definition of evil

an original definition by J. E. Brown

n., adj.

See any printed dictionary; I agree with Webster’s and have nothing to add.
But the psychology of the definition is itself interesting.

“Evil” is a curious word. Tellingly, many of the people who can’t stomach calling wrongdoers evil will then turn around and find plenty of nasty things to say about victims (a disordered behavior which I call a “Feeding Frenzy”). So it seems unlikely that the resistance to calling evil people evil grows out of any humanitarian feeling.

Some people, particularly very young people, bristle whenever the word “evil” is applied to a person. They object as vehemently as if they have thereby been called evil themselves.
“I don’t believe in evil,” they blurt, with the predictability of a sneeze. The belief system seems to form as follows: a person says, “I’ve been falsely accused before, by people who didn’t understand me; therefore maybe everyone who is accused of wrongdoing is just misunderstood.” In other words, a fellow-feeling for other accused persons is formed.

One of the most laughable definitions I’ve seen claimed that “evil” somehow necessarily implies “supernatural”, i.e., “possessed by Satan”, and that therefore people aren’t evil. The person who wrote that should read Webster’s definition, which also allows “morally reprehensible... [or] arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct” as definitions.

Excerpts from my book (in progress)

Why isn’t there a single agreed-upon definition of evil? Because all people, evil or not, have a vested interest in defining evil so that it doesn’t include the definer.

— J. E. Brown

1st edition 07 Oct 2007

Further Reading at Other Sites

  • There is no evil”, a debate (at (long; devolves at times into politics)

more Thoughts of the Week


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