Good and Evil: talk about the essentials?

It’s easy to agree that all human values are conditional. You agree, don’t you? On an intellectual level, even a schoolboy can understand this. But there is one subtle but extremely important point that usually escapes your attention.

Watch your hands! If all values are conditional, then how do we choose what to call good and what to call evil? What is the criterion by which we divide neutral objective reality into light and dark, good and evil, right and wrong?

Another post not about affiliate programs, CPA networks and traffic arbitrage, but about life. By answering this question honestly, we will knock out from under our feet the main support that allows us to maintain a position of sincere delusion and innocently avoid all responsibility for our lives.

By designating the right things as “right,” and even by agreeing that it is more right to be “right,” we always have an ace up our sleeve that leaves us with a loophole to commit any “wrongs.” For even when we do something very wrong, we always get away with it because we easily find a way to tilt the scales of inner justice in our favor.

How does this happen? Let’s look into it.

Good evil is evil good…


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The main line of defense in a world that proudly calls itself civilized is faith in human reason. What is the very first thing we do when life presents us with a choice? We think! We try to use our memory, our experience, our intellect, to reason out which choice would be “saner” in that particular situation.

We are not even going to discuss here the question of the extent to which reason has power over our actual behavior and our experiences. Let us assume that we are indeed capable of acting on the decisions made by our reasoning.

But how do we reason? Doesn’t it happen that underneath the seemingly logical reasoning, we hide something that is not logical?

For example, we rely on memory. First, we believe that memory of similar situations in the past can somehow help us to evaluate the present situation. But you know what they say about experience? Experience is knowing how to deal with situations that will never happen again. And these are not just pretty words.

In fact, in trusting in experience, we rely on the laws of statistics, which tell us which choice is more likely to be correct with some degree of probability. And this would be perfectly satisfactory if our minds didn’t do the trick of turning probability into certainty after the fact. Who cares about the theory of probability when a plane crashes and all the passengers die, despite the fact that statistically it is the safest mode of transportation? Who do we then charge? The God of statistics?

That is, life experience is not such a convincing support for unambiguously separating right from wrong. Even if a hundred times in a row the situation unfolded the same way and it was right to go right, nothing prevents the same situation for the hundredth time to go according to a different scenario, where it would be right to go left. And experience here is more likely to hurt us than to help us.

Second, we generally tend to trust our memory as if it were a carefully guarded archive of life experience. But in practice, memory turns out to be quite, shall we say, flexible in the performance of its direct duties. All psychological science arose at precisely the moment when Freud convincingly proved that we remember only what we want to remember, easily and thoroughly forgetting what we do not want to remember.

“I did it,” my memory says. “I couldn’t do it,” says my pride and remains adamant. Eventually memory gives in.


And if this is the case, if memory is not an impartial mechanism for storing and providing useful information, if it tends to find and produce exactly the result we expect from it, then how can we rely on it? It turns out that personal memory is as unreliable an ally as life experience.

In the third case, our reasoning is based on certain ideas about life that have always seemed to us to be unprovable axioms. However, while a scientific axiom is really something quite obvious, a psychological axiom, while seemingly as convincing, has no objective basis at all.

Parents are supposed to take care of children. Men should take care of women. Children should respect their parents. Women should marry and bear children. The state should take care of its citizens. Everything in the world should be fair. Promises must be kept. Stealing and murder are not allowed. Protecting the weak is necessary. And so on and so forth…


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Take any point that seems most compelling to you and ask yourself, “How do I know that this is the way the world works? Who says I should, or that I’m entitled to it?” Answer honestly and you will inevitably come up against… emptiness.

We got our ideas about life from our environment and the pressure it put on us. We were required to agree, and we did. But even when the demands are gone and we can no longer disguise ourselves, we can’t stop.

We have become so attached to our perceptions that we ourselves are now willing to pressure others to agree with us. We would rather change the world according to our ideas about it than admit that our ideas are an unsubstantiated belief, a fiction, an object of caprice.

We have an excellent computational set on our shoulders. The ability to think logically, to reason, is the greatest achievement of evolution. But what good is the most powerful computer if we supply it with false data as input? What good is the most precise logic if the initial assumptions are not true?

It is possible to argue very beautifully and well about duty and honor, but if we look back where we got these concepts in the first place, we will get a very unpleasant surprise that will leave no stone unturned in all our subsequent constructions.

