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Edric O

An introduction to good and evil

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I wrote the following essay in response to one of the comments in the "Would you kill for God" topic. I think it's very useful to give everyone an overview of the different ethical theories out there.

People talk about good and evil every day, and most of us have some idea of what kinds of things are good and what kinds of things are evil... or do we? Of course, anyone can list a number of things that are good, but can you give a clear definition of "good"? How about a clear definition of "evil"? This is no simple task. Over the centuries, many different people have tried to give such definitions and answer tough moral questions. They created "ethical systems" - well-structured collections of definitions and ideas about good and evil. Eventually a number of patterns emerged, and it became evident that these ethical systems could be classified in a few categories. Here is an overview of those categories, with some examples of the ethical systems they contain:

Moral absolutism

1. Deontological ethics

  - example: Categorical Imperative

  - example: Natural rights

2. Consequentialism

  - example: Hedonism

  - example: Utilitarianism

  - example: Environmental ethics

3. Divine Command

Moral relativism

Moral nihilism

MORAL ABSOLUTISM

By far the dominant school of ethics is moral absolutism. The vast majority of people hold absolute moral views, even while they sometimes do not realize it. So what exactly is moral absolutism? It is the idea that moral standards are always the same, everywhere and for everyone. This basic assumption lies at the heart of a great diversity of ethical systems, grouped in three categories: Deontology, Consequentialism and Divine Command.

1. Deontological ethics

Deontological ethics is the kind most often associated with moral absolutism, despite the fact that it is the smaller of its two great branches. Deontology (from the Greek Deon, meaning obligation) holds that certain actions are good or evil in and of themselves, regardless of their consequences. You have an obligation to do or not to do certain things; most often, the obligation is prohibitive (you must not do X), because it's easier to list the things one should not do rather than all the things one should do.

In the simplest terms, a deontological ethical rule is one that looks like this:

"You must never ............... , even if everyone else does it, and no matter the consequences."

For example, telling a child that he must never lie means giving him a deontological rule. Claiming that it is always evil to kill another human being is also a deontological rule.

Deontology prides itself in being the most absolute - and easy to follow - of all ethical systems. All it requires of you is to abide by a certain number of clear, strict, well-defined rules, and you will be a good, moral person.

Critics, on the other hand, have accused deontology of breeding blind fanaticism, because of its insistence that rules must be obeyed regardless of the effects. Indeed, strict deontology can be described as "the means justify the ends" - as long as the proper means are used, deontology does not care what results they produce.

Some examples of specific deontological ethics are:

* The Categorical Imperative

This is the central concept in the ethical philosophy of Immanuel Kant. It states that you should always act in such a way that your actions could be used as a universal moral standard. In other words, never do something that you would not want everyone else to do. For example, you should never lie, because you would not want everyone else to lie. Kant saw this as a very simple an elegant moral standard. Unfortunately, like all deontological ethics, it can lead to consequences that are difficult to accept. Benjamin Constant asserted that, since the Categorical Imperative compels you to always tell the truth, you must (if asked) tell a known murderer the location of his prey. Kant replied that yes, telling a known murderer the location of his prey would be the right thing to do.

* Natural rights

The politically motivated concept of natural rights arose from the philosophical tradition of classical liberalism. It asserts that certain legal rights are "natural" (although there is no agreement as to what those rights actually are, or in what way can they be "natural"), and that such rights must be held as moral absolutes, never to be infringed. Advocates of various natural rights generally claim to hold the moral high ground, whereas critics point to cases where dogmatic respect for one right of one person can lead to widespread misery for a large number of other people.

2. Consequentialism

Consequentialism, as the name implies, looks at the consequences of an action to determine whether that action is good or evil.

Consequentialism is also known as "agent-neutral ethics", because it is not only concerned with the things you do - it is concerned with the things everyone does. Deontology prescribes a certain personal code of conduct that you should follow regardless of what happens around you, and regardless of what other people do. Consequentialism, since it cares about the effects of your actions, is naturally concerned with the way your actions impact other people, and the way their actions impact you.

