What makes companies subjectively evil

Introductory introduction: The anthropological starting point for the distinction between "good" and "bad"

In the animal kingdom, the distinction between “good” and “bad” does not matter. Animals behave according to their instincts. They are firmly embedded in a certain environment. Their behavior is largely determined specifically for the species. The limited nature of the animal environment is therefore not a disadvantage: its instinctive organization fits like a key into the lock of the relevant factors.

Humans, on the other hand, do not live in a fixed environment. He has a world in which he must first orient himself and assign a meaning to the events in it. Drives and instincts are of little help to him. For orientation, he is rather dependent on commonly shared interpretations of the world in order to be able to understand the world at all. Precisely because the horizon of human interest is not limited in principle, it must be all the more important to him - naturally, as it were - to be able to determine what is in the world as "good", what is in it as "bad" or as an "evil" is to be considered.

The distinction between “good” and “bad” is therefore one of the most important basic principles of our world orientation. To be forced to make this fundamental distinction for anthropological reasons is an opportunity and a burden, a gift and a task in equal measure. Philosophy has been concerned with this fact since its beginning in Greece in the 6th century BC, not only in ethics, but also in anthropology and metaphysics. How powerful these terms are for orientation in our lives can be gauged from the fact that we even substantiate and substantiate “good” and “bad” and then speak of “good” and “bad”, as if “that” were Good ”as well as“ bad ”independent real actors who develop their effect in our world, if not even determine the course of history.

As intuitively plausible as it appears to be necessary due to the anthropological circumstances to evaluate something as “good” or “bad” and to differentiate between the two, it is just as difficult to define both predicates more precisely. Even the primordial imperative of conscience, which reads: “Do the good and avoid the bad!”, Leaves open how the good and the bad are to be determined more precisely in concreto as in abstracto. It is therefore not surprising that we are constantly at odds with one another in this regard. It is therefore not uncommon for people to suspect that the ascription of goodness and malice is purely a matter of opinion, because their determination varies depending on the occasion, perspective and point of view. At best, we achieve consensus that everyone only strives for and does what appears to be worth striving for because it is “good”. Because without orientation towards a good worth striving for, no one would begin an action. Everyone acts “per bonum suum”, as Thomas Aquinas says. This of course applies to the benefactor as well as to the burglar. From the outside, and therefore from an uninvolved side, it may of course quickly be questioned whether this action can actually be called “good”. Because the determination of “good” and “bad” is not a private matter, but always aims at the consent of all rational subjects in a conversation about it. In this respect, when we begin to argue about it, we do not always find ourselves with the relativity of good or evil, but rather ask whether something is really or in an absolute sense “good” or “bad”.

We will also notice very quickly that we make use of “good” and “bad” in an equivocal manner: although we use the same term of “good” and “bad” purely linguistically, it may mean something in different contexts totally different. We speak of a “good football player” or a “good teacher”, but also a “good dog”, a “good husband” or a “good speaker”. But we also call the wine or the food “good”, wish a “good trip” and a “good morning”, praise the “good character” of a person, even call them a “good person” or qualify a single action as “Good”, even if it was done by an otherwise “bad” person. It goes without saying that the term “good” has to mean something different in each case.

“Good” and “bad” are actually stated in many ways. What we say good or bad also differs: it can be subjects as well as objects, people or things, but also events set by humans as well as mere, e.g. purely natural occurrences (e.g. the "good" weather).

Despite this diversity of talk of “good” and “bad”, which may generate perplexity with regard to what constitutes the common feature of being called good and bad, we are sure that this distinction is useful for ourselves is also of the greatest importance and therefore indispensable for our coexistence with others. Because our social reaction to the determination of whether something deserves to be called “good” or “bad” is praise or blame, joy or disgust, approval or displeasure, turning towards or turning away, staying or fleeing.

This is shown particularly dramatically in the importance we ascribe to the distinction between “good” and “bad” with a view to the moral qualification of human actions. Because the moral qualification of people as “good” or “bad” has a special status that differs in principle from other qualifications (intelligent, beautiful, educated, wealthy, charming, etc.). It affects in a unique way the worth and dignity of human beings as human beings and has something to do with consciousness
of one's own worth, therefore with one's own self-esteem, as well as with the value and respect of one person in the eyes of others. Because the consequence of moral disqualification is, on the one hand, a crisis of self-respect in the form of a “bad conscience” and, on the other hand, a crisis of foreign respect insofar as we “lose face” in front of others. The result is shame and a loss of reputation. By the way: each of us is busy with it all day long. We continuously evaluate our own actions and those of others from the perspective of “good” or “bad”.

It is therefore worthwhile to ask more precisely what the difference between “good” and “bad” is all about. In the following I want to ask more precisely, (1.) How value judgments come about, as a result of which the qualifying statements of “good” and “bad” arise; Then I want to clarify which meanings we associate with the predicates “good” (2.) and “bad” (3.) and finally (4.) ask about the connection between morality and well-being, moral and extra-moral good and bad. Against this background, my concluding remarks will take another look at the easy-going talk of "evil". I do this from the standpoint of philosophical theory formation and in particular with the related history of concepts and ideas. [1] It goes without saying that only a first glimpse into the philosophical problem will be possible.