We say, “This is right, because my experience tells me so,” and we believe that sounds really convincing. We say, “It’s right because I remember what it was like last time,” and we trust that our memories are not biased.

We say, “It’s right because it makes sense,” and we believe that our thinking rests on solid ground of truth. And all of this together makes us feel in control of our lives, while they are systematically descending into utter chaos.

And even when our experience does apply to that particular situation, even when our memory is impeccably honest, even when our logic is irrefutable, the final problem remains that we have too many examples of doing the wrong thing and feeling the wrong way, contrary to the demands and logic of our reasoning.

That is, even when we know it is right to go right, we too often find ourselves going left.


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What then guides our logic and reason? Why do they act like bribed jurors every time? And what do we do when we can no longer justify our choices in life by their reasonableness? Where can we find support when the intellect, with all its accumulated knowledge of life, has demonstrated its weakness and unreliability?

When logic gives up, morality comes into play. If we cannot justify our position logically, we throw up our hands and move on to moral categories. When our beautiful logical constructions are destroyed, we are completely naked, and we have no choice but to cover ourselves with the fig leaf of our ideas of right and wrong.

When we can no longer say, “It is right because logic demands it,” we say, “It is right because morality demands it.

Morality is the universal response to a child when a parent cannot justify his or her position. “It can’t be done because it’s bad. It has to be done because it’s good,” is the irresponsible parent’s favorite ploy. By invoking morality, we get rid of the need to answer slippery questions for ourselves – because we want so much to keep faith in the authority and righteousness of our position.

A child must be obedient, a child must respect his parents, a child must obey his elders… and so on. And why should he do all these things? Because being obedient is good, obeying and respecting elders is good, and being disobedient and disrespectful is bad.

One might say that morality reflects the natural laws of nature, and therefore requires no additional reasoning. But it does not! We could say that a child must eat, but in stating this, we understand the absurdity of such a claim. The law of nature does not need such a claim.

An apple does not need to be explained that it must fall, a child does not need to be explained that it must eat. But you can twist things around, as we do, and start convincing a child that he must eat according to a schedule.

That’s the difference. Moral laws always lack a natural basis, which is why we constantly have to enforce them. Morality is never natural, so it always has a cudgel attached to it for persuasion.

Social morality is a universal self-sustaining self-deception. Parents believe in moral values and teach the child that doing wrong is wrong.

The child tests this hypothesis in practice and is confirmed – he really stops being loved as soon as he starts doing something bad. After several repetitions the reflex is fixed, and now in the mind of the child the moral law is on a par with the law of universal gravitation.

You can’t drop heavy objects because they hurt your fingers. You can’t do bad things because they hurt your conscience. Logical?

But we do realize that the demands of morality are nothing more than an object of agreement. And conscience is nothing more than a cancer that has arisen under the influence of radioactive parental “love. There is no morality or conscience in nature, only the laws of nature and basic survival instincts that need no justification.

By and large, the trouble is that parents do not have the courage to admit what really guides them when they demand obedience from their children. It is only because of this weakness that sensible social agreements take on the sinful form of a moral law, the violation of which is sin.

If parents were honest with themselves, their children would grow up to be good citizens, and they would be so by reasonable good will, not by the threat of ostracism.

Now notice one more thing. If you take two children, put them in more or less the same environment, and teach them the same moral values, you will notice a curious thing-that as time passes, the children’s ideas of right and wrong will be very different! Why is this so?


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Make a long list of commandments, show it to different people and you will find that everyone will choose something different from the list. Some of the commandments a person will enthusiastically agree with, some will affirm grudgingly, some will ignore, and the rest will be rejected.

Why does this happen? Why do we easily agree to obey some laws and struggle to defend our freedom from obeying others? What is the criterion by which we distinguish some laws from others? 

Also, our personal moral values are very fluid over time. Be honest with yourself, and you will find ample evidence of this. Yesterday’s good may seem to us today to be evil in disguise, and yesterday’s evil may seem to us to be an unappreciated good. And at exactly what point do we have these shifts in values?

When we are beaten, aggression and cruelty are bad. When we are beaten, ruthlessness toward the enemy is good. When we are hurt, being an insensitive person is bad. When we are offended, selfishness is the best of our qualities.

