By definition what we value is subjective as values are subjective. That means how one lives their life, at bottom, cannot be said to be objectively better than someone else’s way of life. No matter how heinous the person, they could turn around and say how much more virtuous they are than you. That is unless you believe in moral absolutes or an objective morality. Someone could say their unconscionable and evil actions are good to them because it brings them pleasure and happiness and are therefore good. This seems abhorrent to people who do not cause harm intentionally to others but the argument against moral absolutism is sound.
Evil or badness is the privation of goodness.
All goodness can be seen as bad and vice versa. This is moral relativism.
Each of us have our own moral system and what constitutes wrong or evil will vary subjectively between individuals.
No individual human can see everything as evil or good (although there could be hypothetical human who could, someone with heavy mutations and a very different physiology). This is just how we evolved. We feel pleasure and pain, which are manifestations of good and evil. We have no choice about that. Everybody has the capacity to experience suffering, no matter how evil the person is. And everybody has the capacity to experience goodness or pleasure, again no matter how evil the person. However every individual action can be seen as either or both good and evil to different degrees.
In some sense everything can be seen as evil through the idea of suffering. For example, someone could see everything as evil because life is suffering, and all things that are good aren’t really good, they are just prolonging one’s suffering. Why counsel me, feed me, entertain me, help me, when all you’re doing is extending my suffering, mentally and physically. Mentally I’m being caused pain because I have to concentrate and pretend I care about what you’re doing for me. This is an increase in my suffering and therefore evil in the world. This type of person is only theoretical as as far as we know all humans can experience some pleasure or goodness no matter how dire the situation.
So why can evil lead to a good outcome? Does that make evil also good if it brings about something good? No, I don’t believe so. Mainly for the reason that suffering does not bring about pleasure, except when we do things like struggle through tough circumstances and become better people and become more happy. But the suffering itself is still evil. Evil cannot be good just because it came before happiness. A caused B but A is not identical to B. Eg hot weather causes you to sweat but hot weather is not sweat. However one could argue from a certain perspective that all suffering is good, but ill touch on that later.
There may be then some things where suffering is required to maximise your happiness or goodness. But this doesn’t detract from the point that suffering and pain is still evil. On some sense to have any appreciation for goodness you need evil and vice versa. To try to live a life absent of any exposure to pain and suffering or evil will be quite dull and you wouldn’t be reaching your potential.
Pleasure is more or less what is determined as good. There are some things that are intensely good but have damaging consequences (eg drugs), so that makes them less good, to a point where they do no or little good at all for you.
In the simplistic sense then only evil is suffering or pain, psychological or physical, and only good is pleasurable.
Suffering or pain and pleasure are sensations not emotions, although many emotions come with each of the categories. And since this is different for every individual, morality must be subjective.
What about someone who’s sent to jail for the good of the community for a crime they committed. That causes suffering for the incarcerated individual but reduces the suffering or potential suffering of the community. So what we try to do in our lives is minimise suffering and maximise goodness. Or minimize suffering and maximise pleasure. We evolved to go towards pleasure and away from pain, because that increases our chance of surviving. But without knowing deep pain we cannot know sublime goodness and happiness. And this varies for every individual.
So what would a society look like that eliminated all suffering, or we somehow evolved a way to not feel things as intensely, were that even possible? People wouldn’t feel things as deeply. The highs and lows would be truncated. Art wouldn’t be so beautiful to us or neither would our relationships with others, and so on. So maybe there would be less overall suffering or happiness but maybe they would somewhat cancel each other out, just as they do now. The only thing is for sure and that’s that there would be less deep thought and perhaps that would have practical consequences such as less invention, discovery, innovation, and creativity. Over time this would mean suffering might begin to outweigh happiness, and the demise of the human species. This is where things become highly subjective as one could argue a society with overall less suffering regardless of happiness is best. But without happiness suffering cannot be reduced. This type of speculation is as I said very subjective and complex.
How about people who suffer when loved ones die? This is a consequence of our bonding capacity, which increases survivability, and hence why it’s pleasurable. We evolved areas of the brain that aided socialisation, and here we are now. Losing a loved one is a consequence of forming bonds, and without greif or loss we wouldn’t care about sticking together in groups and social situations. All the worse for our species. So in this sense, this greif and suffering is necessary for forming good social bonds. So we can view greif as evil as it causes suffering, even though it’s necessary for the good of our species.