1. Being good as a value judgment

1.1 Qualitative judgments as value judgments

Let us first ask how our judgment about “good” and “bad” is actually built up. The result is the following picture: Whenever we think, we judge. Because thinking, one could say in a nutshell, is judging. Judgments establish a relation between a fact and a property that can be assessed from a fact. In order to make thought judgments transparent for us and others, we have to convert them into sentence-like statements in which concepts are judged and related to one another. In a judgment, something (a property) is said or predicted about something (the subject of the sentence or judgment). Or put another way: by means of a judgment, a fact is assigned a property. So all judgments have the statement structure: S (subject) = P (predicate).

Of course, there are very different types of statements or sentence-like judgments. It was Aristotle's great achievement to have systematized all possible types of statements in his "theory of categories". He basically names categories that are possible modes of expression that can be linked to a matter of fact. Aristotle suggests 10 such categories. [2] We can say what it is (category of substance), how much it is (quantity), what it is like (quality), how it relates to something (relation), where it is (place), when it is (time) whether it suffers or does something (doing, suffering), what situation it is in (situation) and whether it possesses or has something (having).

The predicates “good” and “bad” clearly belong to the category of quality. They are part of a qualitative judgment. Compared to other categorical judgments, quality judgments have the basic property that the individual judgment can always be in tension with its opposite. Quality judgments are therefore written in two ways. Something is either "big" or "small", "beautiful" or "ugly", "true" or "false", "right" or "wrong", "useful" or "useless", "good" or "bad" or “good” or “bad”.

Quality judgments also have the property that the determination of the quality they express depends on a certain aspect. Something is always "right" or "wrong" with regard to something, or "good" or "bad" with regard to something. This regard or relation to a quality standard is indispensable in order to have a namable and rationally plausible reason why something is called “big” or “small”, “beautiful” or “ugly”, or just “good” or “bad” becomes. Nor can something be called “good” or “bad” at the same time in the same respect. With regard to the same quality standard, the opposing judgments are mutually exclusive. But the same thing can be called “good” and “bad” in different respects. It is precisely this ever-possible change of perspective that is the reason why there are conflicting dissensions in the qualitative assessment of facts and actions: because the quality of something can be presented very differently in different respects. For example, an action can be forbidden in one respect, required in another, and merely permitted in another.

So there are always different quality standards of the qualitative, moral or aesthetic etc. individual assessment of something in conflict. If different qualitative judgments collide on one and the same issue, it is possible that even the last horizons of interpretation clash, within which the discussants can feel entitled to make a certain judgment. Such horizons of interpretation can be different worldviews, cultures or religions as well as final order and orientation parameters - such as nature in antiquity, the will of God manifested in creation in the Christian Middle Ages, or - as since modern times - the practical reason of the moral subject.

Because we must all assume a common sense of reason for all people regardless of such horizons of interpretation, communication and dialogue should not be senseless from the outset, and because even when we talk about our own horizons of interpretation, we only do so in the medium and with use can do to a reason that is never private, we can expect that these horizons of interpretation do not have to have the last word for our judgment. [3] A dialogue (namely a conversation in the medium and with mediating reference to reason - "dialogues" [4]) about what we judge as good or bad is in principle possible and meaningful, even if our superficial horizons of interpretation differ. This will be all the easier, the more rational such horizons are. [5]

The question is even whether, because of this reasoning of our moral values, there are also circumstances whose goodness or malice must be withdrawn from relativization through reference to different horizons of interpretation: that is, under all circumstances, as “inherently good” or “inherently bad "Are to be assessed. [6] Candidates for this in the field of morally good or bad would be, for example, the individual's claim to physical integrity and freedom in the sense of independence from the arbitrariness of others, as formulated in human rights.

1.2 The logic of judging

The ascription of the predicates “good” and “bad” is - as has to be shown - the result of a qualitative judgment, hence an “evaluation”. We evaluate a situation by assigning it a certain quality (e.g. "beautiful" or "ugly", "good" or "bad") in relation to something, i.e. value. Quality judgments are therefore always value judgments at the same time. Or in short: the quality of a fact determines the value of a fact. Evaluating or evaluating something always means giving preference to the one, the quality of which is more substantial, over another, which is less valuable in the same respect. Value judgments are therefore always preferential or preferential judgments. That which is assessed as good or qualitatively positive as meaningful is what we strive for as a result of the value judgment, as it were, as if by ourselves. Because the ascription of value in acts of valuing and evaluating has the appreciation (aestimatio[7]) to the result. The distinction with the predicate “good” is the most basic appreciative ascription that we make towards everything worth striving for: it can be anything that can be considered “useful”, “beautiful”, “perfect” or in any other way “valuable” .

The ascription of goodness follows a certain logic of valuation: That to which "goodness" or "value" is ascribed becomes the concrete object of striving, and therefore the aim of striving. The actually intentional or targeted correlate of striving is not the thing or the action (in the sense of an externally observable event) itself, but its value determined in an act of appreciation, which a thing or action as a property (e.g. "good") , "Fair", "beautiful" etc.) is predicted. The fact that something has the property “value” in the sense of the good has the effect of an additional quality that we ascribe to the correlate of our striving as the reason for striving. The value of a value is therefore not present as an objective, subject-independent fact and can be read off from this, as it were, neutrally. Consequently, it cannot result from the object of striving itself, but is always related to the subject striving for it, its peculiarities and its yardstick. To put it another way: We always designate something as “good” and “valuable” that has a value for us, which is therefore only constituted in its value in the acts of appreciation. Value and goodness do not have their origin "in the world", but rather in humans as a striving and evaluating subject of reason. This can already be seen in the question of the validity of values. As Herbert Schnädelbach emphasizes, “apply” is at least a three-digit expression: “something is considered to be something for someone” [8]. A subject-independent validity that would be free from any reference to reason is therefore fundamentally excluded.