Morality has always been and always will be a bargaining chip in our hands. When we lack the intellect to justify our position logically, all its computational power goes to justifying it morally. There is no better lawyer in the world than the one who sits in our heads and juggles the letter of universal law with the spirit of personal egoism.

And even when we pass a guilty verdict on ourselves, another part of us admires and takes pride in this ability to condemn ourselves. Confess your sin to prove your righteousness…


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So, when we pretend to be guided by sober reasoning, it often turns out that reasoning, under the guise of logically sound choices, slips us convenient misinformation. When we are guided by moral values, it turns out that our values are very unstable and somehow they are also on our side all the time.

It turns out that both of our ways of separating right from wrong are discredited. The intellect is too cleverly wielding information to prove the validity of either alternative. Morality is easy to interpret and allows enough reservations to justify any sinner and condemn any saint.

But if the two instruments are not themselves impartial, whose will do they do by tampering with the facts and bending morality in the direction we want? After all, after all, we are constantly “reasonably” choosing something! Who is behind the scenes of this theater and what guides them in making real choices for us?

Putting aside all rationalizations, why do we do what we do? Why, at the next crossroads of life, do we go left and not right? Why at the store do we choose a pear over an apple? Why do we choose to be lazy rather than to plow around the clock? Why do we choose one person and reject another? If we don’t know how to live “right,” how is it that we end up doing the one thing we do day in and day out: living?

The answer is simple: the only guiding principle in our lives is the pleasure principle. A round of applause for Freud. Everything we do in life is a constant effort to reduce inner tension in the easiest and most effective way possible.

This is exactly the same thing that happens with the physical body and the desire to get rid of physical discomfort, only in the case of the mental apparatus it is about mental discomfort–be it pain, desire, fear, or any other emotional tension.

Simply put, the only real desire we have is for us to feel good, for the comfort of mind and body. And that’s where the clash we’re talking about comes in. We are one hundred percent selfish, but since our inner tensions also have to do with the fact that we need approval, we either have to put our selfishness in the stall or find such an excuse for our selfishness that we are not responsible for it.


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This is where all the power and ingenuity of our intellect and the virtuoso flexibility of our conscience come into play. Imagine what a great job it is to find an explanation for every purely selfish impulse I have, so that I can say that I am doing it because it is right and not because it is my whim.

If without any logical or moral justification I were to admit that I was only fulfilling my desires, heaven would not collapse, but it seems to me that as a result I would be rejected by other people-who the hell needs such a selfish person. And this is where I do the trick – I still fulfill my wish(!), but I turn it so that I have a clear and distinct justification for why I did so, and why I am free of any bribes.

This maneuver is exactly what parents do with their children. Guided solely by their personal comfort, they explain to their children why they should be obedient and comfortable-because it is “right,” because obedience is “good,” because disobedience is “evil.”

In the end, the set of moral values that a child acquires is nothing more than a set of parental whims clothed in the form of moral laws or pseudo-rational explanations.

Children’s ideas about good and evil are entirely a reflection of parental irresponsible selfishness. What is good and right is only what is good and convenient for parents. What is bad and wrong is what is bad and uncomfortable for the parents. That is the moral. No parent will teach a child any other morality than that which justifies his personal selfishness.

And then we grow up and adopt the same technique. We cannot stop being selfish-it is an immutable fact-but we are now clever and cunning enough to start bending morality and logic to our own needs and desires.

Once again, just to be clear. The upshot of this mechanism is that all our ideas about right and wrong, about right and wrong, are in the service of our egoism. We think of good as that which allows and helps us to maintain our comfort and convenience. We label as evil that which interferes with our comfort and convenience. It is the same with logic.

Our strongest instinct, the tyrant in us, obeys not only our reason but also our conscience.

Thus, we live in a state of constant and continuous self-deception–while remaining entirely selfish, we nevertheless retain a belief in our rightness, righteousness, and goodness.

And if you pay attention to the inner dialogue that accompanies you through life, you will notice that it is occupied with nothing but constant self-justification. This is the self-hypnosis that allows us to believe our own lies.


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But that is not the whole picture. There is no problem with egoism itself. Isn’t it natural to seek the release of inner tension and mental comfort? And if this mechanism were not put in the wheels, it would automatically lead a person to a natural harmony in relations with himself and the outside world.

