Zeus

Good vs. Evil

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The battle of Good vs. Evil is mostly, fundamentally, and most importantly an internal phenomenon. Your main enemy -- and ally -- is the man in the mirror. The principal battlefield between life and death, health and sickness, strength and weakness, greatness and pettiness, pleasure and pain, happiness and misery is between your ears.

Your main job in life is to work hard and smart. You're mostly dealing with -- not your fellow man, but -- physical and mental reality: with somehow filling 24 hours a day, finding meaning and purpose, and expanding and improving yourself. Your principal enemies in all this are being lazy and ignorant, as well as being dishonest and cowardly. You also need to try to avoid irrationality at all costs.

Of course, work isn't everything. In the Game of Life, play and fantasy and rest are important too. These are valuable both for their own sake and pleasure, and to enhance and uplift your main and bedrock activity: working hard and smart. A balanced and diverse life, which contains all four crucial elements, certainly seems best and richest and the most fun.

Naturally, external living enemies can and do hurt you. This mainly includes tyrants, criminals, liars, and betrayers. But the worst enemy and focus of evil -- unless your social circumstances are truly extreme -- is always the low, slow, dull, weak, mediocre, inferior version of yourself. This ignoble, depraved, dark side of the Self is mostly what you have to strive to subdue, overmatch, and crush -- and on a generally continuous basis, no less.

Christianity claims that for you to be truly good, and see evil defeated inside of you, you have to be "born again." Nietzsche claims you have to overcome your aboriginal self and become a "superman." However you look at it, the ferocious and never-ending battle between good and evil is mainly that of repeatedly choosing and being your best possible self -- or at least immensely trying for this.

Shakespeare argues: "This above all: to thine own self be true." But it isn't easy or automatic. Aristotle calls such ethical behavior a matter of developing and maintaining good habits.

You seem to have to work hard and smart, to work hard and smart, if you want to be your best and truest self. Having Good triumph over Evil inside yourself is an unending challenge.

In the Game of Life -- as you work away, and struggle along -- you also have to be brave and honest. This mainly means openly, directly facing yourself -- including your weaknesses, failures, and diabolical inner demons. This mostly means not lying to yourself -- the greatest of sins, but the easiest error to slip into. Courageously confronting external enemies and being straight with your friends is certainly important -- but this isn't the essence of the virtues of bravery and honesty. You mostly have to fiercely, intransigently fight the ever-present internal enemy -- and work hard and smart in this regard too.

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The battle of Good vs. Evil is mostly, fundamentally, and most importantly an internal phenomenon. Your main enemy -- and ally -- is the man in the mirror. The principal battlefield between life and death, health and sickness, strength and weakness, greatness and pettiness, pleasure and pain, happiness and misery is between your ears.

Your main job in life is to work hard and smart. You're mostly dealing with -- not your fellow man, but -- physical and mental reality: with somehow filling 24 hours a day, finding meaning and purpose, and expanding and improving yourself. Your principal enemies in all this are being lazy and ignorant, as well as being dishonest and cowardly. You also need to try to avoid irrationality at all costs.

Of course, work isn't everything. In the Game of Life, play and fantasy and rest are important too. These are valuable both for their own sake and pleasure, and to enhance and uplift your main and bedrock activity: working hard and smart. A balanced and diverse life, which contains all four crucial elements, certainly seems best and richest and the most fun.

Naturally, external living enemies can and do hurt you. This mainly includes tyrants, criminals, liars, and betrayers. But the worst enemy and focus of evil -- unless your social circumstances are truly extreme -- is always the low, slow, dull, weak, mediocre, inferior version of yourself. This ignoble, depraved, dark side of the Self is mostly what you have to strive to subdue, overmatch, and crush -- and on a generally continuous basis, no less.

Christianity claims that for you to be truly good, and see evil defeated inside of you, you have to be "born again." Nietzsche claims you have to overcome your aboriginal self and become a "superman." However you look at it, the ferocious and never-ending battle between good and evil is mainly that of repeatedly choosing and being your best possible self -- or at least immensely trying for this.