Goodness as well as value are therefore ultimately anthropological categories. Because goodness is basically derived - from an interpretation of the human being, his abilities and peculiarities and his self, world and social relation and the related assessment of the spiritual and material objects available to him and assessed as beneficial. These can be objects and physical goods as well as qualities of will such as virtues or structural social conditions (e.g. family) etc. Because in principle everything can become the object of the striving of subjects, but not everything turns out to be beneficial and withstands a rational value judgment, the ascription of goodness and value always also involves the question of validity and its justification.For this, the goodness of the value as the reason for the attribution of value must be able to be explained in a rational and intersubjectively comprehensible manner. With a view to the justification of the validity of a value, the validity formula put forward by H. Schnädelbach: “Something applies to someone as something” should be expanded to include a justifying “because of something”. Because that “something” “as something” (therefore as “beautiful”, “good”, “pleasant”, “useful”, “fair”, “safe”, “comfortable”, “exciting”, “noble” etc.) applies, this requires the plausibility-checking, deeper justification. In the case of values ​​that have a mean character, this justification is provided by the predication of higher value properties; in the case of final target values ​​which, like the value indicated by the predicate “good”, cannot be defined by any other predicate, by specifying a plausibility-checking theoretical frame of reference . This deeper justification of the value of the good therefore no longer results from the predication of further value concepts, but makes it necessary to resort to the interpretation of anthropological structures, basic ethical insights or other framework theories. However, these can vary depending on the theoretical perspective, so that the determination of the value or goodness of a value is not tied from the outset to a very specific metaphysics, anthropology or ethics. Here, too, it is confirmed that the dispute about the good and its validity is ultimately always a dispute about the fundamental reference values ​​and framework theories.

Taking into account the diversity of the talk of the good and also taking into account the fundamental openness of what is rated as “good” for diverging strategies of justification, the goodness of something is best generally determined by its function and in the context of its usage: under goodness as a value One could therefore generally define a basic, consensual agreement demanding, normative and motivating equally effective objective, orientation parameter or quality, which - because they are indispensable with reference to basic anthropological constants or with a view to contingent (historical, situational, cultural) needs - and has proven contexts of action to be beneficial - is actually strived for and desired, so that individuals and groups can be guided by it in their choice of action and their world design. This purely formal definition of “good” and “goodness” makes the term particularly useful in the field of many discussions outside of philosophy - precisely because of its openness and content-related indeterminacy

The attribution of goodness and value occurs in the already mentioned acts of valuing, evaluating or appreciating (aestimatio). Their primary function is the formation of preferences as the result of a trade-off. The ascription of goodness in the act of valuing therefore always implies an act of preferring and following. That such preference formations are indispensable for the successful shaping of life in view of a multitude of possible striving goals for which we can decide, proves to be necessary simply from the intuitive insight into the finitude of the horizon within which finite subjects have to shape their lives and which forces them to give preference to one over the other, should life in general be thought of as successful under finite space and time conditions.

2. The multiple predicate "good"

"Good", we have established, is the most general term for positive evaluation of actions and events, things, facts and incidents, whose goodness or value is determined and which must therefore be considered worth striving for. The good identified as valuable is of course used with very different meanings. Aristotle had already established that the good can be predicated in many ways. [9] This diversity can be classified and sorted in terms of its occurrence in intellectual history as follows:

  • That is classic material, i.e. content-related distinction of the good in the pleasant (iucundum), the useful (utile) and the morally praiseworthy (honestum). GH von Wright, who has presented the most important work of the modern era on analyzing the multitude of meanings of "good," supplements and differentiates this classification through, among other things, the distinctions between the expertly and instrumentally good, the useful, the functional and the beneficial, the human good in the sense of the word of prosperity and well-being (welfare) and in the sense of virtue of spirit and character as well as good behavior. [10]
  • Second is classic formal structure of the good based on the target structure of our striving in what we a) for its own sake, i.e. at the same time in itself and because of its positive consequences and b) what we value not in itself, but only because of its consequences. One could also speak of instrinsic and extrinsic goodness. According to G. E. Moore, instrinsic goodness belongs to those facts which are themselves the source of their own value, while extrinsically valuable things owe their value to a relation outside of them.
  • The distinction of what, which is interwoven with the one just mentioned, has also become classic
    • just conditionally, d. H. is only good under very specific circumstances, and of such a thing absolutely, d. H. is good in all circumstances;
    • What betterhighest good is next to and in comparison to other good and finally what is perfectly good in the sense of a goal of all goals, which fulfills our striving and beyond which nothing better can be striven for (the highest good or bonum consummatum, in antiquity happiness, in the Middle Ages, happiness or holiness or God as summum bonum; in modern times, good will or freedom, etc.).
    • This corresponds to the distinction between relative and absolute goodness. We use the word "good" in a relative sense when specifying the point or purpose whereupon something is called "good", e.g. health, professional success, public reputation. But we also use the word “good” in the absolute sense that something is really good without looking at another aspect.
  • With view on General validity, justifiability and validity the distinction between subjective and objective goodness has become classic. Subjectively “good” is the individually strived for, not generalizable, and therefore private good; Objective goodness is spoken of when the goodness striven for transubjectively, intersubjectively and generalizable turns out to be worthwhile, and consequently should also be worth striving for for every human being.
  • Equally classic is a distinction between the good and the good Subject areaon which the attribution is made. Basal for this is the distinction between moral and extra-moral goodness, bonum morale and bonum physicum:
    • Under a bonum morale a good is understood that is to be striven for because it is an indispensable prerequisite for morally meaningful action. Since Plato and Aristotle, it has meant virtues such as justice, prudence, bravery and moderation, then loyalty, solidarity as the moral goals of the individual, aiming at qualities of will.
    • Under a bonum physicum is understood to mean a good that can be linked in some way to something that is physically present and actually shows itself in the world: such as life, family, property, marriage, the state, real freedom and structural justice, but also legal interests or fundamental rights. These are presidential goods and values ​​that are set by nature or by humans, then show themselves in reality and structure them in real terms.
  • The question of the demarcation and determination of the relationship between the morally good and the extra-moral or "natural" good has been discussed since Socratism and intensified since the European Enlightenment. The clear criterion for the distinction is the point of view of use: non-moral goods such as - if one follows I. Kant - "talents of the spirit, qualities of temperament, as well as physical and external gifts of happiness" [11]) are characterized by the fact that they are characterized by the, who owns it, allows it to be used well or badly, while morally good (the good will, reason in connection with virtue of character) protects the owner from bad use or cancels himself out should he be tempted to use it badly. Incidentally, the question of determining the relationship between the morally good and the extra-moral good plays a central role in all ethics. On the one hand, she emphatically speaks up with the question of what kind of issues in the world are to be followed for a morally-minded person. On the other hand, it expresses itself just as emphatically with the question of what is to be regarded as the highest, the perfect good for human life and striving.

