On the nature of evil

Essentially, I do not think that evil exists. Merriam Webster says that it is something “morally reprehensible,” but this requires morals, which also do not exist. That is, they exist in the minds of humankind, but there is no one thing that everyone can agree is evil. And even if there were, why should humans get to decide? The universe has no morals, nor does it need any.

But the concept of evil is useful to humans. It is largely agreed upon that killing others for no very good reason is evil, and this helps to perpetuate the species. But what about (mostly) nonfatal crimes, like theft, rape, kidnapping, torture? My belief system and societal conditioning (that rascal Society is back again) tell me that these are at least bad, if not evil, because they cause others’ brains to generate chemicals we call negative emotions. However, clearly they cause someone to generate positive emotions, because otherwise there would be no crimes committed at all. So let us instead contemplate the notion of “net evil,” which takes into account the good received by the criminal. Net evil of an act is nearly always less than the evil to any one person, because of the nature of human action. Of course there are exceptions, like people doing things that make them Sad Chemicals in order to make someone else Happy Chemicals, but fail miserably. These are exceptions, which is why we will assume that net evil for the general case is lower than the highest Perceived Personal Evil (PPE).

So, Best Beloved, say that you commit the heinous crime of slapping your best friend, who has been lying to you about her part in a Malaysian assassin gang and has just confessed to having been hired weeks ago to kill you. You are understandably angry that she has not informed you of this earlier, but she is doing herself PPE in addition to the pain (emotional and physical) you have caused by slapping her, because she may now be a target of the infamous Tiger Dragons herself, and your local community may lose respect for her. You are receiving some PPE in the form of disillusionment about your best friend’s intentions, but you are mostly receiving benefit (or, shall we say, PPG?) from knowing that the Fighting Dragons want you dead and having an opportunity to change your name and appearance in order to escape this fate. In your best friend’s eyes, the PPE she has brought upon herself is mitigated by the PPG she has brought you, and in fact the net evil in this situation is pretty close to zero, depending on how much you appreciate her efforts. If you realize that she has risked her life to save your own, you will probably feel Sad Chemicals for slapping her. This adds PPE to both sides of the tally, making it an evil action on the whole. However, if your slapping her prevented her from generating a large amount of Sad Chemicals for her actions, this might make the action net good.

Hopefully this long and utterly fabricated anecdote has clarified my usage of the terms and the philosophy behind them, or at least provided a quantity of amusement. Once again, however, my hands are rebelling at the ill usage they’ve suffered at my… well, at any rate, I ought to go to bed.

On the separation of body and self

My friends have been known to note, upon occasion and with varying degrees of irritation, that I strongly dislike being photographed. I myself have never been quite sure why this was, but today I may have discovered the reason.

When I observe myself in a mirror, I look as I would on a stranger, noting the flaws and pleasant parts of a face judged for a portrait. I should like to say that I have nothing to do with my body, but in fact I live in it and it does affect me (by way of chemicals, aches, and sundry other inconveniences). What this means is that when I see a photograph of my body, I am somewhat embarrassed to be associated with this strange-looking individual with the uncharming smile and slumpsome posture (at last I am able to use the word slumpsome!). My apologies, friends, if you wanted to remember what my body looked like on such-and-such a day. I did not.

I dwell within my body and use it as a convenient locomotion device. I like to keep it strong and healthy so that it may do useful things, and I try to treat it kindly as there is no way for me to obtain another. It is mine as a favorite suit of clothes is mine, but the idea that it could be equated with me is almost abhorrent. This may be some part of my gender confusion (read: I am confused as to why gender exists as a concept), but at any rate I do get some benefits from appearing to have a gender, so I see no reason to disabuse most of the notion.

The one part of my body that is mine more than any other is my hands (as a unit), because they are the most familiar to me and do my will more directly than other parts of my body. They draw lovely pictures and write in my handwriting and type pieces of me onto a computer screen. It only makes sense that they give me more grief than the rest of my body combined, like spiteful children complaining about having to muck out the pigs again when Daniel and Milly are inside sewing and doing the bills, respectively.

In any event, that is the state of the union, as it were. Hasta que nos vemos otra vez, Best Beloved…