Are Bad People Just Stupid?

“For indeed, the happiest potential issue

Experienced men achieve through plans.”

  Oedipus Rex, 44-45 (trans. liberally by TWM)

Dear Ernest,

In an effort to make this letter as concise and to the point as possible, while passing over any superfluous details, specifics, or particulars and avoiding any unnecessary repetitions or reiterations of the same concepts in different words, I have—for this purpose—decided to forgo the inclusion of any kind of absurdly lengthy and savagely magniloquent introductory sentence or paragraph—which might, even while appealing to my own grotesque and gaudy sensibilities, betray for my audience my embarrassing and deeply rooted verbosity—abstaining from so much, I have chosen instead to cut right to the chase: not all bad people are stupid.

In your last letter: “What are your thoughts on the Platonic [notion] that, if we were to truly know ‘The Good’ then we could do nothing else but that good?”

In so many words, these are precisely my thoughts on the Platonic notion known as ‘Hellenistic Rationalism’—the notion that moral goodness is the same thing as intellectual knowledge.  If I were to make the matter as simple as possible, I’d say that Hellenistic Rationalism is really just a fancy way of claiming that all bad people are stupid.  But even the most casual consideration of the world around us reveals that this isn’t true.  How many brilliant men and women of business have climbed the corporate ladder through deceit and treachery?  How many poets and artists, renowned for their learning and intelligence, have violated sacred vows and died dishonourably of syphilis?  Was not the idolatrous Solomon a divinely educated wise man?  By comparison to the rest of us, all of these people seem to have known ‘The Good’ very distinctly and with that full knowledge have made the deliberate choice to reject it all together.  The central human quality that delineates the boundaries between good and evil must then be something much more fundamental than mere knowledge.

For that matter, it is also more fundamental even than volition.  It is the human essence that can be called either good or evil.  In claiming this, I am saying nothing particularly insightful.  In fact, the tenet is almost circular: ‘that man is essentially good who is good with respect to his essence’.  It means that morality is not determined by what a person knows or what they want to do or what kind of sandwich they prefer to eat at three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, but rather, morality is an aspect of who the person is in his or her entirety.  The sophists at the university may be inclined to tell you that education is the key to happiness or goodness or any other desirable quality.  A veteran of war will sooner tell you that a proper training of the will can bring about so much.  I myself would like to say that the trick is to wear a handlebar moustache while composing shamelessly romantic music.  But common sense and linguistic idiom make it clear that being good is a subject concerned exclusively with being.

The problem with mere knowledge of The Good is that it doesn’t necessitate our using of that knowledge.  I know very well that it would be good if I were to clean up my room and my act rather than reading Gradus ad Parnassum or writing an over simplified blogpost on moral philosophy.  But this knowledge of good and evil, as it were, means absolutely nothing to me if I don’t think about it.  In short, I know what’s good for me (most people do), but I’m not thinking about it—I don’t consciously know that I know it.  If you enjoy being arcane, you might call this ‘second order knowing’, and just like the orders of volition, the orders of intellect describe the way that faculty is structured, which means they are a metaphysical aspect of essence.  Usually, when someone does something immoral, it’s not because they didn’t know it was wrong nor because they didn’t want to do The Good, but to put it simply, it’s because they refused to know that they knew the Good that they wanted to want to do.

Your servant,

TWM

P.S. I challenge you to use the word “campanological” in your next post.

The Necessity of Evil

Ooo, creepy.

I ended my post on the Character of the Omnipotent an overly classical˚ foreshadowing of a post to come which would touch on why the Omnipotent would allow our “mortal, finite bodies to be void or partly void of being.”  This is that post.

So far in our model of the Omnipotent, we have One who is Infinite, Rational, Good, Caring, and Loving of us. And as for our model of ourselves, we are infinite, fractal beings embodied in (or imitated by) finite bodies created with love for a purpose equal to the purpose which the Omnipotent has for Himself. That purpose is to exist in the Perfect and Beautiful state which the Omnipotent “presently” enjoys.  If you are an existentialist reading this and have an issue with such being our purpose, then your error is your reading this far before converting to absolutism.  This argument established an absolutist scope from the very beginning; therefore, with in this scope, such a Purpose is valuable on an Absolute level.  That is, the Omnipotents’ Being is Absolutely Good, and to exist like Him is also, therefore, Absolutely good.

By existing “like” Him, I mean existing in the manner in which He created us to exist. Which is to exist as a part of Him.  Each of us is a thought in His mind with a specific “place” that we belong and “function” for which we exist (by nature of being coherent rational thoughts).  Our purpose is to exist in that place and satisfy that function.

Our beings, having been “begotten” of His being, must posses all the qualities of His being†.  Therefore, our beings are loving.  And since they are designed entirely for their purpose, their every quality must be a necessity in fulfilling that purpose.  Therefore, it is necessary that our beings are loving in order to fulfill our purpose.  “Loving of what?” is just a silly question at this point, for the Omnipotent makes up and encompasses all of reality and therefore to love anything other than Him is Absolute Nonsense˚.

So man’s purpose is therefore to love the Omnipotent as He loves man†.  But what is love? Love is the act of feeling joy at another’s presence, the sacrificial longing for the Good of another, the desire of another, the intellectual realization and acknowledgment that another is Good˚… and all arising from the free will of a being.  Therefore, in order to create us to be loving beings, as He did that we might fulfill our purpose, the Omnipotent had to give us free will.  It is Absolute Nonsense for loving beings to exist without free will, and since He is loving, it is also Absolute Nonsense for Him to “beget” beings that are not loving.  Thus we His creatures had to be given the option not to love.

But to not love is to no longer be a part of the Omnipotent, for he is infinitely loving, and to no longer be a part of Him is to no longer be a part of reality–to cease to exist.  This is our model of evil: nonbeing.  In order for love to exist, He had to make our existence optional; thus, evil was a necessary evil.  Any one of us can choose to turn away from the joy of being to the pain of nonbeing.

This whole phenomenon is best illustrated, as it has been, using the metaphor of time (i.e. that we are created at one point and allowed to exist a while in a body and then to decide to no longer be), though it is logically paradoxical because eternity is beyond time.  One might expect that the ones who would have chosen to not be would therefore not have been created.  With fractal reality, we know that both of these are simultaneously true: there is a sense in which the beings who steal away from the gathering of joy† never really exist and also a sense in which a whole journey happens at the conclusion of which such beings are no more.  Remember, reality is infinite and any human scope finite; therefore, in order to see more of reality, we must move our limited scopes from one thing to another through time.

____________________________________________

˚ Alas, one of the tragedies of being born in the eighteenth century (I turn 243 next December).

† Just as it is a logical necessity that His Reason gives birth to ours, so must each of His other “character traits” give birth to each of ours.  (By the way, please do excuse my poor use of the word being; I am merely trying to be consistent.  You may mentally substitute the word soul if you wish.)

˚ And to love the Omnipotent is also to love the self and everyone else for they are all a part of the Omnipotent “A quote from John Milton’s Paradise Lost will go here once I relocate my copy of it–a task which is unusually difficult at 2:30 in the morning” -TWM.

† (hmm, these doctrines are starting to look familiar)

˚ “Ladies with an intellect of love …”

† “Whoever has succeeded in the great attempt / To be a friend’s friend; / Whoever has won a lovely woman / Add in his jubilation! / Yes, who calls even one soul / His own on the earth’s sphere! / And whoever never could achieve this, / Let him steal away crying from this gathering!” -Friedrich Schiller “Ode to Joy”