Shakespeare argues: "This above all: to thine own self be true." But it isn't easy or automatic. Aristotle calls such ethical behavior a matter of developing and maintaining good habits.

You seem to have to work hard and smart, to work hard and smart, if you want to be your best and truest self. Having Good triumph over Evil inside yourself is an unending challenge.

In the Game of Life -- as you work away, and struggle along -- you also have to be brave and honest. This mainly means openly, directly facing yourself -- including your weaknesses, failures, and diabolical inner demons. This mostly means not lying to yourself -- the greatest of sins, but the easiest error to slip into. Courageously confronting external enemies and being straight with your friends is certainly important -- but this isn't the essence of the virtues of bravery and honesty. You mostly have to fiercely, intransigently fight the ever-present internal enemy -- and work hard and smart in this regard too.

I completely disagree with your characterization of what goes on in man's soul. My basic answer is "Speak for yourself." There is no battle between my ears between good and evil. Life is not a game. I don't experience any part of my life as "low, slow, dull, weak, mediocre, inferior version of" myself." I have no "ignoble, depraved, dark side of the Self" nor do I "strive to subdue, overmatch, and crush -- and on a generally continuous basis, no less" events in my life. I have no conflict with an "ever-present internal enemy."

I suggest you rid yourself of the Christian view of man's nature and look at reality and life with fresh eyes, untouched by evil.

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The battle of Good vs. Evil is mostly, fundamentally, and most importantly an internal phenomenon. Your main enemy -- and ally -- is the man in the mirror. The principal battlefield between life and death, health and sickness, strength and weakness, greatness and pettiness, pleasure and pain, happiness and misery is between your ears.

[...]

You seem to have to work hard and smart, to work hard and smart, if you want to be your best and truest self. Having Good triumph over Evil inside yourself is an unending challenge.

In the Game of Life -- as you work away, and struggle along -- you also have to be brave and honest. This mainly means openly, directly facing yourself -- including your weaknesses, failures, and diabolical inner demons.

[...]

This mostly means not lying to yourself -- the greatest of sins, but the easiest error to slip into. Courageously confronting external enemies and being straight with your friends is certainly important -- but this isn't the essence of the virtues of bravery and honesty. You mostly have to fiercely, intransigently fight the ever-present internal enemy -- and work hard and smart in this regard too.

I can't identify with this because I don't have any inner struggles, internal enemies, or diabolical inner demons at all. I have a clear idea of what is good and bad and why and, and how good the good is for me and how bad the bad is for me. As a result, doing the right thing is emotionally attractive and motivating and doing evil, self-destructive things doesn't interest me in the slightest.

I can see why philosophies that make the joys of life into sins would have a problem with temptation, but not Objectivism. Observe the sleazy sex magazines with titles like "Satan" and "Forbidden Desires" and the way some men guiltily buy and read them. Can you imagine someone sneaking into an adult magazine store to buy a magazine titled "Wesley Mouch?"

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I can't identify with this because I don't have any inner struggles, internal enemies, or diabolical inner demons at all. I have a clear idea of what is good and bad and why and, and how good the good is for me and how bad the bad is for me. As a result, doing the right thing is emotionally attractive and motivating and doing evil, self-destructive things doesn't interest me in the slightest.

Well put. This is the key that escapes so many. They regard being moral as an impediment to their desires. I would sooner trust a man who did not have a battle with his desires. For example, who would you trust, a man who is battling to fight his desire to steal, and has turned to religion for help, or the person who doesn't have the desire in the first place, and understands why he doesn't.

How much better this world would be, if people would only see that being moral was good for them. Then there would be no need for battles.

