener Sitz und wohnet einig und allein in sich selber, unergriffen von etwas, denn ausser und vor ihm ist nichts, und dasselbe Nichts ist einig, und ist ihm doch auch selber als ein Nichts. Er ist ein einiger Wille des Ungrundes, und ist weder nahe noch ferne, weder hoch noch niedrig, sondern er ist Alles, und doch als ein Nichts" {"The eternal Divine mind is a free will, not having arisen from anything nor through anything, it is itself its own seat and abides at one and alone in itself, ungrasped by anything, for then beside it and before it is nothing, and the selfsame Nothing is at one, and is moreover itself as the Nothing. It is the one Will of the Ungrund, and is neither near nor far, neither high nor low, but is rather the All, and moreover as the Nothing"}.34 For Boehme chaos lies at the root of nature, chaos, i.e. freedom, the Ungrund, will, an irrational principle. In the Divinity itself there is a groundless will, i.e. an irrational principle. Darkness and freedom for Boehme are always correlative and conjoined. God Himself is also freedom and freedom is at the beginning of all things: "darum sagen wir recht, es sei Gottes, und die Freiheit (welche den Willen hat) sei Gott selber; denn es ist Ewigkeit, und nichts weiters. [...] Erstlich ist die ewige Freiheit, die hat den Willen, und ist selber der Wille" {"We properly therefore say, such would be God, and the Freedom (which hath the Will) would be the selfsame God; therefore it is eternity, and nothing further. [...] Firstly is the eternal Freedom, which hath the Will, and is the selfsame Will"}.35 Boehme was apparently the first in the history of human thought to have posited freedom at the primal foundation of being, deeper and more primary than all being, deeper and more primary than God Himself. And this would bear enormous consequences for the history of thought. Such an understanding of the primacy of freedom would have induced terror in both the Greek philosophers and the Medieval Scholastics. And this would open up the possibility of a completely different theodicy and anthropodicy. The primal mystery of being is a kindling up of light within the dark freedom, in the Nothing is also the solid firmness of the world from this dark freedom. Boehme speaks wondrously about this in the "Psychologia vera": "denn in der Finsterniss ist der Blitz, und in der Freiheit das Licht mit der Majestaet. Und ist dieses nur das Scheiden, dass [...] die Finsterniss materialisch macht, da doch auch kein Wesen einer Begreiflichkeit ist; sondern finster Geist und Kraft, eine Erfuellung der Freiheit in sich selber, verstehe in Begehren, und nicht ausser: denn ausser ist die Freiheit" {"Then in the darkness is the flash of lightning, and in the freedom is the light with majesty. And this is only the point of departure, so that [...] the darkness be made material, while however therein is no manner of intelligibility; rather only a dark spirit and power, a fullness of freedom in itself, i.e. in desire, and nothing else: for the else is but freedom"}.36 There are two wills -- the one within the fire, the other within the light.37 Fire and light -- are basic symbols for Boehme. "Denn die Finsterniss hat kalt Feuer, so lange bis es die Angst erreicht, dann entzuendet sich's in Hitze" {"For the darkness possesses a cold fire, to the extent of attaining anguish, then it sparks itself forth into heat"}.38 The fire -- is the origin of everything, without fire there would be nothing, only the Ungrund would be: "und waere Alles ein Nichts und Ungrund ohne Feuer" {"And without the fire all would be a Nothing and the Ungrund"}.39 The passage over from non-being to being is accomplished through the blazing up of fire from out of freedom. Within eternity there is the primeval will of the Ungrund, which is outside of nature and prior to nature. Fichte and Hegel, Schopenhauer and Hartmann proceeded from this point, although they de-Christianised Boehme. German idealist metaphysics passes in transition directly from the Ungrund, from the unconscious, from the primary act of freedom, passing over to the world process, and not to the Divine Trinity, as with Boehme. The primal mystery of being according to Boehme consists in this, that the Nothing seeks to become something. "Der Ungrund ist ein ewig Nichts, und machet aber einen ewigen Anfang, als eine Sucht; denn das Nichts ist eine Sucht nach Etwas: und da doch auch Nichts ist, das Etwas gebe; sondern die Sucht ist selber das Geben dessen, das doch auch nichts ist als bloss eine begehrende Sucht" {"The Ungrund is an eternal Nothing, and it opens upwards to an eternal beginning, as with a passion; for then the Nothing is a passion for something: and therein yet moreover it is the Nothing, giving forth into something; for the passion is itself the fruition of such, and the yet still Nothing is a bare desiring passion"}.40 The teaching of Boehme concerning freedom is not some psychological or ethical teaching about the freedom of the will, but is rather a metaphysical teaching about the primal basis of being. Freedom for him is not a grounding of moral responsibility upon man nor a regulation of the relationship of man to God and neighbour, but rather an explanation of the genesis of being and together with this the genesis of evil, as a problem ontological and cosmological.

