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Good and evil

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Hans, Oct 4, 2011.

  1. Hans

    Hans Sage

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    Does good and evil exist in your world/setting? In a more consistent way than "winner defines what good and evil are".
    On earth many cultures did not have that concept. To my knowledge it mainly came from zoroastrism, from there found it's way into judaism and then into christianity. So how is it in your world?

    In my world I do not have clear defined good and evil. I have one war mage (a so called "Guardian of demons gate") who does her best to keep up a bad girl image. She has her reasons for that. But because at the same time she keeps a whole town alive in a extremely dangerous environment, people see her as a hero with quirks.
    The most "evil" people you could find in my world are those who see themselves as the saviour of the world. And justify everything to that end. The "Brotherhood Of The Righteous Path" does not kill women in their campaigns. Sounds noble until you learn they need lots of women for their magogenetical experiments.

    So good and evil in your world, does it exist, is it a matter of individual definition or does the concept not exist at all?
     
  2. Kelise

    Kelise Maester

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    I generally side with the baddies, and tell the tale from their point of view. Sky Pirates in trouble with the law - doing illegal things - yet in my book, they're the heroes.

    So in a way, yes. In a way, no.
     
  3. In the novel I'm writing, no. There are people, and they do things, and the things person A does are considered good by A and evil by person B, and vice versa. We, the reader, are enticed to take the point of view of one group, and sympathize with them, but the story could just as easily take the other group's side, and make our protagonists look like the "bad guys."

    From a philosophical standpoint, there really is no such thing as evil. There are actions, and whether those actions are good or evil are entirely in the eye of the beholder. Sauron didn't think he was evil; neither did Voldemort. They simply believed that they deserved to rule, and also that if puny mortals suffered because of their actions, so what? They believed they were superior, and that it was perfectly right to make puny mortals suffer. If you accept the idea that you're superior and that it's perfectly okay to crush your inferiors, then crushing your inferiors is a perfectly good thing to do. (Most people don't take that view, but the number of people who believe something has no effect on whether it's true.)

    For all practical purposes, you can say that there's evil in your universe you create: Some malevolent force that wants nothing except to destroy and kill and wreak havoc and suffering. Why? Because it enjoys it, perhaps. Or it is compelled to do so by its very nature, either its biological imperative, or some sort of supernatural manifestation of chaos and entropy and dismay.

    But if you look at the works that affect us the most, they are always the ones where humans (or other sentient beings standing in for humans) have to make moral choices. Works with simple evil antagonists are great for the young, but once you grow up, you need something more substantive than moustache-twirling evildoers.
     
  4. Hans

    Hans Sage

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    I beg to differ, most people do take that view. Humans are better than animals, aren't they. From the view of Sauron (and Morgoth) most living things are on animal level.
    Even the most hardcore PETA follower will find it hard to shed a tear after she accidentally stepped on a snail.

    A sociopathic opponent is possible, but not the one I prefer. Outside the horror genre.

    So a tiger that finds out human are easy prey or a crocodile that just doesn't care are evil by this definition.

    That has been done very well in different literature. A force so big and/or so alien that we can not begin to grasp it. It almost always is destructive to our concepts.

    I agree, but I like a morality without hard "good" or "evil" concepts. Many human cultures did not have that concept and did great without it.
    Set was not evil. He was ambitious and reckless, but not evil. People prayed to him as to all the other gods.
    Loki was not evil. He liked a good prank. But the other gods still trusted him and relied on him. Often enough they were right to do so.

    Well, I asked for in world views. Sorry if above sounds like I tried to meddle with your world. That was not my intent.
     
  5. Sorry, I meant within the set of humans, excluding other species.

    Good point... abstract reasoning capability is usually considered a prerequisite for "evil." Otherwise it's just a force of nature. Earthquakes aren't evil, even though they can be horribly destructive. Animals, assuming they lack abstract reasoning (or have only the barest glimmer of it, like felines), can't really be considered evil. So I guess I'm thinking of the next thing...

    Yeah. And the interesting part of the drama comes from how we react to it, rather than the monstrosity itself.

    Exactly. This is how I see things in my writing, because it most closely reflects how reality works.

    No worries, always happy to have friendly disagreements :)
     
  6. Deleth

    Deleth Dreamer

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    In my main project good and evil are in shades of grey...

    For instance, my evil empire that wants to conquer the world at any cost, also has sweeping imperial programs for its citizens whose lives are made better because they are part of the empire.
    (Think Airships)
    My good kingdoms who are fighting against the evil empire engage the imperial fleets and use tactics that help them win, but they also from time to time shoot down civilian support craft (which kills all on board) to make a point as well.

    To sum up my thoughts. its the characters that define what is good and what is evil not the boundaries of kingdoms or places in a war. The actions of the characters within that war are what define them, not an external source.

    Hope that helps :)
     
  7. ScipioSmith

    ScipioSmith Sage

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    In my WIP, good and evil certainly exist but most of the evil is a result of taking good too far. For example, the desire of the Dark God to protect his little brothers and sisters was noble, and his beleif that he knew best not without basis, but when they didn't agree with him deciding to beat them into submission then keep them safe was probably not the right call. Two tropes I'm quite enamoured of are the hero whose quest breaks him, and the hero who is left behind by time and shifting history until he becomes the villain; both of these of course must be finished off by a new hero.
     