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I completely disagree with your characterization of what goes on in man's soul. My basic answer is "Speak for yourself." There is no battle between my ears between good and evil. Life is not a game. I don't experience any part of my life as "low, slow, dull, weak, mediocre, inferior version of" myself." I have no "ignoble, depraved, dark side of the Self" nor do I "strive to subdue, overmatch, and crush -- and on a generally continuous basis, no less" events in my life. I have no conflict with an "ever-present internal enemy."

I suggest you rid yourself of the Christian view of man's nature and look at reality and life with fresh eyes, untouched by evil.

I can't identify with this because I don't have any inner struggles, internal enemies, or diabolical inner demons at all. I have a clear idea of what is good and bad and why and, and how good the good is for me and how bad the bad is for me. As a result, doing the right thing is emotionally attractive and motivating and doing evil, self-destructive things doesn't interest me in the slightest.

I can see why philosophies that make the joys of life into sins would have a problem with temptation, but not Objectivism. Observe the sleazy sex magazines with titles like "Satan" and "Forbidden Desires" and the way some men guiltily buy and read them. Can you imagine someone sneaking into an adult magazine store to buy a magazine titled "Wesley Mouch?"

Firstly, I thank Paul's Here and Betsy Speicher for their views and analysis! :)

But is life for you -- even as educated and uplifted Objectivists -- really so smooth, sweet, friction-free, uncomplicated, and morally perfect? Mine isn't. Does evil only exist in the form of external enemies? That's not my experience. Do you really have no inner conflicts or psychological problems?

Maybe you two are very superior to me, morally and spiritually. All I can really say to that is god bless you.

But I don't think the classical Greco-Romans or Western Europe Enlightenment liberals would recognize your version of life. Certainly they wouldn't have seen the virtues of courage or honesty as being easy or automatic to practice. I hope that, at the least, you admit that the good life requires almost unstinting effort -- however enjoyable -- and this is never truly simple or guaranteed.

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Zeus,

If your primary point is that there are times (even multiple ones) when one must overcome an inner conflict and/or that it is often oneself that can be an obstacle to progress and happiness, then I agree. Certainly people have to overcome psychological issues, and it isn't always easy.

This being said, your introductory post suggests that you believe man's nature to be conflicted; that conflict between opposing sides of man's nature is his metaphysically given state. I disagree with this strongly.

You are right that many hold this view. Freud was one of the primary promoters of this idea in psychology. There's only one problem: they are wrong.

Of course psychological issues or problems arise for many people, but it is not because man's nature dictates that this must be so. If that were the case, then such things as psychotherapy would not be effective, nor would there be any reason to engage in the kind of battle against the "dark side" of oneself that you suggest. You couldn't win, as you would be determined to fail.

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But the worst enemy and focus of evil -- unless your social circumstances are truly extreme -- is always the low, slow, dull, weak, mediocre, inferior version of yourself. This ignoble, depraved, dark side of the Self is mostly what you have to strive to subdue, overmatch, and crush -- and on a generally continuous basis, no less.

This is a formula for psychological disaster. I would never tell a client that he must continuously "subdue, overmatch, and crush" some part of himself. That is the worst counsel one could give another, not only because it wouldn't work, but also because it would create or reinforce a significant psychological problem.

Overcoming psychological problems is about integrating, not crushing, different aspects of oneself, i.e., one's consciousness. Telling someone to crush the weak or dark side of himself is the same as telling him he will gain self-love via self-hatred.

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I completely disagree with your characterization of what goes on in man's soul. My basic answer is "Speak for yourself." There is no battle between my ears between good and evil. Life is not a game. I don't experience any part of my life as "low, slow, dull, weak, mediocre, inferior version of" myself." I have no "ignoble, depraved, dark side of the Self" nor do I "strive to subdue, overmatch, and crush -- and on a generally continuous basis, no less" events in my life. I have no conflict with an "ever-present internal enemy."

I suggest you rid yourself of the Christian view of man's nature and look at reality and life with fresh eyes, untouched by evil.

