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In Defense of Evil

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rdanhenry:

--- Quote from: Hurin on December 19, 2021, 10:16:12 AM ---It isn't a useful 'absolutist' standard of judgment, but of course there are no absolutes. It's the same in physics: yes, it would be nice if time moved at the same speed for everyone, but once you start to move very fast then you have to start considering perspective, time dilation, etc., and there is no one 'god' perspective from which to view and judge. If you adopted the same tone towards relativity theory, you might say that the theory of relativity isn't a very good guide either, and for the exact same reasons that moral relativity isn't. Yet both are (to me at least) just facts we have to live with.

--- End quote ---

But in relativity, *everyone sees the universe as having the same laws*. That's *why* they have to disagree on dimensional measurements.

MisterK:
I don't need (or want) an absolute Good or Evil because I don't need (or want) an absolute judgement in my games.

There is evil - which is the enemy, and which is relative. Enemies of your own moral compass, enemies of your clan, enemies of your faction, enemies of the state, enemies of the faith, you name them. All of them are relative evil - they are evil because they oppose you one way or another.

Then, there is the unfathomable, things that defy understanding. And you can call them evil by assimilation, but it's really for lack of a proper qualifier, because "alien" does not make the cut.
Azathoth is not evil - it just *is*, on a scale so incomprehensible for humans that they can't find an appropriate word for it.

In game terms, what you get in a "detect evil" depends on what reference your "good" is. Since those spells are often faith-based, the point is easy - anything that is opposed to your faith is "evil" - the faithful of the opposite faith, those who actively act against the moral compass of your faith, those that the faith have painted as abominations, those who the church hates and fears.

So if your faith states that all undead are abominations in the eye of the Holy, then all undead will be evil - even those who are still sentient and do not perform immoral acts. On the other hand, if your faith states that evil is in the intent of sentient beings, then the intelligent and immoral undead will be evil, but the intelligent and inoffensive undead won't be, and the mindless undead won't be either unless the will of their creator can be perceived in them.

I find the relative view actually much more interesting than the absolute view from a roleplay perspective. People make their own decisions, have to think about what they believe in and have to accept that they act on *their* principles, not on an absolute mandate.

An additional advantage is that the relative view can be considered as absolute for the characters if the setting is restricted enough - because of lack of perspective.

Having an absolute Good and Evil is OK when the setting is built on this principle of black and white - I find it fitting for either monotheic (think medieval europe)  or pantheic (think ancient china) faiths, where all that exists under the sun follows one divine law (the Word of God, or the Mandate of Heaven) except the heathens and the heretics (who must be, at best, poked with a long pole and, at worst, cut down mercilessly).

When there are multiple competing faiths and belief systems, I think the absolute view fails badly as a setting foundation, unless you admit that one faith is "right" and the others are delusions or deceptions. Even falling back on general principles such as the ones JDale lists in his post is short selling the setting - after all, sanctity of life is not necessarily a core tenet (you can easily substitute, for instance, that life is meaningless but duty is everything), and respect for others is not either (you can substitute that individual thought is nothing but vanity against the betterment of the Whole, as dictated by the Law of Heaven spoken by the Divine Emperor - on other words, the only worthy opinion is the one of the ruler, and everything else is inconsequential). Neither are absolutely evil. Either would lead to a society that is fairly different from our more or less unconscious western medieval baseline, and you can find countless *very* interesting examples of such in literature (usually inspired by non-western traditions).

Hurin:

--- Quote from: rdanhenry on December 19, 2021, 01:46:47 PM ---
--- Quote from: Hurin on December 19, 2021, 10:16:12 AM ---It isn't a useful 'absolutist' standard of judgment, but of course there are no absolutes. It's the same in physics: yes, it would be nice if time moved at the same speed for everyone, but once you start to move very fast then you have to start considering perspective, time dilation, etc., and there is no one 'god' perspective from which to view and judge. If you adopted the same tone towards relativity theory, you might say that the theory of relativity isn't a very good guide either, and for the exact same reasons that moral relativity isn't. Yet both are (to me at least) just facts we have to live with.

--- End quote ---

But in relativity, *everyone sees the universe as having the same laws*. That's *why* they have to disagree on dimensional measurements.

--- End quote ---

And yet, there is the possibility of other dimensions and universes beyond our own with different physical laws. This was more what i was getting at by talking of entities from other plains. I doubt alien life would agree with our moral laws or principles.

Cory Magel:

--- Quote from: jdale on December 19, 2021, 01:27:21 PM ---Human conflicts are complex. If you decide your neighbor is subhuman simply because you want their lands and to get some free labor, you're the evil one. But if your conflict is an ancient enmity with many wrongs committed on each side, it gets difficult to entangle and just recognizing that they are enemies may be more fair than trying to claim one side is right and the other is wrong.
--- End quote ---
Those people that have what you want are the evil ones and you are the evil ones according to them for trying to take it.  Or, even more superficial (think religious differences) those people that think pineapple is an appropriate pizza topping need to be purged from the universe due to their heretical beliefs.  As you said yourself, it's a construct based on what you believe.  Neither are inherently evil.  It's actions, often based on belief systems, that result in one applying the label to the other.

I put true evil, beings that are simply inherently evil, on a different level than that.  Things that want you dead simply because you're alive.

MisterK:

--- Quote from: Cory Magel on December 20, 2021, 12:47:55 AM ---I put true evil, beings that are simply inherently evil, on a different level than that.  Things that want you dead simply because you're alive.

--- End quote ---
That's simply you overreacting :)

Imagine aliens that come from another world and that have a biology so different (not based on carbon) that our biosphere is actually harmful to them. You cannot communicate with them in any way. They want to change your planet to suit *their* biology - which will kill you because, well, you won't have nutrients and won't be able to breathe whatever passes for an atmosphere when they're done. Your existence is *corrosive* to them, and theirs to you.

So they try to kill you and yours any way they can. They want you dead just because you're alive - literally speaking.

I don't qualify that as evil - and especially not as *absolute* evil.

Basically, evil is evil only because you think it is. Which is the definition of relative. And it doesn't make it any less powerful - as a species, we've done pretty awful things in the name of what we think is good and evil.

[as a matter of fact, I would advise all who haven't already done so to read Cixin Lui's 'The Three-Body Problem' trilogy, and especially the second tome 'The Dark Forest' - the implications are enlightening).

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