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If there is no good or evil, then we could have done better with the climate crisis, we maybe could have stopped the world being burnt, but it doesn't matter, it's just that money was more important. Isn't there something very mediocre about that?

Do we need "good" and "evil" to relate to other people in meaingful ways? Without it, there are still rich and tall people, but doesn't that trivialise everything, even height?

Just a feeling, but would all relations be neutral, and therefore meaningless, without morality?

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    "What if this as good as it gets?" - from the movie, As Good As It Gets
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 15:38
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    1. What do you mean by "Isn't there something very mediocre about that?"- do you mean that the statemens of your first sentence are mediocre? 2. What do you mean by your sentence "Does humanity need good and evil to mean anything to itself?"? 3. Please note that this platform and philosophy alltogether is not intended to express just a feeling. It would help to clarify a bit your question and present some arguments for the positions which you introduce.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 16:10
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    Strictly so to say: neutrality (either passive or active) is the alternative to good and evil in deontic logical space, so the material issue becomes one of whether mere neutrality is mediocrity. But then it is hard to believe that mere neutrality would have possible instantiations but the obligated/supererogated and the forbidden would not (why accept neutral deontic operators but not positively and negatively charged ones? as if we accepted possibility but not necessity in our modal logic!). Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 16:42
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    i have no idea what you mean @JoWehler and i don't think you understand the fucntion or rules of the site
    – user67675
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 17:10
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    @prof_ghost oddly, there seems to be only one fully negative deontic operator, FR, but if we follow Alessio Moretti's research there are infinitely many positive deontic operators; so perhaps the ratio of abstract good to abstract evil is infinity-to-one? Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 17:27

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You make morality sound like spice. Without spice we can only eat bland food. So, without morality, everything is neutral? To take your example. Is the climate crisis a good thing. No. Did anyone who knowingly contributed to the climate crisis do evil. Yes. The event is inextricably linked to morality. So your initial question lacks meaning. As for your final question, good and evil provide context for meaning.

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  • like spice? that wasn't my intention. how could i reword the question?
    – user67675
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 17:24
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    I think it is kind of an Existentialist query, like: how do we determine what matters enough to us to compel action if all the things we've already tried have failed in various ways? How do we make results have a prior effect on our choices? Like trying to invent an actual teleology?
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 17:27
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    @ScottRowe "if all things we've already tried have failed" and no-one even particularly did anything wrong. talk about futile
    – user67675
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 18:11
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    Some people did do wrong things: other possibilites had less harm. Is there a way to avoid having people make these harmful choices? Yes.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 18:22
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It's thought provoking question. I struggle a bit with the idea of there being a neutral zone or point between good and evil, but maybe that's my Catholic schooling- for example, I was a bad boy if told a lie and a good boy if I didn't, so there didn't seem to be a middle way in many cases. Also, while good can be in opposition to evil, it can be applied to so many things completely off that axis- a good film, a good book, a good view, a good job, etc- so it seems to me that even in a world of moral neutrality, there would still be all the other contrasts and scope for excellence, so I can't see how mediocrity would necessarily follow.

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  • i wouldn't call it an analytic a priori claim, but it kinda seems that way. the example of systemic evil (and how little anything then matters) was meant to illustrate why that may be the case. there may be some truth to the idea we can enjoy good tv and be happy with our friends as they are independent of virtue etc., but then something is missing, if only cos they keep insisting we watch what they want
    – user67675
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 19:39
  • Like the old saying that Eskimos have fifty words for snow and we have only one word for love. Maybe we need some more words?
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 0:27
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    I don't know why you struggle, and no it doesn't require religion. One can have a completely black-and-white morality but still acknowledge that our attempt to live morally may sometimes fail, and in some decision we may not have enough skill to decide which is the morally best option and so we would have a moral spectrum on which our options fall, not because morality itself has a spectrum but because our confidence in moralness lies on a spectrum. By the way, lying with the intention to save an innocent life is certainly moral! (Kant was wrong.)
    – user21820
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 9:20
  • @user21820 many thanks, but you have not resolved my struggle. If we live in a black and white world, an action is black or white. Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 14:25
  • @MarcoOcram: An action is black and white, but culpability is not all or nothing. Intention is black and white, but accuracy of executing intention is not always 100% or 0%. If you have to choose between killing a gunman who is pointing his gun at children and not killing him but allowing some chance for him to kill an innocent child, it is morally acceptable to kill him even though you cannot be sure that you are definitely not causing unnecessary harm (there is an unlikely possibility that the gunman would not actually kill anyone at all). Your conscience can be 100% clean despite mistakes.
    – user21820
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 14:09
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Not a very philosophical analysis (my apologies to Kristian Berry), but:

  • Unfortunately polarization (good vs evil*) fuels the evolution of human civilization. Before that we just lived in Paradise.

