Evil, in a general context, is the absence or opposite of that which is described as being good. Often, evil is used to denote profound immorality. Definitions of evil vary, as does the analysis of its motives. However, elements that are commonly associated with evil involve unbalanced behavior involving expediency, selfishness, ignorance, or neglect.
Evil is both an adjective and a noun. The adjective "evil" is considered a stronger word than "bad" or "wrong". A synonym to evil is wicked. A person who does evil is called an evildoer. An evil character in a story, usually an antagonist, is called a villain.
Views on the nature of evil tend to fall into one of four opposed camps:
- Moral absolutism holds that good and evil are fixed concepts established by a deity or deities, nature, morality, common sense, or some other source.
- Amoralism claims that good and evil are meaningless, that there is no moral ingredient in nature.
- Moral relativism holds that standards of good and evil are only products of local culture, custom, or prejudice.
- Moral universalism is the attempt to find a compromise between the absolutist sense of morality, and the relativist view; universalism claims that morality is only flexible to a degree, and that what is truly good or evil can be determined by examining what is commonly considered to be evil amongst all humans.
In certain religious contexts, evil has been described as a supernatural force. In Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the Satan or devil, in opposition to the will of God, represents evil, and committing evil acts is called sinning.
The concept of evil in societyEdit
One school of thought that holds that no person is evil, and that only acts may be properly considered evil. According to psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, when we label someone as bad or evil, it invokes the desire to punish or inflict pain. It also makes it easy for us to turn off our feelings towards the person we are harming, such that even killing or torture without feeling guilty become possible. He links the concept of evil to our judicial system, which seeks to create justice via punishment—punitive justice.
The concept of punishment is based in its root on the concept of evil. All punishment, including corporal punishment of minors in the home, at school, or by law enforcement, is assuming the existence of something of evil that needs to be fought, hoping that the painful countermeasures taken will have a positive effect on the delinquent and on society as a whole, reducing the reappearance of the evil. An opposite school of thought considers the concept of punishment itself, and/or especially corporal punishment, wrong and dangerous. See also pro-spanking and anti-spanking.
Generally speaking, the greater the belief in evil is in a society, the greater the measures taken against it tend to become. Consequences can be, for example, harsh sentences in shariah law in the intent to install greater morality and submission to God in Muslim nations, but also western "law and order" criminal justice systems that are "tough on crime", with "zero tolerance" policy punishments and programs such as the "War on Drugs" in the United States, leading to the highest per-capita imprisonment in the world. In 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush coined the term "axis of evil" to label certain countries as enemies of the United States, a political course resulting in things like torture in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
- The Bad Seed (film about a girl who looks angelic and innocent, but is evil at its worst)
- Evil on Wikipedia
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