The evil has happened from a bad inner-imaging, i.e. from the imagination. The magic effect of the imagination plays an enormous role in the world-view of Boehme. Through it the world was made and there occurred the downfall of the devil into the world. The fall of the creation for Boehme is a matter not of the human, but of the angelic world, wherein the human world arises later and has to set right the deed wrought by the fallen angel. The fall of Lucifer is defined by Boehme thus: "Denn Luzifer ging aus der Ruhe seiner Hierarchie aus, in die ewige Unruhe" {"Then Lucifer went from out of the tranquil repose of his hierarchy, out into an eternal unrest"}.41 There occurs a confusion of the hierarchical centre, a transgression of the hierarchical order. And here is how Boehme describes the Fall: "Dass sich der freie Wille im Feuerspiegel besah, was er waere, dieser Glanz machte ihn beweglich, dass er sich nach den Eigenschaften des Centri bewegte, welche zuhand anfingen zu qualificiren. Denn die herbe, strenge Begierde, als die erste Gestalt oder Eigenschaft, impressete sich, und erweckte den Stachel und die Angstbegierde: also ueberschattete dieser schoene Stern sein Licht, und machte sein Wesen ganz herb, rauh und streng; und war seine Sanfmuth und recht englische Eigenschaft in ein ganz streng, rauh und finster Wesen verwandelt: da war es geschehen um den schoenen Morgenstern, und wie er that, thaten auch seine Legionen: das ist sein Fall" {"Thus the free will caught sight of itself in the fire reflection, what it was, and the brilliant luminance of this caused it to agitatedly shake, so that it itself shook the unique ordering of the centre, which had initially started the process of qualification. Then the severe bitter desire, as a first form or quality, made its impression, and aroused hurt and anguished desire: therein this beautiful star overshadowed its light, and made its nature to become quite embittered, rough and severe; and its gentleness and rather angelic quality was transformed into total severity, a rough and dark nature: so the bright morning star was lost, and how he acted, so acted his legions: that is his Fall"}.42 The Fall through sin occurred from a dark desire, from a lust, from a bad inner imagination, from the dark magic playing out of the will.43 Boehme tends to describe the Fall mythologically, never in clear concepts. The devil experiences a fiery torment in the darkness because of his own false desire (Begierde). Without Boehme's teaching about the Ungrund and about freedom, the origin of the Fall and evil would be incomprehensible. The Fall and evil for Boehme represents a cosmic catastrophe, a moment in the world creation, a cosmogonic and anthropogonic process, the result of the struggle of contrary qualities, of darkness and of light, of rage and of love. The catastrophes are prior to the arising of our world, prior to our aeon was many another aeon. Evil possesses also a positive significance in the arising of the cosmos and of man. Evil is a shadowing of light, and light presupposes the existence of darkness. Light, the good and love for their revealing have need of a contrary principle, in opposition. God Himself possesses two visages, a visage of love and a visage of wrath, a bright and a dark visage. "Denn der heiligen Welt Gott und der finstern Welt Gott sind nicht zween Goetter: es ist ein einiger Gott; er ist selber alles Wesen, er ist Boeses und Gutes, Himmel und Hoelle, Licht und Finsterniss, Ewigkeit und Zeit, Anfang, und Ende: wo seine Liebe in einem Wesen verborgen ist, allda ist sein Zorn offenbar" {"For the holy world God and the dark world God are not two Gods; there is only one God; He is Himself all being, He is the bad and the good, heaven and hell, light and darkness, eternity and time, the beginning, and the end: wherein lies concealed His love in a being is all therein His wrath revealed"}.44 And further on: "Die Kraft im Lichte ist Gottes Liebefeuer, und die Kraft in der Finsterniss ist Gottes Zornfeuer, und ist doch nur ein einig Feuer, theilet sich aber in zwei Principia, auf dass eines im andern offenbar werde: denn die Flamme des Zornes ist die Offenbarung der grossen -- Liebe; in der Finsterniss wird das Licht erkannt, sonst waere es ihm nicht offenbar" {"The power in the light is God's love-fire, and the power in the darkness is God's wrath-fire, and is but yet only one selfsame fire, it divides itself over into two principles, in order that the one be revealed in the other: for the flame of wrath is the revelation of great -- love: in the darkness will be known the light, elsewise would nothing be revealed to it"}.45 With Boehme there was a teaching of genius in this, that the love of God amidst the darkness is transformed into wrath, thus perceived. Boehme thinks always in oppositions, in antitheses, in antinomies. All life is fire, but the fire has a twofold aspect: "der ewigen Leben zwei in zweierlei Quaal sind, und ein jedes stehet in seinem Feuer. Eines brennet in der Liebe im Freudenreich; das andere im Zorne, im Grimme und Wehe, und seine Materia ist Hoffart, Geiz, Neid, Zorn, seine Quaal vergleichet sich einem Schwefel-Geist: denn Aufsteigen der Hoffart im Geiz, Neid und Zorn macht zusammen einen Schwefel, darinnen das Feuer brennet, und sich immer mit dieser Materia entzuendet" {"The two eternal lives are in a twofold tension, and each one is set within its own fire. The one burns within love in a state of joy; the other within wrath, in fury and woe, and its material is pride, greed, envy, anger. Its torment makes of it a sulphurous-spirit: then the arousal of pride, in greed, envy and wrath mix altogether that sulphur, wherein the fire doth burn, and is always fired up with this material"}.46 But Christ upon the Cross hath transformed the wrath into love. "Am Kreuze musste Christus diesen grimmigen Zorn, welcher in Adams Essenz war aufgewacht, in sein heiliges, himmlisches Ens trinken, und mit der grossen Liebe in goettliche Freude verwandeln" {"Upon the Cross Christ had to suffer that furious wrath, which had in Adam's essence been aroused, imbibing it into His holy and heavenly Being, and with great love in godly joy transformed"}.47 Boehme's understanding of the Redemption is cosmogonic and anthropogonic, a continuation of the world creation.