Therefore I see evil and good as simply an extension of pleasure and pain. Of course there are more dimensions to it such as moral or natural evil, moral systems, etc. but at bottom we all experience suffering or pain when something evil has been done against us and we all experience pleasure when something good happens to us like when something makes us happy.
Every individual also has the capacity for some type of calculus which keeps tabs on how much pleasure and pain they go through and hence how much good or evil they live through. Some things are partly bad partly good etc.
Also the common notion of evil is often reserved for the most terrible offences. But I would say evil and good are on a spectrum, and this spectrum differs for every individual. This ranges from what is considered the worst possible evil (such as torture) to the best possible goodness or happiness (such as beauty). By our natures every individual sees this differently.
I guess this is a bit utilitarian, where maximising goodness or happiness is most important. So I guess it is. But negative utilitarian is better in some respects, but what I see as best is minimising suffering whilst maximising happiness or goodness. Of course we have to consider rights and all that. Which these philosophies don’t really take into account, ie the end justifies the means. It gets very complicated when thinking about political realities and so on. But the un declaration of human rights seems fair. Why should a westerner be of more value than someone from the third world? Or a poor person born into poverty being of less value than a rich person, who’s only in their predicament because of happenstance. Again these are all moral, economic, social and political questions and highly subjective.
Now I don’t think anybody actually thinks that everything can be totally evil or good. But theoretically it’s possible. Maybe someone with an abnormal psychology that can’t feel much pleasure or no pleasure, and they are in a constant state of apathy. This just shows further that objective values don’t exist.
Only a god could possibly see everything as all good or bad. But this would imply she is inconsistent. God could be partially inconsistent. We don’t know. But because we live in a rational universe, God must be partially rational at least. And because there is good in the world, god must be at least partially good.
Or god could not have any stance of morality other than it’s 100 percent subjective and right and wrong don’t exist.
Because God could be inconsistent, she could see everything as good or evil or both at the same time. At the same time she could see everything the way it is for us and that is a mixture of good and evil, although there will always be those potential individual (such as those who cannot feel pleasure or those who see everything as beautiful and have a radically different neurochemistry).
So nobody really knows the mind of god if she exists. But what’s for sure is that any action can be seen as either good or bad to some individual or potential individual, and even an entire life. For example someone who believes suffering is good because it’s what Jesus went through and is therefore a divine thing, and an end to suffering is a step closer to God. In that sense everything is good because it’s all part of Gods plan. Again I don’t think anybody actually believes this but maybe. In fact you don’t even need God to actually exist to think that way, as long as you believe it, everything can be beautiful. This is totally inconsistent because suffering is the antithesis of goodness and happiness. I don’t believe it can be both, but there’s nothing stopping someone claiming that it can be. Perhaps some extreme variant of masochism comes to mind. But what about mental torture such as in schizophrenia. How could anybody see that as beautiful or good. Maybe some people out there do, again with radically different physiologies. What about depression. Maybe they have all the symptoms but don’t experience mental pain.
This is where perhaps where things break down. I believe there are human experiences that could not be seen as good. The example of depression is a case in point. By definition you are unhappy. However it is also true that to someone else this could be seen as a good thing. People who like to see others suffer etc. so from a first person point of view it is impossible to see depression as a good thing unless you improve and learn to live with the depression. But that would mean you don’t meet the criteria anymore if you’ve got your depression under control.
So in a way you can have been diagnosed with depression and be sublimely happy that’s true. But you wouldn’t really meet the criteria any longer in that case. But someone in the throes of depression’s grasp I think it’s impossible to see things as very good at all. Even if you ultimately were to become a better person from it all.
This further highlights how subjective morality can be as to one person having depression is a great way to overcome adversity and become happy, whilst to another it’s hell on earth. But neither person is right absolutely.
So unless you say God has absolute moral standards, and that in itself is used to judge right and wrong, good and evil, then morality is 100% subjective.
For most people the best we can get at seeing everything as good or beautiful is by maximising the good whilst minimising the bad. And of course for every individual that will be different. I would lastly say that morality is a matter of perspective, even for a god. And nobody can deny my conscious experience of pain and suffering. My awareness of it cannot be denied, and neither can my experience of that awareness. That goes for even if I’m a brain in a vat, in a simulation or in a dream. On some level it is real. This goes back to the cogito. An aware being must exist and their consciousness must be part of their world whether it’s the true world or not. It’s happening, it’s reality on whatever level.
Sorry this was long, I just had to get it out. Hope this was helpful to someone.