I can't identify with this because I don't have any inner struggles, internal enemies, or diabolical inner demons at all. I have a clear idea of what is good and bad and why and, and how good the good is for me and how bad the bad is for me. As a result, doing the right thing is emotionally attractive and motivating and doing evil, self-destructive things doesn't interest me in the slightest.

I can see why philosophies that make the joys of life into sins would have a problem with temptation, but not Objectivism. Observe the sleazy sex magazines with titles like "Satan" and "Forbidden Desires" and the way some men guiltily buy and read them. Can you imagine someone sneaking into an adult magazine store to buy a magazine titled "Wesley Mouch?"

Firstly, I thank Paul's Here and Betsy Speicher for their views and analysis! :)

But is life for you -- even as educated and uplifted Objectivists -- really so smooth, sweet, friction-free, uncomplicated, and morally perfect? Mine isn't. Does evil only exist in the form of external enemies? That's not my experience. Do you really have no inner conflicts or psychological problems?

You are misinterpreting what is meant by good vs. evil. Having a complicated life, inner conflicts, or psychological problems does not mean there is evil in one's life. Many of life's problems arise because of a lack of knowledge or an error of knowledge. Morality applies to volitional choices not to errors of knowledge. One does not judge man by the standard of god: omniscience or omnipotence.

Maybe you two are very superior to me, morally and spiritually. All I can really say to that is god bless you.

But I don't think the classical Greco-Romans or Western Europe Enlightenment liberals would recognize your version of life. Certainly they wouldn't have seen the virtues of courage or honesty as being easy or automatic to practice. I hope that, at the least, you admit that the good life requires almost unstinting effort -- however enjoyable -- and this is never truly simple or guaranteed.

If you've read anything about Objectivism, you'd know that you what you state here is not a correct view of morality. Nothing you have stated here is implied in anything I've stated. You are substituting your interpretation of morality for morality as such. You need to recognize that there are alternatives to your view of morality.

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But is life for you -- even as educated and uplifted Objectivists -- really so smooth, sweet, friction-free, uncomplicated, and morally perfect?

For the most part, yes!

Do you really have no inner conflicts or psychological problems?

I have conflicts, but they are not good vs. evil conflicts since I only want the good and have no use for evil. I have constant good vs. good conflicts because, with only so much energy and only 24 hours in a day, there is no way I could possibly have all the good things I want. I constantly have to evaluate, set priorities, and make choices among all the wonderful values life offers me, and sometimes that is not easy at all. I accept that fact as a challenge of living and do the best I can.

But I don't think the classical Greco-Romans or Western Europe Enlightenment liberals would recognize your version of life.

They didn't have Ayn Rand to guide the way.

I hope that, at the least, you admit that the good life requires almost unstinting effort -- however enjoyable -- and this is never truly simple or guaranteed.

Quite true, but considering the enormous payoff, it is a challenge worth meeting.

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Ah, so you're a head-shrinker are you now, Scott A.? Thanks for the warning!

(Just kidding. :) )

...your introductory post suggests that you believe man's nature to be conflicted; that conflict between opposing sides of man's nature is his metaphysically given state. I disagree with this strongly.

You are right that many hold this view. Freud was one of the primary promoters of this idea in psychology. There's only one problem: they are wrong.

Well, I think the vast majority of mankind holds this view. Of course that doesn't necessarily make it right. Especially if Freud (ugh!) said so.

I guess in my own mind I usually see that stereotypical image of a tiny cartoon devil on one shoulder, and an angelic one on the other. I also rather think of, yes, Darth Vader and his conversion to "the dark side." There are other images in pop culture too. Probably this has an insidious effect on me (and others, even other Objectivists).

Of course psychological issues or problems arise for many people, but it is not because man's nature dictates that this must be so. If that were the case, then such things as psychotherapy would not be effective, nor would there be any reason to engage in the kind of battle against the "dark side" of oneself that you suggest. You couldn't win, as you would be determined to fail.