6/12/2008 01:27:00 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

The Bible, or at least some biblical theology, tells us, what seems to be a contradiction, that we are all created in the image of God, yet we all are fallen, having within us the inexplicable, a fault passed down from our original parents. Yet the Bible also has Cain, exiled to the Land of Nod, east of Eden, with a mark lest anyone harm him, where there are presumably people, as he mets a wife there. This is a problem. Who could attack Cain if he and his parents were the only ones on the earth? A possible exit from this quandry might be the idea of polygeny--polygenesis--which of course southern slaveholders latched onto in defense of the right to enslave people of another race, or species. The Bible is a wonderful read, but often of questionable use on certain issues.

6/12/2008 01:44:00 AM  
Blogger watimebeing said...

"Is there a fundamental definition of evil? Are there things which objectively possess this property independent of the perception of man?"
If Evil is the absence of good pure evil is the absolute negation of good. no matter what we look at it is a juxtaposition of evil against good. So in order to define evil, you have to determine what is good.

Some one once told me that hell was the complete absence of God. IF God is love, then I suppose that is about as evil as you can get. No hope for love no chance of connecting with a loving being, nothing but bitter aloneness.

Of course if you weren't such a bitter, boring person that wouldn't be so tough now, would it? The difference between being "a fluke", of the universe and a child of the universe is all in the try. Try to be happy implies a pursuit of happiness and the struggle to attain it.

Life without struggle, where everything is equal and easy and accessible is not a place I want to be, it is like the living in absence of love the cheapening of life and the devaluing of individual expression, it is not really living.

Which leads me to the conclusion that Socialism... collectivism...and the regressive form of the Modern American Democrat which is progressivism, is... inherently... evil.

What a pleasant thought!

6/12/2008 04:52:00 AM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

The point of multiculturalism is not that it's erroneous to condemn, for example, the culture of white supremacy, but that it is woefully insufficient to do so and leave it at that.

One is left to wonder whether the American right's ritual misunderstanding and misrepresentation of multiculturalism is deliberate or delusional, mere rhetoric or evidence of a deeper ignorance.

Multiculturalism is a response to mankind's long, sad history of bigotry and narrowmindedness.

The goal is not to suspend judgment of any culture good or bad, but to distinguish between praising or condemning a culture and understanding it.

There is much to understand about the culture of radical Islam, or Hutu nationalism or white supremacy.

It is easy enough to condemn them as "evil," but doing so is not adequate as due vigilence.

Understanding a culture is not the same as accepting or praising it or declaring judgment of it irrelevant. It is, in fact, the only legitimate path to condemning or praising a culture.

If we can't understand why radical Islamists are suicidal, we can't condemn their behavior with the same authority or conviction we could if we came to understand their motives.

A very good example of the American right's misunderstanding and misrepresentation of this was provided by Karl Rove back in 2005, before the news media had started admitting the war was unwon and before he'd been affiliated with firing Democratic prosecutors and leaking Valerie Plame's name and before, of course, Bush dumped him. All that is merely to point out that Rove still considered himself a man speaking for a movement.

Rove said:

"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

The "therapy" part is a laugh line, I suppose, but the point about understanding is dead on. For liberals, it is woefully inadequate to simply label the atrocity as "evil" and respond as one would to any such "evil." Rather, for liberals, it is necessary to understand to the greatest extent possible the motives of the perpetrators.

Not at all because the evil of the acts might be somehow mitigated thereby, but because every possible effort must be made to ensure the atrocities aren't repeated.

Rove went on to say:

"I don't know about you, but moderation and restraint is not what I felt as I watched the twin towers crumble to the earth, a side of the Pentagon destroyed and almost 3,000 of our fellow citizens perish in flames and rubble. Moderation and restraint is not what I felt -- and moderation and restraint is not what was called for. It was a moment to summon our national will -- and to brandish steel.''

So Rove pretty much gives the game up, admitting that his emotions defined his response.

Liberals understand that it's natural to feel hostile and vengeful in such a situation, more important, they believe it's important to understand where Rove is coming from even if we recognize his statements as sophomoric warmongering.

6/12/2008 05:49:00 AM  
Blogger mds said...

Will someone please find a room to lock Bobal and McDaddyo in. Good grief.

Bobal seems to think we're going to wade through three interminable paragraphs of scriptural regurgitation and commentary. Sad, and a diversion. McDaddyo has his own bible; nothing can penetrate the cant.

Shots of tequila for both of you, and don't come back till you've finished the bottle.

6/12/2008 07:46:00 AM  
Blogger Jack Okie said...

More sophomoric warmongering for mcdaddyo:

we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender...

I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me Liberty or give me Death!

Molon Labe!

6/12/2008 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger Ken S said...

McDaddyo is on a roll. Off the mark, but on a roll.

You can't really refrain from shooting a friend in the face by accident. That's kind of why they call it an accident. And while there are steps you may have been able to take to prevent the accident, it wasn't intentional. Now if I were to intentionally shoot someone in the face, you could arrest me and put me on trial, or sit around trying to find out why I would shoot someone in the face. Maybe finding out why will tell you how much and in what way I have to pay the piper, or even how to keep me from doing it again, but I still have to face the consequences of my actions.

