Deprivation and Depravity: The Difference Between Traditional and Modern Notions of Evil

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6 Responses

  1. Simon says:

    Just some very obvious and simple thoughts on your students’ choice…I would suppose it’s primarily related to man’s fallen state (obviously). Now the fascination with evil might have been much less during the middle ages, or even in the time of our grandparents for that matter, but after all, statements of true love and virtue are but almost absent from public life as compared to shows of indulgence in appetites and vanity and – most importantly – death. You treated the Irish referendum recently, and in most European countries it has been the mark of the intelligent, informed and “good” citizen to be in favor of abortion for some time (not the mention homosexuality, polygamy, all kinds of blasphemy in general). Of course, many people were against the evils of the Vietnam war and similar bellicose ventures, but then again I would dare to claim that of those there were many who in turn would have been in favor of seeing some of the political heads responsible for that hanging from the gallows or being publicly whipped. Maybe the ancients before the coming of Christ were just lucky not to have digital screens on every street corner.

    All that, of course, concerns only purely external means of amplifying inner conditions of persons. I think of the underlying causes as being somehow related to man turning away from God or The Good to celebrate his own freedom (non serviam), thinking thereby to be able to simply walk out of Him in Whom we have our being. Surely our conscience, being part of the order of all things, will constantly, if ever so subtley, let us know about the manifest impossibility of this, making man turn towards non-being/evil as the only way to go, while still having the will set upon not serving (Also, on the even more religious side, I recall reading somewhere the notion that, after the coming of Christ, it might not be possible to turn away from God’s truth with as clear a conscience as was possible before that precise moment in history…think also of said spokesman for the worker who himself despises the virtue of “Industria”…wonder whether there ever was such hipocrisy in former times). This is how I think about people aggressively celebrating blasphemy of whatever kind. Of course I’m not saying your students and for that matter many otherwise good and more or less “innocent” people were and are actively seeking evil, but – reducing things to very simple and unphilosophical terms – maybe it’s just part of the human condition to struggle against the tendency to coquetry with evil. After all the (turned-) evil spirit is also part of the order that embraces all things.

    Concerning ancient and present civilizations and their thinkers, maybe one would have to make the distinction, on the one hand, between a more or less civilized society that, by the handing-down of tradition or through being cognitively open to natural religion, did via its institutions amplify various sorts of virtues, and on the other hand societies which were more or less barbaric in nature. I think most modern and especially western societies are starting to resemble the latter more closely…

  2. Han Fei says:

    The notion of man as an integral and inseparable part of the world (or being as we would have it) as well as the opposition to certain notions being abstracted in such a way as to forego their essence, doesn’t sound too far off from Heidegger.

    Does evil have an essence, or is it in”essence” non-being, and as such devoid of categorical appellation?

    • Malić says:

      Regarding Heidegger, its rather another way around: the notion I was laying out sees the man as the integral part of the world, while Heidegger sees the world as an integral part of man (Of course, he insists that Dasein is not really a man, but something else, yet I always suspected that it is in fact Heidegger himself). There’s a world of difference between the two notions and quite a bit of congeniality, too. Early Heidegger is generally based on appropriating traditional metaphysical notions and giving them a novel – as he would put it: more radical – spin. The problem is that he really inverts things and that in the long run tends to end up badly.

      Evil, in this perspective, is a privation of Being. If taken absolutely it is non-being. It can be categorized only insofar as it borrows being from the good. It “is” insofar as it deprives, corrupts, twist, etc.

      Of course, there’s far more to it than few abstract remarks, but that will be a subject of future works in detail.

      • Han Fei says:

        I believe I was confused with regards to what Heidegger had in mind with the term “integral”, and the weight he placed on the reciprocity of this relationship. The notion that the essential significance of the world lies in its disclosure to our sense experience, is a remarkably Eastern notion if i’m not mistaken. The Pali canon, as far as I understood it with my admittedly brief conversation with one of its adherents, does not make a distinction between the objective and the subjective. Being is an unfolding reality experienced by the mind. It is altogether irrelevant to them whether things “exist” in themselves.

        The reason why I can’t help but keep on coming back to Heidegger (and let’s face it, he’s a more potent figure than a blabberhead like Dugin) is because he offers a promise to achieve a certain “breakthrough” with respect to essential part of human experience that has been lost to modernity, that is the immanent sense of the sacral, of the teleological. This is why modern man seems to be so stuck in the cycles of conformity, consumerism and democracy, scoffing at any notion of divine authority or sacred order. Even morality loses its power to compel if it is based solely on the human element. There are others, like A. N. Whitehead who set forth on this task, but they are more abstruse and have a much lesser impact on the “zeitgeist”.

        The problem of course with Heidegger is that the deeper one goes into his thought, the more it appears that out of all the lofty possibilities that he opened to conception, he chose the weakest, which led to him arrive at certain conclusions that were anything but. “Jump off this ledge and the angels will carry you into the skies” appears to be a piece of advice he and his ilk couldn’t resist. A similar thing can be said of Jung.

  3. Mihai says:

    That thing about the student’s choice reminds me of a similar experience at a monastery. I was contemplating the painting of the Last Judgement on the outside wall at the entrance, when someone I was with asked : “I wonder, why do we always stare at the scenery going on at the left hand of Christ and never to the right?”. And she was right. I was looking at that very moment at the river of fire terminating in the mouth of Hades.

    Some other thing you mentioned: I too always wonder how deluded modern people can be when they think that people of past ages were simple-minded and oblivious to the problem of evil and hence they falsely believed in Divine Providence- while we see things so clear and know a lot better now.
    And this in an age of utmost material comfort and hedonism where hardships of any sort are actively shunned. Of course, this is always valid for most parts of the West, since the law you mentioned is valid in the modern age as well- different places live differently. Even in our modern cities the are literal hellholes and people living in desperate conditions about which the “save the penguins” crowd who never goes out of its comfort zone of the pleasant lifestyle knows nothing about.
    I believe that what people feel today is the absence of Good in their own lives, an absence being brought about by a the distancing from God. It is like the more we turn our material appetites into idols and seek only material well-being, safety and comfort- all the while shunning the reality of our mortality, hardships and sacrifices for our neighbour or our own spiritual being- the more we distance ourselves from God who is the source of all safety and stability…hence, there is this inner void that our age feels.
    People are not obsessed today with evil and do not feel Providence completely absent because of some exterior evils- like you mentioned, the abandoned and dying children, the train wreck, the plane crash, these are all imaginary things or events far removed from their consciousness; but they feel all this because of this inner void- it is a feeling as if reality lacks any stable point and is slipping from under ones feet at every instance.

    Somehow, by shunning outer dangers and ordeals we have interiorized them and now they do no threaten our external existence, but our inner being especially.

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