This is an interesting topic, isn’t it
Type “evil” into z-library and you see 5 or so canonical philosophers have extended treatments of this. I decide to choose Kierkegaard.
What is your first thought when you think of “evil”?
For some reason I think of Saddam. That’s how brainwashed I am, even though I actively try not to be. Political figures, tyrants, are what we often think define evil.
Let’s try to get more to the essence of it though. What’s behind all the forms of it?
Unlike many others before him Kierkegaard did not write evil off as a consequence of either ignorance or weakness of will. He saw it as a conscious rebellion against the Good.
You find that many people fetishize evil in our time. I’m talking about real evil, not the “good” kind of evil. Do you think a person can be evil?
This is a refreshing perspective to see- you don’t know how many times I’ve seen it written off as ignorance, or “forgiven”, or “understood”
Evil, whatever it may be, plays itself out within the human heart.
Remember, Kierkegaard is regarded as one of the founders of existentialism so freewill and self-creation are prominent in his thought.
This is another one of those niche subjects that’s scattered throughout someone’s writings, so it’s good to find a scholar that’s gathered it together into a sustained account.
Do YOU have any evil in your heart?
Anyway, getting away from this specific subject for a second, Kierkegaard is uniquely important and could save the modern world if everyone read him. He charts the soul’s journey away from being concerned with trivialities. Most people seem to be in the first of three stages that he outlines. Remaining in the first can be considered a form of being evil. I’ve been holding off on spoiling the essence of it, and I think I’ll just tell you now- evil arises from despair. Despair is a blessing in disguise for him because it can lead to the second stage of existence. It also can be used for evil, depending on what one’s freewill decides to do in the face of it.
There is the possibility of an authentic despair, which allows for an intense form of evil that is transparent to itself, and grounds its self-actualization in its rebellion against the Good.
Again, keep in mind the ubiquitous theory that it all revolves around ignorance. No, for him, evil is what they CHOOSE to be. And I think both ways of looking at it express a truth. It’s about defiance for him. You go through life relatively unconsciously until you’re sometimes overwhelmed with despair which presents you with the choice to move to the next stage of responsibility, and in that crucial moment people often DECIDE to use their freedom to be evil. It’s possible to see this everywhere. This is arguably the meaning of leftism is many people’s lives. For Socrates if you know the Good then you will do Good. For many leftists they know the Good and they decide to do the direct opposite. It’s a rebellion against the Good. So in that sense Kierkegaard seems to have refined Socrates. Then the next question you can ask is do they truly know the Good if they decide not to follow it.
All this can get really controversial really fast so I might avoid that. Sigh! When we talk about “defiance” can you think of a less abstract way of understanding what people tend to defy? I.e. defiance against “the Good” is a safe, non-political way of talking about it. Tell me, why do leftists and feminists so often HATE to see a picture of a happy white family for instance? There, I said it. Cue the rationalizations. Why do they share pet pictures instead of baby pictures? Why are they so offended? They see the Good and the recognize it as Good, and then, with their freewill, they choose to rebel against it. And that is leftism.
It’s up to you to determine. I’m not a mind-reader. I ask again- do YOU feel evil in your heart? Scheming, scowling? That’s what I call a goblin. It’s an active defiance against the Good. People like this would be lucky to experience an acute despair. Usually they’re in a fog of numb despair. A true, extreme despair could give them the opportunity to move to the next stage of existence.
There’s a reason many phenomenologists were fans of Kierkegaard- he makes human moods an open book
Kierkegaard compares defiance to envy. He says that admiration is a happy relation to superiority, though ‘admiration’s first feeling is one of pain . . . that if someone senses superiority but admits reluctantly, not joyfully, then he is far from being happy: on the contrary he is exceedingly unhappy, in the most distressing pain.’
This is what is hidden about evil. It has its origins in despair and pain.
The Good torments people. That’s why they use their freewill to rebel against it. I can think of lots and lots of people who are exactly like this. It’s part of the fundamental nature of our establishment so it tends to be invisible.