META: The problem of "Good vs. Evil"

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Mon Feb 18 22:56:03 PST 2008

On Feb 19, 12:58 am, Martin Phipps <martinphip... at> wrote:
> On Feb 19, 5:29 am, Tom Russell <milos_par... at> wrote:
> > There's a fourth view you're neglecting, and that it that we are
> > neither good nor evil in any abstract way, but that we are all capable
> > of good and evil acts.  In this view, _actions_ are good or evil and
> > people are not.
> I suppose I could just be misstating your own position.  In any case,
> Christianity does tell people that they are all "sinners" who need to
> be "saved".  The Old Testament also made a point of declaring it
> "evil" to worship any other gods.

Modern-day Jews and Christians, to the best of my knowledge, _don't_
feel that persons of other faiths are evil.  As I said in the post
responding to Jamas, there's a fine distinction between "sin" and

As for the Old Testament and the Ten Commandments, you have to
remember the context.  The decalogue is a list of rules for God's
Chosen People, the children of Israel, and by keeping those laws they
are keeping a covenant with the Lord-- the covenant that gives them
Most Favoured Nation status, as it were.  The "no other gods before
me" isn't saying that it's evil to have a different faith, just that
worshipping another god instead of their God exclusively violates the

Since Christianity spun out of Judaism-- kind of the way the Mormons
spun out of Christianity-- they also keep the commandments but nowhere
does it say that not keeping those commandments is tantamount to evil.

Now, some of those commandments-- don't lie, don't cheat, don't kill--
those are damn good commandments and some variation of them exists in
all major cultures (not just religions, and not just Western).
Whether this is some kind of "moral" gene or a way to keep social
order, who knows.

> When I claim that people are essentially good I
> am distancing myself from people who say we are essentially evil.

Well, I understand and give you that.

> You really, really don't seem to like cats, lumping them in with
> wolverines. ;)

Actually, I love cats and currently have three of them.  I'm very much
a cat person and I can't really stand dogs.  But, let's face it--
they're very territorial and finicky animals.

That whole line from one of my stories about how 'your cat doesn't
love you'?  It's a joke.

And, for the record, I also like wolverines.  I might dislike
Wolverine as a fictional character in the Marvel Universe, but as a
denizen of the wolverine state, I've got to say, wolverines are pretty

Now only if there were any wolverines in the wolverine state...

> But he made the distinction between aggressiveness and aggression.
> His point was that there is no inherent need for violent behaviour,
> not like there is need for food or sleep, that any species of animal
> will behave non-aggressively until provoked.  The difference appears
> to be the threashold of stimulus required to provoke aggressive
> behaviour: a wolverine will attack before a pitbull and a pitbull will
> attack before a poodle.  You'd probably have to kick a poodle into a
> corner to get him to bite you.  On the other hand, if you leave a
> wolverine alone, he'll leave you alone and that would probably be a
> good thing.

Good points and very good advice. :- )

> Martin


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