My Problem of Evil


I want to believe everyone has intrinsic worth . I believe this is a noble idea and have written about it before, here . Yet I struggle...

I want to believe everyone has intrinsic worth. I believe this is a noble idea and have written about it before, here.

Yet I struggle with the idea that evil people are just as important and matter just as much as they did before they were evil. It is a hard position to explain, even to myself. I want it to be true, I want everyone to have the same intrinsic worth, but do they?

Here I must stop and consider that I am wrong. Maybe evil people lose their inner, intrinsic worth. I will consider extreme examples to help me understand this. Hitler I will consider as the evil person. Charles Darwin I will consider as the good person.

Do they have equal worth?

They certainly do not have equal social worth. Hitler has an extremely high negative social worth because of the millions of people he caused to die. He was heartless and did not care about those deaths. Charles Darwin was a good man who cared about people and the welfare of others. He was anti-slavery for example. He produced ideas that promoted and helped humanity. We are better because of Charles Darwin, but not because of Hitler. Hitler has a negative social worth and Darwin has a positive social worth. (Social worth is an abstract measurement of how other people feel about you.)

The worthiness I'm concerned about is intrinsic worth, which I am tentatively defining as being worthy of a good life. A baby, just born, is considered to have a lot of intrinsic worth. Does the worth of the baby stay the same as the baby becomes a child, then an adult. I want to believe that no matter how the baby's social worth changes as it grows older, the intrinsic worth does not change.

This is easy to accept for people who are basically good people. Even if they are not the most social of people, if they hurt no one they are accepted as intrinsically worthy of having a good life. It is only if they deliberately kill someone, or if they kill millions of people as Hitler did, are they are no longer considered to have intrinsic worth.

In the case of people who deliberately kill other people or abuse other people, I find it hard to argue that they still have intrinsic worth. In extreme cases, I'm even okay with the death penalty, although I'm not sure it makes us a better people. But I also feel that for us to say some people are intrinsically worthy while others are not is a slippery slope. It is too easy to declare a person, or a group of people, as unworthy.

I don't yet have an answer to these questions, but perhaps intrinsic worth is like a water bucket. We are born with a full bucket of worth and for most people the bucket stays full. For some people though the worth filling the bucket evaporates. And slowly becomes less full, with Hitler if becomes empty. Despite the bucket being empty though, the bucket is still there. It can be filled back up with effort.

In this analogy, there is a maximum intrinsic worth which we are all born with and which can never be exceed. And the potential for having the maximum intrinsic worth is always there even for those who have lost some or all of it.

This is not a bad idea on the surface, but here is the problem. Once we decide that some people can lose their intrinsic worth, how do we decide who has less worth? What are the rules for deciding if some of a person's intrinsic worth has evaporated? Is it only people who harm other people? What if someone is accused of harming others, found guilty of it, but is innocent? We can never know for sure. And there is also the old, tired problem of racism. Would it be tempting to lower other people's worth because of their race? For some people the ability to judge certain people they do not like as less worthy will give them the excuse to do so.

This is my problem of evil.

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Consider This:
The only bond worth anything between human beings is their humanness. Jesse Owens



The Evolving Monkey : My Problem of Evil
My Problem of Evil
The Evolving Monkey
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