TED Conversations

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 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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