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The non dichotomy of good and evil

Good vs Evil There's something incredibly fascinating to me about our culture's desire to line all things up into two, diametrically opposed camps.

Maybe it's for ease in describing a notion or problem, maybe it's to make decision making a snap. Clearly, things are boiled down into neat little dichotomies to make something easier for people. There's a danger here, however, and what we lose and what we risk losing when we create false dichotomies is often overlooked. One of the most common and probably one of the most damning side-effects of the creation of these false dichotomies is the formation of the belief that there is no middle ground.

The non dichotomy of good and evil

When ideas, concepts, sides are segregated to separate camps, the idea persists that one cannot be a part of both groups, or the even more dangerous idea that one can't not be a part of one of the two groups. This idea of "you're either with us or against us" often shuts down conversation, particularly those without strong views on the particular subjects. These individuals are often shunned as being "against us," which leads to us going on the offensive, which leads to them going on the defensive, and when this takes place there's absolutely no way any real exchange or communication is actually happening.

It's worth mentioning that there are certainly times, particularly within the social justice movement, where passive neutrality actually is supporting one of two sides.

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But that's another article entirely. Let's take a look at False Dichotomy 1, really the genesis from which all other false dichotomies spring: Now, when applied as abstract, hypothetical ideas, one can clearly see that Good and Evil are two diametrically opposed ideas. But when you actually apply these concepts to the human spectrum, like all hypothetically clear dichotomies, things begin to murky very fast.

Good and Evil beget Right and Wrong Dichotomy 2and very quickly we can see that this will lead to problems. After all, I am always "Right", and, if you disagree with me, you are "Wrong", and if this is an issue that involves any sort of morality or ethics, this breakdown leads us straight back to Good and Evil. Since we all always disagree with somebody else on something, including those issues that relate to morality and ethics, you can easily see how every single person on this planet is at both times Right and Wrong, Good and Evil.

I'll give you an example. There is a student in one of my classes who feels very strongly about choosing not to use pharmaceutical drugs. The argument here is that these drugs are not natural, and then for our personal well being we should avoid such things. Now, this seems pretty solid. But then there's my argument- the argument that one should be working against the stigmas surrounding antidepressants a pharmaceutical drug because of how these medications can allow people to function normally when they would otherwise be unable to, and that they even save lives.

Saving lives is Right. Yet aren't these two arguments are diametrically opposed? Doesn't one have to be Right and one Wrong? And since people's health and lives hang in the balance, doesn't one have to be Good and one Evil? The answer to all of these questions is simple: I cannot speak for my fellow student, but I have absolutely nothing against people with the desire to live a healthy and natural life, so long as they don't infringe on the need I had, and the need many others have, for pharmaceutical aid.

Even those things you might think we agree on as a people we don't. I mean, we might expect that we the non dichotomy of good and evil all agree that murder is Wrong and Evil, but we still have armies and wars, our country's leaders still support revolutionary groups and dictatorships worldwide, and we still execute our prisoners, so really haven't reached that agreement.

What would Robin Hood say to that? That seems like an easy one, but really, greed is one of the most basic human emotions, and we can't physically survive without succumbing to that greed on at least a very basic level. I mean, to have greed is to want and to take, and unless you're living on some organic, self-sufficient commune completely cut off from society in which case you wouldn't be reading this article we all do that.

Now you might argue that there're levels of greed, hate, stealing, murder, etc. Now we're getting somewhere. When we start talking about levels, and about "cut-offs", we've already moved beyond dichotomy. Remember, that there is no spectrum of Good and Evil.

You are either Good or you are Evil, at least according to prevailing school of thought. There certainly isn't a spectrum of Right vs Wrong. But reality operates in shades of gray, because nothing is truly Black or White False Dichotomy 3, for those of you playing the home game.

And where there is a spectrum, there is a middle ground, and where there is middle ground, there is communication. Communication doesn't exist without middle ground. If you want proof of that you need look no further than the current California budget crisis. But the middle ground isn't that easy a place to get to.

The reason for this is simple: The important thing to keep in mind is that everyone has a reason for believing what they believe in, and that even if that is a place of ignorance and misinformation, you still have to meet them in the middle ground before you can communicate with them.

It is in this common ground that minds are swayed, and ideas are transmitted. It is in the common ground that syncretism- the blending of ideas- takes place. You may even find that both beliefs are Right, and can easily coexist without bringing harm to anyone. And that is a truly wonderful moment to experience. I should point on that "without bringing harm to anyone" clause of the above phrase makes this a tricky mindset when tackling such things as social justice.

I'll talk about that at a later date.