[This series is part of Section Four, Ethics and the Third Person. An index with links to all parts of the work as they are posted can be found [url=https://forum.evangelicaluniversalist.com/t/sword-to-the-heart-ethics-and-the-third-person/1335/1]here.]
[This series starts Chapter 41, “The Consequences of Sin”.]
In the previous chapter, I began to discuss the concept of evil–not in the abstract, nor for potential special-cases (such as particular individuals who may honestly not recognize any responsibility they have to actual reality)–but in the most concrete and personal way I could find.
I began examining the concept of evil, by examining myself.
The person who thinks ethics are something we humans have created, says that good and evil are what we personally define them to be. I have noticed that such a person rarely, if ever, admits, “What I have done is evil”. Usually, the gist of this sort of person is that we define ‘good’ as whatever we ourselves want to do, and ‘evil’ as whatever someone else wants to do (or wants us to do) that threatens our desires. Or he may perhaps say, “Very well, I agree that what I have done is ‘evil’, taking the average of human opinion into account. Nevertheless, it is what I wanted to do. I may be sorry I got caught, but if I could do it without getting caught (and especially punished) I would. I don’t consider it to be something I should not have been doing.”
(A more objectivistic secular ethicist wouldn’t go this route, I think, but would recognize instead that the violation of coherently fulfilling interpersonal relationships would be objectively evil in some sense–including when they themselves do it. I discussed this, including with important critiques, back in Chapter 36.)
On the other hand, the person who thinks ethics are our irrational responses to our environments (natural, social, whatever), will say that our understanding of what is ‘evil’ is merely an irrational response that we happen to be suffering at the moment–qualitatively similar to having a headache. Such a person may find herself saying, “What I have done is evil”; but (if she sticks to her theory) she will probably eventually tell herself, “All that happened was that I reacted to the herd instinct, or to the parental instinct, or something of that sort.” She will probably figure that if she can get a good night’s rest, the feeling (being only a ‘feeling’) that she has done something wrong will go away by morning; and if not, then she may need to see a doctor.