3. The predicate "evil" and the "evil" in the world

The opposite of "good" (bonum) is "bad" (malum). While we always intend the good in our actions (“per bonum suum”), we cannot intend the bad at all - unless it appears to us to be good. This may be the reason why we are more inclined to ascribe a separate reality to evil than to good. Because we did not intend it and yet it comes about. It happens, as it were, in the back of our intended actions, so that we - again almost naturally - are inclined to substantiate the predicate "evil" to the term "evil", even to accept an independent power opposing us. The term “evil” can therefore assume a broader (moral and extra-moral) as well as a narrower, partly moral, partly moral-religious meaning that must be distinguished from one another. In all meanings, the term is dependent on its counter-term, the predicate “good” or “the good”, and you can therefore hardly define it positively yourself. There is no such thing as “bad”, but what is bad is determined very differently in different cultures and religions. The respective meaning of evil is much more dependent on certain historical and cultural situations than the meaning of good.

In general, it is questionable to what extent evil can be determined without reference to good. Boethius, Clement of Alexandria, Origines, Augustine, Anselm of Canterbury or later G.W. Leibniz have advocated the thesis that evil can only be explained as a secondary, non-independent element of the negation or diminution of the primary and independent good. Evil is always to be understood only as a "privatio boni", as a lack of goodness. [12] Historically, it should be noted that the constitutive relation of evil to the idea of ​​good, which was already indicated in antiquity, and which manifests itself in the interpretation of evil as a lack of good or as the impossibility of the happiness naturally strived for by all people, is established in medieval times -scholastic philosophy and is exacerbated by the attempt at an “ontological depotenzation” of the evil, as it were due to a lack of good (“privatio boni”), as deprivation in the sense of the non-presence of the perfection or the ideal state of an object defining property such as a lack of being at all (“privatio entis”), so that it is only apparent, in the end unreal and “almost nothing” (“prope nihil”). The evil is denied its own positive status of being and thus also its suitability for an equally original counter-principle to the good, so that every cosmological dualism or Manichaeism is rejected.

In short: The privation theory, which goes back to Neoplatonism, does not deny the existence of evil as an object of our experience. But it regards evil as a deficient realization of a being that is incomplete with regard to something that should be due to its essential nature. To explain evil and evil as a mere lack of being does not seem phenomenologically convincing. Pain is more than the mere absence of pleasure. The decision to carry out a morally reprehensible act with full awareness of its injustice is also not a non-being. Such objections could of course be rejected if one could understand “being” not as a predicator of existence, but as a qualitative determination in the sense of an ideal state that can be more or less fully realized. Accordingly, if being and being good came to one another (“ens et bonum convertuntur”), the assertion that evil and evil have defective being would be an analytical truth. But that would do little to gain. Because if evil is to be understood as the inadequate realization of a being with regard to the ideal of this being, the question arises why God does not allow this being to participate in perfect being. The answer that a world in which there is also imperfection in addition to the perfect God is better than one in which there is only perfect is not convincing.

In view of such difficulties, there are of course other relationships between “good” and “bad” that deviate from the “privatio boni” doctrine, which should at least be hinted at [13]:

  • A counter-position to the "privatio boni doctrine", which was suggested by I. Kant and W.J. Schelling is represented, sees in evil a principle of its own, which stands in opposition to a principle of the good, originally and independently.
  • Another position, which in turn is represented by I. Kant, but also, for example, by Voltaire, sees in evil only the morally bad (for example as an act or as an attitude), while the many evils and sufferings in the world or evil as an event each have themselves Withdraw explanation.
  • On the other hand, Thomas von Aquin, F. Nietzsche or Dionysius Pseudo-Areopagita are of the opinion that there is a common explanatory pattern for everything bad, bad, bad and bad, which can be applied in modified form to the areas of the moral and the extra-moral or mundane .
  • Astonishingly, Thomas Aquinas takes another position. It leads to the methodical conviction that evil can be explained philosophically even without orientating theological preliminary negotiations.
  • Voltaire, for example, takes the position that a systematically covering, reasonable explanation of evil is itself morally evil, since it makes the unreasonable and evil understandable and thus unabashedly makes ethical plausibility by practically seeking understanding through comprehensibility.
  • H. Arendt and Anselm von Canterbury formulate the opposite position by separating the understanding of evil from the understanding of evil.
  • Ricoeur takes the position that there cannot and should not be a definition of evil, since a definition can never adequately capture the existential moment of evil in the human encounter world. On the other hand, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas take the view that a definition makes it possible to identify and clarify in the first place what it is that, as evil, does something to people in an existential encounter.
  • Kant takes the radical form of the view that evil, in its recognizability, remains forever withdrawn from human reason. In contrast, G. W. Leibnitz, A. Pope or Thomas von Aquin argue with the methodological statement that evil can be approached with the same prospect of philosophical explainability as other similarly intrusive problems.