In the simplest terms, a consequentialist ethical rule is one that looks like this:

"............... is the greatest good. Any action that promotes ............... is good. Any action that promotes the opposite of ............... is evil."

For example, dedicating your life to saving others by practicing medicine is a consequentialist moral decision. Saying that world hunger should be eliminated is a consequentialist statement.

Consequentialism prides itself in being the most realistic, down-to-Earth and practical approach to ethics, even if it is generally more complicated to make consequentialist judgements than deontological ones.

Critics have accused consequentialism of implying that the end justifies the means. This is perfectly true, but consequentialists point out that "the end" includes ALL the results of your actions. The side effects of your means are all taken into consideration, not ignored. If you achieve some good result by employing certain means that do a lot of collateral damage, all that damage will count against you. And if the collateral damage is too great, it can outweigh the good of your intended result.

And, just like consequentialism is focused on ends, deontology is focused on means. Consequentialism can be described as "the ends justify the means", and deontology can be described as "the means justify the ends".

Specific consequentialist ethics differ from each other on the important question of what the greatest good is. Most of them focus on some form of happiness as the greatest good, but one may think of other possibilities as well. Some examples of consequentialist ethical systems are:

* Hedonism

Hedonism is the belief that an individual's own happiness is the greatest good. In other words, a hedonist considers his own happiness to be the ultimate goal of his actions. It is a common myth that hedonism is concerned with physical pleasure, but this is not always the case. Many hedonist philosophers - including the ancient Greek Epicurus, who first formulated hedonism as a philosophical concept - have considered physical pleasure to be a sort of distraction from true happiness. On another note, hedonism is in many ways the black sheep of the consequentialist family, because it does not appear to be agent-neutral: According to hedonism, MY greatest good is MY happiness, YOUR greatest good is YOUR happiness, and so on. Thus, we have a multitude of different "greatest goods", who are often contradictory. Most consequentialists believe that there can be only one greatest good, or, at least, the various "greatest goods" cannot contradict each other. For this reason, some consider hedonism to be a form of moral relativism (see further below).

* Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism is the belief that the happiness of Humanity taken as a whole is the greatest good. The best known formulation of utilitarianism is "the greatest good for the greatest number". The ideal utilitarian world would be one where each and every person were perfectly happy; since that is not a real option, utilitarians aim to get as close to it as is possible in practice. Utilitarianism is the largest and most famous form of consequentialism - to such an extent that some people use the words "utilitarianism" and "consequentialism" as if they meant the same thing. Utilitarian ideas played a crucial role in the birth and development of modern democracy and are often the basis of what is called "common sense".

* Environmental ethics

Environmental ethics are based on the idea that the health of the biosphere is the greatest good. Thus, actions that promote ecological balance are good, and actions that disrupt this balance (e.g. polluting) are bad. Environmental ethics do not ignore the well-being of Humanity, because the human species itself is a part of the biosphere. Generally, environmental ethics are combined with a degree of utilitarianism, resulting in an ethical system that can be summed up as follows: "Actions that promote human happiness and ecological balance are good; actions that harm both humanity and the environment are evil; actions that benefit one and harm the other may be good or evil, depending on how much benefit comes at the expense of how much harm".

3. Divine command

Divine command is a special case of moral absolutism. It holds that good and evil are determined by God (or a number of gods) according to whim. Thus, good is that which is commanded by the divine, and evil is that which is prohibited by the divine. The reason why this is a special kind of moral absolutism is that God (or the gods) may command anything they desire to command; their commands may be deontological or consequentialist, or a combination thereof. There are as many different kinds of divine command ethics as there are religions on Earth. However, supporting divine command ethics is by no means required for religious belief. Many believers hold that either (a) God does not have whims, so he cannot or will not change moral standards, or (b) good and evil exist independent of God. G. W. Leibniz famously remarked: "So in saying things are not good by any rule of goodness, but sheerly by the will of God, it seems to me that one destroys, without realizing it, all the love of God and all His glory. For why praise Him for what He has done if He would be equally praiseworthy in doing exactly the contrary?"

