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Semantically incoherent Part 1:

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8/26/2015 5:26:29 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
A Necessary Evil

Let"s take a look at how these words are defined.

Necessary: "being essential, indispensable, or requisite"(1)

Evil: "morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked" (2)

By putting the definition in place of the words we get the phrase of a "indispensable wicked," or perhaps "essential immoral." I am not of the opinion that people using the phrase "a necessary evil" truly mean either necessary or evil. Rather the concept of evil is conflated from the concept of undesirable and the concept of necessary conflated with unavoidable.

Consider the following example, people often describe war as a necessary evil. Do they really mean that war is evil and necessary? I am more inclined to believe that they mean that it is an unavoidable, undesired reality. War is a great example because it is easy to show cases where war is not requisite, and not immoral. Surely there are times where war is what "ought" happen. (By ought I mean the moral obligation.) But if I say that war is by occasion the moral option, it cannot be moral and evil. Especially as we see that evil by definition means immoral. How can an action be both moral and immoral simultaneously? Evil as a concept is no doubt "undesirable." But in my mind it is more than undesirable, it is immoral.

Another interesting insight is that moral action, or in other words what ought to be done implies can. It would be unjust impose impossible obligations. . If obligations were not achievable, agents would waste resources attempting to meet the burden imposed on them. Capacity to perform obligations is a prerequisite to any moral system. "[T]he point of uttering moral judgments disappears if the agents involved are not able to act as proposed."(3)

I think it reasonable to say that if something is necessary that means it is either what ought be, meaning it is moral; or it is unable to be change, meaning it cannot be immoral as you ought not be required to do something you cannot. It is because of this, using strict definitions it seems necessary and evil cannot be descriptive of the same thing.

From a strict relation of terms from the dictionary, I find the statement a necessary evil to be incoherent. Though from the standpoint of understanding what people mean it is reasonable enough.

What are your thoughts?


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8/27/2015 7:50:51 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
I think you have proved that often words are inadequate because we all attach differenr meanings to them. The word evil has an enormous scope of meanings so should I avoid using the word at all?
Well we only have words interpret them as you will and one of the beauties of language is its inexactitude.
In debate we like to pin people down we want absolute exactitude, we do not want our opponent to escape. It is one way of communicating and can give the winner an ego burst. Poetry and music are alternatives.
Sometimes people wish to communicate their feelings and we must be sensative to that desire and let them talk.