The banality of evil

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The banality of evil

Postby Lance Kennedy » Sun Apr 16, 2017 8:21 pm

Reference : New Scientist, 8 April 2017, page 42

In this article on Rorschach tests, it was mentioned that captive Nazis, after WWII, were subject to batteries of psychological tests to try to find out what made them evil. The only results appear to have been more in the imagination of the researchers than in their tests. One, a bit smarter, admitted not finding anything, and referred to the 'banality of evil.'

So what is it that makes people evil?

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby Cadmusteeth » Sun Apr 16, 2017 9:38 pm

Maybe it isn't that people consously choose to be evil; it is the lack of acceptance of what could be wrong with their choices; or a beliefs that there is no other way, no alternative; a fear of uncertainty keeping those from the unfamiliar.
Simply put, the path to hell is paved with good intentions. Some less noble than one believes.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby TJrandom » Sun Apr 16, 2017 10:18 pm

Lust, envy, greed, wrath, lead, racism, organized exceptionalism… to name a few.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby Lance Kennedy » Sun Apr 16, 2017 11:02 pm

There is no doubt that the Nazi's being tested were evil. But the test results came back showing them to fit into the normal range of most attributes, whether IQ, extroversion, introversion or other. No clear personality distortion. But they committed terrible deeds. I suspect most of us would deny even the possibility that we might commit such actions. Why did they?

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby Cadmusteeth » Mon Apr 17, 2017 12:29 am

The conviction that they were in the right.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby Matthew Ellard » Mon Apr 17, 2017 1:44 am

Lance Kennedy wrote: Why did they?
Considering the Nazis were in power from 1933 to 1945 I'd say indoctrination. . (The Milgram Experiment sort of explains that behaviour)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

That there are evil people is not in doubt. However I suggest there are many many different reasons why people do evil things. It's the kiddies who torture animals that I dislike the most as they tend to be incurable and don't respond to rehabilitation.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby Nobrot » Mon Apr 17, 2017 2:40 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:Reference : New Scientist, 8 April 2017, page 42
In this article on Rorschach tests,

Matthew this is your first mistake. Not for a long time, if ever, has anyone taken this Rorschach thing seriously. I have on many (Voluntarily) occasions undergone the above mentioned test.
http://personality-testing.info/tests/HEMCR/
And no matter how foul of of an interpretations I select, I still can't quite manage to have plod kick my door in. So am I a thoroughly nasty bastard able to hide my real intent, as per Nazis, or is this Rorschach thing total shite? And is the article you didn't link to total shite?
Lance Kennedy wrote:it was mentioned that captive Nazis, after WWII, were subject to batteries of psychological tests to try to find out what made them evil.

You mean why do 'people' do evil things? Philosophers need to earn a living, so why not leave it to them to figure out. It's not as though this terrifying black hole in our psyche hasn’t been analysed to disgusting extent now is it?
Lance Kennedy wrote:The only results appear to have been more in the imagination of the researchers than in their tests.

What? Welcome to the seriously {!#%@} up world of the Rorschach test.
Lance Kennedy wrote:One, a bit smarter, admitted not finding anything, and referred to the 'banality of evil.'So what is it that makes people evil?

Lance, you have answered every question you posed!
All we have is us. Homo sapiens. We will eventually get it right or we'll {!#%@} it right up and go extinct. So what? Fast forward a few million years and the dolphins may drag their smug lazy arses back out of the water and grow some fingers, discover fire, smelt metal, invent the transistor and mass communication.
No, wait. Hang on a bit, some bastard of a narwhal will beat them to it and invent philosophy.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby scrmbldggs » Mon Apr 17, 2017 2:53 am

"The Banality of Evil" - there's a book for that.