MORAL RELATIVISM

Moral relativism is the belief that there are no absolute standards for good and evil, and that different standards apply in different places at different times. Typically, moral relativists follow a cultural theory of ethics: They hold that good and evil are inventions of human culture.

The fact that different cultures have different ethical standards is a well known fact. Moral absolutists say that some cultures have simply adopted wrong ethics. Moral relativists say that there are no such things as wrong ethics, and that the ethical system adopted by a certain culture is the correct one for people living in that culture. As a result, moral absolutism tends to be universalist, claiming that all humanity should use the same standards for good and evil, whereas moral relativism tends to be culturalist, arguing that different cultures should keep their different ethical standards even if some may seem abhorent or absurd to us.

MORAL NIHILISM

Moral nihilism is the belief that good and evil do not exist at all; that the concepts of "good" and "evil" are not only relative but outright meaningless.

As a result, moral nihilism is by definition incapable of making any moral judgements or any prescriptive statements. In other words, moral nihilists cannot say that anyone, including themselves, should do something. They can talk about the way the world is, but cannot talk about the way it should be. This is a very difficult ethical position to hold; there are many who consider themselves moral nihilists but contradict moral nihilism by saying that X or Y should or should not happen.

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Well, them I'm somwhere in between Moral Relativism and Moral Nihilsim.

As I've said a number of times on the forum, concepts of Good and Evil are too ... stiff to actually be able to be used. Not only they are relative regarding the long-term and short-term effects but you cannot say that one thing is ACTUALLY Good or Evil, as each action should be seen from the perspective of the one(s) that did it, and in the context that it happened in.

My vision is not to cathegorise things in Good and Evil, but to try to understand what and why happened. There is no pure Good and no pure Evil... these concepts are relative to us and the ones that received the same education as us. These concept change extremely fast, in a matter of minutes actually depending on the context.

I am against an offensive argumentation: "You should do this and shoudln't do this."

I like to state my opinion and, at the end, a piece of advice. No obligation involved.

P.S. if you want to play Good vs Evil eneter www.bluegecko.ro and play the Genesis game.

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Is this a curse? Everytime I post first in someone else's thread, it dies. The thread.

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I think that this could stand as a useful... what's the word... Er... Reference? No that's not it, but it'll have to do. A useful reference for later arguments. This way we aren't likely to get terms and meanings mixed up. Or aren't as likely.

I suppose this puts me somewhere between moral relativism and nihilism as well. And there was me thinking that I was just a relativist... Well, this isn't a thread for me to throw forth my own ideas (which I do enough anyway, I expect). It does make for interesting reading though, as well as reminding me of all the things that I'd forgotten from my old philosophy course (part of which was on morals).

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It wouldn't be me if I haven't given little critic on you  ;)  So primarily, are ethics just a way to prevent people from "doing evil", or vice-versa a way to create a motive to "do good"? Already on the dawn of european philosophy was ethics defined as its practical part, creation, not revision, of motives. Human isn't determined to act, he is free, and that's only fact you can permamently say about one. Ethics is an art of handling this freedom; not some weird forces of "good" and "bad" inside us. Such was ie manicheism, but there human isn't considered as "free", and thus it is irrelevant to speak about ethics there. First we need freedom to start ethics, and also any definition of good and evil.

Fatalism itself becomes an ethical principe as well when you freely accept it and then act by consequences of such view. If you think you are determined of accepting it, then you're no ethical subject.

From lack of this sole, but very important term of freedom are coming many your inaccuracies. What's the "specialty" in premises of divine ethics? Classification of ethics in various religions as "divine" is simply apophenic. Not that most philosophers (including Platon or Kant) defined God as "meaning" of ethics anyway. Harmonic relation between God/world/ideal order and human is a one way, while unity with an outworldly principe, one may say "freeing of the world" another - and these two different ethics exist in many religions parallely!