I certainly don't agree with Freudianism, especially his superego vs. id metaphor. Nor do I think the bad side of the mass-man, the uplifted intellectual, nor myself is destined to win. Indeed, I almost always think and find Good stronger than Evil.

Thanks for your professional views, Scott A., and let me think about some of this!

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But the worst enemy and focus of evil -- unless your social circumstances are truly extreme -- is always the low, slow, dull, weak, mediocre, inferior version of yourself. This ignoble, depraved, dark side of the Self is mostly what you have to strive to subdue, overmatch, and crush -- and on a generally continuous basis, no less.

This is a formula for psychological disaster. I would never tell a client that he must continuously "subdue, overmatch, and crush" some part of himself. That is the worst counsel one could give another, not only because it wouldn't work, but also because it would create or reinforce a significant psychological problem.

Overcoming psychological problems is about integrating, not crushing, different aspects of oneself, i.e., one's consciousness. Telling someone to crush the weak or dark side of himself is the same as telling him he will gain self-love via self-hatred.

Well, I think laziness, lack of resolution/determination, and (especially) inadequate self-discipline is always an issue in the on-going Good vs. Evil battle royal. I'm basically surprised if anyone disagrees with this -- although I now suspect most 4AynRandFanners, including yourself, probably do.

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You are misinterpreting what is meant by good vs. evil. Having a complicated life, inner conflicts, or psychological problems does not mean there is evil in one's life. Many of life's problems arise because of a lack of knowledge or an error of knowledge. Morality applies to volitional choices not to errors of knowledge.

Does that mean one can never choose evil? That sounds like a strong violation/denial of free will.

Socrates evidently said no one ever willingly or freely or of his own volition chooses Evil in a given situation. I disagree. Socrates said morality was all about education, and that once you really and truly were well-informed enough to know Good from Evil in any given ethical quandary or crucial situation, then the individual would always choose Good. This seems quite untrue and unrealistic to me.

I'd be interested to hear your views (or anyone else's) on this classical ethical problem, Paul's Here. I don't seem to know what the standard Objectivist position is on this.

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...

I mostly agree with Post 9, and thanks for your reply! :)

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Does that mean one can never choose evil? That sounds like a strong violation/denial of free will.

Socrates evidently said no one ever willingly or freely or of his own volition chooses Evil in a given situation. I disagree. Socrates said morality was all about education, and that once you really and truly were well-informed enough to know Good from Evil in any given ethical quandary or crucial situation, then the individual would always choose Good. This seems quite untrue and unrealistic to me.

I think Socrates was a very positive influence on the history philosophy, since he attempted to use reason to understand the universe in a time when people were still accepting arbitrary religious dogma. In fact that's why he was put to death, for "corrupting" the youth by turning them away from the gods. However, that doesn't change the fact that he was wrong and this is one example of how he was wrong. "The Good" is not some thing out there that we can learn to recognize and pursue; it is not some quality of the universe we observe. Rather the good is that which is good for man's existence, and as such it always has a specific context. There is no intrinsic good. Water is good for man to drink, but not for him to drown in. Fire is good to cook man's food, but not to burn him. There is no floating "good" that, once understood, will allow you to automatically determine what the good is. Instead it is a value that depends on a choice (to live) and can be pursued only by making rational judgments based on the evidence of our senses.

The good is context-dependent, and since we aren't omniscient that means at any given time we have a limited amount of evidence to help us decide what "the right thing" is. This in turn means that we are not infallable even when we are perfectly rational. So in that since, even a perfectly moral life can contain difficult choices. That does not translate, however, into a conflict between a little devil on your left shoulder and a little angel on the right. Actually it would be more like two angels respectfully disagreeing with each other. :)

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Well, I think laziness, lack of resolution/determination, and (especially) inadequate self-discipline is always an issue in the on-going Good vs. Evil battle royal.

If this is the case, consider the possibility that you might be trying to do something your really don't want to do because it is something you are not really convinced is in your self-interest.

