I decided to analyze my personal philosophy regarding good and evil. Can anyone tell me how it compares with what major philosophers or doctrines have to say about good and evil?

Humans are animals and are born neither good nor evil. "Good" behavior is generally taught or imitated. It begins with learning to follow one's parents' rules (e.g. don't hit), then society's rules. Eventually, one must learn to follow the state's rules. Empathy allows us to effectively extend goodness, caring for people on the other side of the world or even other species (generally "sentient" species). "Bad" behavior consists of either breaking the rules or knowingly doing something that hurts another individual or even another species (e.g. kicking a dog).

  • Seems like a good starting place. You are probably in line with Schopenhauer on this for the empathy you speak of here would for him represent an intuition of an underlying metaphysical truth. Also with Lao Tsu, who writes 'Because right and wrong were created the Way was injured'. But I don't think 'breaking the rules' has much to do with this unless by breaking them we do harm to others.
    – user20253
    Aug 16 '17 at 16:07
  • You might want to check out Nietzsche... Aug 25 '17 at 15:30

There's a real difference between right/wrong and good/evil. Right and wrong apply too keeping the rules of a given culture, religion, parental guidance, or legitimate legislated rules, i.e., laws. Good and evil have to do with what either fulfills our nature or the nature of another or what inhibits or is counter to our nature or that of another. In Immanuel Kant's world these can become confused. If, during the Holocaust, I was hiding Jews in my attic and a Nazi showed up at my door asking if I was hiding any Jews, I would violate the nature of the Nazi by lying to him and concealing the truth of what I was doing. To tell the truth would be to do an evil thing that was perfectly right since I was obeying the state's law. If I were to conceal the truth, I would be doing a good thing that was wrong both regards to the State's law, and I would violate dignity of the nature of the Nazi asking the question.


The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil mentioned in Genesis comes to mind.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”


When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.

The idea of original sin is often cited as a distinction between Abrahamic religions.

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