“There are no evil people”

In my new series that “proves” there really aren’t them, I’d like to point out the honor killing of Banaz Mahmod:

Banaz, a bright, pretty 19-year-old, fell in love with another man.

And for that, she was murdered by her father, uncle and a group of family friends. The very people who should have protected her from harm plotted her killing, garrotted her with a bootlace, stuffed her body in a suitcase and buried her under a freezer.

The full details of what happened to her are still not known but two of the suspects, Omar Hussein and Mohammed Ali, who fled back to Iraq after the killing, are said to have boasted that Banaz was raped before she was strangled, “to show her disrespect”.

Obviously, a father who watches his own daughter murdered like that and approves it can’t possibly be evil. Yes, I even found this one blog post by some Christian female philosopher that “really proves” people can’t be evil: see this if you are interested:

There are no evil people. Some specific actions can be regarded as evil, but people themselves cannot ever be regarded as evil. This claim is justified on the basis that the very notion of an “evil person” is self-contradictory.

Let us start by defining “evil” as “doing harm for the sake of doing harm.”

So, those who accidentally do harm are not evil; those who intentionally do harm, but in hopes of bringing about greater good are not evil; the only people who possibly could be considered evil would be those who intentionally do harm just for the sake of doing harm.

But to be considered evil in themselves, they would also have to be wholly evil. If they sometimes do good, they could not be regarded as evil, because the good that they do is real and benefits the world in a substantial way. So, if there could be a truly evil person, he or she would at least have to be someone who does harm all the time, for the sake of doing harm.

Since the person is capable of moral choice, and understands the difference between good and evil, then the person does have some understanding of goodness. On this basis, we can conclude that the person therefore is not wholly evil. Having the capacity to understand goodness, and having the capacity for choice means that there is always the possibility that sometime in the future this person might decide to choose good. So there is in the person still the potential for some goodness.

Therefore, it is self-contradictory to assume that there could be evil people.

only call people evil if they only do evil all the time and not if they still have potential for doing good? I’d say it’s more useful to consider people evil if they do more harm, more or less intentionally, than they do good. Also, I disagree that people should be only called evil if they do harm for the sake of causing harm; it’s possible there really aren’t people like that (evensadistspresumablyharmothersbecausetheyenjoy
forthesakeofcausingharm) or at least very few but I have an alternative definition which more people satisfy. Indeed, my own definition of evil is closer to “doing what benefits me regardless of how much others are hurt” while good is closer to “doing what benefits me while also taking the well-being of others into consideration” (though I suppose there’s more to my more exact but yet unarticulated mental definitions). That makes a lot more sense in a real world. And to the extent a person enjoys harming others, he can be considered innately evil.

based on my knowledge, whether he has done more harm than good more or less intentionally (I can hardly be expected to know what some other person’s real intentions have been so this is not an exact science). If he seems to have done substantially more harm than good he most definitely is evil in my books. As is the case with those honor killers as I kind of do doubt people who do what they have done are otherwise such an angels their other actions make up for it.

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