In view of this theoretical plurality in the determination of evil in its relationship to good, a few simple statements can help clarify:

  • Basically, things, properties, states and actions are called bad if they are opposed to a good, however valued, and experienced in this opposition as that which is not aspired to and unwanted because of its lack of value: They are bad, immoral, evil, imperfect, unusable, deficient, pathological, unpleasant, harmful, bad, etc.
  • In pre-monotheistic antiquity, evil is not exclusively limited to a moral or religious meaning. The areas of the religious and the secular, the ethical-religious and the cosmic are not yet separated from one another.Only in the period of transition to the monotheistic religions (Christianity and later Islam) did the term “evil” get its concise accentuation: since then, evil has been radically opposed to good; both are mutually exclusive. Evil is what threatens us existentially, what should be excluded and, if possible, destroyed. In this intensification, the concept of evil was preserved even when many areas of human life were no longer subject to the significance of religions. But the contradictory contrast between “good” and “bad” stemming from religion was retained and continues to relate to various areas of public and private life, apparently free of any religious connotation.
  • Furthermore: Just as we are between a morally good (bonum morale) and an extra-moral good (bonum physicum) have differentiated, a distinction must also be made between the moral evil and the extra-moral evil, called "evil". The moral evil is causally and responsibly attributable to a subject, the extra-moral evil, on the other hand, encounters a subject coming from outside and is suffered by it. The clear - also causal - differentiation of one boum morale and one bonum physicum is of course quite late in intellectual history. Most of the pre-Kantian philosophy uses an unusually broad concept of evil from today's perspective. [14] The Latin “malum” encompasses both non-moral evils and moral evil. Until modern times, evil denotes the imperfection, transience and contingency of finite beings (malum metaphysicum) as well as natural events that cause destruction and suffering such as diseases, volcanic eruptions or earthquakes (malum physicum) and finally also moral failures such as malicious pleasure, injustice or cruelty (malum morale). This broad concept of evil corresponds to a situation in which this concept was mainly used in the context of the theodicy discussion [15], that is, the question of God's righteousness in the face of evils in the world. Today there is a sharper distinction between the moral and the non-moral sphere. As I. Kant notes, “[t] he German language [...] is lucky to have the expressions which do not allow this difference to be overlooked. For what the Latins call bonum with a single word, she has two very different concepts, and also very different expressions. For bonum the good and the good, for malum the evil and the evil ”[16].
  • This distinction from physical evil (malum physicum, e.g. B. Illness and Suffering) and Moral Evil (malum morale, e.g. B. evil, sin) common. It is supplemented in the 17th century by the concept of a metaphysical evil introduced by G. W. Leibniz (malum metaphysicum), which consists in the finiteness of all created objects. It serves to explain the physical and moral evils and their compensatory function for the harmony of the cosmos and the perfection of the world order (optimism, pre-stabilized harmony), and therefore also to justify a benevolent creator God in the context of the theodicy problem. As a separate category, one can also speak of a "gnoseological evil", the error. While the ontological and cosmological dimension of the concept of evil remains largely ignored in contemporary philosophy, the comprehensive question of the why of evil in the world is still kept alive by Christian theology. [17] If one disregards the possible tendency towards a hyper-moralization of the negative and the more sociologically connotated talk of "structural evils", then today a moral evil concept only plays in utilitarian ethical concepts in the demand for the reduction of the subjective evil by bringing about the "greatest possible happiness of the greatest Number “a role.

An indistinguishable amalgamation of the attribution of "bad" for both moral and extra-moral phenomena may rightly appear naive and childish today. [18] Today, in everyday language as well as in philosophical discourse, only actions and people who violate moral principles are rightly labeled as “bad”. However, not all such actions or persons are considered "evil", only a subset of them. The specifics of evil actions, which distinguish them from other acts contrary to duty, are seen partly in a special kind of motivation to act, partly also (possibly additionally) in a particularly serious nature of the consequences caused. Anyone who speaks of bad people ascribes not only occasional bad behavior, but a generalized willingness or disposition to bad behavior. The application of the concept of evil to persons, of course, remains problematic per se insofar as it implies a restriction of the general assumption of freedom, according to which moral actors are always in a position to decide between good and evil.

Because man can somehow deal with moral evil, he has it under control himself and is responsible for the moral quality of his actions. In contrast to the extra-moral evils, he lacks this freedom. Because vulnerability and mortality are basic determinations of human existence. Experiences of pain and death, of uncertainty and powerlessness vis-à-vis external nature, society and one's own instincts are experienced as external determination, compulsion and fate, in short as "evil". The evil as the extra-moral evil is determined either

  • subjectively by referring to the sensations as what is suffering (suffering), unpleasant, or what is the cause of disgust, aversion or disharmony, or
  • objectively by referring to norms or normative ideas as what is contrary to the norm (e.g. as what is harmful, detrimental, value and meaningless, evil, guilt, death, what is life-destroying and inhibiting) or as a total of what affects both the world arrangement and the individual sense of action in a senseless manner.

4. The good or bad and the question of the connection between morality and well-being

With regard to the attribution of the predicates “good” and “bad”, we have to consider the difference between moral and extra-moral being good or bad as “bonum morale” or “bonum physicum” or as “malum morale” or “malum” physicum ”. However, this result of our previous considerations is counteracted by the fact that we are obviously constantly struggling with the tendency to relate moral good or bad to extra-moral well-being in a relationship of correspondence. Almost naturally, we assume that there is a relationship between doing and doing and then consider it scandalous that good people fare badly and bad people fare well. We carry - almost naively - the assumption that the origin of the extra-moral evil has something to do with the existence of the moral evil. For antiquity, this connection, which is based on a Talion theory of evil, according to which natural evils are always to be understood as the just punishment for moral wrongdoing, was actually evident. She was convinced of the just harmony of all processes in the cosmos. The Christian Middle Ages reinforced this tendency - in line with Old Testament thinking. It saw in an absolutely good and just, above all almighty creator of the cosmos the guarantor of a good and just world order, which consists in the fact that the good is rewarded and the bad is actually punished.

Experiences of pain and death, of uncertainty and powerlessness in relation to external nature, society and one's own instincts, turn out to be powerful incentives for the development of cultural systems of interpretation. By means of mythical and religious practices and narratives, people seek to integrate those experiences of natural and moral evils into a meaningful order and thereby make them bearable. Myth and religion are intended to mend the rift that has opened up between the weak and needy individual and a natural and social environment that has been painfully experienced as indifferent or hostile. According to Max Weber [19], the wish “that the world structure in its entirety should be a somehow meaningful“ cosmos ”or: could and should“ is the real driving force behind religious rationalism. And, according to Arthur Schopenhauer, even the astonishment "which drives us to philosophize [...] arises from the sight of evil and evil in the world" [20].

The theodicy problem in the narrower sense, as it has developed in scholasticism and modern religious philosophy, is only the specific expression that the problem of evil assumes under the premise of an almighty, good and for us understandable God. The need to incorporate the experience of grave evils that shook our basic trust into an understandable and meaningful order and to make it more bearable through this form of meaning is of course not tied to theistic requirements and is already encountered in the pre-Socratic Anaximander. The following applies to all systems of interpretation - be it mythical, polytheistic or dualistic - they all prove to be unsuitable for overcoming the evil in the world because they do not really explain and justify the evil that has to be explained and justified, but ultimately only duplicate it narrative. By tracing this worldly evil back to the struggle of mythical forces or anthropomorphic deities, or to the work of an evil divine force, they do not solve the problem of evil; they merely push it out of this world, with the result that it appears again in the other world. In contrast, monotheistic religions, which proceed from a good and almighty God, have the advantage that they can keep the transcendent reality completely free from earthly evil. But then the theodicy question arises in the narrower sense, namely the question of how a good, omnipotent and understandable God in his actions can allow evil in the world. Because there is an almighty creator God by definition also the primary cause of the evils from which his creation has to suffer.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's “optimistic” answer to the theodicy problem at the end of the 17th century is that we live in the best of all possible worlds; a better world than the known to us is impossible. [21] Accordingly, it is at least conceivable that God made the best possible use of his omnipotence by creating this world of ours. Three things can be argued against this consideration:

  • First If the epistemological answer does not satisfy the need on which the theodicy problem is ultimately based, to understand evil as components of an overall meaningful order. If belief in a good and almighty God doesn't help us figure out the horrors of this world, why should we hold on to him?
  • Secondly the assertion that a better world than the existing one is inconceivable is based on an ethically questionable consequentialism. Because we can only see God's decision for this world, including all evils that exist in it, as morally justified if we generally consider it permissible to bring about the suffering and death of innocent people without their consent, if this is necessary in order to realize certain goods.
  • Third a god whose scope of action would be so restricted by logical laws that he could not create a better world than the existing world could no longer seriously be called omnipotent.

No matter how you use it, the idea of ​​an impotent God remains the most plausible theological answer to the theodicy problem. The philosopher Hans Jonas rightly argues that the task of reconciling the idea of ​​a creator god, who is at the same time good, omnipotent and understandable in his actions, with the existence of evil and evil in the world is insoluble. [22] If one sticks to the assumption of the existence of God, one of the attributes ascribed to him must be abandoned.

  • Giving up the idea of ​​God's goodness seems incompatible with the Judeo-Christian tradition.
  • To sacrifice the intelligibility of God would deprive religion of its orientation value. In addition, the question of evil would not be answered, but only rejected as unsolvable.
  • To this extent, and also in view of the problematic history of this attribute, to surrender the omnipotence of God appears to be the most acceptable option. [23]

If one abandons the idea of ​​an almighty creator God, however, natural evil and moral evil appear as two fundamentally different categories. Man then appears as the sole author of evil, and it becomes pointless to call earthquakes and volcanic eruptions evil. Of course, this also has serious consequences. God is no longer responsible for the fate of the world, including man; man is responsible for the fate of the world and even the fate of God insofar as this has become part of the world. This form of justification of God is a theodicy after the “end of theodicy”, as the Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas puts it. What remains, therefore, is an unconditional moral claim: the absolute responsibility of man for the fate of the world, insofar as it is in his power. He alone is the origin of both good and evil, which can only be blamed on him. In contrast, the fact that natural evils such as the Lisbon earthquake or the December 2004 seaquake are a just consequence of moral guilt is a monstrous assertion that is under no circumstances acceptable. Apart from their speculative character, such arguments undermine our morality in the world, if only because they turn the question of guilt or innocence into something we cannot recognize.

Conclusion: conscience and practical reason

From the perspective of philosophy, its history and its reflection on what can reasonably be called “good” or “bad”, it is advisable to point out again that “good” or “bad” is only used in an adjectival-predicative sense speak. “Good” and “bad” are not proper names of ideal objects, but qualifying labels of properties or characteristics that we assign or deny to objects, conditions, actions or people when we talk about them in an judgmental way. The objectifying idiom "the good" or "the bad" should not tempt us to populate our world with 'higher' objects where it is only an abbreviated form of speech. So we should say goodbye to “the good” and “the bad” as an alleged reality - despite all the pleasure in the good and despite everything no less lustful shuddering from the “bad”. We do not need to fear that we would then be disoriented. Talking about it may always have a special charm for writers and artists, but philosophically it is pointless in every respect. Only in a platonic sky of ideas can “the good” in itself appear as a reality of its own. Admittedly, this was bought at the price of Plato, and it was obtained through the doubling of the world, whereby the earthly world is blamed for evil. This may also have had its charm theologically, but it inevitably leads to the heresy of Manichaeism, in the wake of which the cosmos becomes the scene of a battle between two principles, an impersonal good and an equally impersonal evil. In Christian terms, to be more precise in Christological terms, God's truth is not to be found in the cosmos, but has become a person in Christ. Only because God himself is an agent, be it as creator God or co-creator of history (as shown in the Old and New Testaments), can he be called good. Goodness as a predicate cannot be expressed by the unmoved mover of Aristotle.

But back to philosophy: The reifying talk of "the" evil, as it is used today in politics (e.g.the “axis of evil”) is experiencing a renaissance again, suggesting that the search for the causes of evil has already been completed, namely that, to a certain extent, “evil” itself has appeared as an independent, historical force. In the political rhetoric since the attacks of September 11, 2011, the sheer extent of the devastation seems to have made it necessary to resort to absolute value categories that had otherwise largely disappeared from the everyday technocratic language of politics. The obvious intention to destroy and the self-sacrifice of the perpetrators paradigmatically embody the old idea of ​​evil, according to which, according to the terrible consequences of actions, there also correspond correspondingly evil intentions (i.e. intentions). Of course, such a Manichean rhetoric of the struggle between good and evil leaves no room for discussion about the question of which reactions to evil actions are appropriate, politically wise and legally and ethically acceptable, because in the absolute struggle of good and evil it only comes still on the decisive decision for the right side. In view of the dangers of such rhetoric, the philosopher can only recall the means of critical use of reason to counter any tendency towards a re-mystification of evil.

We also do not need a mystification of “the good” as a quantity that motivates and orientates our moral action, as it were, as a metaphysical quantity. Our actions as a moral subject have always been naturally based on the difference between “good” and “bad”. This general knowledge of “good” and “bad”, which we spontaneously and easily assume when dealing with people, is what we call conscience in everyday language. Its core meaning consists of a twofold knowledge: on the one hand, knowing in a very general sense what is good and bad (which does not exclude different opinions about good and bad in detail); and on the other hand, to know that good is to be done and evil is to be avoided. We take it for granted that it is possible to discourse what constitutes the goodness of the good and the evil of the evil. We assign the predicate “good” to actions neither irrationally nor arbitrarily, but only when it is rationally plausible. In contrast, the evil, the immoral, always somehow has the character of the irrational. It cannot be reasonably justified, in the end one acts against better knowledge and conscience. You are responsible for the evil, and at the same time you cannot answer it, because responsibility always means giving an answer to the question: "Why did you do that?"

Precisely because humans do not live in a fixed environment like animals, nor that of a fixed “good” and “bad”, but rather have a world in which they have to try to find their way out of freedom and with reason, is such a world Intuitive knowledge of the difference between “good” and “bad”, which is not defined in terms of content, is indispensable. This knowledge, which consists of the imperative “Do what is good and avoid evil!” Is written in our hearts, as it were. And we call the authority of this knowledge conscience. What makes a concrete action a “good” or “bad”, of course, requires the considerations of practical reason. We have known this not only since Kant, but since Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. [24]

[1] For the history of the concept, see H. Reiner, among others: "Gut, das Gute, das Gut", in: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy, Vol. 3, Basel 1974, Sp. 937-972; O. Marquard, R. Schottländer, M. Arndt, H. Schneider, K. Riesenhuber, A. Hügl: “Malum”, in: ibid., Vol. 5 (1980), Col. 652-706; also T. Borsche and others: "Übel", ibid. Vol. 11 (2001), Col. 1-4. The relevant articles in the New Handbook of Basic Philosophical Concepts, ed. v. P. Kolmer and A. G. Wildfeuer, 3 vols., Darmstadt 2013, especially the article "Das Böse" by M.H. Werner (Vol. 1, 481-492), “The evil” by M. Dreyer (Vol. 3, 2258-2269, and “Das Gute” by M. Forschner (Vol. 2, 1132-1144).

[2] Cf. Aristotle, esp. Cat. 4, 1b 25 and Top. I 9 103b 20.

