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Is There Such A Thing As Evil People?

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Posted by Harvey on February 14, 2002 18:44:28 UTC

Over at counterbalance a discussion on evil caught my attention. Recently there has been a great deal of focus in the media on whether Iraq, Iran, and North Korea constitute an axis of evil. There has also been recent attention by Slobbodan Milosevic's claims that he is being demonized by the prosecutors and that this amounts to a public lynching.

My view is that if we are to communicate we must use words that have the kind of meaning that we wish to convey about someone or something. Some words have historic and religious implications (e.g., God), and those words generally have a wide application to many different meanings. I don't think we should (or can) avoid using such general terms given the fact that our language is not a formal system (like mathematics) and is in no way used so formally in any case.

Therefore, I conclude that 'evil' is applicable to individuals if what we mean someone who fits the meaning of how we use that term. The real question is how consistently are we capable of applying that word in regards to that meaning. I think it takes some effort, but it is possible to use the word evil so that things that we do not consider evil (e.g., animal behavior to kill or a war to defend one's national interests) is not applicable whereas it is still applicable to the things we have pointed out as being evil (e.g., terrorism, etc). Often, however, we turn a blind eye to our actions and this can unwittedly fool us into believing that we are not part of the very evil that we have called attention to in others (i.e., he who is not a sinner should cast the first stone).

Warm regards, Harv

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