Another question: what about esthetics? Isn't "beauty", a term with many similarities with "good", also a possibility of being a motive of our acts? Or is there any difference between "good" and "beautiful"? Or what about discoursive ethics?

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Beauty as what? Beauty of piece of art, of a human, of a landscape?..

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Beauty as term, in any possible use, "idea" of it. A dawn of sun could be beautiful in same way as a noble soul, just by other means.

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I think that we call beautiful anything that makes us feel similar to being in love or close to it...

Anything that reminds us of happy moments, that has shapes that unconsciently we like ( sexually even), or that expresses ideas or ideologies we like is "beautiful".

You will call a sunset beautful because it puts you in a melancholic state.

You can like a scultpure, or a car or something because of it's shapes.

A car can also have two meanings: shapes that attract you or shapes that express something: power, swiftness.

Anything that pleases you is thereby beautiful.

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But why couldn't be activity beautiful as well? Then it is not about shapes.

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I said anything... so activity can be beautiful too. Hobbies for example.

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I think I just had a realization.

By the way, I'm a hard determinist, so I am, logically, nihilistic.

But this morning I made a realization about evil. 

According to most religion, God gave us free will.

Humans act as they do because they have free will.

Most evil sins come down to some impedment of free will; ie. murder, rape, theft.

So can evil be defined as the impedment or hinderance of the free will of whom such evil is applied?

  In other words, is evil control?

Well that makes one look at life drastically differently.  If evil is the search for control of others, then it's true, all politicians are evil.  I'm evil, and parents are, to some degree evil.

As someone really interested in the psychological perspective of behaviorism, I am engaging in one of the most moralistically evil ideals in the 20th century.

Fascinating!

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In other words, is evil control?

I think you overestimated control. I mean, you aren't evil if you drive/control a car, or if you control your children so that they don't grow up as killers, right? And expanding, then, must not God also be evil, since he in a way controls us? After all, did we get a choice to be born in this world in this time? Who said we wanted free will? Not because I'm complaining, but it is an example. God chose to give us free will. 

I think you are speaking of power. But power is also not just "one thing", but can be devided into different cathegories. If ten equal persons, all knowing and understanding "the world" (that is, they're adults) just as much as the other nine, suddenly gets controled and dictated by one of them (because he has a gun), then, that form of power is wrong. Why should this person wield power over the other nine? They're equal, therefore, wouldn't they be better off if they all cooperated? I see this as using power (and control) in a wrong way.

But, there can be good uses too. An average child can't think in logics the way we do. They can't experience every danger in order to stay away from it. Therefore, their parents or caretaker takes care of them and protects them against the dangerous things - like fire or sharp objects (like knives). 

Expanding it a little bit more: control over oneself.

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I wouldn't say "control", but "abuse". Your motive could be evil even if you fail to have any influence on your neighbor.

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I have a simple view of good and evil.

You would call me a nihilist.

I think that good or evil don't exist. If either should exist, then I'm afraid that'd be evil.

Every action taken is an attempt at gaining something. You may give something, in hope of gaining more later. Let's say I give you a present.

You'd think I gave you that present because I care about you, and I'd like to give a little of myself to show you that. But is that really the reason why I gave you the present? I think I gave you that present to feel better, and to strengthen our friendship. If I spend $10 on a present, and I gain a good feeling  in addition to a strengthened friendship, that's considered a gain to me. You may apply this to everything. Everything happens because you're selfish.

To you religious people... You ask for forgiveness for your sins because you don't want to go to hell, or because you want to feel better.

We could still think of good and evil, of course. Good would mean that your action leads to both a gain for you, and the other part involved. Thus, giving a present, is a good thing, because not only do you feel good, but the other part also fells good. Evil would be killing someone. Although you might feel good about it, somehow (you might be insane), the other part definately did not gain anything. It rather lost something precious; its life.

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In other words, is evil control?

"Control" is really too vague to have any meaning in this context. What kind of control are you talking about? You could use the word "control" to refer to a million different things, from a leader controlling a nation to your brain controlling your muscles.

