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The Philosophy and Science Behind Evil

Author Wynter seeks to find accommodating answers to psychosocial stressors by doing extensive research and interviewing therapists.

“Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky –


The Concept of Evil.

The world is filled with different concepts, some are harder to explain than others, and some are harder to define because it is not all about words that define a concept but a perspective that changes subjectively from one person to another, it is the society which defines what values and morals are appropriate and what is not, whenever we hear the word evil we think of the characters which we villainize based on their actions, Figuring out what evil is, an individual would require a sense of what "Good" is to contrast between the two, what is right? And what drives our behavior is the real question.

The Philosophy of Evil.

The forms of evil are widely broadened, and when the concept of evil is brought up some words pop into our heads, words like anger, hatred, destruction, and much more, such as selfishness, ignorance, and expediency. Philosophers tried to understand and respond to various atrocities and horrors and analyze them, according to philosophy, there are two main concepts of evil, a broad and a narrow one; The 'broad concept' picks out any bad state of occurrences, while the 'narrow concept' of evil picks out only the most morally despicable sorts of actions, the concept of evil is often associated with the paradigms of evil within fiction as stated by evil-skeptics, and according to them we should not use the word evil outside the fictional context if we do not reference them to dark force because otherwise it would lack explanatory power and would be useless as a concept. It is believed that the idea of evil is often employed when we lack a complete explanation for why an incomprehensible action was performed, nevertheless, saying that an event is a mystery is not a good explanation of an event after all. Nietzsche believed that the concept of evil is dangerous because it harms human potential by encouraging the weakness in spirit and suppressing its strength, he believes that the concepts of good and evil contribute to an unhealthy view of life, and he argued that evil is a problem we brought on ourselves, by inventing moral categories that do not reflect the ways of life, most theorists believe that evil actions must allow significant harm to happen, however, some believe that it is enough to take pleasure in someone else's suffering, theorists believe that to do something evil we must have certain emotions at the time of acting and according to Hillel Steiner evil has two components one is a pleasure while the other is wrongdoing.

The Psychology of Evil.

Evil is sometimes used as a synonym for sociopathy or psychopathy, they are specifiers of clinical antisocial personality disorder in the DSM-5 characterized by the lack of certain emotional and interpersonal traits that most of us acquire genetically and behaviorally, however not all wrongdoers are sociopaths or psychopaths of course. According to psychology, the line between good and evil is far more permeable than we perceive it to be, good can go evil and vice versa, and according to the definition of psychologist Philip Zimbardo; evil is the exercise of power to intentionally harm, hurt, or destroy, he explains that our minds have an infinite capacity to make us behave kind or cruel, caring or indifferent, creative or destructive and that seven social processes encourage you to do evil; some of which are mindlessly taking the first step, dehumanization of others, anonymity and diffusion of personal responsibility, he also denotes the quote by Fyodor Dostoevsky which says “Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing more difficult than understanding him.”

The Science Behind Evil.

As the brain’s functional anatomy uncovers itself progressively, neuroscience is filling in its capacity to address the intricacies underlying our behavior. Trajectory atrocities could occur through a mix of brain activities and cultural events, people with underactive ventromedial prefrontal cortex have worse moral judgment, but there is no such thing as someone being evil according to science, our brains are wired differently, but what triggers them to be evil are the external factors that contribute to the aggression and hostility of human’s actions, the debate of ‘Nurture V’s Nature’ has been going around and around for so many years.

General Bibliography.

-Calder, Todd: The Concept of Evil, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Shaw, J. (2019). Evil: The science behind humanity's dark side. New York, NY: Abrams Press.

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Philip Zimbardo: The psychology of evil

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Wynter Northfield

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