Monday, January 11, 2010

A Brief Essay on Evil

I haven't posted anything in a few days, only partly because I've been sick. I have been working on a post, but it's become bigger than me, and has been escaping from my clutches. Why not post what I have so far; I can always add, retract, or apologize later.

Evil, Probably Part 1.

An Augustinian such as myself should have an interest in evil, an intellectual interest in evil, I mean, of course (as the Thomist quietly snickers to himself in the corner).

Evil resides in the will of man. Why? Why is there evil in him? Why is it such as it is? Yes, it does have a disctinctive character: for instance, it is more characterized by the libido dominandi (desire to dominate) than the libido concupiscentiae (the desire of the flesh) (is my Latin correct here?), contrary to Freud.

I have to prove there is evil, first, but I'd like to spend more time describing it.

The existence of evil can be proven from the grave injustices in the world (there are billionaires in this world and people literally starving to death side-by-side). However, I'd rather look at the individual case. How badly do our minds work; how badly we treat our selves and neighbour! Everything we do is full of ego. We do not take just enough for ourselves, we take more and ruin the rest so that the next person will have no grounds to advance on me. I do an objectively good deed ultimately for hedonistic reasons. Pride is in everything, escorted there by her mistress Insecurity. I have never met a good man, just one less selfish than the next. He appears to love his wife, he but loves himself, loves to avoid conflict, not out of love of peace, but in order to protect the efficiency with which he mounts pleasure upon pleasure.

Everywhere words are more false than true. I say not most plainly what is in my soul for your good, and for my (objective) good, but rather to impress, to influence, to manipulate, and to get! The only honest person is the baby who has not yet learned to time his cries for sake of efficiency.

But what does all of this say about the character of each soul? Why is it so afraid of loosing-out when it can actually know that there is a greater good that is not at all sacrificed, but is in fact strengthened by, truth, strictest truth? Why is he paranoid of loss? He is destined to die and lose everything. His reputation is always vulnerable; his is no more based on lies than is that of all his competitors. And yet, knowing is one thing, acting in accordance with this knowledge something he is either altogether unwilling or unable to do.

The fact that every intention can be purified means that every intention is defective in some way, to some degree.

The type of defects that characterize us is what is most interesting. Look at the blackness in your soul - what exactly do you see there? If you looked closely enough you would probably see disappointments rather than malice. Some people are out and out malicious - full of hate, but no one I know very well, no one who comes to mind. If this isn't simply an autobiography, I have a feeling that every evil in us is a transformed hurt. I'm not saying that those hurts were evil in themselves. If we were ever wrong about the good, it is most fortunate when someone in our life acts to deny us that false good.

When one hurts another, tells them that they are no good at X, or what have you, what is in the soul of the person who said this? A love of truth? I doubt it. It is not strickly true that I am 'no' good at piano - that implies a complete lack of talent and potential, and even in my case where I have never had a piano lesson, it is not true that I am utterly bereft of the 'good' of piano-playing. In most cases, one who professes to love the truth, loves himself, and choses to illuminate those acpects of truth that he finds agreeable, while omitted those that are not. 'Love of truth' is just one of those things, just one of those things where we dress up a vice to look like virtue. Other such examples: cleanliness, piety, atheleticism - none of which are bad in and of themselves (they are all good!) but all of which are (more or less, hopefully much less) indicative of a hidden defect. The fit person believes that he is more temperate than the overweight person. It may be so - but is not so necessarily. And the defects of the 'fit' person may greatly outweigh those of the overweight person.

None of the above is new. Let us throw all of it into the supernatural sphere and see what happens.

The Role of the Devil

Satan has a particular interest in our evil nature. I don't suppose his particular evil is exactly the same as ours, but they are likely close enough. Moreover, he has studied us so as to more effectively manipulate our evil for his own purposes.

To Purify Intentions?

So then is the goal to purify one's intentions? So that instead of loving both out of a recognition of the good in the other and out of fear of loneliness, one ought to move toward love that is solely directed to the good object? But to purify requires that we have first identified the contaminants. I think people are particularly poor at this. More soon.

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