Does Evil Come From ‘Threatened Egotism’?

found online by Raymond

From libertarian Michael A. LaFerrara:

Ben Shapiro asks, “Where Does Evil Come From?,” and lists four basic ingredients for evil. Number four is “Sadism”, an ingredient for sure but which I’ll set aside for the sake of this post. It is the top three that I want to focus on. Citing Roy Baumeister’s book Evil: Inside Human Violence And Cruelty, Shapiro lists these roots:

1. Instrumentality: The notion that evil acts aren’t evil so long as you’re performing them with a good end in mind. This would include the suicide bomber, who believes that he’s changing the world for the better by slaughtering children in pizzerias, or the dictator who slaughters his enemies in pursuit of power.

2. Threatened Egotism. Baumeister found that violence wasn’t perpetrated by those with low self-esteem, but those with self-esteem that was threatened. He found that “violence is perpetrated by a subset of people who think well of themselves, and indeed it mainly occurs when they believe that their favorable images of self have been threatened or attacked.” This is the danger inherent in, for example, the microaggressions culture that suggests threat where none exists.

3. Idealism. This is really just a subset of instrumentality. It’s the belief that your violence makes the world a better place by drawing us closer to utopia. The worst wars in world history have been caused by idealism, as Karl Popper suggested.

Which one of these three doesn’t belong?

– More –

2 thoughts on “Does Evil Come From ‘Threatened Egotism’?”

  1. Violence and evil are products of authoritarian deprivation of economic security, deprivation of equality, deprivation of justice, deprivation of healthcare, or deprivation of physical safety. Violence and evil spawn from greed, racism, hate, anger, resentments, tribalism, desire for dominance, and disregard for the well-being of others.

    See FOX (R), Kochs, Adelsons, Sinclairs, and the GOP, Guardians Of Pedophilia.

  2. Evil doesn’t come from any of those three things alone. One can believe that ends justify means, have a threatened ego, or be an idealist and never do evil. One can also do evil without those things. Adding sadism as an ingredient doesn’t cover everything else either.

    Most fundamentally, evil acts, just like any other intentional act, are the results of the interactions of particular desires and beliefs under particular circumstances. The desires motivate us to act, the beliefs guide our actions, and the circumstances determine the rest. Adjust any of the three components and you can radically adjust the behavior.

    This is not to say that there is no value in identifying patterns among evil acts as the article LaFerrara quotes does, but it does mean that we should be careful not to think that we have found the recipe for evil. It will always be an oversimplification. And it’s always worth bearing in mind that we do not even yet agree on what evil is and that the definition of evil has changed and will continue to change over time.

    As for LaFerrara’s take, I agree that self-sacrifice is not virtuous in itself (one can sacrifice for all sorts of unworthy causes and I cannot endorse altruism to the point of self-destruction), but disagree here:

    “And since altruism virtue-izes sacrifice, these mystical idealists have no problem sacrificing any number of human beings to satisfy their utopian desire to “make the world a better place” according to their own ideals by any means necessary. ”

    I don’t think that sacrificing *others* counts as altruism. Perhaps he means that teaching altruism convinces people that causes can be of greater value than our own lives, which in turn convinces them that causes can be of greater value than other lives. That may be true, but the act of sacrificing others is very different from the act of sacrificing oneself. In any case, altruism hardly rounds out the recipe for evil.

We have a comment policy (sort of)

We often encounter extreme amounts of spam targeting more controversial posts. This tends to annoy and confuse Aunt Tildy. If your comment is accidentally omitted, please help her out by resubmitting, perhaps including a note telling us what happened. If you find comments closed, we can still put yours in its proper place. Just attach to another post with an explanation.

Aunt Tildy appreciates most every comment. Truly. But she has what could be an unrealistic view of the innocence of younger readers. She may hesitate when profanity becomes extreme.

In some cases, you might follow our lead. When we ruffle her delicate sensibilities, a soft apology has usually helped.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *