The Ethics of a Bad Person3 min read

The quest for absolutism that is so prevalent leads people to miss nuance.

  • There is no evil that the observer can see.
  • Evil becomes equated with bad.
  • The definition of bad becomes evil.
  • Real evil is forgotten.

Identifying innocuous things as evil opens a door. If you are doing bad things, it justifies them. If you are not doing bad things, it gives you moral superiority.

People walking through this door make me have to question their ethics. What would happen if they were presented with a true decision where they could harm others at great gain for themselves?

It is easy to look at the pedophile and call him depraved. He harms innocent children. The observer seems to not have an overwhelming age to harm those children, if he is judging. Not having an urge to act makes it very easy to not take an action. Society casts you out for even having that urge. I wonder how many people have that urge, don’t act, and bear that burden silently.

When looking at evil, you have to consider the person who not only embraces the urge to harm children but revels in it. The kind of person who would buy a child, use that child, film that child, and then murder that child and feed him to some pigs without hesitation would deserve the label of evil.

There are many ways to get my label of what I would consider evil. I think it is an easy label to apply for me. I have a reaction that feels like heartburn initially. I then have a shot of adrenaline and my muscles start to hurt. I want to attack this person. I’d consider it just to do so, if they were trafficking children.

I think the label of someone who is good is harder. I don’t think you are good just because you don’t do evil or even bad things. Can you be good without desire and opportunity to be bad? I think to be a good person, you have to be in a position where you could do bad things that benefit you. You become good when you choose not to do those things.

As an example from above, I would say that the pedophile who represses his urges is a good person. He knows his actions could cause harm to others. He denies a part of himself to avoid that bad or evil.

Another example would be someone who can make a lot of money while losing other people an equal amount. This could be a pyramid scheme, embezzlement, or any other scam. The important facts of someone being a good person is that they chose to not harm others when given the opportunity to do so at great gain.

The test about money above also doesn’t apply to someone who is already rich. Matthew 19:24 is a good example of old insight into this. You have no opportunity to be good if you have no harmful desires and no motivation to benefit from others. You still have opportunities to cause harm.

Being a good person doesn’t come naturally to me. Luckily, being a bad person doesn’t come naturally either. I have made myself help others to the best of my abilities. I think that is the best most people can do without changing their life.

The desire to do good makes me wonder, though. Why don’t I change my life to be given the opportunity to do more good?

I think I know the answer to that, but it gets less convincing as I learn more about myself and the world around me. In order to do good, you have to know what good is. Further, you have to be in a position where doing that good doesn’t harm those around you or yourself. If me doing good means my daughter suffers, it is inherently not good. If it harms me and I can’t be a father or husband, it is not good.

I’m still working out what is good. Once I have that solved, I just need to figure out how to engage in it.

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