I find legitimate the assertion that evil exists and do not fully invest in the idea that it is just a matter of perspective.
The most effective description of evil I have found is from M. Scott Peck. To me evil tends to be hypocritical, wherein an individual paints others as in-the-wrong or evil or horrible or injurious in some way but holds themselves beyond reproach. Peck describes them as malignantly self-righteous, seeing people merely as tools or consciously or even unconsciously using them as tools. Peck uses the term ‘militant ignorance’, I’ve said fundamentally ignorant as the state of mind of the evil person. Now one might think, ‘they’re militantly stupid?’ No. Rather they need to ignore, to wipe from their being anything that does not perpetuate their agenda, they must fundamentally ignore that which does not fit their view or enable their agenda.
Peck lists conditions of an evil person:
- Is consistently self-deceiving, with the intent of avoiding guilt and maintaining a self-image of perfection
- Deceives others as a consequence of their own self deception
- Projects his or her evils and sins onto very specific targets while being apparently normal with everyone else
- Commonly hates with the pretense of love, for the purposes of self-deception as much as deception of others
- Abuses power: “the imposition of one’s will upon others by overt or covert coercion”
- Maintains a high level of respectability and lies incessantly in order to do so
- Is consistent in his or her sins. Evil persons are characterized not so much by the magnitude of their sins, but by their consistency (of destructiveness)
- Is unable to think from the viewpoint of their victim (scapegoat)
- Has a covert intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury
The challenge is not so much to use this analysis of evil as a tool to label and possibly damn another but rather to use it as a mirror on which to examine one’s own image. ‘Have I done the above?’ ‘Would another person say these things of me?’ Certainly in some ways it –can- also be used as a field guide of sorts when navigating a new habitat in order to spot the predators but I find the summary judgment of another as ‘evil’ to be a very dangerous designation that might have more consequences than what might be evident to the judge.