Good versus Evil
Why are we so attracted to the idea of "good versus evil"? How is it helpful, and where do we need to be more careful?
This page is a stub, created on 2021-04-15 (last updated on 2021-04-16). Its contents are notes on the issues and angles I want to address about this topic.
Oof--there are a bunch of thoughts I have on this that are super scattered and which I really need to straighten out.
- the importance of moral judgment
- moral versus non-moral judgment
- judgment versus condemnation
- when it's appropriate
- judging things and ideas ("that is good or bad") versus judging people ("he/she/you is/are good or bad")
- judging in your own mind versus pronouncing judgment
- good versus bad, to make any sense at all, as having to be by some standard (ie, causally related to achievement of some goal, whether long-term/fundamental, like happiness, or more immediate/superficial, like rowing a boat)
- "is good/bad" versus "is good/bad for..."
- potential reframing: good versus bad → useful/helpful versus unhelpful
- the ways in which the media (TV, movies, fiction books, our cultures' mythologies) create cognitively attractive melodramas of good versus evil, since they appeal to the (legitimate) human need for understanding and certainty, and how those melodramas (where the bad guys often even think they're the bad guys!) condition us to believe that real life and real people are like that, too, which completely flies in the face of the idea that people are generally doing the best that they can, that they are trying to pursue values (though perhaps in misguided and ineffective ways), and is inconsistent with the principle of assuming positive intent
- how this plays out on the international stage (notice that we call it a "stage", like it really is a melodramatic play!), what passes for "diplomacy" and how readily we conclude it doesn't work because we're dealing with "evil" people "who want to destroy us"
- how and when motives become irrelevant in self-defense, ranging from personal to international scales/scopes, as well as in a legal context
- how judgment of other people (and their motives) affects our own experience of events (and even objectively harmful behavior)