Observe how a very moral creative genius is unable to act in a similar situation:

Rearden pressed his forehead to the mirror and tried not to think.

That was the only way he could go through with it, he told himself. He concentrated on the relief of the mirror's cooling touch, wondering how one went about forcing one's mind into blankness, particularly after a lifetime lived on the axiom that the constant, clearest, most ruthless function of his rational faculty was his foremost duty. He wondered why no effort had ever seemed beyond his capacity, yet now he could not scrape up the strength to stick a few black pearl studs into his starched white shirt front.

This was his wedding anniversary and he had known for three months that the party-would take place tonight, as Lillian wished.

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But is life for you -- even as educated and uplifted Objectivists -- really so smooth, sweet, friction-free, uncomplicated, and morally perfect? Mine isn't. Does evil only exist in the form of external enemies? That's not my experience. Do you really have no inner conflicts or psychological problems?

Maybe you two are very superior to me, morally and spiritually. All I can really say to that is god bless you.

But I don't think the classical Greco-Romans or Western Europe Enlightenment liberals would recognize your version of life. Certainly they wouldn't have seen the virtues of courage or honesty as being easy or automatic to practice. I hope that, at the least, you admit that the good life requires almost unstinting effort -- however enjoyable -- and this is never truly simple or guaranteed.

People like Betsy and Paul have been living for quite some time, and thus have had years and years to develop proper habits, leading to a good life. The Graeco-Romans and the men of Renaissance/Enlightenment Europe definitely would have recognized this. When Aristotle, in his Ethica Nichomachea, wrote about the necessity to develop moral habits, he was speaking to those who were first trying to develop a proper moral code: young people and older people trying to improve themselves. Thus yes, at first there is a struggle. But this struggle is not forever; once the actions become habits, the good life is attained because the good life is available here on earth! The Greeks, and especially the Romans, knew that the good life was not unattainable or distant, but was something that everybody could have because the Greeks and Romans did not believe in Original Sin or in a Fallen Nature.

It comes as no shock at all when someone with such an impressive moral stature as Betsy states that she does not feel this conflict; the battle was won years and years ago. Betsy has reached the good and happy life by developing her moral actions into habits, to where now, living well is seemingly natural to her and conflict is almost non-existent! This life can be achieved by you, as well, because the conflict is only a temporary/intermediate state :).

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Well, I think laziness, lack of resolution/determination, and (especially) inadequate self-discipline is always an issue in the on-going Good vs. Evil battle royal.

If this is the case, consider the possibility that you might be trying to do something your really don't want to do because it is something you are not really convinced is in your self-interest....

I've been following this thread, and I was about to chime in with "but what about laziness?" I have a real problem with laziness, and I think you've made a valuable point here, Betsy -- you're a wise woman! But, we can't use your comment as an excuse; we still have the task of finding something we can get ourselves motivated to do!

Betsy, the way you stepped outside of the issue to look at it from a different angle reminds me of a problem my son had a couple of years ago. He just wouldn't finish his little math worksheets! His regular teacher just didn't know what to do with him. I had a conference with his "gifted program" teacher, and her first comment was, "Well, does he need to be doing those worksheets?"

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Socrates evidently said no one ever willingly or freely or of his own volition chooses Evil in a given situation. I disagree. Socrates said morality was all about education, and that once you really and truly were well-informed enough to know Good from Evil in any given ethical quandary or crucial situation, then the individual would always choose Good. This seems quite untrue and unrealistic to me.

I'd be interested to hear your views (or anyone else's) on this classical ethical problem, Paul's Here. I don't seem to know what the standard Objectivist position is on this.

Plato, via Socrates, believed that knowledge dictated action. So for him, what is most important is to know what something is, ie. to be able to have a (Socratic) definition of a virtue, and thus from having a definition, the proper action would follow. So, when an individual is able to properly define what Good is, Good will reside within him, making him unable to do anything else.

