Sunday, March 28, 2010

Good n Bad (FINALLY OMG RITE?)

So in my PL SC 378: International Conflict, my flaming liberal, left-leaning pacifist professor was going off about how terrible war is, and how "we do all of these evil things hoping to do good. Sometimes to do good, you have to do evil." Now, it might have been the semi-rebellious mood I was in, or the sick pleasure I find in playing devil's advocate at times, but for whatever reason, my mind vehemently rejected this idea like my stomach rejected that Army jumbalaya I had last summer.

The crux of this train of thought I found myself in, was the question: can one do good (morally and justly speaking) while doing something evil? In my mind, that was like saying that to be round, you have to be square. It didn't compute. There was some serious semantical issue that had yet to be tackled with this phraseology; and I intended to tackle it.

After thinking about it a bit, I came to a rather radical conclusion: there is no such thing as an inherently "evil" or "good" action. Humor me, if you will.

Take Moroni 7:8, which says:

For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it begrudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.
Right there, Mormon tells us that if you give a gift with an evil or grudging heart, it counts for nothing. Even if you donated a billion dollars to homelessness, if you do it with an ulterior motive or a grudging heart or some evil design, you have not done good.

It is important to separate WHAT YOU HAVE DONE from THE CONSEQUENCES OF WHAT YOU HAVE DONE. Of course, the consequences of you giving one billion dollars are wonderfully good. But you yourself have not done good. Rather, the consequences of your actions are good, not what you actually did.

Likewise, taking a human life is all over the place on people's good/bad-o-meter. This is because of the intention behind it, much like our giving a billion dollars to homelessness case. If you take a life with evil intentions, you have done evil. If you take a life with good intentions (defense of an innocent, etc) than you have not done any evil. Remember that I'm talking about WHAT YOUV"E DONE and not what the consequences are. The consequence of taking a human life are tragic. However, "evil" is determined in the intention, not the act.

In fact, Mormon says it straight out in verse six:
For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good.
The point here is that you cannot "do evil to do good." You can only do good to do good and evil to do evil. The CONSEQUENCES of your action may be totally irrelevant to how good/evil your intents are. I may do something so evil that has good consequences for SOMEONE, but that doesn't mean that I've done "good." Evil is evil, and good is good.

The real problem here, is semantics and the English language. Our language is so confusing that we have trouble understanding the real ideas behind what people are trying to say. I totally understand what my professor was saying: war is full of terrible things but we do it hoping that some good comes of it. But the phrase, " we do evil in order to to do good" does not follow logically or semantically. Good and evil are all in intentions, not actual acts. Thats why at the last day we'll be judged for our intentions, not solely what we did.

This brings up one more point:

The only act that could be called "inherently evil" or "inherently good" would be an act that had absolutely no other motive than "evil" or "good" respectively. Taking human life doesn't satisfy this criteria because you could take a human life in defense of your three year old sister. In fact, I am hard pressed to come up with any action at all that could satisfy this criteria. I cannot think of single "inherently good" or "inherently evil" action. Maybe I just haven't thought through it enough yet.
I am sure there was more I wanted to say about this topic, but as Microsoft WORD crashed on me like the dependable word-processor it is, this is all I could salvage/remember. That's why you post stuff on your blog as soon as it happens and not a couple months later.

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