6/12/2008 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger Swami said...

That's bogus, McDaddyo, and you know it.

"Understanding" in the liberal vocabulary does not mean analytic modeling, it defines a cathartic, therapeutic, healing relationship between understander and understandee.

That is, there is a meaning of "I understand" when civil engineers are explaining the load on a steel connection. It is entirely different from the meaning of the "I understand" you give to an upset child. The right is totally comfortable with understanding the enemy, in the first context. That's why they want to listen to their phone calls.

6/12/2008 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger dla said...

mds said...

Will someone please find a room to lock Bobal and McDaddyo in. Good grief.

Aren't they automated spammers? I thought they were part of the reason this blog is moving to a different host.

I really have nothing useful to offer, I just wanted to thank folks for a thought-provoking thread.

6/12/2008 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Evil is the undermining of good, whatever that good happens to be:

Bobal = good
Lilith = numerous alias = evil
dla = mds = can't tell the difference

6/12/2008 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger David said...

Lilith wrote: "Evil is the lack of the good."

If I may continue on with C. S. Lewis, he states that evil is not the opposite of good, it is merely "bent" good. (Sorry I cannot find the exact quote.)

And I do think he is right. People who commit evil do not do it for evils sake, they do it for some other reason... it gives them pleasure, for example. When someone tortures another person, they derive a twisted sort of pleasure from it.

Does this make pleasure evil? No, but the means of getting such pleasure is.

I find it most interesting that while people may deny the existence of "evil", they seldom deny the existence of "good".

6/12/2008 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

"Evil is the opposite of good. But that's of little use, as both are abstractions."

Tell that to the mother of Daniel Pearl.

"For liberals, it is woefully inadequate to simply label the atrocity as "evil" and respond as one would to any such "evil." Rather, for liberals, it is necessary to understand to the greatest extent possible the motives of the perpetrators."

Isn't it evil to destroy innocent life? Isn't it evil to enslave or subjigate others? OK, now what are you going to do after you understand evil? Are you going to defend life and liberty or are you goint to continue gazing at your navael?

"The fear of the LORD is to hate evil" Proverbs 8:13

6/12/2008 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"The fear of the LORD is to hate evil" Proverbs 8:13

I do not fear the LORD, but I hate evil all the same. I hate evil because evil knows it is evil, but what it does, it does all the same.

6/12/2008 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

I understand "fear of the Lord" as surrender and obedience to the Lord.

It is not always rational to hate evil because evil has its perverse rewards.

6/12/2008 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger David said...

Question from today's headlines:

Is this good or evil?
Robert Mugabe's militia burn opponent’s wife alive

This takes us from the world of abstract to the concrete. And to follow up on my earlier post, I would assert that it is not wrong for Mugabe to want to remain in power, but that the means he has chosen certainly are.

Thoughts? And please explain why you pick one side of the argument or another.

6/12/2008 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I understand "fear of the Lord" as surrender and obedience to the Lord.

That would be the wrong understanding.

6/12/2008 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

Tell me what is your understanding of "The fear of the Lord", and why is my understanding - and that of most people who read the Bible - wrong.

6/12/2008 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Because my understanding is that there is no LORD. Because my understanding is that the Hebrew Bible is an historical cultural text and nothing more, and the Roman Bible and the Arab Koran are imperial political propaganda texts and nothing more.

6/12/2008 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

“If God does not exist, then everything is permitted” Fyodor Dostoyevsky

6/12/2008 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

“If God does not exist, then everything is permitted” Fyodor Dostoyevsky

So is killing everyone who think that everything is permitted. - mika.

6/12/2008 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

Killing everyone who thinks that everything is permitted is not permitted because God exists and said "Thou shall not murder."

6/12/2008 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I wasn't taking about murder. I was taking about killing those who think that everything is permitted. God doesn't enter my equation.

6/12/2008 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

I have no doubt you are a good person, but I also have no doubt that societies built on atheist values can't be just societies. The Soviet Union was built on atheist values, and they murdered no less than 20 million of their own innocent civilians. Communist China was built on atheist values, and they have murdered 65 million innocent civilians.

You have your faith and I have mine.

6/12/2008 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The Soviet Union and Communist China are imperial political entities. God or no God, I regard such political structures as evil.

6/12/2008 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

Why are murder and imperial rule evil?

6/12/2008 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Evil(disregarding the natural world) is intentionally harming another, or oneself. So Mugabe is certainly an evil fellow. I'd add I think wanting to retain power is evil as well; the hero of yesteryear can become the tyrant holdfast of today, blocking the circulation of the energy of things. In the old days, when the ordit of Jupiter was complete, the king would self sacrifice. Nowadays we have term limits.

6/12/2008 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Ken S said...

“If God does not exist, then everything is permitted” is just a statement, not a reality. For one thing you have to define permitted. There is no atheist dogma that states everything is permitted. The reason most people don't do things like stealing from their neighbor or murdering them is not because they're afraid they'll go to hell in some afterlife but because they consider themselves basically good and feel it would be wrong. Honestly ask yourself if it was proven that there was no god or afterlife, would you be ok with stealing from your neighbor?

6/12/2008 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

I should have added, harming another is harming oneself, the brothers being one behind the scene, so it is ignorance.

6/12/2008 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Honestly ask yourself if it was proven that there was no god or afterlife, would you be ok with stealing from your neighbor?

