Brittney Stewart

Special Education Aide, education

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Bad vs Evil

First part: What is the difference between bad and evil?

Second part: Are humans innately evil?

Bad seems to be a momentary lapse of judgment, the kind to which we are all prone.
Evil is a profound proclivity for destruction. There seems to be something organic about it that is singular and unique.

I don't believe that humans are innately good or evil, and that largely, not completely our morality is learned. Nazis beget nazis, saints beget saints for the most part. I am acutely sensitive to exceptions, however.
Even if all humans are self interested, that does not make them evil. Self preservation in its truest form is not ignoble.

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    Jan 2 2012: First part:
    "Good"= as it should be.
    "Bad" = not as it should be due to unintentional acts.
    "Evil" = deliberate maliciousness meant to deviate from how it should be.
    Second part:
    No human being is impervious to temptation which leads to evil.
  • Jan 13 2012: Brittney,

    There is mounting evidence to suggest that certain personality disorders ('evil,' e.g. anti-social disorder) are a result of both genetic and environmental factors - so, to a degree, some people are innately evil. But if you are using the terms 'bad' and 'evil' as a lens through which to view a criminal's psychology, then whatever you see is inherently negative. If, however, we use 'bad' and 'evil' as a lens through which to see a philosopher's metaphysics, then perhaps there is nothing inherently negative about the terms at all. Now our terms cease to be a lens and become a prism, and we can begin to see actions and intentions as a simple intermingling of many colors. That is supposing you have the courage to venture beyond good and evil:

    "Nobody is likely to consider a doctrine true merely because it makes people happy or virtuous... But people like to forget...that making unhappy and evil are no counter-arguments. Something may be true while being harmful and dangerous to the highest degree... But there is no doubt at all that the evil and unhappy are more favored when it comes to the discovery of certain parts of truth, and that the probability of their success here is higher -- not to speak of the evil who are happy... Perhaps hardness and cunning furnish more favorable conditions for the origin of the strong...than that gentle, fine, conciliatory good-naturedness and art of taking things lightly which people prize..."
    -Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

  • Jan 2 2012: Hello Brittney,
    Bad is a concept a person recognizes as harmful. Evil may be considered as not in harmony with God's will. These statements are offered with full understanding there is wide variation of experiences within humanity. "Bad" recognizes humans have learned something else is better. We learn to compare.

    Man (the species) does not know all things, but it seems safe to say we continue to learn about the Cosmos, the handiwork of God, God the Person, the mysterious One and everything else we cannot discover or prove through science. So, we learn what is bad or evil by accumulating experience and by revelation over time. What emerges as super important is personal DESIRE. (pardon the caps). A truly evil soul does not desire God, I assume.

    If evil is considered disharmony with God, then bad is recognized disharmony. Man is not perfect, but we have been blessed with a divine invitation from on high, "Be you perfect, even as I am perfect". Such an invitation/command is not possible on the same plain as God, but is achievable on the human plain in so far as is possible for a human. Perfection is the continuing achievement of choosing the will of the Father God. Until this is desired and achieved, we risk evil. We are confronted with evil in our thoughts and ideas, but choosing the right action in accordance with God's will is movement to perfection.

    Humans are not required to sin, but evil is always possible, given the above supposition, as we are not perfect. We have not started out in perfection, but we can choose (DECIDE) to do good, to try to discover God's will and obey. God will never choose to do harm to another, therefore his will is for good for us all.

    Self interest runs great risk of selfishness whereas others- centeredness is divine.

    In thinking about this question for decades, the above is the best I can offer presently.

    Wishing you well in your adventure of truth seeking! Good of you to start this thread.
    • W T

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      Jan 2 2012: "We have not started out in perfection, but we can choose (decide) to do good, to try to discover God's will and obey."

      Mark, I totally agree with this.
  • Jan 16 2012: Bad is understandable. Evil, you can never comprehend.
    You know why it is bad. But you can never understand why it is evil.

    Humans are biologically evil. Our bodies tend to want immediate gratification. The human body and mind are an animal's body and mind.

    But that's just the body and mind. That's just biology talking. :D

    We are not all-body, we not all-mind, nor are we just both.
  • Jan 16 2012: There seems to be two threads here. One is that bad is just evil to a lesser degree, while the other is evil involves choice while bad may not. Interesting.

    I work with kids that have conduct disorder. Remorse is not part of their emotional repertoire. Eventually it evolves into anti-social personality disorder as they become adults. My professor in college told us that 15% of the population has the inability to feel remorse. Don't panic because the inability to empathize does not mean that they will become mass murderers. In fact, some are the most social individuals that I have ever met. However, if conflict arises, you will be thrown under the bus and dismissed without a second thought.