If it seems to you that a man without morality would turn into a beast, that without militant goodness there would be only triumphant evil in the world, then this is a great delusion, characteristic primarily of people who have devoted their entire lives to war with themselves and trying to cope with their selfish nature. The greater this inner conflict, the stronger this person’s belief in the necessity of morality to curb inner evil.

But there is no inner evil. And the same principle of pleasure will confront that person with the need to maintain polite, tactful and honest relations with others. When a person is not obliged to be kind under penalty of punishment, he does not become evil from this, he becomes tough, and it is this inner toughness that causes the greatest envy and respect for ordinary “good” people.

Natural selfishness leads to honesty, responsibility and harmony with the world. The only problem is that it also leads to conflict with the world of habitual self-deception. And if one person takes the liberty of admitting and accepting his selfish nature, this automatically leads to the severing of ties with all those people who, being selfish as they are, do not want to admit it. An honest egoist will be expelled from society in no time at all, precisely because he prevents him from maintaining the stability of the common illusion.

That is, our psyche is arranged reasonably and if nothing interfered with it, universal happiness would come inevitably, but a monumental-sized dam called “Personality” stands in the way of natural flow of psychic energy. And this is where natural egoism turns into “square egoism.

As soon as the survival instinct of the organism is replaced by the survival instinct of the personality, the whole world is turned upside down. We form our own personality with our own hands in order to present it to the world around us and get the approval we so desperately need.

And this game is so addictive that we quickly forget how we made the mask with our own hands, how we put it on for the first time, how we honed our acting skills. And after a while we forget the most important thing, how to take the mask off.

From that moment on, we become one with our mask-personality, and natural egoism is now replaced by personal egoism. Where previously all efforts were directed toward the relief of general mental discomfort, they are now concentrated, on the comfort of the individual. Where natural egoism demanded that I act and live in harmony with myself, there false personal egoism forces me to live in harmony with my mask – with my fairy tale of myself, which I want so much to believe.

And now the notions of good and evil undergo one last and most disgusting transformation. They were contingent before, we used to spin them as we pleased, but now things are getting a hundred times worse. As soon as we have become “personalities” with an inexhaustible need to reinforce and maintain our sense of importance, we immediately begin to transform our value system so that it, too, protects our importance.

We now call good what helps our self-assertion, and evil what hinders this strategic goal. Parents begin to demand obedience from their children because this supports their idea of self-importance. Children reason that parents should love them (or leave them alone) because it supports their idea of self-importance.

Friends expect each other to be loyal–because that is the mutual recognition of importance. We expect and demand justice from the world because we think we are so important and significant.

We are busy all the time demanding respect from everyone around us, and all our ideas about right and wrong, right and wrong, are now completely subordinated to this goal.


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It is good for my wife to be faithful to me, because otherwise it will hit my importance. It’s not good to cheat on my wife because I chose to portray myself as a good man, because that image commands respect, and if I cheat, the image collapses. It’s good for people to keep their promises – because if they don’t, they don’t respect them. It’s bad to cheat – because honest people are respected more than liars. And so on.

Each of us has our own set of such theses that correspond to our unique and precious personality. At the same time, we always claim that it is OUR ideas of good and evil that are universal, and so we demand from others to recognize our rightness – which is exactly what will give us the opportunity to confirm our own importance.

After all, we get the sharpest and sweetest feeling of our own importance precisely when we manage to bring another person to his or her knees – that is, to prove someone else’s unimportance!

All human conflicts, all quarrels between friends, all family quarrels, are clashes of importance. Resentment or anger arises when the other person has done “wrong” to me. But if you look more closely at this “wrong,” there is no basis for it other than the fact that I demand respect for myself and the fulfillment of my whims.

I want to be respected, but because in reality I am no more important than my opponent, I have to justify my claims-and the easiest way to do this is to twist the barometer of good and evil in the direction I want and convince the person that I am good and he is bad.

This desire to assert my own importance at the expense of other people, supported and justified by moral values bent in the right direction, is the real and irrelevant evil.

And when in books, movies, or in our lives there is a perpetual and never-ending struggle between good and evil, it is always and without exception a struggle for self importance disguised by a sincere but false belief in the righteousness of some and the sinfulness of others. It is that very good that is the cause of all evil.

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