North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › On Not Sanctioning Evil: Ayn Rand's Definition of Evil

On Not Sanctioning Evil: Ayn Rand's Definition of Evil

Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 1,139
In considering the issue of not sanctioning evil, it is important to define "evil."

Ayn Rand's stated that her "fundamental definition of evil is the action of damning the good for being the good. (For example: A man who opposes the Capitalist system because he thinks that it is a bad system, is merely ignorant, not immoral. A man who opposes the Capitalist system because it is good, is truly evil.)"

Letters of Ayn Rand
Letters To Isabel Paterson
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 1,140
Elsewhere, Any Rand identified "the standard by which one judges what is good or evil—is man’s life, or: that which is required for man's survival qua man.” (I don't have the source handy.)

This appears to be directed to identifying "what" is good or evil rather than a person's action regarding it. For example, this is the standard for judging that the Capitalist system "is good" in the quote above from one of Ayn Rand's letters to Isabel Paterson.

Once the "what" is judged for being good or evil, a person's action regarding it [the what] can be judged when coupled with his reasoning. For example, this is the standard for judging a man for opposing the Capitalist system, in one case "because he thinks that it [the Capitalist system] is a bad system," which can be "merely ignorant," such that his action would be judged "not immoral," or in another case "because it [the Capitalist system] is good," with his full knowledge, which would make his action be "truly evil."

In these hypothetical examples, a man's reasoning can be assumed. In real life, judging a man's action of opposing the Capitalist system would require evidence of the man's reasoning.

Kathleen L.
user 14663198
Dallas, TX
Post #: 4
Does intent make that much difference if the result is the same? Such as the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Is ignorance a byproduct of evil?
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 1,142
Hello Kathleen,

Sorry for the very slow reply.

Intent makes a difference because morality only applies to ideas and actions that are volitional.

Morality does not apply to the law of gravity. It does apply to trying to learn about it.

A volitional action can be to evade knowledge. Legally, for example, a person who evades knowledge is held responsible for what he should have known. There can be degrees of this responsibility, for example, negligence, recklessness, or willful disregard of knowledge.

Of course, a volitional action can be with full knowledge, attempting to achieve a specific result or expecting the actual result.

OT




Organizer's Disclaimer

The publications or other actions of any of the managers, speakers, members, and guests of our society do not necessarily express or reflect the ideas of Ayn Rand, Objectivism, or our society.
Kathleen L.
user 14663198
Dallas, TX
Post #: 5
Your explanation is a good basis for discussion. "A volitional action can be to evade knowledge" for example; I am finding that in some legal cases it is evident from actual and supportive evidence that the perpetrator attempts and achieves a specific result either alone or even in conspiracy with others. They know what they are doing and they intend for it to happen; their defense is not so much they didn't know the law; it is that they made an error in judgement; they even admit they were stupid. But since there is no law against stupidity these juries are letting them off because intent is so hard to prove. I have seen these perpetrators laughing and making fun of the judicial system after these cases. They literally circumvent the proof of intent with the confession of stupidity. It seems like this area of justice has been finessed with a two of clubs.

Carrying that thought further to ineptness; it seems to be a criteria for public office nowadays. These are not stupid people; they are deliberate in their actions. I hear so many people complain about how things are not working out very well; but the truth is they are working out very well for particular people; just not the public to whom they were supposed to be serving.

The recent economic and moral atrocities are the result of social engineering under the guise of higher learning. So where does the responsibility of the evil acts lay; with the authors of the curricula or the student who chooses his teacher? Or is it a shared responsibility?

Ayn Rand said that evil was where a person raised against something good to destroy it just because it was good.

It seems like not only is ignorance of the law not a legal defense but maybe it should be expanded to include stupidity is not a legal defense as well?
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 1,143
The children (students) are victims, at least until they reach adulthood. Even then, after being damaged by poor education or, worse, mis-education, there is room for some sympathy for them. For example, Ayn Rand wrote:

The academia-jet set coalition is attempting to tame the American character by the deliberate breeding of helplessness and resignation—in those incubators of lethargy known as "Progressive" schools, which are dedicated to the task of crippling a child's mind by arresting his cognitive development. (See "The Comprachicos" in my book The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution.)

My original discussion topic was prompted by considering the different senses of the concepts good and evil. There is an "abstract" sense, where the good or evil is judged against the standard of the requirements of man's life. An example would be measuring Capitalism as good and Socialism as evil against this standard, regardless of a particular person's understandings or intentions. We consider evaluate abstract ideas like this all the time, on the basis of if and when the idea might be put into practice.

More particularly, though, I am interested in having a better understanding of Ayn Rand's view that evasion makes other evil possible. I think she meant that this leaves the consciously evil unanswered and unchallenged:

I was in my early teens during the Russian civil war. I lived in a small town that changed hands many times. (See We the Living; that part of the story is autobiographical.) When it was occupied by the White Army, I almost longed for the return of the Red Army, and vice versa. There was not much difference between them in practice, but there was in theory. The Red Army stood for totalitarian dictatorship and rule by terror. The White Army stood for nothing; repeat: nothing. In answer to the monstrous evil they were fighting, the Whites found nothing better to proclaim than the dustiest, smelliest bromides of the time: we must fight, they said, for Holy Mother Russia, for faith and tradition.
I wondered, even in those years, which is morally worse: evil—or the appeasement of evil, the cowardly evasion that leaves an evil unnamed, unanswered and unchallenged. I was inclined to think that the second is worse, because it makes the first possible. I am certain of it today. But in the years of my adolescence, I did not know how rare a virtue intellectual integrity (i.e., the non-evasion of reality) actually is. So I kept waiting for some person or group among the Whites to come out with a real political manifesto that would explain and proclaim why one must fight against communism and what one must fight for. I knew even then that the "what" was freedom, individual freedom, and (a concept alien to Russia) individual rights.
Ayn Rand (bold emphasis added).


An example of a consciously evil character was Ellsworth Toohey; he was not an evader.

It seems like not only is ignorance of the law not a legal defense but maybe it should be expanded to include stupidity is not a legal defense as well?

While we can have some sympathy for the innately stupid, too, stupidity is not the standard for human conduct. U.S. law has long used the "reasonable man" standard. Otherwise, the consequences would be highly subjective applications of the law.
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