From a review:
...Hannah Arendt points out that, for the most part, the members of the SS and the Einsatzgruppen, were not murders or sadist by nature...
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Re: The banality of evil

Postby Matthew Ellard » Mon Apr 17, 2017 3:03 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:Reference : New Scientist, 8 April 2017, page 42
In this article on Rorschach tests,
Nobrot wrote:Matthew this is your first mistake.
I think you mean Lance. :D

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby Nobrot » Mon Apr 17, 2017 3:05 am

Awe feck :oops:

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby Lance Kennedy » Mon Apr 17, 2017 3:07 am

To Nobrot

No mistake. I did not suggest Rorschach tests were valid. Just that the article was about them.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Mon Apr 17, 2017 3:26 am

Just a note, My father took part in those tests. NO...NOT AS A NAZI....USAF. Somehow Mom worked in the program as well....don't know if that was just getting the beers after work or not. Thats all I know...as that was all he said. Stationed near Vienna at the time. Was also a spy hunter in the AF. Lots of them around and the local Viennese were more concerned about Commies than they were Nazis.

"Evil" is a very stupid concept. Only stupid people believe it or talk about it......an artifact of even stupider religion.

Thats why you can't measure it..............you know.............. it doesn't exist.

Ha, ha. Eat It.

Evil is a social construct used to describe things you don't like. Like meat eaters in a Vegan values system or those who advocate Nuke Power in the closing days of the human race......or those who say we can adapt to Global Warming.

Pick your own evil. Thats what evil does. ((Ha, ha.......does remind me of the saying that the first thing the devil did was to convince man that he didn't exist. ....................... Folk Tales are like that.))
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Re: The banality of evil

Postby Lance Kennedy » Mon Apr 17, 2017 3:58 am

Whether evil is a stupid concept or not depends on how you define it. To me, an evil act is one committed for the benefit of the doer, in spite of the fact that it causes great harm. By that definition, it exists.

The dictionary defines 'evil' as "profoundly immoral or wicked", but I do not like that definition, since it just provides alternative words, and fails to explain it properly.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby scrmbldggs » Mon Apr 17, 2017 4:33 am

Inherent selfishness - not evil but quite often also not pleasant...
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Re: The banality of evil

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Mon Apr 17, 2017 5:46 am

there is quite often no benefit to the doer at all. Its just "action" with negative consequences by some way of looking at it. WORDS. So easily wrong to think we have explained or understood anything simply by putting a label on it. Nay....... tis an existential universe we live in. Nothing has meaning until we name it, apply it, and generally believe in it. Anything "evil" in one view is a virtue in another. Ain't that a bitch?

I had a great foreboding of evil a year back when petitioning the local police department to conform their activities to the law. Had a private meeting with the Shift Commander and while he was very "nice" and responsive, I had this overwhelming feeling that he would just as easy be a jack booted thug for anyone that put him in a position to do so. Don't know what I was reacting to.......... the uniform?? ..... He was taller than me???? >>> All evil stuff.
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Re: The banality of evil

Postby Poodle » Mon Apr 17, 2017 9:01 am

Bobbo's right (it has to happen sometimes :D ).
'Evil' is not a diagnosis - it's a moral judgement. It doesn't actually exist except inside human heads - not even banal, then. 'Being evil' means transgressing moral limits imposed by humans, and nothing more. As moral limits are artificial and imposed (usually) by self-appointed guardians of the rectitude, they have no meaning in any absolute way.
So be nice.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby TJrandom » Mon Apr 17, 2017 9:26 am

OK, but I know evil when I see it, and like Google try not to be.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby fromthehills » Mon Apr 17, 2017 11:18 am

To people that believe diet and meditation can cure cancer, Skeptics are evil. I, however, don't believe that these people whom think positive thinking cures, so negative thinking must be what makes you ill are evil. I just think they're deluded. I have to say that I doubt we were looking at an entire generation of German psychopaths. My guess is they had a few psychos that rode the coat tails of the main psycho, and through clever propaganda, deluded the people that were the Nazi party.

Through recent events here in the States, I also have to conclude that half of Germans were appalled by the actions of Nazis. I'm not crying Godwin here, but it's hard not to see the parallels. We are lucky to have checks and balances.