That would depend on the neighbor and the circumstance, not on an afterlife or no. Would you not steal a chicken from the usurping king to feed your starving children, afterlife or no? Maybe you'd have a duty to do so.

6/12/2008 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"Why are murder and imperial rule evil?"

Murder and imperial rule are one and the same. It's only the scale that's different.

6/12/2008 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

Ken: “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted” is just a statement, not a reality.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky was a witness to Godless state tyranny, so his conclusions should not be so lightly dismissed.

The question is not do most ordinary people understand and eschew evil, but do governments? My contention, like Dostoyevsky, is that Godless government inevitably becomes evil.

6/12/2008 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

I also have no doubt that societies built on atheist values can't be just societies.

The problem is that there are so few just societies, arguably none, that this statement is meaningless.

The US founding fathers were aware of a long history of religious wars, divine rights of kings, and other unpleasantness that they decided to build their country around laws. Not god's laws but man's laws.

There is a long list of countries for which the statement "societies built on religious values aren't just societies."

In fact it's tyrannies of any sort that are not just. Religious values has little to do with it.

I agree with what Alex Sloat said up-thread. I assume that religious types would like to co-opt the golden rule as a religious value but in fact it's not.

6/12/2008 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

Metuselah: "Murder and imperial rule are one and the same. It's only the scale that's different."

That is a good insight. But tell me why murder and imperial rule on their respective scales are evil.

6/12/2008 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

"The US founding fathers were aware of a long history of religious wars, divine rights of kings, and other unpleasantness that they decided to build their country around laws. Not god's laws but man's laws."

Our founding fathers said in The Declaration of Independence that our individual human rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness come from God's law, not from man's law.

"Law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual." Thomas Jefferson

Our founding fathers said in The Declaration of Indepence that just government power derives from the consent of the governed. As best I can tell that idea is purely rational.

So, it seems to me our founding fathers combined the best of both: Divinely ordained and irreversable individual human rights alongside rational secular government.

6/12/2008 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"Fyodor Dostoyevsky was a witness to Godless state tyranny, so his conclusions should not be so lightly dismissed."

Fyodor Dostoyevsky lived under Russian Tsarist rule, an imperialist totalitarian regime that sanctioned and perpetuated by the Russian Orthodox Church. Dostoyevsky was jailed and almost executed by the Tsar for supposedly agitating against the his rule, in supposed sympathy with other such aggitators, namely the Communists.

6/12/2008 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"That is a good insight. But tell me why murder and imperial rule on their respective scales are evil."

If you consider it is good insight, you already know the answer.

6/12/2008 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

I consider Russian Tsarist rule as Godless even if that imperialist totalitarian regime was sanctioned and perpetuated by the Russian Orthodox Church. That is a case of both Godless church and Godless state in my opinion.

6/12/2008 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said... imperialist totalitarian regime that ^was sanctioned and perpetuated by the Russian Orthodox Church..

6/12/2008 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

There's a democracy in the idea of original sin. America was to be a new start. But flawed from the gitgo.

When Svidrigailov, depraved and tormented, blows his brains out in Crime and Punishment, he tells the man nearby, "I'm off to foreign lands, brother...To America....If they start asking you, just tell them he went to America."

6/12/2008 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

But America is not a Democracy, Bob. In a real multiparty Democracy, Obama would garner 5% of the vote. And electoral participation would be in 90% levels, as opposed to 40% in our gamed Republic.

6/12/2008 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

Again, the question is not do most ordinary people understand and eschew evil, but do governments?

My contention, like Dostoyevsky, is that Godless government inevitably becomes evil, even a Godless government supported by a Godless church. To me the church is irrelevant anyway - I am all for separation of church and state.

"God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” Thomas Jefferson

6/12/2008 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


You can not have it both ways. If the Church and the governments it endorsed are godless and meaningless, so too is God.

6/12/2008 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

"If the Church and the governments it endorsed are godless and meaningless, so too is God."

No, even if the church is corrupted by evil that only reflects the truth of corruptible human nature, not God Himself.

Secular man and religious man are in the same boat - both fallible and corruptible, and both subject to evil. I draw a distinction between God and both types of men; and and between God and both secular and religious groups of men.

6/12/2008 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/12/2008 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"..the church is corrupted by evil that only reflects the truth of corruptible human nature, not God Himself.."

God is the "Church". The two are the same.

6/12/2008 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

No, the church is composed of fallible human beings who did not create the universe or create themselves.

God is Creator of the universe and man.

There is no comparison between God and man, and therefore between God and church.

6/12/2008 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger sbw said...

Make a distinction between culture and society and mankind can manufacture working relationships.

Society is the edge where any two cultures (or individuals) meet. Through a culturally-independent thought experiment, the minimum requirements for society can be deduced. First among those requirements springs from doubt -- that in the past we were mistaken when we thought we were right.

From the humility of having been mistaken, and knowing it can happen again, we socialize. We allow others to say things we care not to hear, but need to know.

Society, then, is too important to leave to religion, and requires only our ingenuity -- God-given or otherwise -- to invent. And it is as good for us as its absence is bad.

Hmm. A culturally independent establishment of good and evil. Nice to know it's possible. Mother Nature doesn't care whether we choose to do it, but we, and our unimaginably distant descendants do.

6/12/2008 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"God is Creator of the universe and man."

No, it is man who is the creator of the personal scriptural God. To say otherwise is to be willfully ignorant.

6/12/2008 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

I meant the democracy of fallen sinners.

Reinhold Niebuhr, protestant theologian, would have agreed with Stormrider, fallen man isn't capable of creating an unfallen institution, all efforts will come up short, church, court or parliament, capitalism, socialism, or communism.

6/12/2008 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

"No, it is man who is the creator of the personal scriptural God. To say otherwise is to be willfully ignorant."

Have you now fallen to the level of calling those who disagree with you bad names? Name-calling is not a good sign.

I haven't slandered you, I've only stated my faith as you have stated yours. My faith corresponds to a large degree with that of Thomas Jefferson:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

"God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” Thomas Jefferson

Tell me what I am ignorant of.

6/12/2008 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"..I meant the democracy of fallen sinners.. fallen man isn't capable of creating an unfallen institution.."

No. I refuse to accept that. Man is capable of creating and sustaining even the idea of a multi-dimensional dimensionless god, as long as we keep deception and those that perpetuate deception at bay.

6/12/2008 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Have you now fallen to the level of calling those who disagree with you bad names?

Not at all. But your beliefs in God are not supported by fact. The facts are simple. It is man that wrote about god, and not the other way round.

6/12/2008 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

A bush on fire that doesn't burn up, and a voice within, a theophany, where does that come from? From God, from man, from God via the subconscious....?

Well, maybe, but it hasn't been done so far, to my knowledge. Some institutions much better than others for sure.

Take the United States Congress, for instance....:)

6/12/2008 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Benj said...

"Our civilization only offers the possibility of being free; and to choose right instead of wrong. No bureaucracy can guarantee it for us. Lewis understood that if one were looking for legitimate reasons to become an atheist, a release from the burden of choice was not one of them."

Sartre said it more simply - "You must choose."

Folks interested in all this might check the work of Raymond Tallis. One of the sharpest critics of post-modernism, Dawkinism. etc. Stone atheist himself - Good man - Doctor for 35 years with Brit NHS...Pretty impossibly bright himself, he's wonderfully clear about hte limits of "brilliance" Here's a graph about him - You can Google if interested...

Raymond Tallis is on the side of the angels. Yesterday, in The Times he attacked the rise of neurodeterminism in the law courts (the notion that "my brain made me do it"). I've just come across the text of a speech he gave defending human freedom from the forces of the counter-Enlightenment. Left vs Right, I reckon, is no longer the main dividing line in politics: the divide is between those who have faith in freedom and the human capacity for progress, and those who don't (a ragtag army of religious fanatics, eco-fundamentalists and pessimists). The pessimists seem to have the upper hand in academia.

From a huge variety of backgrounds, academics and popular writers tell the same monotonous story: we do not know what we are doing, we do not know why we are doing it, and disaster is waiting to happen. Civilisations, which are based upon the notion of humans as rational agents, are in fact pathological: rationality is an illusion, or unnatural and unbearable, and rational planning will lead to unforeseen consequences. All civilisation – usually referred to as ‘a veneer’ and a thin one at that – is headed for destruction.

Professor Tallis makes the interesting point that scientific endeavour, once the crowning glory of Enlightenment thinking, is being used to undermine Enlightenment values. It is well worth reading.

More here...

6/12/2008 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"Take the United States Congress, for instance....:)"

Or the US Supreme Court. :D

6/12/2008 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

"But your beliefs in God are not supported by fact. The facts are simple. It is man that wrote about god, and not the other way round."

Belief in God or disbelief in God can’t be supported by scientific fact because God is not observable or testable; and those are the two requirements for scientific fact along with reasoned understanding of what is observed and tested.

God is undiscoverable by science since God is supernatural while science deals only with the natural, observable and testable universe.

As understood by John Locke, faith is any belief which is undiscoverable by science; and since God is undiscoverable by science, belief in God as well as belief in the absence of God is based on faith.

Your belief in the absence of God is not supported by fact - you can't disprove God by not observing or testing God. That man wrote about god, and not the other way round is your atheist faith - a faith not shared by our founding fathers as written in the Declaration of Independence.

6/12/2008 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"..That man wrote about god, and not the other way round is your atheist faith.."

That man wrote about god and not the other way round is not faith, is it undisputed fact. The only question of faith is concept of God. You will notice that I do not reject the concept of God. What I reject is the concept of God as a personal deity of worship and the necessary connection such entails on our political thinking.

6/12/2008 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

"Murder and imperial rule are one and the same. It's only the scale that's different."

``Only'' the scale??

This thread gives an ample demonstration that many conservatives think the declaration of evil is a show-stopper.

That, somehow, once we declare Osama bin Laden or George W. Bush "evil," we've understood their essence.

Both are evil, of course, but in profoundly different ways. Bush, it can be argued, has more ideologically correct motives (and better dental coverage), even if his deeds have on balance proven to be evil.

Moral calculus is complicated. It requires much careful consideration and data collection. Affixing the label "evil" is no substitute for following through with the math.

Given that mass media is the real religion of America it seems worth noting the differences between liberal and conservative Hollywood.

One of the most persistent whines of the American right is that Hollywood makes fun of them, "hates" America and so on.

Indeed, there is a striking number of outspoken liberals in Hollywood, from George Clooney to Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Barbra Streisand and on and on.

