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Defining "Good" and "Evil"

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/6/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 184 times Debate No: 92392
Debate Rounds (3)
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Many have attempted to define "Good" and "Evil." Most attempts (that I'm familiar with) appeal to very concrete behavior that can be generalized and universally applied. For example, "Thou shalt not kill."This, to me, is too simplistic. Does this apply in all cases and all scenarios? I believe accepting this generates a variety of conundrums, among them suggesting I cannot kill an intruder in my home who is attempting to kill my wife and child in cold blood. Thus I have rejected what I deem overly-broad, categorical morality statements that are rooted in observable behaviors. Instead I propose a new definition. But first, I must establish the groundwork.
Not all matter has volition. A chair can neither choose to move nor remain. It operates based on natural law (what we might call physics today), and does merely what these laws command (i.e. - Newton's laws, etc.).
People are of a different sort than this. Humans can make choices and act out their desires. While we too are limited in choice by natural law, we are given command over things, such as the will to motion, and others. This "volitional capacity" as I shall call it, is a fundamental component in the establishment of what is both "good" and "evil."
"Entropy" can be understood as "the tendency of an item, when left to itself, toward disorder." Non-volitional items have no choice in the matter--they merely follow natural law. Humans, however, can choose to embrace this principle, or reject it. "The embrace of entropy by volitional beings" is what I deem as "evil."
There must be an alternative to entropy then, when it comes to beings of choice. This I will call "syntropy." It can be understood as the act of creating order out of disorder. Not all "syntropy" is of equal value. For example, To clean and organize my shed may be considered a form of syntropy, but surely low on the "goodness" scale.
The highest forms of syntropy deal with creating order out of disorder in social dynamics. This is why morality generally has to do with human interaction (i.e. - back to "thou shalt not kill," or "thou shalt not bear false witness."). These aforementioned examples deal with behaviors that are true most of the time. Because of their propensity toward facile comprehension and what I call "general good," they have been used historically as a collective morality. However, they are lacking in absolute prescriptive value.
Syntropy, then, must be taken in context. What is good for the relationship, as well as humanity as a whole, is inextricably tied to the myriad of variables associated with any circumstance (i.e. - time, space, individuals involved--including their unique backgrounds, etc.). This information is examined, and a decision is made, to produce a "syntropic outcome," or the "Good." This bears need of some additional explanation.
Assume I have applied the "general good" principle of not lying. In most circumstances, this volitional choice will enact a "syntropic outcome," thus rendering it "good." However, if I had lived during Nazi Germany and housed Jews in my basement for their protection, and the Gestapo knocked on my door and asked if any Jews lived with me, the "syntropic outcome" would be facilitated by lying. This is because to tell the truth would cause a "general harm" to humanity, in that the Nazi's would almost certainly imprison and/or kill those individuals.
This poses a problem for moral absolutists. If morality is contextual, inextricably tied to the unique circumstances surrounding the individual, how can I prescribe moral behavior? My response to this is not perfect. Essentially, you can't. Moral prescriptivity is to be found in one's somewhat subjective application of the preceding principle--produce syntropic outcomes.
I must anticipate and address two objections before I pause my argument for a rebuttal. The first objection, surely this allows for broad interpretation of moral behavior and assumes a perilous vulnerability to those who would misuse the principle in justifying heinous behavior (i.e. - flying a plane into a building is "good" in that it produces the syntropic outcome of facilitating a newly established, higher order, that is of greater benefit to humanity than the preceding one--think Ra's Al Ghul in Batman Begins). My response to this is that it is true my moral theory does not account for nor protect against misuse. It is, rather, a moral theory meant to be applied in earnest. In other words, it is yet to establish any governing principle protecting it from extremists. My only consolation is that if one can "prove" by argument or an appeal to historical evidence, that such a behavior is not conducive to the general good, then one has won the case for "good." Apart from this, it is meant to be employed by those who are seeking to do good, and are looking for a way to determine what that is.
The second objection, is that it requires a high degree of knowledge, for how can one produce a syntropic outcome without a profound knowledge of causal relationships, in particular as they relate to humans, and human systems? My response to this--this is part of your moral imperative, to improve upon one's understanding of reality, and what leads to "good" ends. For example, cheating on my wife may be viewed as "evil" by an appeal to the damage it causes. Simply looking at others who have chosen that behavior will demonstrate that trust is broken (provided it was understood to be a monogamous relationship). Furthermore, affection may be devalued. If children are part of the relational dynamic, they too may be hurt. Thus I may determine the immorality of adulterous behavior. As I look to experiences surrounding me, and use reason, I may grow in wisdom and approximate moral behavior, for I will understand better how to produce syntropic outcomes in an increasingly high amount of situations. A pursuit of further knowledge, then, becomes central to this moral philosophy.
I have been musing over this idea for several years now. This has been my first attempt to state it in unified terms, as a moral imperative that could be applied by individuals other than me. I expect some confusion, and some additional objections to it. That is part of what I hope to obtain from putting it forth here--insight on additional areas of vulnerability, as well as blind spots I may have neglected to see. I hope that your objections will allow me to further develop this moral philosophy to become more coherent, and pragmatic in nature.
As always,I ask that the dialogue be respectful in nature, intent on pursuing Truth. Ideally, the candidate who responds to this debate will have a preliminary knowledge regarding moral theory so that he or she may counter with opposing views. I also have a background in formal logic (up through predicate logic), so I welcome any attempt to relay my argument in terms of propositional symbols.
With that being said, I look forward to your reply and hope for a good debate!