    The real problem is when you have conduct / antisocial personality disorder and harsh environmental conditions such as years of emotional and physical abuse and neglect. Genetics loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger. Now you have a real societal problem. Did anyone see the "Ice-man" documentary about Richard Kuklinski, the Mafia hitman? It provides a great deal of insight into the psychological workings of a sociopath.
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    Jan 8 2012: This is interesting:

    I think bad is a relative term. It really depends on the perception of other individuals. What I mean by that is, no one is really going to think that their actions or intentions is bad (at least not initially) until they are influenced by something external (social norms, their parents, friends, etc).

    In regards to evil, I think there is a difference. I think evil transcends bad and I actually think bad is more closely associated w/deviance than it is evil.

    In other words, I think when we state that an individual is bad, we are usually stating that they are an individual who is a non-conformist and does not follow the rule or laws created by ones society or culture. If we state that a person is evil, we are usually referring more to their character. To put it simply there really is a difference between people like Hitler, King Henry VIII(I consider him evil because you have to be a sick person to behead your wife due to the fact that she cannot bear you a son), Pol Pot, and Elizabeth Bathory as opposed to social deviants who just have issues with the status quo.

    As far as, if humans posses these qualities here is what I think(and of course I could be wrong):

    I think humans are born w/certain innate qualities, characteristics, traits (call it what you will). I think ones circumstance or environment allow for certain characteristics or qualities to be maximized and manifest themselves as behaviors. I also think that the principles, norms or ideologies that one believes in is also a result of their environment.

    To answer your question, I think humans can be both good, bad, evil, great, etc depending on their circumstances, experiences and environment as well as their genetics.
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      Jan 14 2012: Bad seems to be any defect of character, while evil is like a tumor of wrong that if unchecked will envelop the character.

      I like the way you synthesized nature and nurture, it's hard to truly assign credit to one more than the other.
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        Jan 15 2012: Hmm that is interesting. I was sort of thinking that evil would be more of a character defect while bad was simply not following the rules. I mean of course both sort of go back to ones character but I was under the impression that evil was more about intent, therefore more about ones character,while bad was just an inability to follow rules.....I do like the way you put it, I'll have to look into that more....

        thanks and your right, It you really cannot pick one without mentioning the influence of the other....good question though.
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    Jan 5 2012: Bad and evil are synonyms.
    What happens is there are different degrees of badness. Saying a lie about finding $1 on floor of office....well, bad. Saying a lie about if you stole $100,000.00 out of the corporation that employs you...bad, and against the law! Saying a lie about whether or not you stole the $1,000,000.00 out of an NGO that is helping tsunami victims...EVIL..morally, ethically, and legally wrong!!!
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    Jan 3 2012: I'd like to think that although some evil humans have lived and continue to live on this planet, the rest of us aren't like that. I think that we may do bad things because of self-interest but there are plenty of people who use that selfishness to do a whole lot of good. To be brutally honest, ALL human actions are done out of self-interest. ALL of them. You donate to charity to feel good about yourself, you start TED debates in order to broaden YOUR perspective and knowledge, you volunteer at soup kitchens to feel good about yourself/try to make YOUR community a better place, you help out an injured person on the road so that later on you don't have to fight YOUR won conscience and so on. Even in the most selfless acts we're selfish.

    But I think that's where the beauty of human nature lies, our ability to do good and aid the lives of others whilst being selfish all the same. So although many humans are bad, and evil, we're all selfish. But how we use this self-interest to better our communities as well as the well being of other communities is what sets us aparrt from the "evil" humans.
  • Jan 3 2012: I would highly recommend goggling "Kohlberg's stages of moral development" as well as reading How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. One chapter gives some compelling evidence regarding the morality of humans. you also might be able to find a talk he has given online.
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      Jan 14 2012: I've read How We Decide, and really liked it. I'm going to have to reread it. :)
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      Jan 15 2012: I honestly do not think Kohlberg's stages of moral development are that profound (of course he is a great psychologist so I'm not saying he's not credible) what I am saying is that there are more profound moral theories than his....
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    Jan 2 2012: I would say bad is when something is not done the way it should be, something is said that isn't correct, etc. Evil is maliciousness; it's a way of being. Being evil. Bad is more of an action. Bad is something you do; evil is something you are.
    There are many evil humans in this world. They want the worst for Earth, others, etc. But no, humans are not evil; if they were, they wouldn't be on this Earth. Nazi's were pretty much one person, Hitler. But today, many of us are trying to make the Earth a better place.