On Evil, part 3
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from All-Creatures.org


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

On Evil, part 3

Last essay, I argued that intentions are crucial to any discussion about evil, but it can be difficult to discern intentions. Humans are complex creatures whose decisions are usually motivated by a wide range of influences. As Freud and subsequently “deep psychology” investigators have noted, we have a very limited appreciation of our own intentions.

For example, we typically attribute the best of motivations to our activities, even when they harm others. Meanwhile, we frequently attribute bad intentions to other people whose activities cause harm. How can we be sure that our actions are meritorious and theirs are deplorable? All of us are caught up in a web of conflicting desires, including desires for creature comforts like living in environments that aren’t too hot or cold; a comfortable bed for sleep, physical intimacy, and enjoyable food; desires for a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives; and desires for good interpersonal relationships. Given that these desires often in conflict with each other, all of us struggle to know what really motivates us. And, if we have a limited appreciation of our own motivations, it follows that our efforts to ascertain others’ intentions are likely to be partially, if not largely, incorrect.

Next essay, I will offer some guidelines that might help us determine whether our intentions are as noble as we like to believe.

Go on to: Discerning Motivations, part 1
Return to: Reflections on the Lectionary, Table of Contents

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