Thursday, September 22, 2005


On Free Will, The Good and The Bad

We have Free Wills, But We Freely Assign Some of That Freedom For The Sake of Security

Through the bloody clash of free wills over centuries men have forged guidelines and rules of behavior amongst themselves that delimit the exercise of their individual free wills in order to live more securely together. Thus there have arisen pragmatic guidelines and rules for acceptable conduct between men and women, families, tribes, and nations.

Such rules are known and practiced within nations, and between some nations, but not necessarily by all nations, or all peoples for that matter. Rules, big and small, are broken all the time. Fortunately, the incidence of rule-breaking appears to be fairly low, or else we would live in complete chaos.

Guidelines for behavior that are not necessarily codified into law can be said to be morals or ethics, and they are meant to instill moral or ethical behavior among men even in the absence of the means of enforcement. When there is clear intent to enforce behavior, laws are created, most often codifying the guidelines that have been accepted by the people concerned over a period of time.

Moral or ethical behavior, and the rule of law (and consistently following precedents) is the basis for a sound society. Such behavior can be directly or indirectly guided by several mechanisms, including: religious precepts covering the ideas of good and evil; social etiquette covering “polite society”; business ethics governing proper practices; the personal morals or ethics of individuals who adopt the rules because that is how they want to be treated by others; and, of course, the ever-present law enforcement methods.

Underlying this rule-setting are the historical facts of many egregious violations of accepted behavior by individuals or groups that do not respect the rule of law or morality. We call such individuals bad, criminal, evil or worse. We also call those who do respect the law and morality of a society to be good. We can also call the bad acts wrong, and the good acts right. When we want to form a government that brings the most good to the people, we are usually referring to a government that promotes the good and punishes the bad or evil. There is no question in my mind that both good and evil exist in our world. There is no solipsist or relativistic evasion of identifying good acts and good men, or bad acts and bad men. Or, naturally, an admixture of good and bad in the same person. This is another way of asserting moral absolutism, and of opposing moral relativism.

In most societies there are religious sects that set forth codes of conduct for their adherents. These codes are helpful to the extent that they promote the good and deter the bad in men. They are unhelpful to the extent that they create irresolvable conflicts with other religions ( and what might be termed non-religious religions as well, such as atheism.) and other people.

To deny that there is good and evil in the world, and that only acts of nature can be committed, is to deny the basis of our hard-won civilization and civilized behavior. One must also point out that such a view is irrational in the extreme, as history attests to over and over in every recorded period. To assert that morality is relative and not absolute is to readmit the Devil into human affairs. This must not be allowed to happen.


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