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 First Floor.......................Canon Obsessions
 Philosopher to Hallows
 "There is no good and evil, there is only power"
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diricawl
Looney

United Kingdom
1078 Posts

Posted - 03/26/2010 :  04:26:28  Show Profile Send diricawl a Private Message  Reply with Quote
line spoken by Quirrell in PS (indirectly by Voldemort).

Interestingly, that line was taken out of context by a number of Christian websites as evidence for the book's Satanic influence.

A few years ago I was surprised to hear the First Evil say it on Buffy ("It's not about right, it's not about wrong, it's about power") but I assumed that, since Joss Whedon was an addmitted Potterhead, that was just him sneaking in a homage before the show wrapped. But then, just today, the trailer for the frankly God-awful-looking Nicholas Cage/Jerry Bruckheimer epilepsy-fest "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" came out, and what does the lead villain (Alfred Molina) say?

Judge for yourself:

http://www.traileraddict.com/trailer/the-sorcerers-apprentice/international-trailer

It seems this line is well on the way to becoming the new "Your puny weapons are no match for my superior intellect!"

It could be this line has struck a chord. Maybe people find it hard to argue with. After all, who decides what is good or evil? Right or wrong? Those with the power to punish. What do you think? Is Voldemort right? Are our ideas of morality merely the result of our fears of authority? Nietzsche and Phillip Pullman appear to think so. I dunno.

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As to the avatar, well, if you girls can all have Alan Rickman...

"They don't want the Easter Bunny's power; The children in our generation want Harry's power, and they're getting it." - Laura Mallory

Edited by - diricawl on 03/26/2010 04:29:29

Theowyn
Looney

1078 Posts

Posted - 03/26/2010 :  13:18:58  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
What a great post, Diri! There are undoubtedly many people who would agree with Voldemort. Good and evil defy hard and fast definitions and I think the way we approach discussing this issue is often fundamentally flawed.

When I was in college, the professor of one of my classes presented us with the following scenario:

A young man and woman, Jack and Jill, are deeply in love, but separated because they are stuck on opposite sides of a wide river. Jill, determined to be reunited with her true love, asks Tom to ferry her across the river in his boat. Tom agrees to do so if Jill will sleep with him for one night. Jill feels nothing for Tom, but will do anything to be with Jack and so agrees. They sleep together and the next morning, true to his word, Tom takes Jill across the river. Jack and Jill are ecstatic to be together once again, but when Jack learns that Jill slept with Tom, he becomes furious and spurns her. Which of these people behaved best and worst and why?

I was astonished at the variety of opinions this generated. IMO, Jack is the scum of the earth, but there were people who thought he was justified in breaking it off with Jill since she had slept with another man. This exercise was designed to determine what principles we value most: power, love, loyalty, honesty, morality, etc., but it points out the problem in the way we usually discuss good and evil.

Good (or evil) is not a single quality. It is a judgment based on some combination of numerous underlying principles. How we value all of these principles is what determines our individual sense of right and wrong and the individual principles at issue in any given situation will then determine whether we see something as good or evil.

So I would say that Voldemort only got it partially right. There is no good or evil only power along with a slew of other principles and beliefs that determine how we judge the rightness or wrongness of any act or idea.

Order of the Bookmark

s.i.n.e. qua non

"Always"

Edited by - Theowyn on 03/26/2010 13:21:51
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Siobhan
Chief Healer

USA
2157 Posts

Posted - 03/26/2010 :  22:03:20  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
It comes down to being "in the eye of the beholder." In any given situation, what is right and good to one person, can be wrong or evil to another (just look at Glen Beck's arguments regarding social justice). Dumbledore had it when he said "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

Deliberatley causing mayhem in Snape's Potions class.
Member of the HPEW & HPCS Appreciation Society
s.i.n.e. qua non
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gimu
Addled

Ireland
209 Posts

Posted - 03/28/2010 :  15:40:14  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Great posts! I think of that quote often. We all have choices to make in life. The difference between right and wrong can certainly be blurred. Neverending story really. So long as we all stop and consider decisions, it'll be alright.
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diricawl
Looney

United Kingdom
1078 Posts

Posted - 03/29/2010 :  09:09:02  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Theo, I'm surprised at your post. I would have thought that as a person of faith you would have at least some faith in the existence of good and evil. If you're going to embrace moral relativism so completely, why bother believing in religion at all? Isn't the whole point of religion that the universe operates according to some external moral framework?

Order of the Bookmark

As to the avatar, well, if you girls can all have Alan Rickman...

"They don't want the Easter Bunny's power; The children in our generation want Harry's power, and they're getting it." - Laura Mallory
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Theowyn
Looney

1078 Posts

Posted - 03/29/2010 :  17:35:05  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Diri, you raise a number of weighty questions here. First off, the purpose of organized religion is to persuade as many people as possible to believe in its set doctrine, to obey its commandments and to support it through donations, evangelism, jihad, etc. The leaders and members of any given religion may pursue these goals for purely altruistic purposes (saving souls, glorifying God) or for more worldly ones (power, politics), but the goals remain the same.

Each religion claims to have a monopoly on moral truth which is absolute and immutable, yet a close look (or even a passing glance) at the major world religions will show the contentious internal debates raging among the faithful. Most Muslims don’t believe it’s acceptable to commit terrorist acts in the name of God, yet obviously some do. Christians have long resolved arguments over doctrine by splitting off into different sects, yet we still have Catholics for Choice, a group supporting abortion rights in direct defiance of the Vatican.

Don’t let the conservatives ranting on the radio and TV fool you. There is no absolute moral unanimity even among members of the same faith tradition and that is becoming truer every day. That’s precisely why the conservatives are so hysterical. They know they’ve lost control and can no longer dictate the morals of society. While many people in the world still rely on religion to be their moral compass, many other people of faith rely on their own conscience in matters of morality just as an atheist would.

Which brings us to the next question: Does belief in God imply an absolute definition of good and evil? Yes and no. A person’s intent can indeed be defined as good or evil or some definitive shade of gray in between. If I bake you a beautiful cake for your birthday, I may be doing it because I care about you and want to make you happy or because I want to show off what a great baker I am and to have you owe me a favor. One reason is clearly more “good” than the other even though the result – a lovely birthday cake – is the same.

When we act out of love or selflessness we are being good. When we act out of hate or selfishness we are being evil. Full stop. This is the definition of good and evil and it is indeed absolute. It is also what counts in one’s relationship with God, but in the world things are considerably more complicated.

We rarely talk about someone’s motives in discussing morality. Instead we try to define an action as either moral or (more often) immoral and though we speak in terms of good and evil, that isn't usually what we're actually talking about. Most of the time when we say that an action is good or evil we are making a value judgment based on our own principles. In reality only actions which are defined by intent can truly be classified as good or evil.

For instance, rape is evil because by definition it entails harming another for selfish, personal gain. Likewise, murder is evil because it is predicated on hate or selfishness. Killing in general however is neither good nor evil because it is devoid of intent. It is only when the intent of the killer is taken into account (hate, self-defense, etc.) that the act of killing can be judged on moral grounds. And please note – by intent I mean specifically love/selflessness vs. hate/selfishness. Philosophical beliefs don’t count because we can convince ourselves that anything is right or wrong in philosophy as religious extremists of every stripe have proven.

For thousands of years religion has defined actions as good and evil based on religious doctrine which was never up to the task. Today, more and more people are relying on their own principles to make these definitions, but those principles are still often based on religious and cultural indoctrination, fear and ignorance. That is why we have so much debate on moral issues. Ultimately we need a new paradigm that will recognize the difference between good/evil intent which is defined by love/hate and acceptable/unacceptable actions defined by society.

Order of the Bookmark

s.i.n.e. qua non

"Always"

Edited by - Theowyn on 03/30/2010 00:36:59
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