The Instigator
P912
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Molzahn
Con (against)
Winning
8 Points

People cannot be evil.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Molzahn
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/8/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 931 times Debate No: 16351
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (2)
Votes (2)

 

P912

Pro

This is a debate arguing that people, while they do evil things, are not simply "evil".
Round 1 is introductions/definitions.
Rounds 2,3&4 are arguments.
Round 5 is closing arguments.

Evil: morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked

http://dictionary.reference.com...
Molzahn

Con

Thank you for the debate.

I will contend that people, by virtue of their nature, can be evil. The burden of proof is on me to demonstrate this to be true, and in diametric opposition, my opponent will need to satisfy the burden of proof for the proposition that people cannot be evil.

This is an exercise in semantics, but hopefully this will be an enjoyable and lighthearted debate.
Debate Round No. 1
P912

Pro

Ok, first of all I would like to thank Molzahn for accepting this debate. My opening argument is that it is both morally wrong and simply false to define people as evil.

My first point is that, for a person to be evil, everything they do and think must be a product of that evil. And while this would seem to work in some cases, holes in the logic of the statement are quickly evident. For example, a lot of people might think that Jon Venables (Link below) is evil, but that is a shallow cop out. If he was simply evil, that would tell us everything about him. But what is an evil person's favorite movie? Where do they live? Who do they hang around with? What are their hobbies? Evil, given it's total nature, would have to define everything about a person.

My second point is that definitions of evil change from person to person, and therefore it is impossible to get one, comprehensive definition of evil. Definitions of evil change from person to person. Muslim extremists would call Christians evil. The Catholic Church would say homosexuality is evil. It seems to be impossible to get a definite idea of evil.

These are my brief opening points. I might bring in more points later on in the debate, and I am looking forward to Molzahn's response.

http://en.wikipedia.org...
Molzahn

Con

"[D]efinitions of evil change from person to person... it is impossible to get one, comprehensive definition of evil."


In order to go any further we must comprehensively tackle the dilemma my opponent has enlightened us with, about what constitutes evil. What does it mean when someone is called evil, wicked, or morally wrong? How can we put an objective meaning to something which seems so relative from social group to social group? I simply propose that we rely upon empiricism and science to answer the question – namely psycho-linguistics and sociology in this case. When considering how people use the word evil, evil within this understanding is any action or temperament which violates the stability and well-being of individuals or social infrastructure within a system of social contracts. Depending on the nature of a culture and its social contracts, evil may have a loose or very specific nature.

Simply, what do I mean? Evil is anything which a person deems detrimental to their own way of life. A Muslim may consider a Christian immoral simply because the Qur'an depicts Jews and Christians as swine, though depending on the sect and specific social environment of the individual, they may not always consider this to be the case. Witchcraft is considered evil to some because it violates their taught understanding of morality (and the social contracts derived from those teachings). We can accurately determine what one will consider evil based on the social contracts he or she subscribes to.


"[F]or a person to be evil, everything they do and think must be a product of that evil."

I disagree with this point. As much as I feel we should rely on science to illustrate what evil means, I feel that science (cognitive science in this example) should also guide the direction of our understanding of personal identity. Within a social system, evil doers are more akin to Shakespearean villains than absolute slates of ill-will. I very much enjoyed the reference to the Venables case and I encourage the audience to take a moment to read it. Someone may be a perfectly good person aside from some evil and destructive habits that taint their personality. They become evil when their actions and behaviours are consumed by those mental afflictions. Was Venables evil (having intention and wilful action) or just misguided and disconnected from an understanding of the consequences? The answer will depend on your own values and social norms. It is possible to have a world-view where nothing is considered evil. While in that world-view people cannot be evil, people can still be evil relative to different world-views.

Part of the problem with trying to label someone as “evil” is that in the act of doing so we are attempting to simplistically categorize someone into an expected behaviour set (which may or may not occur). If someone is considered evil, that is simply to say we can reasonably expect them to do evil (perform actions to the detriment of social stability).

http://www.iep.utm.edu...
http://www.sciencedaily.com...
Debate Round No. 2
P912

Pro

P912 forfeited this round.
Molzahn

Con

My opponent has informed me in the comment section that he will currently not have the time to complete this debate. Out of respect for this unfortunate mishap and out of good sport, I encourage the audience to give a tie vote.
Debate Round No. 3
P912

Pro

P912 forfeited this round.
Molzahn

Con

I would gladly take up any challengers on this debate and might even go so far as to defend the position that people truly can't be evil.

There are two critical components of this debate:

1) What is evil; how does evil apply to social systems?
2) How ought we characterize qualities and behaviours of individuals? - is a social label such as evil valid?
Debate Round No. 4
P912

Pro

P912 forfeited this round.
Molzahn

Con

I would gladly rematch my opponent when he has the time to complete a debate.

All the best.
Debate Round No. 5
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Molzahn 5 years ago
Molzahn
I understand, and I'll certainly take you up on that!

It's a shame there isn't a way to "cancel" the debate so you don't have a lose on your record.
Posted by P912 5 years ago
P912
Sorry Molzahn I won't have time to do this debate now I have exams coming up and I simply don't have the time if you want to I will have time to do this in around the end of June. Sorry :(
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
P912MolzahnTied
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Total points awarded:01 
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit.
Vote Placed by medic0506 5 years ago
medic0506
P912MolzahnTied
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Total points awarded:07 
Reasons for voting decision: forfeit