Considering the following facts;

  1. Some fundamental vices of human nature like greed, ignorance, lust, or the seven sins are inherent in a human which are there for not his/her choice.
  2. We don't know and can never know all the circumstances under which a person might have made a choice or acted in a particular way.
  3. In case of a rapist, his biology is also a reason that he can have an erection and extreme lust in being violent towards another human. (not justifying rape, just stating a case).

In our lives considering the human condition, how can we define the 'bad person'?

Edit: It's pointed out that all the above cases are refutable, then using your preferred version of side or with your understanding of human condition , kindly answer my question.

  • None of these are facts; all are easily refutable. – Bread Aug 24 '18 at 21:26
  • "Bad" is subjective, a value judgment. What I consider bad may be perfectly acceptable to someone else, including yourself. Therefore the question as stated is unanswerable. – Bread Aug 24 '18 at 22:06
  • @Bread no, I think it's not a very subjective term, at least majority of humans agree that certain people are bad people and certain people are not, considering that the definition assumes bad as beleived by majority... – user30437 Aug 24 '18 at 22:13
  • 1
    I can't answer the question, because I don't consider consensus by the majority is necessarily valid. – Bread Aug 24 '18 at 22:15
  • @Bread, in that case, sir, I guess you are a bad person...lol ;) – user30437 Aug 24 '18 at 22:28

This answer is about how we define good and bad. Such quality attributes apply to everything we interact with, not only persons. The reason of such approach is that there's no possibility of having a consistent definition of what a bad person is.

It seems incredibly simple, but our behavior basically consist in taking binary decisions: as subjects, we interact with some objects, we get personal results, which are different from the object's, and then we take the binary decision: interact again or not. That means creating attraction for the object or creating rejection. Our discourse about such results is expressed on terms of something being good or bad.

For example, I have a conversation with a person. If I see that such person had given me positive results after our interaction (whether economic, personal, ludic, whatever my interest would be), I will conclude if such person is good or bad. This is amazing, if you think about it: we qualify others (persons or things) as good or bad, with few information, with just a tiny amount of knowledge, with prejudices. That's a natural survival mechanism. If it's bad, I will create rejection, and avoid further interactions. If the result is good, positive, I create attraction and try to have further interactions. Of course, my assessment about someone can radically change at any moment.

So, there's no objective attributes that can be used to define someone as good or bad. A drug addict or a tibetan monk could be a good person for me depending on what are the goals of my life, or of the moment. We survive taking such decisions permanently. Our personal truth depends not only on reality and facts, but also on our personal position about other persons or things, obtained by means of interaction.

We also qualify things the same way: by interacting with them and creating attraction or rejection towards them. Think about drugs, foods, gaming machines, a rock, a country, a political ideology, etc. and you'll se our behavior about things is the same: they're good or bad according to how positive they are for us.

We might anyway have a somehow objective definition of what a bad person is, based on what would be a common interaction result of us, the subject, a society, and a particular individual, the object: the subjective value of such object would be based on the results of interaction. If the individual is good for the persistence of the society, it's a good person. So, a person is bad for a society according to how much it decreases the probabilities of survival of such society. Vicious people or rapists are bad because they increase slightly (or highly) our groupal probabilities of persistence.

My personal research field is interaction, if you are interested on the mechanics of interaction, you can find more about it on my profile. You can read my answer about the definition of truth here: https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/a/54862/23407

| improve this answer | |

Some fundamental vices of human nature like greed, ignorance, lust, or the seven sins are inherent in a human

Argument needed. We might point to some urges or instincts (and even then we need to specify and argue), but going all the way to vices seems hasty.

which are there for not his/her choice.

That's not necessarily the case. You're just precluding that there's no free will. That's a bad idea considering that many contemporary philosophers are compabilitists, and therefore support a concept of free will. While you can certainly still end up with a stance against free will, assuming that without argument is also hasty.

Now, your idea seems to be that when no free will exists then people can't be bad people. But this depends on how we structure our terminology. We can still say they are morally bad people, just that they can't be responsible for it. There's some literature on how we should look at morality when there's no free will. (One example is Pereboom's Living without Free Will. The SEP also has more.)

We don't know and can never know all the circumstances under which a person might have made a choice or acted in a particular way.

That just means that we can't for certain know that someone is a bad person. This can have an effect on how we ought to judge people. But it doesn't mean that no bad person exists.

In our lives considering the human condition, how can we define the 'bad person'?

Now, if we put free will and issues of knowledge for judgment aside, we'll have to take a look at two things:

1) Metaethics. Some positions undermine morality. To simplify, let's assume that Moral Realism, the majority opinion, is true.

2) Normative ethics. There are many different theories, most of which will directly or indirectly argue what makes someone morally bad.

Depending on your interest, I could edit to give some examples of normative ethical theories, and hence examples of what makes an act bad and a person bad. I could also point to discussion around how demanding morality is when it comes to our behaviour.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thank you for the answer, Yes it would help if you can provide me more information on the topics you mentioned in the last paragraph. – user30437 Aug 24 '18 at 21:52
  • 1
    "You're just precluding that there's no free will." Nonsense. If not, change gender right now. Fly to the moon ignoring laws of physics. Do anything you can imagine. The fact that people are genetically different is a fact. And that mental traits are partially heritable is a fact as well. Free will for a compatibilist has different meaning. It's an ability to choose but there are limits for them. – rus9384 Aug 24 '18 at 23:28
  • @Marc H, I agree to your line of thinking that it has to be looked after analysing 'free will' and 'knowledge'. I will like to know the examples of normative ethical theories and would like to be pointed to the discussion around how demanding morality is when it comes to our behaviour. – user30437 Aug 25 '18 at 4:20
  • @rus9384 I am in total agreement with what you are saying. Altough I am asking considering all these things how do we difine it? Not what makes it? – user30437 Aug 25 '18 at 4:21
  • @rus9384 free will isn't the same as omniscience. I can certainly want to fly to the moon even though I can't physically fly to the moon. But the question is whether that will, to fly to the moon, can be considered free or not. – Marc H. Aug 28 '18 at 11:07

'do unto others, as you would have done to yourself' is the only practical basis of morality. If a person regularly treats others in a manner the wouldn't like were it happening to them, they could be 'bad' . Of course there are mitigating circumstances. Ignorance, accident, lack of choice. But if someone believes it's ok to excercise the privilege of knowledge or power to do determent to others (part fools from money, or enforce unjust law for example) they are in all likelihood, antisocial, sociopathic or generally first order ass hats.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy