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Must a Behavior be Intentionally Evil for it to be Evil?

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Sunstone, Apr 5, 2020.

  1. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Must someone intend to do evil for their act or behavior to be evil?

    If so, how does evil differ in that regard (if it differs at all) from what is merely bad?




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  2. 1213

    1213 Well-Known Member

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    I think so. It is possible that person makes mistake and his intention is not to do evil or wrong thing. In that case I think it is not really evil, just unfortunate mistake.
     
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  3. night912

    night912 Active Member

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    If you are not talking about how others view that act as being evil regardless of the view of the one doing it, then no. Someone who didn't have evil intentions can still commit an evil act. A mother killing her kids with the intention of saving their souls from getting sent to hell, still committed an evil act. Someone's intentions of saving the world by massacuring a particular group of people still committed an evil act.
     
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  4. night912

    night912 Active Member

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    Are you saying that Hitler didn't commit an evil act when he ordered the genocide of the Jews because he wanted to save the world by getting rid of those "evil" people?
     
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  5. crossfire

    crossfire Antinomian feminist heretic freak ☿
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    What are your intentions when you weed the garden? Is it to destroy the weeds, or is it to help the cultivated plants?
     
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  6. Erebus

    Erebus Well-Known Member

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    My own view on this is that intent matters a great deal, though that intention need not be to directly cause harm.* A good example of this would be people motivated by greed. When a powerful, wealthy person is determined to perpetually increase their own power and wealth, they can cause widespread suffering. Sometimes they will directly and consciously cause suffering if it suits their goals. Often, suffering is an indirect consequence of their greed rather than something they actively set out to cause.

    In either case, the people causing suffering intend to enrich themselves without concern for others.

    Compare this with pure accidents or harm caused through good intentions. If a surgeon or an electrician makes a mistake and doesn't realise it, their actions can potentially lead to somebody's death. I would find it difficult to describe their actions as evil despite the tragic consequences.


    As to what distinguishes evil from merely bad, my view is that it's mostly a matter of emphasis. Evil is a very handy word to use when we find something so utterly repulsive that describing it as bad/unethical/cruel doesn't seem to cut it.


    *I'm going to refer to causing harm/suffering a fair bit here. While I can't say I wholeheartedly subscribe to any one system of moral thought, my own moral code generally leans towards negative utilitarianism. I hold that reducing suffering is usually more important than increasing happiness.
     
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  7. ChristineM

    ChristineM "Be strong" I whispered to my coffee.
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    Depends on who is pronouncing evil and for what reason.

    Evil as in "profound immorality and wickedness, especially when regarded as a supernatural force." Yes, that's me according to some religious types. I am pronounced evil because i do not adhere to their view of what is good.

    Evil "profound immorality and wickedness" sans supernatural woo, is just the same as bad and is partly cultural, partly upbringing, partly mental abnormality and partly doing what the hell you want regardless of what other people think.
     
  8. crossfire

    crossfire Antinomian feminist heretic freak ☿
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    Regarding intention: it is our intentional acts which program our habits that become our autopilot we fall back on when we are not mindful.

    So, if someone who has built evil habits unintentionally hurts someone they love in a moment that they are unmindful and the evil habits take over, I would say that is still evil, even though they did not intend evil in that particular instance. (Their previous evil intentions built their evil habits.)
     
  9. ideogenous_mover

    ideogenous_mover Well-Known Member

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    One way to view it, might be that all evil stems from ignorance. And if all evil stems from not knowing what to properly do, then all evil comes from a state of confusion, and so no evil is truly intentional. A truly intentional act then, would be said to only come from attaining a state of knowledge. Real knowledge and intent would then be said to be in line with what is good, and only the good
     
    #9 ideogenous_mover, Apr 5, 2020
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2020
  10. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    Yes.

    One centers on intent and the other on effect.
     
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  11. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

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    Evil is defined (by me) as a choice. The choice to act antithetical to the well being of the existential whole, in favor of one's own desires. How conscious and/or deliberate that decision is, is a tangential issue.
     
  12. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
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    Actually, I would say that most of the truly evil acts are done with good intentions. They want to 'correct' a 'flaw' in someone else, or to 'purify' things so the 'right' people can go forward. They see disagreement as immoral and therefore in need of destruction.

    In fact, I would say it is very seldom that a person who commits evil actually thinks of themselves as doing evil. They usually see themselves as doing good, but with some 'necessary harm' to get to the ultimately 'good end'.

    Very seldom so people kill others just for the sake of killing. It happens, but it is far more common to do so to 'get rid of immoral enemies' or to 'preserve our way of life'.

    In general, if your beliefs say that someone should be killed, tortured, or even denied basic dignities simply because they are the 'wrong' people, then your beliefs are leading you to evil.
     
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  13. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    Not necessarily. An act can be immoral (evil) if the agent is aware (or could or should be aware) of a possible bad outcome.
    Take Cliffords ship owner as an example:
     
  14. IndigoChild5559

    IndigoChild5559 Loving God and my neighbor as myself.

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    Our intentions matter as far as the state of our soul goes -- we should aspire to bring our intentions into line.

    However, an evil act is evil regardless of the intention of the doer. For one thing, most of the time we convince ourselves that what we are doing is not evil, or at least, not in our personal case. The Nazis truly believed they were doing good. Anyone here want to tell me they didn't do evil?
     
  15. 1213

    1213 Well-Known Member

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    I believe he had wrong motive and reason and therefore did evil thing. And even if it would not be called evil, it was wrong.
     
  16. night912

    night912 Active Member

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    But strictly on his intention, one cannot say that it was evil. Having the intention to save the world isn't evil.
     
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