“Wisdom we know is the knowledge of good and evil, not the strength to choose between the two”
– John Cheever.
You see so many conflicting opinions everywhere. Everyone fighting for what they believe in, but who’s right? We are humans. Humans seem to believe that if the good outweighs the bad, then they must be good. Are we actually good?
Humans are social animals, we display strong emotions. Many times these emotions take priority in situations and cause actions to be taken which are otherwise disparaged. The doer – from his point of view, took the right decision, but in the eyes of the affected, it was a crime.
The famous dialogue from the Imitation Game reflects this point to the fullest. Alan Turing created the Enigma which cracked the German secret code. The message sent through the code was an instruction to the German submarine to destroy an American ship carrying goods and people. Turing could have warned the captain of the ship and saved their lives, but if he did, there was a good chance that the Germans would feel suspicious and change the code for their secret message transfer. He let the ship get destroyed and planned to only save heavy load ships, to reduce the loss to the government. He ends the scene by saying – “Am I good, or am I evil? Doesn’t matter… their lives are in my hand now.” ‘
The idea of good and evil is just a social construct, but it is humans who give life and meaning to it, based on societal judgements and rules, for how an ideal world would look like, which are also constructs.
“Do you know why people like violence? It is because it feels good. Humans find violence deeply satisfying. But remove the satisfaction, and the act becomes… hollow.” – Alan Turing (in the Imitation Game)
Revenge is an action which causes people to act blindly and without much reason. It can be defined as the act of taking vengeance for injuries or wrongs.
Revenge is a very confusing term, because both the doer and the victim, feel that their actions are justified. How can this be possible if there is a singular meaning to good and evil?
“Inside each of us, there is a seed of both good and evil. It’s a constant struggle as to which one will win. And one cannot coexist without the other”
The reality is that good and evil are in fact abstract truth. They are just ideas, but it’s us who give them real meaning. The below case study reveals a new dimension, to good and evil.
John Locke and Thomas Hobbes were two people that had opposing views on this subject. They are seen as the fathers of modern political science because their views on man being inherently good or evil were discussed in regard to should there be a monarchy (Hobbes) or a democracy (Locke).
Hobbes believed that humans are innately selfish and without the rule of a common master, life would be chaos. Men are wicked, selfish, cruel and would act on behalf of their best interests. He believed that we are inherently evil. We always look out for ourselves. Hobbes believed that the purpose of government was to keep the law and set standards for people.
Locke believed that we are social animals and know what is right and wrong. Not all men have bad inside of them, if we have moral principles then we can have peace. He believed that the purpose of government was to protect individual liberties and rights. He believed mankind could be trusted to govern themselves because we can make the right decisions.
These two very different stands on good and evil show that the idea is an abstract one. Its personal understanding based on the way that the world has shaped us. In conclusion, the truth about good and evil is that they are very much an abstract idea, as the idea depends on whom you ask. However, it’s how the society has shaped up, and how mankind has evolved its thinking, that gives real-life meaning to those terms.
“Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We must encourage people to move towards what they think is good… Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.” – Pope Francis.