From 1780 BCE
November 9, 2001 6:08 PM   Subscribe

From 1780 BCE to 2001 AD. Almost four thousand years of sociology, humanity, and depravity. You've come a long way, baby but just how far have we come? Are we going in the right direction? Can a person be inherently good or evil, or is it that one's actions, thoughts and words can be defined as good or evil, and Mankind is intrinsically definied as neither? What is your definition of evil? What is your depravity scale? Would you want to help define evil for the next four thousand years? Will it make a better world?
posted by ZachsMind (13 comments total)
Well, in an ideal world, I'd be the definition of evil for the next four thousand years...
posted by aramaic at 6:14 PM on November 9, 2001

From 1780 BCE to 2001 AD. Or, 2001 CE, for consistency's sake. And, no, wrong direction, people are evil, 102.
posted by rschram at 8:28 PM on November 9, 2001

Aramaic: Can I be the definition of perversity?
posted by signal at 8:31 PM on November 9, 2001

All right, signal, but I get depravity.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:11 PM on November 9, 2001

Slightly tangential, but this has been gnawing at me since post-9/11 criticism set know all of those references to Gandhi's, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" crap -- well, maybe we should begin thinking of it as simply leveling the playing field.

And re: evil. It exists. Having said that, I believe that overall, humanity tips a bit more towards the GOOD side of the scale; self-preservation, survival of the species, parental instinct, etc, pretty much overrides much of the potential evil in this world. And, in the end, Good will prevail in most situations.
posted by davidmsc at 10:08 PM on November 9, 2001

Since nobody has claimed these yet, I'd like to be: despair, depression, and self-loathing.

I'm sure these are low demand. And I should snatch them up before Morrissey does.
posted by at 3:25 AM on November 10, 2001

What causes "evil"? Read "Base Instincts: What Makes Killers Kill," by neurologist Jonathan Pincus (or, at least, the interview with him).

According to your book, three things intersect to create a killer: mental illness, neurological damage and child abuse. Are all three always there?

"Two-thirds of murderers have all three factors, and the others have two of the three. It's pretty clear that mental illness is not enough to cause violence because most people who are mentally ill are not violent. It's also evident that neurological damage is not enough to cause violence because the vast majority of people who are neurologically impaired are not violent. And it's clear that the experience of horrendous child abuse is not enough to cause violence because most people who are abused that way are not violent. Yet, most violent people have these three factors, or two of the three. That's an indisputable fact. The theory that explains it is that abuse sets up an impulse toward violence that a good brain can control. If you get the abuse and the neurological damage and mental illness, then violent impulses are not easy to check. That's why they are expressed under stress or at times of jealousy or anger."
posted by Carol Anne at 4:43 AM on November 10, 2001

Evil, as applied to a person, is a cop out. When someone is evil you don't have to try to understand them, so people just take the actions that are most difficult to understand, like mass murder, torture, "depravity," and call their perpetrators evil. Easy solution.

Most people really don't want to look at these events are acts undertaken by regular people, however neurologically impaired or mentally unstable, they want some quality that differentiates the depraved from themselves on more basic level than just their actions. Evil works well for that; "they did it because they were evil - only evil people would do that." "He must have been evil, that explains it."

Most people have violent impulses at least a few times during their lives, and those impulses are what people use the concept of evil to hide away from. No one likes to think they are capable of murder.

The same goes for good, of course, but that is a concept that people use far less destructively.

Good and evil are reactions to events, not properties of who causes them. They're also very subjective, though there are of course events of such magnitude that almost everyone will agree on labeling them evil, like the World Trade Center attacks.
posted by Nothing at 6:53 AM on November 10, 2001

Almost four thousand years of sociology..

Sociology, the modern sciantific study of human socities has only been around for like 80 years or so.

I'm trying to find a refrence on google but it keeps giving me things like "first sociologist
ever on the board of the world bank", "first sociologist
ever elected to the sciance board in Taiwan", etc.
posted by delmoi at 7:03 AM on November 10, 2001

Confucius say....
posted by clavdivs at 7:54 AM on November 10, 2001

Well, that's news.
posted by D at 8:21 AM on November 10, 2001

delmoi: 19th Century origins of sociology, specifically August Comte, who originated the term almost 200 years ago.

Your 80-year figure does apply to the modern techniques of sociology, when it was first attempting to be a more serious and rigorous science. But it really goes back a century to Emile Durkheim, author of the classic Suicide, the bane of humanities freshmen everywhere.
posted by dhartung at 1:35 PM on November 10, 2001

Thank you delmoi and dhartung for correcting me. I misspoke. And many thanks to those of you who took this thread seriously, and made it a worthwhile read. Oh, and thanks rschram for correcting my lack of consistency. =)
posted by ZachsMind at 3:09 AM on November 11, 2001

« Older Nicote-free cigarette from genetically modified...   |   Paper says bin Laden claims he has nuclear weapons... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments