I seem to have confused everyone the last time I talked about one of my classes. Be warned: I talk about one of my classes in today's blog post!
My Philosophy of Evil class is very interesting, even if the readings we've had so far haven't been. There are a lot of different ideas about evil, and I'm not sure how to get them to come together to form a coherent picture.
For example, here are two well-known ideas about evil that don't seem to agree--evil is its own punishment, and evil is largely unpunished.
1. Evil Is Its Own Punishment
Evil is its own punishment; if you choose to do something evil, you are basically choosing to be punished. "Karma" is the most popular term for this idea today; Karma says that if you do something bad, something bad happens to you. Aesop shows this well in his story of the Greedy Dog:
Once upon a time, there was a very Greedy Dog. He was walking down the road one day, when he saw a smaller dog who had a steak for lunch.
"Gimme your steak!" the Greedy Dog said.
The small dog offered to share his lunch, but the Greedy Dog wanted the steak all to himself, so he started barking and scared the little dog away. He then took the steak and decided to take it to his home, on the other side of a river. When he was going across the bridge, he saw his reflection in the water.
"It's another dog!" he thought. "And he's got a steak that looks bigger than mine! I want it!"
The Greedy Dog started barking to scare the other dog away, and the steak fell out of his mouth and into the river. So it was that the Greedy Dog ended up having no lunch at all that day, just like he deserved. The end.
There are several morals to the story, such as "Greedy people are never satisfied with what they have", but the traditional moral is "sin inevitably brings its own punishment". Nobody punished the Greedy Dog; he brought his punishment upon himself. Hence, we can see that when someone chooses to be evil, the person will inevitably be punished for it.
Aesop has several other stories along these lines, such as the boy who cried wolf. The boy lies so often to the townsfolk about the wolf that, as a result, no one believes him, even when he tells the truth. Like the Greedy Dog, the Lying Boy brings this punishment upon himself. He chose to do evil and deceive others, and he suffered the consequences of this evil action.
I could give examples that aren't from children's stories, but I'm trying to keep things simple. If you're bad, you're sure to get punished for it. That's karma, right?
However, this view is almost the exact opposite of another common idea about evil:
2. Evil Largely Goes Unpunished
There seem to be an awful lot of evil people in the world who don't get punished. You've probably met some people like this, people who do bad things but don't get in trouble for it.
The most common example of this today are politicians who boldly and publicly lie about what they'll do during election time. Then, when they're in office, they do the exact opposite of what they promised. That's lying, but the politicians seem to be rewarded with lives of luxury, instead of being impeached like they should be.
This is not just true for today; it seems this has always been the case throughout history. As the psalmist says, "The wicked spring up like grass, and all who do evil thrive" (Psalm 92). Evil dictators like Napoleon, Caesar and Hitler managed to get away with killing millions of innocent people for a very long time before they were eventually stopped.
So what do you guys think? Do you think evil people tend to be punished, or do you think that evil people tend to get away with their own misdeeds? Should I write more about this topic, or leave it here?