Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Michael Shermer's book "The Science of Good and Evil"

I casually made the comment "the lessor of two evils" around a friend. He pressed me to define evil. I could not. So when I saw Michael Shermer's book, I was intrigued. Could the book help me to define what I mean when I use the word evil. Here are some of my notes: The Science of Good and Evil audio book is divided into three chapters. Chapter Two of audio book: Shermer gives examples on how it’s easier for people to hurt others if there is some distance. And he gives examples on how it’s easier for people to hurt others if the person is "just following orders". And thus we have leaders ordering others to cause harm. Both of them seem to escape internal culpability? Shermer throws around these phrases: Low ethical standards Morally corrupt And he also makes the assertion: “We all have the potential for extreme good and extreme evil.” He states that Roy Bommeister’s book “Evil" attempts to define evil. Shermer states that the myth of pure evil might actually increase violent acts. The myth of pure evil is the belief that evil exists separately from individuals or evil exists within people as something like an evil force driving them to perform an evil act. Shermer states that there is no evil force. Pure evil is just a myth. People choose to cause harm to others. Shermer throws out the hypothesis that it is the myth of "pure evil" that allows the perpetrator of wrong doing to excuse his own behavior. Evil is a description for a range of environmental events that we interpret as Bad Cruel Mean Violent etc Now I'm quoting from chapter 3: Morality involves right and wrong thoughts and behaviors in context of the rules of the social group. Ethics is the scientific study of and theories about moral thoughts and behaviors in the context of the rules of the social group. Thus we may define absolute morality as an inflexible set of rules for right and wrong thoughts and behavior derived from a social group's Canon of ethics.

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