Define Evil

A reader asked me to define the word evil. Happy to oblige:

  • Evil is the perversion or absence of good.
  • In the intellectual realm, good is honesty. In the existential realm, good is truth.
  • In the realm of biology, good is life and whatever forms of health and joy promote life, and, consequently, whatever virtues promotes health and joy.
  • In the aesthetic realm, good is beauty.
  • In the moral realm, good is the goal of virtue. The virtues are fortitude, prudence, justice, temperance. In the realm of the appetites, good is the proportionate satisfaction of healthy and natural pleasures.
  • In the emotive realm, good is love.
  • Hence we see that good is God and God is good: for He both is and sheds this one good of which the lesser goods are manifestations or side effects: God is truth, life, beauty, virtue, love.

Evil is the pursuit of good by illicit or unlawful means; or the pursuit of some lesser good at the expense of a greater, or in the wrong time or circumstances; or the use of lawful means to obtain illicit ends; or an act which is depraved in and of itself, regardless of means used or ends intended, such as torture, slavery, aborticide.