Are all human beings capable of evil?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines evil as: Profound immorality and wickedness.
There are countless instances in history where profound suffering has been caused and justified by human beings. Do you think that particular circumstances have the potential to enable any one of us to justify evil behaviour to ourselves? Or do you think that some individuals are capable of evil while others are not? What is your own definition of evil? At what point does wrong doing move into evil doing? Is evil a useful term?
One school of thought that holds that no person is evil, and that only acts may be properly considered evil. Psychologist and mediator Marshall Rosenberg claims that the root of violence is the very concept of evil or badness. He contrasts this approach with what he found in cultures where the idea of evil was non-existent. In such cultures when someone harms another person, they are believed to be out of harmony with themselves and their community, are seen as sick or ill and measures are taken to restore them to a sense of harmonious relations with themselves and others.
Psychologist Albert Ellis agrees. He says the root of anger, and the desire to harm someone, is almost always related to variations of implicit or explicit philosophical beliefs about other human beings. He further claims that without holding variants of those covert or overt belief and assumptions, the tendency to resort to violence in most cases is less likely.
American psychiatrist M. Scott Peck on the other hand, describes evil as militant ignorance. The original Judeo-Christian concept of sin is as a process that leads one to miss the mark and not achieve perfection. Peck argues that while most people are conscious of this at least on some level, those that are evil actively and militantly refuse this consciousness. Peck describes evil as a malignant type of self-righteousness which results in a projection of evil onto selected specific innocent victims (often children or other people in relatively powerless positions). Peck considers those he calls evil to be attempting to escape and hide from their own conscience (through self-deception) and views this as being quite distinct from the apparent absence of conscience evident in sociopaths.
What is your view? Discuss.
If this interests you then take time out from your usual Sunday afternoon and spend a couple of hours in the company of other kindred spirits.
Entry is free, just pay for your own scrummy cakes and refreshments.