I, as a gun person, have plenty contact with gun nut, right wingers. I don't believe they are evil, just deluded. They have a black and white perspective, and dislike any doubt. It's the same tendency that either leads them to Christianity, or perhaps what Christian endoctrination has bred into them. Luckily the christians don't have a unified set of beliefs, or we'd be {!#%@}. Would the Christian Right think they were doing evil if they got their way in this country? Of course not. And they're not all psychopaths. But put a psychopath at the helm that knows how to manipulate them, and you teter on the edge of catastrophe.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby Lance Kennedy » Mon Apr 17, 2017 7:38 pm

Based on the comments in the last few post, I hereby change my definition of evil, with the addition of the word 'knowlingly', and the word 'perceived'.

EVil is when a person KNOWINGLY commits a deed that will cause terrible harm, purely for his or her own PERCEIVED selfish benefit.

As such, evil exists. But it is all about definition.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby fromthehills » Tue Apr 18, 2017 3:59 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:Based on the comments in the last few post, I hereby change my definition of evil, with the addition of the word 'knowlingly', and the word 'perceived'.

EVil is when a person KNOWINGLY commits a deed that will cause terrible harm, purely for his or her own PERCEIVED selfish benefit.

As such, evil exists. But it is all about definition.


That's no longer banal, in my opinion.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:56 am

banal: over familiar through overuse.

Hmmm....I think I understand what banal means, but what does "banality of evil" mean...........for gosh sakes? Sounds like red tape or bureaucracy rather than anything actually evil. I know it when I see it at the Department of Motor Vehicles.... or getting my bill corrected at Comcast.

Selfish Benefit: I dunno. With the protection of complete ambiguity..... I'll say that there is more evil done by "Duty" or even dare I say "faith or submission" than by being selfish or receiving a benefit. Even less if you combine the two?

Its math.
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Re: The banality of evil

Postby fromthehills » Tue Apr 18, 2017 1:13 pm

Now, the DMV is evil. Also Laguna tools, that based their business model on the DMV. But I'll go vent this in gear grinder.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby Gord » Tue Apr 18, 2017 4:21 pm

Nobrot wrote:
Lance Kennedy wrote:Reference : New Scientist, 8 April 2017, page 42
In this article on Rorschach tests,

Matthew this is your first mistake. Not for a long time, if ever, has anyone taken this Rorschach thing seriously. I have on many (Voluntarily) occasions undergone the above mentioned test.
http://personality-testing.info/tests/HEMCR/
And no matter how foul of of an interpretations I select, I still can't quite manage to have plod kick my door in. So am I a thoroughly nasty bastard able to hide my real intent, as per Nazis, or is this Rorschach thing total shite? And is the article you didn't link to total shite?

Hey, I recognise those inkblots! They made me take that test in university, while I was also taking an IQ test. Don't know what my results were back then, but they let me leave the building so they couldn't have been that bad.
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Re: The banality of evil

Postby TJrandom » Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:04 pm

Gord wrote:
Nobrot wrote:
Lance Kennedy wrote:Reference : New Scientist, 8 April 2017, page 42
In this article on Rorschach tests,

Matthew this is your first mistake. Not for a long time, if ever, has anyone taken this Rorschach thing seriously. I have on many (Voluntarily) occasions undergone the above mentioned test.
http://personality-testing.info/tests/HEMCR/
And no matter how foul of of an interpretations I select, I still can't quite manage to have plod kick my door in. So am I a thoroughly nasty bastard able to hide my real intent, as per Nazis, or is this Rorschach thing total shite? And is the article you didn't link to total shite?

Hey, I recognise those inkblots! They made me take that test in university, while I was also taking an IQ test. Don't know what my results were back then, but they let me leave the building so they couldn't have been that bad.


