Can a man knowingly commit evil?


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"No man can know the good fully and go against it. Because said Socrates, if you know the good fully, you've in effect, using Objectivist terms: you have integrated thoroughly that a certain course of action if for your own welfare and you want to achieve your own welfare, to do the evil would be like deliberately stabbing yourself and no one he thought would do that. Well this of course is a mistaken view, in the sense that Socrates had a naively benevolent view of the potentialities in this respect. It is possible for people knowingly to commit evil, not to value their own lives, to know that something is harmful and self-destructive and do it anyway. Socrates did not see the Christian era and what came after it and if he had he wouldn't have held the view that knowledge is virtue and that if you know the good you can't go wrong. There is however this much truth in the Socratic view, if and to the extent that a man fully knows that a given course of action is evil and he keeps all the facts in his mind in focus and he keeps his mind on that fact with its implications and doesn't evade he cannot act against it. You cannot literally act against your knowledge in that sense. Not as long as that knowledge is kept fully clear to you. What therefore do you have to do: you can know the good and act against it, so Socrates is wrong, but why? Because the sheer fact that you know it doesn't mean that it will apply itself in any particular case, you can evade, you can disintegrate your consciousness, you can refuse to focus on what you know and thereby you can know and nevertheless contradict it and act against it. So he [socrates] is right only in the sense that you have to evade your knowledge in order to act against it. But he's wrong in the sense that evasion unfortunately is possible and therefore it is certainly possible for a person to know the good and willfully, deliberately blind himself to it, and that is willful deliberate evil, not simply ignorance, it is self-made ignorance."

Leonard Peikoff - The Philosophy of Objectivism: Volume 2, Lecture 7 Disc 2, Track 4 at 6:35

Edited by Randall
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Of course humans can do evil. Wicked humans can do wicked things for wicked reasons. Socrates was much too charitable.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I don't have a lot to say at the moment, but, according to one of my most erudite sources, for the loci classici:

It's tied to the discussion of hedonism in the Protagoras (358c etc), see also Meno 77b-78b, Gorgias 468c5-7. Not a topic I follow, but there's an old paper by Gerry Santas in Phil. Review 1964, pp. 147-164, reprinted in a volume of essays by Sesonske and Fleming.

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Of course a man can knowingly do something he thinks is wrong yet he will invariably be driven by some psycho-pathological reason for doing so. This is the root of the problem.

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Evil is applicable to morality, but perhaps not applicable outside the realm of morality.

Morality is a combination of intuition-based knowledge and explicit conceptual knowledge arising from premises.

Man is free to act for or against his intuitions and to act for or against his knowledge and convictions (volition)

Therefore, people can knowingly act immoral and therefore evil.

Of course if we define volition as the raising or lowering of awareness (ultimately our only choice according to NB), then perhaps we cannot act evil when we are aware of and maintain awareness to all facts and considerations. By maintaining awareness to facts and to our motivations, we will act in accordance to those motivations automatically. We have no choice but to do so because our choice is for awareness and that choice has already been made. Since we are ultimately motivated towards good (pleasure) versus bad(pain), then we might say Socrates was right.

Christopher

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So for my next question:

Haven't most people done something that was the result of evasion, at least to some extent? What I mean to say is, haven't most people done something throughout their lives that they knew was at least somewhat morally questionable? By morally I mean anti-life or anti-happiness (for a rational man). Looking back on the mistakes I have made in life, I see that I didn't fully understand how I needed to operate at a higher level of awareness than I did in that context or that I had not fully understood a particular principle. The act of focusing (in my view) is a learned skill and learning implies knowledge. So there are two aspects to be considered: learning what actions are good (philosophical principles), and learning to maintain the appropriate level of awareness when necessary (psycho-epistemology).

Please bare with me, I am thinking this through.

Randall

Edited by Randall
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Please bare with me, I am thinking this through.

Randall,

No thanks. I might bear with you, though.

It's a lifestyle choice. I prefer to keep my clothes on in public...

smile.gif

Michael

I'm confused. Are you guys talking about bare bears?

--Brant

never heard of any

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There is no man who has not acted against either his knowledge or his experience about what is the best/right thing to do. I don't think we can escape living life without internal conflicts of interest at some point. Those conflicts will cause "badness" to some parts of ourselves and not others. And that's how we learn. Sometimes we make the wrong choice, then we suffer the consequences and decide not to do it again (for example: a wife might cheat, then it leaves her with a bad feeling so she doesn't do it again).

You really have to define evil if you want to talk more specifically.

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Yikes! I suppose I will have to bear with the fact that I occasionally type too fast and my subconscious confuses homophones like bare with bear. :wacko:

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Yikes! I suppose I will have to bear with the fact that I occasionally type too fast and my subconscious confuses homophones like bare with bear. :wacko:

Relax...we all do it, but I was looking for the Youtube of Bob and Carol Ted and Alice ...a semi Mike Kekich and Stan Bahnsen (?), two (2) Yankee pitchers who traded wives in the middle of the season.

for the "So sadly the cross eyed bear!" So sadly the Cross I bear ...and ran across this:

"MONDEGREEN MON duh green (n) A word or phrase resulting from a misinterpretation

of a word or phrase that has been heard.

The term was coined by Silvia Wright in a Harper’s article in

1954. When she was a child, her parents read her an old Scots ballad,

“The Bonnie Earl of Murray,” which contains these lines:

They hae slain the Earl o’ Murray

And laid him on the green.

Wright heard this as

They hae slain the Earl o’ Murray

And Lady Mondegreen,

…and for years she grieved for the poor woman—until she encountered

the ballad in written form and realized her error."

http://www.cuyamaca.edu/tpagaard/PagaardSite/Courses/PDFs/PDFs120/Mondegreens.pdf

I knew about malapropisms, but I did not know about mondegreens.

Adam

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