They may not outnumber the conservatives, though, who have so many of their own from Charlton Heston, R.I.P. to Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger (sort of), Kid Rock, and (of late) David Mamet, and on and on.

The number of celebrities on each side are comparable, but there is a massive difference in cultural firepower.
Penn and Robbins and fellow liberals appear mostly in first-rate films, many of which deal not with the sensation of evil, but with its subtleties. They turn not on the celebration of good, but on tragedy, comedy and moral dilemmas. That is why they are good.

By contrast, the work of Norris, Stallone, et. al. portrays a world in which there are few, if any, moral dilemmas. Evil is always right over there in the soul of the guy wearing the black turban or with the Russian accent. Good is always the hero's sole motive.

It's the movies, not the Bible or, certainly not, Kierkegaard or Satre, that animate America's mainstream political differences.

On questions from Iran to Iraq to Africa and Venezuala, liberal America is drawing its moral template from, say "Mystic River,'' while conservatives are looking to "Rambo."

6/12/2008 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

"That man wrote about god and not the other way round is not faith, is it undisputed fact."

No, that is atheist faith because it is a belief which is undiscoverable by science - undiscoverable by observation and testing. You are entitled to atheist faith as much as I am to my faith.

"What I reject is the concept of God as a personal deity of worship and the necessary connection such entails on our political thinking."

What I reject is the concept of no God with its necessary connection on our political thinking.

I'm in better company: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln. I'll take them any day over Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Friedrich Nietzsche.

6/12/2008 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"Moral calculus is complicated."

Not to me. Kill the bad guys, and take no prisoners.

6/12/2008 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

“If God does not exist, then everything is permitted” Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“It is not true, as is sometimes said, that man cannot organize the world without God. What is true is that, without God, he can only organize it against man.” Henri de Lubac

6/12/2008 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"What I reject is the concept of no God with its necessary connection on our political thinking."

So too Matthew Mark Luke John Mahmud and countless other Roman Egyptian Hebrew and Arab scribes. And to all of them I say, Fsck Off.

6/12/2008 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

Atheism within individuals is not of great concern to me; it is the unjust governmental results of atheism as a political ideology that does.

I am not alone. It wasn't just our founding fathers who realized that God was essential to the concept of irreversible human rights and a just society; there have been many other men who suffered directly from the injustice of government organized around the absence of God, and wrote about it.

“Understanding socialism as one of the manifestations of the allure of death explains its hostility toward individuality, its desire to destroy those forces which support and strengthen human personality: religion, culture, family, individual property. It is consistent with the tendency to reduce man to the level of a cog in the state mechanism, as well as with the attempt to prove that man exists only as a manifestation of non-individual features, such as production or class interest.” Igor Shafarevich

“socialism's attitude toward religion does not at all resemble the indifferent and skeptical position of someone who has lost interest in religion. The term "atheism" is inappropriate for the description of people in the grip of socialist doctrines. It would be more correct to speak here not of "atheists" but of "God-haters," not of "atheism" but of "theophobia." Such, certainly, is the passionately hostile attitude of socialism toward religion. Thus, while socialism is certainly connected with the loss of religious feeling, it can hardly be reduced to it. The place formerly occupied by religion does not remain vacant; a new lodger appeared.” Igor Shafarevich

The author also convincingly demonstrates the diametrical opposition between the concepts of man held by religion and by socialism. Socialism seeks to reduce human personality to its most primitive levels and to extinguish the highest, most complex, and "God-like" aspects of human individuality. And even equality itself, that powerful appeal and great promise of socialists throughout the ages, turns out to signify not equality of rights, of opportunities, and of external conditions, but equality qua identity, equality seen as the movement of variety toward uniformity.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn

6/12/2008 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


I wish you would organize your thoughts around critical thinking rather than flawed idols.

6/12/2008 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger Dougman said...

plural of ''elowahh' (433); gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative:--angels, X exceeding, God (gods)(-dess, -ly), X (very) great, judges, X mighty.

shortened from ''ayil' (352); strength; as adjective, mighty; especially the Almighty (but used also of any deity):--God (god), X goodly, X great, idol, might(-y one), power, strong. Compare names in "-el."

Ect, ect,

So many gods to choose from.

I put my Faith in Truth.

6/12/2008 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

I'll pit my critical thinking against yours any day.

Our founding fathers were not flawed idols, and neither were Igor Shafarevich or Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Friedrich Nietzsche are flawed idols.

6/12/2008 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"I'll pit my critical thinking against yours any day.

Our founding fathers were not flawed idols, and neither were Igor Shafarevich or Alexander Solzhenitsyn."

I'm sorry, but this is where I have to laugh. Have a good night.

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me,..blah, blah, blah,..

6/12/2008 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

Your repeated resort to insults and mockery of those who disagree with you on matters of faith is not a good sign.

You appear to worship of yourself, and self-idolotry leads to state-idolotry.

6/12/2008 03:57:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"Your repeated resort to insults and mockery of those who disagree with you on matters of faith is not a good sign."

But it's not a matter of faith, it's a matter of politics. In matters of faith we're in agreement. :)

Seriously, I mean you no disrespect. Have a good one.

6/12/2008 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

It appears to me that matters of faith are intertwined with politics. The faith of our founding fathers resulted in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Perfect, no; good, yes; and better by far than the political and governmental results from the faith of Karl Marx.

