Notes on evil

Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Any language will have a sense of “knowledge” that means “experience” – e.g. the English “getting to know something”. It’s hard to see how such a sense of the term could be avoidable.

-Why not understand the description of the tree formally? From then on, you know good and evil as though these form a single object. Everything good is experienced together with evil since any desirable thing (say, an attractive naked body) is experienced not just as desirable but as able to overwhelm reason. “Sinful” henceforth can enter into advertising campaigns as meaning “attractive”. The same object is an occasion for virtue and excess. This seems to be exactly how we experience things.

-I tried for a few days to actually experience myself doing evils. It’s tricky to do this since, in doing them, you’re trying to think about something else.

-Socrates was right that one can’t tend to evil as undesirable, and therefore can’t tend to it knowingly. But the lack of knowledge is not ignorance but thoughtlessness.

-There is one way of trying not to think about something that is impossible – try not to think about a white bear. But trying not to think about what we know should be done is not like this at all. Known goods can be effortlessly submerged in the pre-conscious.

-Discussions of evil are all prone to a distorting reification of evil, as though it were an object in plain consciousness. It may be from a third person perspective, but from the perspective of the one actually doing the evil it is always outside the conscious field. It’s the same with nature – the intending to some good has to consume other things.

-Natural evils involve no fault. The non-cognizance of what is destroyed is not a deficiency in its action.

-But isn’t it some sort of fault for the continued existence of a virus to come at the expense of a child, or even an animal?  Nature is non-cognizant of individuals and peculiar circumstances. This is the most striking sense in which forces and natural actions are blind.

-The blindness of nature might be another sense of the knowledge of good and evil. In losing God’s special custody we enter the world where the sources of action – nature – are blind to the individuals involved.


1 Comment

  1. May 12, 2014 at 7:18 am

    “But the lack of knowledge is not ignorance but thoughtlessness.”

    Well, I am not wholly sure if I understood this well but – why to immediately switch the causes of the lack of knowledge from intellectual to the moral ones?

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