You'd think I gave you that present because I care about you, and I'd like to give a little of myself to show you that. But is that really the reason why I gave you the present? I think I gave you that present to feel better, and to strengthen our friendship. If I spend $10 on a present, and I gain a good feeling  in addition to a strengthened friendship, that's considered a gain to me. You may apply this to everything. Everything happens because you're selfish.

That view is called psychological egoism, and it's a classic example of a logical fallacy. Psychological egoism tries to explain human behaviour as follows:

"Why do people do X? Because X makes them feel good. How do we know that X makes them feel good? Because they choose to do it. So why do they choose to do it? Because it makes them feel good..."

In other words, this is a clear example of circular logic. It boils down to "people do things because they do things".

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Very many things can be formulated as an example of circular logic. However, they don't have to be.

The answer to:

"Why do people do X?"

is not

"Because X makes them feel good."

in my eyes, as I formulated in my post.

I wrote that

Every action taken is an attempt at gaining something.

Something is not just feeling good. It may be anything. Investing an hour to work for your dad might be worth it, because he pays you $10, which is, to you, worth more than an hour of your time. Your dad, however, feels that an hour of your time is worth more than $10. A good deal. If your dad doesn't thing your time is worth the $10, he is probably thinking that your time, in addition to the increased friendship, would be worth more than $10.

The answer to:

"How do we know that X makes them feel good?"

is not

"Because they choose to do it."

if you ask me. "Because they choose to do it." doesn't mean that it makes them feel good. Sometimes we have to choose between two bad things, and we choose the least bad. In that case it makes them feel least bad. Also, to know that X makes someone feel good, we must either ask the person about it, or observe their expressions as they perform the action.

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Something is not just feeling good. It may be anything. Investing an hour to work for your dad might be worth it, because he pays you $10, which is, to you, worth more than an hour of your time. Your dad, however, feels that an hour of your time is worth more than $10. A good deal. If your dad doesn't thing your time is worth the $10, he is probably thinking that your time, in addition to the increased friendship, would be worth more than $10.

That doesn't change anything. Simply replace "feeling good" with "gaining something" in my above post, and the argument remains just as valid:

"Why do people do X? Because they think they will gain something from X. How do we know that they think they will gain something from X? Because they choose to do it. So why do they choose to do it? Because they think they will gain something..."

You said it yourself: You know that your dad thinks he will gain something because he chooses to offer you the deal. And he offers you the deal because he thinks he will gain something. It's still very much circular.

Sometimes we have to choose between two bad things, and we choose the least bad. In that case it makes them feel least bad.

That makes no difference to the argument... See above.

Also, to know that X makes someone feel good, we must either ask the person about it, or observe their expressions as they perform the action.

Exactly. You can't really know what a person thinks or feels, so you can't really know if doing something makes a person feel good (unless they say so or their expressions make it obvious). But if you can't know what makes a person feel good, how can you assume that people only do altruistic acts (that is, acts that give them no material reward) because they believe they will gain something? It is a fact of life that many people often do things that give them no material gain. So the only gain they could get is an immaterial "good feeling". But you have no way of knowing if they actually get this good feeling or not.

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The way you are presenting my idea is with circular logic.

It is only circular logic because you want it to be just that. I assume it's because you're not a fan of that way of thinking.

I can present it as non-circular.

"Why does a person do X?"

"Because that person thinks that he/she can gain something, or at least lose as little as possible doing just that."

"How do we know that they think they will gain something from doing X?"

"Because each human is, by nature, always in search of an increased amount of posessions, substantial or insubstantial. Thus we always know that a person deep down is in search of gaining something by doing X." The answer to this question is quite long, and I'd like to write a full one, but right now I'm in a hurry.

You see, I know my theory, as I've thought about it.

Not only does this theory apply to doing things, it also applies to not doing things... If you decide not to do something, it's because you feel that you either gain more or lose less by letting it be.

Cicrular logic can be created easily using the "Why - how" formula...

"Why do you believe in God?"

"Because you believe that the universe is so magnificent that it most likely has a creator."