  8. Emeria

    Emeria Scribe

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    In the piece I'm writing (Vysarian Corruption), there is good and evil that is obvious to the narrator. Whether it is good or evil from an objective standpoint or not is up to the reader to decide.

    In the other piece I've been working on for quite awhile (but it's been on the metaphorical back burner), there might be good and evil, but it is much less obvious. Characters all have their motivations and the person who is working for "good" might be a selfish jerk.
     
  9. Digital_Fey

    Digital_Fey Troubadour

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    A lot of my characters are battered, tarnished people whose moral landscapes are mostly painted in gray. Philosophically, I'm interested in exploring whatever darkness might lurk within people, and whether it's caused by outside influence and circumstance, or if it's an intrinsic part of their being - and, if so, to what extent they should defy it. I hope my writing will be able to explore many shades of gray, while steering clear of the 'ultimate good' or 'ultimate evil'.
     
  10. Elishimar

    Elishimar Dreamer

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    The piece I am working on has a pretty unique twist on this idea. I have a deity, who has set A qualities (which happen to be all "good" qualities). He was curious to know if those qualities were the ultimate perfection so he "allowed" every opposite of his qualities to exist in another entity (what we would consider "evil"). through their influences on the world they will see who is actually the ultimate power as the world takes shape and reaches a climax as the world falls to chaos and the main protagonist must make a good or evil decision. Which ever decision he makes will hoist the good or bad spirit to the spot of champion.
     
  11. Augur

    Augur New Member

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    Hans,

    When you said, "I beg to differ, most people do take that view. Humans are better than animals, aren't they.", I have to disagree. I mean, just look at history. Have animals waged war? Killed each other for sport? Or killed anything for sport, for that matter. I just think that, from that comment, we aught to take a step back and look at humanity and it's decisions. I agree that the ideas of good and evil are all relative to the person looking at it. In my stories I generally have a clearly defined idea about what is good and evil, but focus more on what causes the difference to occur, or what makes a person do the things they do. The story that I'm working on right now is about a good man from a small town who goes out to crush this 'evil' dictator like figure, and all along the way is challenged with morally sensitive issues.
     
  12. Actually, there are many animals that engage in what's called "surplus killing," where they kill prey and leave it to rot (or more likely be eaten by scavengers). Although I doubt they use elaborate self-justifications like humans do; it's instinctive to them. ;-)
     
  13. Hans

    Hans Sage

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    Please read that sentence in the context I wrote it. From an universal standpoint of course no animal is "better" than an other one. This was from the human point of view. And from there humans are more important than other lifeforms.
    My current job is in the field of medical science. A lot knowledge we have there is from animal experiments. These are made, because we deem humans a lot more important than animals.
    So you see a lot of humans have this "we are better" viewpoint. It might be egoistic, but I am that egoistic.

    Looking at my cat, she has definitely killed for the fun of it. That animal would never eat a shrew but kills them anyways.
     
  14. DameiThiessen

    DameiThiessen Minstrel

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    They do not exist in my story, no. There is a conflict between character motivations and both sides are doing what are doing to help a different group of people. Both groups do good things and bad and everybody makes mistakes that adds to character development. I've always thought that the good verses evil concept was wrong.
     
  15. Queengilda

    Queengilda Dreamer

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    The one thing I have always loved about fantasy is the ability to clearly state, or at least figure out fairly early on, who is good and who is bad. I have always used fantasy as an escape from the real world. Now that I have started writing this type of literature, I love to create the characters and create the situations where they can act out their evil and good characters.
     
  16. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

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    In my opinion I think there is such a thing as true evil and I have no compassion for people who commit terrible acts against other people. This is especially true, for me, when a child is involved. I can no longer watch some movies like Hotel Rwanda.
    In my story there is a true evil. this came about after i watched the news one day. I asked myself how could someone do that to another person? I had no answer, there is no answer. This evil is not a supernatural entity set on power or destruction but more of a collection of individuals and entities set on the corruption of everything that is good. Why? for this I took Chopin, and other artists who created art simply for arts sake. The evil in the story is evil simply for the sake of evil with no ulterior motive. however, the people in the story are cast in shades of grey against a backdrop of a definite evil. This is especially prominent with one of my main characters who if he is not careful could become this defined evil. At the same point I have contrasting cultures with varying definitions of evil where they each think the other is evil because of differences in traditions and culture.
     
  17. ScipioSmith

    ScipioSmith Sage

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    ^ This. Even if you are trying to write a morally complex universe filled with shades of grey and characters who can be heroes or villains depending on the situation, its always nice to have a couple of absolute pyscho's around to set the boundaries.

    After all, even A Song of Ice and Fire has Gregor Clegane and Cersei Lannister kicking around.
     
  18. eposic

    eposic Dreamer

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    Interesting topic. Lots of "good" discussion here. I just finished a story about a dragon perceived as evil by the humans of the world. The story is told from the dragon's viewpoint, however, and reveals its motivations for its actions. The dragon even makes the claim that it is not evil. Yet it is accompanied by demons, which to many people would be an automatic indication of evilness, since demons are considered by many people to be inherently evil. In most of my stories, I worry more about the motivations and beliefs of the people and other entities in the story world, and write about the conflicts that arise from those motivations and beliefs. If the concept of good and evil exists in the story world, both sides of a conflict may consider the other side as evil. I typically do not include any entities in my stories who exist for the sole purpose of being evil, but that's just my preference.
     
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