*I denote the qualitative aspect of morality as the subjective distinction between right and wrong.

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    Maybe we should go back? Evolution just means, not complete failure.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 17:18
  • yeah, just blow it all up @ScottRowe
    – user67675
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 17:18
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    morality is always at stake when acting; otherwise there is Zen. (no offense to Zen) Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 17:43
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    i more or less agree with that, though think there's often little need to over think these things. is only morality ever at stake?
    – user67675
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 18:14
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    sorry, that's probably kinda dim witted comment. no one language or system is sufficient to understand all the suffering we can inflict and bear. thanks for the answer
    – user67675
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 18:38
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Capitalism is a competitive mode of production, so we can assume that, without a change to the economy, if good and evil are meaningless then our relations with one another will be - not should be, but may as well be - both immoral and anatagonistic. Does it make no difference to e.g. your friendships if you are both constantly cheating each other out of anything you want, on a whim? If the answer is no, then perhaps your friendships truly are meaningless.

You might reply that this is not realistic, and we can have temporary alliances etc. even without morality, these are what matter, but even if this is conceded I would think that any sense of absolute meaning is then barred.

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    I've always wondered why capitalism doesn't mean that things would be better if we improved circumstances for everyone? Working at the expense of your customers seems counter-intuitive, if not actually stupid.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 0:25
  • that's a werid way of phrase it @ScottRowe thanks for the comment
    – user67675
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 0:42
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It always seems like there is an implication to 'evil' that bad or negative or undesirable don't have. I challenge you to actually define what you mean, by evil. This answer gathers together some candidate definitions: Does philosophy have a dark side? I can't help but think the word is a hangover from Christian thinking, where practical moral and spiritual badness have some kind of Venn-diagram convergence labelled 'evil'. In particular it seems to mean bad from which no good can come, irredeemable bad, beyond salvation...

For contrast, this answer compares the Buddhist paradigm, in which there is no irredeemable, only actions going further into ignorance and delusion about your own and others true interests: Was Nietzsche more compassionate than the Buddha's teaching?

A lot of our moral reasoning comea from intuitions, and there is good reason to think at least the most cross-culturally shared have a basis in evolution. See Moral Foundations theory, the Social Suite, and how our almost unique intuition that we should have sex in private enables greater cooperation, discussed here: What binds us to our moral duties? In this picture the strongest moral lines we draw, are the lessons that have run deepest. But, for every rule against murder, there has always been war and the need for some to kill on purpose and be celebrated for it. Many will claim rape has just always been a crime everywhere, but marital rape was only made a crime in 1992 in the UK, and in all US states only a little earlier. When we go a little further back making slaves fight to the death in the Colliseum in Rome was seen as literally the height of civilisation. There's also a stubbornly persistent percentage of psychopaths born everywhere around the world, who do not feel the same intuitions. So it's difficult to go to physical or cultural evolution for guidance on what is acceptable and what beyond the pale. Hume's Is-Ought argument puts the tin hat on the failure of that avenue. Our morality, moral reasining and moral intuitions, seem to be emergent from how we structure our society, as discussed here: Is artificially generating images of minors in sexual positions unethical?

You can look to moral condemnation of climate crisis, but I don't know if you've noticed, that doesn't seem to work very well. Look at the weird hostility to Greta Thunburg by some people, for instance. I'd suggest there's a bigger cause of problems, and solutions, that we don't like to look at because it involves essentially everyone. Where is your pension invested? If you haven't consciously decided, then it will be being invested in new fossil fuel projects, because those oil companies are in the top 100 or 500, and ordinarily pensions just split their money like that. Now, are fossil fuel companies a good investment for over the next two decades? While ending supply of Russian oil and gas has temporarily masked this, I suggest they are almost certainly not good investments, and it will be ordinary people and their pensions that foot the bill, of dwindling supply, clean-up costs, and the gigantic progress in wind and solar and storage that will make them increasingly bit-players.