"How do I know that you think the universe most likely has a creator?"

"Because you believe in God."

Wow, circular logic! :O It seems like it's wrong to believe in God because of the specified reason.

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Some things are causing themselves; by Platon it was so with idea of good, or by latter empiricists it was so with perception. Circullar logic, or tautology, isn't an argument; Wittgenstein, for example, considered it even necessary, if you wanted to prove a certain fact as true.

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"Why do people do X? Because X makes them feel good. How do we know that X makes them feel good? Because they choose to do it. So why do they choose to do it? Because it makes them feel good..."

What about this:

"Why do people do X? Because X makes them feel good. How do we know that X makes them feel good?..."

.. here is the answer:

- due you get a 'reward' for your actions in order to do so. Simple as that. There goes your circle... ;)

People only act for things they want to act, a certain reward is always in place. Like for me reacting to this post, the 'reward' is my curiosity to see your reaction upon this. In life everyting is circular, but this was just a bit too short sighted imo ;)

Good and Evil; personally i think those words are to 'loaded' by personal experience. I'd rather call it 'cause and effect'. Where some causes have positive results of certain groups of people, and for some negative results. To make it more practical, lets say:

- A criminal robs a bank. The criminal gets 100.000 bucks and the police is unable to catch him. What is good and evil? Evil would be 'the criminal robs th ebank'. That is because its from our point of view not appropiate to steal. However, since humans don't get born with genes "rob the bank", there has to be something going on to make this criminal rob that bank. Any 'reason' can be thought off: Bad childhood, desperation, etc, etc -> CAUSE. Rob bank -> EFFECT.

So what is good?

- Criminal has 'fixed' his problem somehow (for him its good)

Evil

- People get stolen, lose money , etc.

Note, its a simple example. But good/evil is just too vague and relies to much on a persons view on life. (lets talk about suicide bombers?... terrorists? etc)

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The way you are presenting my idea is with circular logic.

It is only circular logic because you want it to be just that. I assume it's because you're not a fan of that way of thinking.

I can present it as non-circular.

"Why does a person do X?"

"Because that person thinks that he/she can gain something, or at least lose as little as possible doing just that."

"How do we know that they think they will gain something from doing X?"

"Because each human is, by nature, always in search of an increased amount of posessions, substantial or insubstantial. Thus we always know that a person deep down is in search of gaining something by doing X."

It's still circular, except now you've made the circle so small that it consists of a single point.

What do I mean by that? Well, if you remember, you were trying to prove that people always act out of selfishness. And what is your argument? That "each human is, by nature, always in search of an increased amount of posessions, substantial or insubstantial". In other words, your argument is that each human is selfish. But that's just re-stating the thing you are trying to prove! Each human is selfish because each human is selfish. How do we know that? Well, we know they are selfish because we know they are selfish... ::)

This is pointless. Which is why I gave up on this topic back in January. But now I realized that our discussion was mostly off-topic anyway, and perhaps by posting here I will attract some attention and get a new discussion going about good and evil.

Cicrular logic can be created easily using the "Why - how" formula...

"Why do you believe in God?"

"Because you believe that the universe is so magnificent that it most likely has a creator."

"How do I know that you think the universe most likely has a creator?"

"Because you believe in God."

Wow, circular logic! :O It seems like it's wrong to believe in God because of the specified reason.

Yes, you are perfectly right. That IS circular, and it is a very bad argument.

What about this:

"Why do people do X? Because X makes them feel good. How do we know that X makes them feel good?..."

.. here is the answer:

- due you get a 'reward' for your actions in order to do so. Simple as that. There goes your circle... ;)

People only act for things they want to act, a certain reward is always in place. Like for me reacting to this post, the 'reward' is my curiosity to see your reaction upon this. In life everyting is circular, but this was just a bit too short sighted imo ;)

The point is that you do not always get a material reward for your actions, and immaterial rewards (like "good feelings") are impossible to measure. You cannot possibly know that all people get a "good feeling" out of everything they choose to do. In some cases it is quite impossible to get such a feeling, or any kind of reward. For example, what reward is expected by a soldier who jumps on a grenade to save the lives of his comrades? None - he'll be dead in a few seconds.