Thrown out of the building? Must ‘a been really real bad.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:05 pm

I studied the Rorschach. It "accesses" the subconscious and there are several "schools" about how to interpret them. Do you focus on interior or perimeter details vs the entire image....etc. I am a lousy test subject....all I ever see is vaginas. Other people see monsters. See the difference?
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Re: The banality of evil

Postby TJrandom » Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:19 pm

I`ve not looked into this - but are the result diagnoses laid out in advance in some manual? That is, for any given image - does the tester have a manual that says for image X, if you see vaginas it means A, but if you see monsters it means B, or if you see a car, it means C, etc. etc.? Or does the tester get to use their own interpretation of your interpretation to tell you anything they like? I suspect the latter, which would seem to make it no better than phrenology.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby Lance Kennedy » Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:38 pm

I am hopeless at the ink blots. I am too analytical. I don't see single images. One ink blot might hold 20 different images for me, with every corner having its own picture.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:46 pm

TJ--Yes.... to be "a school" the meaning of various responses has a set group of maybes. Not really "answers" but "issues." things to examine further. ie==more visits, more payments. Schools: the Freudians have one list, Jung and Adler have a different set. You can publish your own?

"The Talking Cure".... or was it disease? Actually descriptive of both sides.
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Re: The banality of evil

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:50 pm

Lance Kennedy wrote:I am hopeless at the ink blots. I am too analytical. I don't see single images. One ink blot might hold 20 different images for me, with every corner having its own picture.

I'll confirm throughout this forum.... you fail to see the big picture.

Score One for the Ink Blots.
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Re: The banality of evil

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:57 pm

TJrandom wrote: Or does the tester get to use their own interpretation of your interpretation to tell you anything they like? I suspect the latter, which would seem to make it no better than phrenology.

Phrenology is completely invalid. Ink Blots are valid.... but only in a very limited sense. The best interpretations only correlate to "general issues" rather than specific diagnoses as you wish for.

See Lance for a good example.

BTW: everyone sees a vagina or two. If you don't...........................
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Re: The banality of evil

Postby Lance Kennedy » Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:07 pm

Oh I see the big picture as well. It is just that my vision is so much greater than small minded people.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:17 pm

Lance Kennedy wrote: I don't see single images.



German accent>>>>......I can see we have a lot of work to do.
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Re: The banality of evil

Postby OlegTheBatty » Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:33 pm

Cost-benefit analysis.

When Trump was elected, there was a big upsurge in racist acts and commentary. People who had perceived the social costs of expressing their racism as too high now perceived those costs as diminished sufficiently for them to risk expressing their racism. It doesn't mean there was or is an increase in racism, only that the risk of censure has declined, at least in some social groups.

Most Nazis were no more evil than anyone else, but they found themselves in a position where certain behaviours that would generally be unacceptable no longer held an intolerable social cost.

Like my superbly trained and well behaved cat, who has learned to only jump on the kitchen counter when no one is looking.
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Re: The banality of evil

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:39 pm

Perhaps the Nazi example is a good one?

There were Nazi's who "got off" on the misery they delivered...........others did it to avoid punishment to themselves. They both did exactly the same things. Perhaps one reveled in it while the other got drunk or took drugs??? Of the two, the first is evil if that fits anything as they enjoyed it. The group participants (which most people/us are on most issues) who DID THE SAME THINGS...might more express the banality of it all. Not banal at all if you were on the receiving end.

Yes...... the phrase "banality of evil" doesn't make much sense. Banality of mindless protocol and procedure makes emminent good sense. How to better phrase the instance of evil that is widespread and accepted by some group? "The normalization of evil?"

Not a happy subject.
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Re: The banality of evil

Postby Lance Kennedy » Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:56 pm

I believe the phrase 'banality of evil' refers to the fact that those people who committed terrible evil deeds seemed to be "normal" according to psychological tests.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby fromthehills » Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:23 pm

Lance Kennedy wrote:I believe the phrase 'banality of evil' refers to the fact that those people who committed terrible evil deeds seemed to be "normal" according to psychological tests.



