Monday, April 23, 2007

The Asymmetry Of Evil

This afternoon one of my favourite colleagues got me thinking about one of my least favourite topics. She was telling me about literary analysis that wasn't quite literary enough, and about something to do with the nature of evil.

And then it hit me: good and evil, just like yes and no, are asymmetric. They are not symmetrical opposites at all.

Evil can be defined in terms of the commission of evil deeds and the omission of good deeds that one might have done.

Good can be defined only in terms of the commission of good deeds. The omission of evil deeds that one might have done but failed to do is seldom thought of as good, but as default behaviour.

It is therefore easier to be evil than to be good. Perhaps it is the effort that one puts into being good which defines good, humanly speaking. It is too easy to put effort into doing evil; perhaps it is too easy to do evil by not doing anything at all.

And then it becomes obvious: evil is only defined in terms of deviation from good, and not vice versa. This is the true asymmetry of it all.

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