TWO SOURCES OF EVIL TO THINK ABOUT
If evil exists, do you believe "moral insanity" exists?
In the recent Sherlock Holmes movie, A Game of Shadows, the GOOD Sherlock Holmes tells the EVIL Professor Moriarity that he suffers from moral insanity. Professor Moriarity shrugs this off and tells Holmes: "You're not at war with me Holmes, you're at war with the human condition...and I merely wish to exploit the human condition."
This cinematic reference to moral insanity reminded me of the talented wives of well-known writers T. S. Elliott and F. Scott Fitzgerald. On admissions to mental hospitals, both were labeled "morally insane" at one time or another. Their marriages were full of love, sensitivity, intellect, passion, drama, and tragedy. The diagnosis reflected the times and seems indefensible by today's standards. In the case of the wives was the label misapplied?
The diagnosis of "moral insanity" is no longer fashionable. Nevertheless, it may surprise you to learn that I favor a revival of the term. That may sound like a startling statement. I base this judgment on recent advances in the study of values and morals that have me favoring the Reality of Moral Illness over Szasz's Myth of Mental Illness or some of the labels used by psychologists. Advances in value science make moral insanity relevant and descriptive and relate to the sensitivity, balance and order of importance of Feeler, Doer and Thinker ways of seeing with values. Linda Niewiadomski gives us a poetic interpretation of these terms as follows:
FEELER-Value-Vision: The Soft-Touch Freddy is a feeler / Wears his heart upon his sleeve / Empathy is his middle name / By your side, he’ll never leave.
DOER-Value-Vision: The Builder Danny is a doer / He’s always busy as a bee / Takes no time to feel or think / His goals won’t set him free.
THINKER-Value Vision: The Recluse Tommy is a thinker / Analytical to the bone / Lost in thought and questioning / He spends his time alone.”
Behind these dimensions of seeing with values is a new science of values. They are more analytical than meets the eye. They are mental faculties both scientists and psychologists can work with. Their sensitivity, balance and order of importance are measureable and define moral insanity.
If evil exists, another likely source of evil is rooted in social unrest around religion vs. science; religious vs. secular culture, and conservative vs. liberal world views. The rise of secular society was accompanied by advances in science and technology following the European Renaissance and Age of Reason and has left us with problems, including a breeding ground for evil. I'll explain: Natural philosophies such as alchemy and astrology evolved into the natural sciences such as chemistry and astronomy. This took place without the transformation of moral philosophy into moral science and this turns out to be a big deal. The one-sided evolution of natural science, without moral science checks and balances, amounts to a tragic flaw in the character of today's secular society. This accident of history has contributed to growing cracks in secular society such as youth violence, near economic collapse, political and religious extremism, and so forth.
This flaw in the character of secular society makes finding common ground and consensus more urgent than ever. Where do we find it? It is most likely found in the essence of our individual and collective being and becoming; which is to say, in that which most defines us. What is this? It's all about values stupid! Face it: we are prisoners of our values, and our organization of values around Feeler, Doer, and Thinker ways of seeing with values; all of which is studied by the "Hartman Circle" of value and moral scientists which remains one of the world's best kept secrets. These days there is a lots of talk about "moral science." Don't be fooled! Unless it's based on a definition of good scientists can work with, there can be no moral science to compliment four-hundred year old material science and technology!
Common ground is something we all can believe in. It is a "glue" that holds us together, and it has not been seen since ancient times. The ancient world found it in myths and superstitions. With globalization we need it more than ever and without it the social tension between secular and religious cultures and between religious and religious cultures has the potential to seed the world with many faces of evil. And to this growing tensions around food, water, energy and the violent weather of climate change and you have the potential for simplistic, formulaic, dogmatic, and fanatic black-and-white remedies reminiscent of the dark ages. More than ever, we had better be on our toes and keep our wits about us facing such threats and their capacity for evil.
In conclusion, today's secular society, without the common ground of moral science is destined to wrestle with the symptoms of distortions produced by centuries of natural science without a science of values enabling moral science. One of the more immediate remedies is to upgrade 3R secular education to 4R secular education consisting of reading, writing, arithmetic and rational, science-based moral education...and because this is grounded in science it is culture-free and religiously-neutral. It would also be the gift of tomorrow's protection against evil today...while addressing what ails Civilization and its Discontents, and that's the title of a book written by a concerned Sigmund Freud before he died in 1939.
Dr. Leon Pomeroy