Updated: Sep 5, 2021
October 1, 2019
Good and evil never crossed our minds; and we certainly never attempted to define these concepts or what constitutes right or wrong. What a good chat that might have been...
I only attempted to address right and wrong late in life. I lived all the way into my forties without any sound idea about what good or bad thinking and behavior were. I only took on this challenge when I found myself in need of a definition of life meaning, and when I decided this meaning would be the pursuit of virtue, and I didn't know what virtue was.
I decided then that virtue was the pursuit of well-being, which in turn is defined as the objective improvement of the welfare and circumstance for any living thing. I know that this is a very broad definition, though my principle aim in virtue is the well-being of my fellow humans, with an understanding that improvement of well-being of other creatures, as well as the ecosystem as a whole, creates an overall betterment which raises the relative well-being of all life. But what's this to do with right and wrong or good and evil? And how do these two concept-sets differ?
What is right is simply whatever makes things better for the many without unreasonable compromise to the well-being of the few. Wrong then is the corresponding opposite and that which makes things worse for the many with unreasonable improvement of the few. Good and evil in turn describe the overt intent of the actor in performing right or wrong behaviors. In this sense, someone who is ignorant of the harm their behavior causes to the many is guilty of doing wrong, while their intent may not be evil. Yet, if they understand the harm they cause yet they choose to do it anyway, then they are guilty of evil. On the other hand, someone who makes the world better by their choices and actions performs right, and is also good if they understand the positive impact of what they do. The pursuit of virtue then is nothing more than seeking first to understand the potential impact of our decisions regarding well-being (right and wrong) and then resolving to make the choices which knowingly make things better (good over evil). Making the decision for right and good often takes work and is rarely easy...though this is the way to virtue...this is how to live The Good Life.
We "go into evil" when we first collect the facts we need ahead of an important decision, and then weight and consider these facts in light of the pros and cons and assumption about what will happen if we make a choice. The critical path is the way forward that seemingly leads towards virtue and the improvement of well-being for the many. We "go into evil" if this path takes away from our preference in pursuit of the good. Going into evil begins with ourselves; this fight starts with a resistance to our own unworthy desire and want. We engage the fight with temperance and simplicity and apathy and a decision to do right and perform good in spite of the discomfort it may cause to our own desire or even our own well-being. We go into evil when we choose The Good Life first.
My name is Kurt Bell.
You can learn more about The Good Life in my book Going Alone.
Be safe... But not too safe.