top of page

Defining Evil -- How Evil Interplays With Good

Updated: Jun 8

An evil woman.

For some more Evil, are are some articles.


Evil and Its Dimensions

Evil can be defined as the action of maliciousness for the sake of maliciousness, or for the sake of causing either harm or mischief. Many acts and people are evil, even if that evilness is not pure evil, i.e., even if maliciousness is just a part of the equation. Pure evil is the complete lack of morality as the point of morality is to restrain us to a code of conduct. Such following of a code is imperative for the reduction of evil.

As such very few people are in theory pure evil because in order to carry out our tasks successfully we need to be consistent in what we do, and as such retain a degree of code. When it comes to groups, perhaps the most basic aspect of morality is loyalty, and as such, not betraying the leader or the other members so easily.

A good example to pure evil that I'll refer you to is one of Voltaire's songs (the modern musician, not the philosopher), "When You're Evil." He roleplays as an agent of evil standing in the way of everyone, and not only doing it on purpose, but enjoying it as well, not wanting any form of compensation for his "work."

Reality is intricate and dynamic, so always looking at things at face value is why naivety is an unrealistic virtue, worthy to be compromised in the name of understanding. While there is nothing immoral about loyalty by itself, loyalty to an evil organization is surely evil by extension. By the same token, evil acts such as revenge can be morally justified when they are done in the name of justice.

Therefore, like pure evil is rare, pure good, or the total absence of evil, is also rare. In Christian lore, Jesus Christ is considered pure good due to having no ill intend whatsoever towards anyone or anything, instead choosing to sacrifice himself for all the sins of humanity in past, present and future. Are we capable of such a feat ourselves? Perhaps, but it requires a level of good only few people have.

And evil, by nature, is expressed by the lack of good. If we lack some good in us, then have some degree of evil within us. And you don't need to be a psychopath in order to be evil. All it takes is to be capable of ill will with little to no remorse. And that is certainly possible when we are fueled by rage and other negative emotions.

Because negaive emotions can hinder our plans (like when rage blinds our understanding), our plans can be hindered. As such, one of the purposes of morality is to keep us on track, like when it comes to professional ethics that require us to stay calm.

Doing Evil For a Good End

On the other hand, evil deeds can also be utilized to preserve our way of life, which technically can sometimes be a good thing. For example, some might not consider Walter White from Breaking Bad evil because he was attempting to still live a life where his values are expressed.

While he did evil deeds throughout the show, like killing people, Walter wasn't doing it for malicious intent. He was doing it for his pride, which he sought to reclaim after he realized he had cancer, quitted being a part of a rich corporation, and resorted instead to be a highschool teacher despite his genius intellect.

He wasn't respected enough for his own liking, so he sought to reclaim his lost lifestyle before succumbing to his medical illness. His decision to be a drug baron was merely the means to the end of reclaiming the appreciation he once had by society. An appreciation he lost and made him feel forsaken as a result, even by his own family.

When there is little to no other options left for your good cause that are good by themselves, the evil means become necessary. To quote Mr. John Duran:

A quote on evil.

Doing Good For an Evil End

Industrialization can be seen as doing evil to the globe in the name of good intentions such as improving the economy, giving people jobs, and increasing a nation's or a comapny's GDP. This economic improvement of course comes at the price of not only the globe's health but also our health. The production of smoke and other toxic chemicals literally damage our physical health, causing health issues such as occupational asthma and other hazard related illnesses produced artificially by humans.

To hide your true, evil intentions, you may also want to do some good in the world. Philanthropaths are "psychopaths masquerading as a philanthropists". The fallacy in many people's understanding arrives when "Being a good person" is associated with "doing good deeds". That is although your good deeds don't necessarily indicate who you really are, but can serve as a front to your true self, a self that may be more evil than understood by others.

Doing good is a good way to reduce heat from enemies and distract them and people in general from your true intentions, which may or may not come into fruition.

Misconceptions in Evil

The thing, the "hypocrisy" is that nobody would define themselves as evil whether we are one or not. That includes myself. If anyone would call themselves evil, they can harm their own reputation, meaning that one would do so only if they are not wise enough, or when they have nothing to lose.

Forget about the nonsense about villains wanting to “take over the world.” The desire to conquer the world isn't necessarily evil. Are the inventors of the internet evil, given that the internet has “conquered” almost the entirety of the human population? Are experienced urban planners evil because they’ve urbanized a very large portion of the globe - and on the way to urbanize more? Is it evil to actualize your potential worldwide?

As such, domination on something -- or someone when it comes to love -- isn't evil, especially when it is done voluntarily and doesn't cause harm.

Even those whose job include violance, don't necessarily do it for the fun of it. And unfortunately, might makes right, which means the use of force is often necessary to enforce good laws. A security guard might have to inflict violance, for example, to prevent a greater violance by far more malicious agents (like terrorists or criminals entering a mall). A peacekeeping force may have to literally harm other people in the long-term goal of keeping and/or establishing peace.

Evil people can be anyone and can be everywhere. It’s not just a dictator of a third-world country, a cult leader, a corrupt politician, and so forth. Evil people can be your average Joe, waiting in the same bus stop as you, offering you coffee, sleeping next to you in your bed. A wise evil is one that stays hidden, or at least strives to remain in the shadows and work from there.

Definitions and logic don't care about your opinion, that’s why logic can be very blunt and insensitive…

Reality is far more complex than the cartoonish idea of "people are evil because they commit evil deeds". No. To understand people's true morality you need to understand their motives and understand the dynamic interplay between action and intention.

186 views0 comments


Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

bottom of page