Good and Evil; personally i think those words are to 'loaded' by personal experience. I'd rather call it 'cause and effect'. Where some causes have positive results of certain groups of people, and for some negative results. To make it more practical, lets say:

- A criminal robs a bank. The criminal gets 100.000 bucks and the police is unable to catch him. What is good and evil? Evil would be 'the criminal robs th ebank'. That is because its from our point of view not appropiate to steal. However, since humans don't get born with genes "rob the bank", there has to be something going on to make this criminal rob that bank. Any 'reason' can be thought off: Bad childhood, desperation, etc, etc -> CAUSE. Rob bank -> EFFECT.

So what is good?

- Criminal has 'fixed' his problem somehow (for him its good)

Evil

- People get stolen, lose money , etc.

Note, its a simple example. But good/evil is just too vague and relies to much on a persons view on life. (lets talk about suicide bombers?... terrorists? etc)

"Positive" and "negative" are derivatives of good and evil. Something is positive if it is good, and negative if it is bad. The notions of good and evil are quite inescapable. You seem to be arguing for some form of moral relativism, coupled with a deterministic view of the universe (cause and effect). I'd like to point out that determinism does not exclude morality from the picture. Even when events are pre-determined, they can still be judged to be good or bad.

Also, your belief that good and evil are different for different people opens up a number of questions. What happens when people have conflicts? Take the example of the criminal you mentioned above. Do you believe he should be caught and convicted? If so, why? After all, what he did was not evil from his point of view. And if morality is relative, then the criminal's point of view is no more or less valid than yours or the police's.

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I for one, stand on the positions of linguistic relativism, and therefore moral relativism is my choice, I guess. However it should be noted that both sociocultural background and individual, personal characteristics (both physiological and phsycological) shape human behavior (this is the consequence of the dualism of human nature). I think that, to some extent, every adult human has their personal "code of honor" of sorts, although this fact may not be realized by the person themselves. This implies that everyone has a unique set of (strict) definitions of what is "good" and what is "evil"; without this "moral map", any kind of successful social interaction and behavior is hardly possible. As said above, the moral values are influenced by both sociocultural ("outer") and physiopersonal ("inner") factors for each individual, but the ultimate chioce of objects, actions and events to be morally evaluated is defined by the culture (and/or its subcultures) in which the individual exists.

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Yes, you are perfectly right.

My point, Edric... And just saying that my argument is very bad, is a very bad argument in itself, I think.

The point is that you do not always get a material reward for your actions, and immaterial rewards (like "good feelings") are impossible to measure. You cannot possibly know that all people get a "good feeling" out of everything they choose to do. In some cases it is quite impossible to get such a feeling, or any kind of reward. For example, what reward is expected by a soldier who jumps on a grenade to save the lives of his comrades? None - he'll be dead in a few seconds.

You make the assumption that we can't measure immaterial goods. If we can, your whole argument falls apart. You're on just as unsteady ground here as the opposition. I make the assumption that we can measure immaterial goods to a certain degree, and we sometimes fail. If I spend money on a gift to you, I have tried to weigh and measure the immaterial goods I will receive back, and found out that it compensates for the material loss.

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Is it true that the Bible describes that Satan was cast onto the earth, not down in hell? And if so, must that not mean that there is no hell?

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you mean Apocalypse 12,9? for it speaks about the days when the world falls, also as the meaning of the book has a future tense, you can't read it as "it is so"

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

also, the satan itself isn't a prerequisite of hell; for definitions of "hell" and "satan":

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. - 1st John, 3,15

O children of Adam! let not the Shaitan cause you to fall into affliction as he expelled your parents from the garden, pulling off from them both their clothing that he might show them their evil inclinations, he surely sees you, he as well as his host, from whence you cannot see them; surely We have made the Shaitans to be the guardians of those who do not believe. - Quran 7,27

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