For those who are confused as to what Pro is saying, Pro defines disorder as the ultimate goal of evil and order as the ultimate goal of good.

More specifically Pro defines any entropy (in Pro's context this is an entity leading to disorder) as a catalyst for evil and a syntropy (in this debate, this is an entity leading to order out of disorder) as good.

The first and foremost hole in what Pro states is that the way syntropy works means that without evil there can be no good to begin with, making evil the default state of any and all things even if they are not directly leading to disorder. This is because according to Pro there is no third state of being and syntropy requires entropy to have previously occurred as the order must be made to come from disorder. If evil is a prerequisite for good then what happens before evil? What is the state of morality on something that isn't causing disorder but is also not making order come out of disorder? Are all orderly beings equally moral?

Pro gives the example of the Nazis, who were extremely order-oriented and the Jews at the time, who were in utter chaos and hoping that the orderly regime of the Nazis would fail as an example to contradict their own definition. The issue here is that this alone is how Pro has lost the debate. Pro genuinely conceded the debate at this very point.

I conclude that Pro has already lost the debate by a key case study example where Pro themselves states that the order-seekers were evil and the ones encouraging disorder to be maintained were good.
Debate Round No. 1


I think that ContraDictator brings up some good points. Specifically, the question posed "Are all orderly beings equally moral?" seems relevant, and ignored by me.
I think the only option I have is to answer no. ContraDictator noted that the Nazis (who I considered to be evil), are very orderly--moreso than the Jews. Thus I believe my definition of "good" and "evil" is lacking in specificity. Order cannot be the intrinsic good.
Perhaps if I were to shift my definition, this could alleviate some of the complications. Consider "Syntropy is good inasmuch as it doesn't abdicate others' volition." This would account for the orderliness of the Nazi's not being "good" because it was acting counter to the volition of the Jews.
In reference to the issue of syntropy being an unattainable virtue in the absence of disorder, I would respond that never has there ever been, nor ever will be, a time in which disorder is completely eradicated from the universe. This assertion may lead to an 'agnostic' response, for I don't know how either of us could prove or disprove the proposition.


Not only is it bad conduct and totally illegal in debating rules to change definitions half way through a debate but even if we accepted Pro's new addition to Syntropy, Pro has provided us zero ways to determine 'volition' and hasnt even proved that free will itself even exists to the slightest extent.

Free will leads to disorder, a universe of determinism is more orderly than one with free will thus volition is entropic by its vary nature.
Debate Round No. 2


Debating rules are set in the parameters of the individual debate. You must have missed (or ignored) the explicit parameter set in my debate terms that this was a debate intent on pursuing Truth. You seem more intent on trolling. Your answers are short and harsh, and make little effort to promote mutual understanding. Try "getting off" with your girlfriend, not by being an a$$.


In the process of pursuing truth, I found you to be wrong. My sincerest apologies.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Furyan5 4 months ago
Good and Evil are not synonymous with right and wrong. For example in the case of lying to the Gestapo might be considered evil but it would be the right thing to do. We are also many times faced with two possibilities which are both considered evil where we would choose the lesser of two evils. My belief is that our moral beliefs are a result of external factors (things we see and hear) and that the motivation for all action is to do whats best for those we love. This would include the self as well as nonhuman and nonliving things such as religion, money, power and fame. Thus anything which benefits what we love becomes good and anything which threatens what we love becomes evil.
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