I mean you no disrespect either.

6/12/2008 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

And I neglected to express my gratitude for the compliment, unwitting as it may have been:

``McDaddyo has his own bible; nothing can penetrate the cant.''

Indeed I do possess my own understanding of the world, unencumbered by the need to narrow anything down to a single text.

On that, I take my cues from the enlightenment.

Cant is always easily penetrated and handily destroyed. If my complimenter finds he cannot penetrate my views, that's a persuasive affirmation that whatever cant they may contain isn't definitive.

6/12/2008 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger Featherless Biped said...

"Is there a fundamental definition of evil? Are there things which objectively possess this property independent of the perception of man?"

LOL. Classic philosopher-baiting.

I have wasted many hours of my life discussing this with people who imagine, incorrectly, that they have a good idea of what these words ("objective", "fundamental") signify.

Wretchard, you as a sophisticated user of artificial languages (databases, 3GL's, 4GL's) have surely realized that with our modern, "enlightened" and "diverse" societies, we are all wandering in semantic wildernesses, each internally inconsistent and mutually incompatible.

6/13/2008 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger Shepherds quake at the sight... said...

There was no escaping. He was walking out, I was walking in. He had murdered his wife by choking her to death. When his son, misunderstanding the situation, brought scissors to assist his father is cutting the cord from his mothers neck, he used it instead to cut her throat in front of his young children.

I’m told the children will misconstrue the situation in later years and think they could have acted differently. They were children and could not control what happened.

The woman was an acquaintance; her brother and family are life-long dear friends. Her husband was a college friend.

After he was arrested he posted bond.

One day soon after I ran into him at a Kinko’s. There was no escaping the conversation.

My world closed in on me like nothing before. The room began to spin. I became chilled. All extraneous events were lost and he was the focal point.

He approached me as if nothing had happened. He wanted to know about old friends, and how they were doing. He asked what others thought about the recent turn of events. He mentioned how quickly things can change. He complemented me on my shirt.

Not once did he ask about his children.

It was a cordial conversation extended every day by all of us, except he had brutally murdered his wife in front on his children.

When we disengaged I was shaking, literally shaking. A wave of fear encapsulated me like never before.

It wasn’t that I felt a personal threat as I am larger and more fit than he. Yet I was shaking like a leaf, almost uncontrollably.

What I had touched upon was pure, unadulterated evil. It was in his eyes, his voice, his being. It was an aura that surrounded him. It enveloped me. I was scared – it still scares me.

It was then I realized I was not in control.

For the first time, I unambiguously realized that there were greater forces at work.

It was right at that instance that an overwhelming peace covered me. For then I realized that if there was evil, then there must be goodness.

Since that day I have had other events, one in particular that put the fear of God into me. I fully understand the concept of shepherds shaking at first site. It simply is the revelation that we are not in control and that a true God exists.

If there is evil, there must be goodness. Both surround us every day, yet we usually don’t take the time to acknowledge either.

I have confronted evil. I have had the hand of God touch me. Both establish a fear that is unalienable.

Evil exits. Goodness exists.

He attempted to flee the country. While awaiting trial he attempted to have his brother-in-law killed. Those mistakes, and not killing his wife, earned him concurrent sixty year terms.

For the first time ever, I think the courts got it right in NOT rendering the death penalty. He will die in prison.

I like most was a religious skeptic. Not anymore.

Evil surrounds us. The grace of God surrounds us. We just don’t look for either they was we should.

This may be the best blog discourse I've ever seen. Thanks to all...

6/13/2008 11:02:00 PM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

``It was right at that instance that an overwhelming peace covered me.''

I think Shep has hit the nail on the head here.

Some people have an abiding need to believe they have identified true evil and learned that it is a spiritual force that isolates itself in particular individuals.

They, as Shep attests, find this very soothing.

Another view is that it evil, like good, is abstract.

A man who murders is wife has surely done an evil deed because murder is evil, anywhere, anytime. Yet here is a man who murdered his wife right in front of his children, and apparently, utterly without remorse.

Surely he is more evil than the man who murders his wife after bursting in on her having sex with the local minister, and is haunted by the act to his grave.

And just as surely, the remorseless wife-throat slasher is less evil than the serial killer who calmly skins alive numerous victims and does God knows what else with them.

And is this serial killer more, or less, evil than the mafioso who makes a career of ordering executions of putative friends and enemies as a matter of course. They are killed with dispatch and, in most cases, considerably mercy and he, indeed, has moments of great remorse. And he's a regular donating member at his local parish. So we have to think it through carefully if we want to feel we understand.

The point is that labeling something evil doesn't get us very far, neither in, as Shep suggests, identifying good nor in understanding its absence.

As Shep alludes, we need to understand the murderer's state of mind. He notes in some detail the remorselessness of the wife-murderer he knew. It is a crucial detail because it tells us that the man may well murder again and may have murdered others.

The world's biggest mass murders all have similar origins: they are hatched as campaigns against evil. Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Andrew Jackson. All went about liquidating people they fully believed were evil in some innate way that could not be dealt with other than by murder. More important, they convinced their followers to carry out the murders.

History shows we, as humans, don't really know evil when we see it. The most dangerous people are not those who fail to acknowledge the presence of evil, but those who claim they have isolated it to particular groups or individuals.

6/14/2008 05:01:00 PM  

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