[3] See A.G. Wildfire: “Vernunft”, in: New Handbook of Philosophical Basic Concepts, Freiburg 2011, Vol. 3, 2333-2370.

[4] Cf. on the connection between dialogue and reason A.G. Wildfire: Dia-Logos: Reason - a peace-making factor of orientation, in: G. Augustin / S. Sailer-Pfister / K. Vellguth (ed.), Christianity in Dialogue. Perspectives of Christian Identity in a Plural Society (= Theologie im Dialog, Vol. 12), Freiburg i. Br. (Herder), 129-142.

[5] It is therefore only consistent if Christianity, especially in its moral requirements, attaches great importance to the fact that these must be identifiable as reasonable. It does not claim to represent a milieu-specific special morality in moral matters, but the field of activity of its moral theologies is the discourse of reasonable judgment, which can claim general validity.

[6] On the debate about the possibility of “intrinsic” values, see G. E. Moore: The conception of intrinsic value, in: ders., Philosophical Studies, London 1922. Furthermore, N. Lemos: Intrinsic value, Cambridge 1994; M. Zimmerman: The nature of intrinsic value, Lanham 2001 and B. Bradley: Two concepts of intrinsic value, in: Ethical theory and moral practice 9 (2006), 111-130.

[7] Cf. Cicero, De fin. III, 6, 20; 10, 34 and F. Suarez, De bonitate II, 2, 7. 15. For the act of valuing see A.G. Wildfire: Art. "Value / Values", in: New Handbook of Basic Philosophical Concepts, Freiburg 2011, Vol. 3, esp. 2496-2499.

[8] Cf. on the grammar of validity in the context of value theories H. Schnädelbach: Values ​​and Valuations, in: ders., Analytical and post-analytical philosophy. Lectures and papers 4, Frankfurt a. M. 2004, 253-278, here: 261f.

[9] Cf. Aristoteles, Nikomachische Ethik [= NE] I, 6, 1096a 24f.

[10] Cf. G. H. v. Wright: The Varieties of Goodness, London 1963.

[11] Cf. I. Kant: Kant, Basis zur Metaphysik der Sitten (1785), Akademie-Ausgabe, Berlin 1900ff., Vol. IV, 393: “There is nothing anywhere in the world, indeed there is nothing else to think about possible, what could be considered good without qualification, other than goodwill alone. Understanding, wit, discernment, and whatever else the talents of the spirit may be called, or courage, determination, perseverance in purpose, as qualities of temperament, are undoubtedly good and desirable in some intentions; but they can also become extremely bad and harmful if the will, which is to make use of these natural gifts and whose peculiar quality is therefore called character, is not good. "

[12] See Origen, De princ. I, 109 and Contr. Cels. VI, 53; Augustine, Enchir. 23 and De civ. Dei XI, 22; Alexander of Hales, Sum. Th. I, 18, 9; Albertus Magnus, Sum. Th. I, 27, 1; Leibniz, Theodizee, II, Anh. IV, § 34 etc.

[13] A good overview of how evil was thought of in relation to the good in the history of theology and philosophy can recently be found in Christian Schäfer (ed.): What is evil? Philosophical texts from antiquity to the present, Stuttgart 2014.

[14] Cf. F. Billicsich: The Problem of Evil in the Philosophy of the West, I-III, Vienna 1952-1959.

[15] Cf. the good overview in C.-F. Geyer: The theodicy problem - a historical and systematic overview, in: W. Oelmüller (Ed.), Theodizee - God in front of court? Munich 1990, 9-32; ders .: Theodicy. Discourse, Documentation, Transformation, Stuttgart 1992; and recently K. v. Stosch: Theodizee, Paderborn 2013.

[16] I. Kant, AA V, 59.

[17] Cf. e.g. A. Kreiner: Gott im Leid, Freiburg 1997; B. Claret: Secret of Evil, Innsbruck ²2000.

[18] Sometimes one can observe, writes the philosopher M.H. Werner (see note 1, 481), “how toddlers call the hammer with which they tapped their fingers or the splinter that has scratched their skin“ bad ”. For them, evil is anything that causes them suffering, pain or fear. They do not yet differentiate between people to whom responsibility can be ascribed and living beings or objects that cannot act. From the infant's egocentric perspective, this difference does not appear essential. Rather, what matters is that a painful event threatens the child's trust in a world that largely corresponds to his needs. This event must at least be semantically classified and thus, as it were, conjured up. Only with the slow development of their own autonomy of action do children learn to take the difference between attributable and non-attributable events seriously. "

[19] M. Weber, Collected Essays on the Sociology of Religion, Tübingen 1988, Vol. 1, 253.

[20] A. Schopenhauer: The world as will and idea. Second volume (1844), in: Werke, Zurich 1988, Vol. 2, 199.

[21] Cf. G. W. Leibniz, Attempts in the Theodicée about the goodness of God, human freedom and the origin of evil, 1710, in: ders., Philosophische Werke, Vol. 4, Hamburg, 1999.

[22] Cf. H. Jonas: The concept of God after Auschwitz: A Jewish voice, Frankfurt a. M. 1987.

[23] Cf. on the theoretical problematics of the God attribute “omnipotence” the informative work by Jan Bauke-Ruegg: Die Ommacht Gottes: Systematic-Theological Considerations Between Metaphysics, Postmodernism and Poetry, Berlin 1998.

[24] Cf. W. Kluxen: Philosophical ethics in Thomas von Aquin, Mainz 1964, 3rd edition Hamburg 2914.