However, this gets much more intricate when you delve more deeply into Platonic Psychology. For having a knowledge of the Good is similar to being a mechanic, where the Good is an automobile as a whole. Thus it is impossible to have a knowledge of the Good without having a knowledge of all of the parts which constitute the Good. This is where Plato's concept of the Tripartite Soul comes into play (if you are interested, I wrote extensively on the Tripartite Soul here). It is only when one has the virtue of Temperance (all parts of the soul acting properly and in harmony) that the Soul, combined with a knowledge of the Good, allows an individual to act accordingly.

Aristotle, and similarly Objectivism, rejects this because neither believe in a world of Forms and in the related epistemology. Aristotle said that for one to live the Good life, one must act accordingly by developing the proper habits conducive to a good life. Most importantly, this process is not a deductive process via the world of Forms, but is an inductive process from the world of reality. To observe reality, one must "Gnothi S'auton", or "Know Thyself". This means one must introspect and understand who you are as an individual, what it means to be a human, and how you should properly act in order to be true to a human's nature. Philosophy is only a guide-it cannot do this for you because, unlike Plato's false belief, knowledge does NOT dictate proper corresponding action...or even proper understanding. Proper knowledge comes from living and experiencing life, and as such, philosophy acts as a guide to interpret the world around you and to, from properly understanding the experiences you and (through history) others have gone through, properly project how you ought to act in the future. Repetition of this process leads to the development of proper habits, thus endowing within the individual a proper framework correlative to the good life.

This brings up the question, then, on what really is evil. The Greek word for evil is "hamartano", which originally meant "to miss the mark" (though later on, the Christians took this word and used it to mean sin). The Greeks and the Romans did not actually believe in a metaphysical evil-Satan, Demons, and a 'Fallen Nature' did not exist to them. To commit hamartano was simply to "slip up" on one's path to moral perfection. If a child who is learning how to ride a bike falls off the bike, you do not chide him for being evil! Rather, you understand that the child should get back on the bike, learn from the mistake, and will eventually become a master of bike riding. Similarly, an individual who attempts to become moral might slip up here and there, but these slip ups are not evil. Rather, they are just "missing the mark"-aiming at the bull’s-eye but landing two inches away. The verdict? Try again! Eventually the individual will reach such a state that to hit the bull’s-eye is natural, just as is riding a bike to many people.

There is another type of evil, though, and the Greeks and the Romans were well aware of this. This evil was to volitionally act contrary to one's nature. They called this barbarism and did not view such individuals as human (for really, they are not). Barbarians who lived within the borders of civilization were allowed to wallow in their own misery until they committed a crime, in which case they were imprisoned and, if the crime were serious enough, executed. Barbarians who lived outside the borders of civilization were also generally ignored unless they encroached upon the borders, in which case they were dealt with as one would deal with a nest of wasps. When the barbaric Iberians began attacking Roman allies in Spain, the Romans responded by conquering all of Spain, executing the leaders, and forcing peace upon the region by strict military rule. When the time came that these barbarians were willing to accept civilization and began to act accordingly, they were incorporated into the Roman state as citizens with rights protected by law.

Ultimately, the Classical world viewed morality in two parts: volition and habits. Those who made the choice to act in accordance with nature were civilized, and thus their journey towards the good life was reinforced by habits until they reached the point that the good life was seemingly natural. Those who made the choice to act contrary to nature were barbarians, and thus their journey to satiate their barbaric needs instilled habits within them that could only be met with proper correlative force.

In the Classical world, Plato was ignored. His view on how to live ethically was not taken seriously until around 250-300 A.D. ...almost 1000 years later! For most of the Classical world, it was the ethical system of Aristotle and the Stoics (such as Seneca, who had very similar views to Aristotle) that guided these men to act in such a way that, 2000 years later, we still live under their shadow.

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Ah, so you're a head-shrinker are you now, Scott A.? Thanks for the warning!

