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What actually is evil? Hiroshima? Auschwitz? Of course these are evil. But is evil not much deeper, and in all of us? To understand evil we need to be a bit less obvious; more subtle, varied, critical, deep.

Evil as Subtle

A year or so ago (5 January 2008) I saw two advertisements for the same product (a mobile phone or MP3 player, I think):

Notice first how fun-attractive these are. They speak of impishness that feels like fun. What's wrong with that? Look at the connotations.

All these connotations are evil, that subtle evil which appears so harmless and small. Don't millions of people do this? Precisely. When it pervades a community or society, robs that society of trust, love, consideration, and also leads to millions of victims being hurt, humiliated, and perhaps seeking revenge. When this happens - millions of people perpetrating such attitudes and millions more being hurt and seeking revenge, then society as a whole has suffered. And society in which such attitudes prevail is on the slippery slope to the more obvious types of evil like Auschwitz.

Evil as Varied

Evil is not just of one type, but of many. There is injustice, there is selfish, cynical attitudes, there is religious evil, including idolatry, there is poverty, there is bullying and other social evils, and so on. For more on diversity of evil, see the page on Normativity in the Dooyeweerd Pages.

It is varied in two ways. In what we do, and in the way we have shaped society so that it is easy to do evil and more difficult to do right.

Varieties Of Evil We Do

We can separate out various evils we do (also the good) using Dooyeweerd's aspects. Here is a table of examples the different kinds of blessing and bane we bring into the world (to ourselves, to others, to society and to the creation) seen from the perspective of each aspect (from the biotic aspect onwards):

Aspect Example of Blessing Example of Bane
Biotic Vital Diseased
Sensitive Bright-eyed Feeling rotten
Analytical Clear, logical Muddled
Formative Industrious, systematic Destructive, lazy
Lingual Truthful, articulate Deceitful
Social Friendly Disdaining
Economic Frugal Wasteful, Greedy
Aesthetic Fun, enjoyable Boring
Juridical Just Unjust
Ethical Self-giving Selfish
Pistic Loyal Unfaithful

Obviously there are many more in each aspect, because each aspect is a constellation of meaningfulness. However, that will give a flavour.

Evil In The Structure of Society

Humanity as a whole has so structured society that nowadays we find ourselves turned towards certains kinds of actions and away from others. The society we belong to defines our lifestyle, which influences what we do. We are turned towards certain kinds of good and certain kinds of evil; this page is concerned with the kinds of evil. We're talking global society here, as well as society at a national or people level.

For example, the consumerist and individualistic attitude that pervades Western society makes it difficult for people to do what is right and just rather than what is selfish and indirectly damaging. Such issues might be cited by anti-Western campaigners as evils - and I agree with them - but there are many more kinds of evil that they overlook. God's people have a responsibility to understand and act on all kinds.

I have used Dooyeweerd's aspects to separate out the kinds of structural evil. This is on a separate page because it would make this page rather long. It also contains a challenge and initial suggestions of what to do.

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About This Page

Offered to God as on-going work, this page is designed to stimulate discussion on various topics, as part of Andrew Basden's pages that open up various things from one of the Christian perspectives. Contact details.

Copyright (c) Andrew Basden at all the dates below. But you may use this material subject to certain conditions.

Written on the Amiga with Protext.

Created: 5 January 2008. Last updated: 11 October 2013 updated it; new sections on varieties of evil we do, and structural evil (which was then moved to structural.evil); .nav, .end. 13 October 2013 minor wording. 7 July 2015 new .end.