In which, I know you know that "normal" is a subjective concept. Normalcy, isn't better. Evil isn't normal. Evil hasn't reached the heights of banality. You're just using a synonym. Truth is being disregarded, which leads, perhaps, to a subjective evil. And if evil isn't subjective, then please explain an objective evil, as you see it.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby Lance Kennedy » Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:49 pm

Hills

The term was not mine. I just quoted it, and thus I am guessing as much as you what the author meant. I gave a definition of evil earlier, which included intentional harm for perceived self gain. I would not use the word 'evil' for acts against a moral code, since we all have different moral codes.

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Re: The banality of evil

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:15 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:I believe the phrase 'banality of evil' refers to the fact that those people who committed terrible evil deeds seemed to be "normal" according to psychological tests.

No. You really are mixing apples with tennis balls. Banality of Evil refers to that which by one value standard or another is perceivable in a society, or in your own life's perceptions, your friends, your work. The fact that "it/evil" cannot be tested for shows only that evil and not evil cannot be tested for.....so, have to rely on something else. I thought having 3 x Chromosomes or some such showed a high degree of sociopathy? Other tests as well....just not psychological ones across a broad sweep of people.

Time to google the phrase:
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil is a book by political theorist Hannah Arendt, originally published in 1963. Arendt, a Jew who fled Germany during Adolf Hitler's rise to power, reported on Adolf Eichmann's trial for The New Yorker.
Eichmann in Jerusalem - Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eichmann_in_Jerusalem

More here: I got tired reading what it wasn't, and stopped. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.747080
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Re: The banality of evil

Postby scrmbldggs » Wed Apr 19, 2017 3:01 am

Right. It would seem the "banality" lies in the fact that many (not all - there's plenty evidence of breakdowns, substance abuse and suicides) were able to lead otherwise normal lives besides (or after) their brutal and horrible "day jobs". For example, Franz Stangl (the second commandant of the Treblinka II deathcamp in Poland) upon arrival walked into the horror of piles of dead and rotting bodies, and to do his assigned work to bring order and efficiency to the camp, detached from it all by labeling the victims "cargo".

Dehumanizing the targets was an ongoing process and compartmentalization was common.
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Re: The banality of evil

Postby fromthehills » Wed Apr 19, 2017 3:22 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:Hills

The term was not mine. I just quoted it, and thus I am guessing as much as you what the author meant. I gave a definition of evil earlier, which included intentional harm for perceived self gain. I would not use the word 'evil' for acts against a moral code, since we all have different moral codes.



Okay, I see. And I saw your definition, which I replied to as not banal. And that's fine, I'm glad we clarified it.

So this leaves us where? I'm understanding your definition as intentional harm for personal gain. As I see that definition, it could be a troll {!#%@} with us for amusement. Or a soldier torturing a pow for sadistic pleasure. My argument is that, as a critical thinker, I am not sure "true evil" is a real thing. I certainly find things evil, colloquially, but I have to step back from the connotations of Biblical Evil, so to speak. I have to point out that alternative medicine proponents do really believe Skeptic's are evil, as we, in their mind, are preventing treatments that save lives. We know this not to be true, and I don't think this is subjective, as we have the facts on our side. But they believe it. As I was trying to say, these aren't evil people, but if they were given a chance to stomp out what they thought was evil, then we would consider them evil for doing what they thought was good.

So, I'm only saying it's more nuanced than good and evil. As I'm sure you know. But I'd like to extend that a bit more, in relation to your OP, sure those {!#%@} were "normal". But where do we draw the line?

Take for example that wing nut that raided the pizza shop in New York. If you truly believed that children were being traded and molested, or if I did, we'd have to do something. You and I both would fight to save children. Against that evil. So the guy did, and lost because of his own gullibility. So is credulity evil? Extend this idea to the dumb bastards in ww2 Germany. They were given a narrative, and followed. So "normal" isn't surprising. A whole country of evil would be far more surprising.


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