(Just kidding. :) )

Well, I consider myself a head-expander. I help people see things they didn't before, and to integrate their minds. That results in an expansion of consciousness, not a shrinking of one.

Zeus, you seem to have a decent sense of humor, which is typically a very positive sign. I truly hope this will aid you as you tackle these various issues.

I guess in my own mind I usually see that stereotypical image of a tiny cartoon devil on one shoulder, and an angelic one on the other. I also rather think of, yes, Darth Vader and his conversion to "the dark side." There are other images in pop culture too. Probably this has an insidious effect on me (and others, even other Objectivists).

It very well may have an insidious effect on you, and maybe this is something to look at more closely.

I certainly don't agree with Freudianism, especially his superego vs. id metaphor. Nor do I think the bad side of the mass-man, the uplifted intellectual, nor myself is destined to win. Indeed, I almost always think and find Good stronger than Evil.

I'm not sure I understand what you wrote here. I don't know what a "mass-man" is. Also, you indicate that you find good stronger than evil, but do not see yourself as destined to win (if I understood the above correctly). I don't know you and have no idea if you are primarily good or evil. But you seem intelligent, willing to put your views out there, and open to feedback. That's a good place to start.

Thanks for your professional views, Scott A., and let me think about some of this!

I hope you do.

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Well, I think laziness, lack of resolution/determination, and (especially) inadequate self-discipline is always an issue in the on-going Good vs. Evil battle royal. I'm basically surprised if anyone disagrees with this -- although I now suspect most 4AynRandFanners, including yourself, probably do.

Since there are well over 1,000 members on THE FORUM, it would be very difficult to say what everyone agrees or disagrees with. For myself, I would point out that the issues you note above can very easily and understandably be placed in the realm of psychology, not morality. There are all kinds of psychological reasons why one has trouble doing things he allegedly wants to, having low levels of resolution or determination, and inadequate self-discipline.

By placing these issues strictly in the realm of morality, one has cut off a very important area of inquiry, namely, psychology. Assuming, even insisting, that these are moral issues will never allow one to examine what is actually behind them. One will simply conclude: I am immoral and will never succeed (and don't deserve to). Indeed, that will be the result of such thinking.

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You are misinterpreting what is meant by good vs. evil. Having a complicated life, inner conflicts, or psychological problems does not mean there is evil in one's life. Many of life's problems arise because of a lack of knowledge or an error of knowledge. Morality applies to volitional choices not to errors of knowledge.

Does that mean one can never choose evil? That sounds like a strong violation/denial of free will.

Of course not. Choosing to do evil is important in moral judgment. But none of your previous statements indicated what was evil or why you considered it evil. You simply posited an inner conflict in man, and asserted that the conflict as such was between good and evil. The mere presence of a conflict indicates nothing about the moral nature of the things in the conflict. A conflict, to me, simply implies that a decision has not yet been made. Whether the decision is good or evil depends upon other factors. Perhaps you can give some specific examples as to what you consider "good vs. evil" conflicts.

Socrates evidently said no one ever willingly or freely or of his own volition chooses Evil in a given situation. I disagree. Socrates said morality was all about education, and that once you really and truly were well-informed enough to know Good from Evil in any given ethical quandary or crucial situation, then the individual would always choose Good. This seems quite untrue and unrealistic to me.

I would have to agree with Socrates in a certain sense. According to Objectivism, the only evil is the "choice not to think" to evade reality, the choice not to elevate one's level of awareness when the situation requires it. Thus, evasion is the primary evil. If a person is in full focus and if he has full knowledge of the consequences of his actions, he would not take the evil action unless he evades the issues and his knowledge.

I'd be interested to hear your views (or anyone else's) on this classical ethical problem, Paul's Here. I don't seem to know what the standard Objectivist position is on this.

I'm giving you my understanding of Objectivism on the issue you've raised, so please don't interpret my statements to be "the standard Objectivist position."

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