The sociologist Durkheim grappled with the full range of human religious behaviour, beyond the Abrahamic sphere. And he identified what we hold sacred together, as being what binds the group that does so together. That might be an altar, or the social contract (violation leading to revolution), or scientific method and norms for the international scientific community. Rather than think our strongest moral intuitions and norms have been around longest, which they probably haven't, I'd look to which groups our bound most strongly and effectively together. Habeus corpus and seperation of powers that makes for an independent judiciary, has enormous practical consequences for cooperation and solidarity, and mitigating risks of tyranny. The rules-based international order with commitments to end war crimes, uphold human rights, and trade rules, has created a political trade and economic block that can, fingers crossed, cooperate a lot better than say Russia and China.

Where we draw our lines is important, and I think it's easy to observe peer-pressure shapes behaviour more than laws. But feeling condemned morally, by a given sub-group, is just one incentive among many. I suggest informed public policy should not be focused on defining good and evil, but on incentives and motivations - albeit powerful internal ones like wanting to be a good person. Good and evil are powerful for narratives, for drama. But worryingly often we find the people who turned out to be evil, told us what we wanted to hear, and we didn't feel the good were good because they told us we were being bad, and our miral intuitions saud, that can't be right..

I feel like your post implicitly relates to Nietzsche, and his book Beyond Good & Evil. For duscussion of what he meant by that and where that would take us, see this answer: Nietzsche on balancing service to the creation of (or becoming) the Overman and living a life of ones own choosing?

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  • Perhaps I am pessimistic, but it appears to me that the things that have bound us together barely managed to do so in the past, and currently have shredded in to many conflicting groups, which seem fundamentally incompatible. There are several 'we's in play, who want to annihilate the other 'we's. But maybe I am wrong and that has always been the case.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 0:19
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    @ScottRowe: As per Joseph Tainter, many complex societies have collapsed. The hammer of events will come, & all that is to be decided in the long arc of the moral universe is, will you choose selfishness or solidarity? Did you let the forces of collapse win, or build, a New Jerusalem..?
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 0:44
  • Thank you. I don't feel very bound together with anyone. I have been doing what I can to aid causes that I could see benefit in. Jerusalem seems right out, as 3 religions have been fighting over it for centuries.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 0:47
  • @ScottRowe: "And was Jerusalem builded here Among those dark satanic mills? Bring me my bow of burning gold! Bring me my arrows of desire! Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold! Bring me my chariot of fire! I will not cease from mental fight, Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, Till we have built Jerusalem In England's green and pleasant land." As Milton said:" The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." Carry the new Jerusalem with you, build it in you. There is one world, our differences must reconcile over, however unreachable that may seem
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 0:54
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    @ScottRowe: That Abraham reference was so obscure I forgot why I'd posted it. Mount Mariah, where the Al Aqsa mosque compound is, & the 'Wailing Wall' remains of Solomon's Temple, was also where the Binding of Isaac was said to have happened. Once more children are being offered up, & no one seems ready to hear any messages saying to save them after all.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 16:07
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Without the separation of good and evil , technological development is not possible. Companies like google , Microsoft , space X , banks etc wouldn’t be able to function properly. Without good and evil there may be sparks of technological innovations but there would be no large scale collaboration in which we focus on building large scale companies. Only when we abandon lying , deceit , cheating , stealing , robbing , killing etc , we are able to cooperate. Without morality we will not just be neutral ,we will be technologically backward. In fact there will be an anarchy. Even when we are not explicitly recognising good and evil , we are implicitly using it to relate with one another.

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Contrary to all the other answers, I believe good, and evil are just perceptions based on whose point of view we are looking at things or event.

Good and Evil are like two sides of a coin. Today's good will be tomorrows evil and vice versa. It is same as Happy and sad. They belong to a cycle that keeps on repeating, this duality is seen around us in many forms. The idea is to transcend them. Transcending the duality doesn't reach to neutral or mediocrity rather to a more conscious living.

Consciousness comes from keen attention to life; it is knowing what needs to be done as per the situation and not based on what the society or the norms dictate. If you consciously knew that the tree next to you is providing oxygen to you and consider that it was the only tree left, then under no condition you would harm it.   However, morality will only create duality and that will lead to friction and conflict. Morality pitches your belief against someone else's. This may seem to have triggered technological advancements, but it has worsened our mental well-being.

So, to answer you, without good and evil we will have a better planet and more conscious beings.

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