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Why does Philosophy or the English language not define the meaning of the word evil?


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When you look up the word evil in the dictionary you get morally wrong, bad, immoral, wicked, harmful, injurious, misfortune, suffering, unfortunate, disastrous, bad conduct or character, wicked or immoral, anything causing injury or harm, pain, profound immorality, sorrow,vice,bad, or distress so on.

 

This can make communication problem with other English speaker a problem, because word is not define be it Philosophy problem or English language problem.

 

Also each of these words like wrong, bad, immoral, wicked,misfortune so on can also be looked up of proper meaning.

 

Or do these words meaning change with the sentence. A evil theft took candy from the store vs evil serial killer that killed three people. Does the word change with sentence? When do you use the word evil when speaking?

 

Yes the general public view killing, torture, pain, suffering and illness, violence, harm to others as evil. But seems English scholars added words like wrong, bad, immoral, wicked,misfortune so on to the word evil.

 

So than any thing can be evil!!! To make it even more complicated some countries base on culture things could be evil and other countries some countries can be not evil!!

 

So any thing not part of group conformity is than evil!!

 

Why would Philosophy or the English language not define the word better? How do you communicate to other English speaker when one person has meaning of word evil different than other person? With word not define any thing can be evil!!

 

Not having shower on a hot sweaty day is evil or coming to late to work is evil because it is bad character!! Or say nose picking is evil because it is bad character. Eating too much junk food or having too much booze is evil because it is bad character or vice.

 

But no one in good mind view this word same level as killing, torture, pain, suffering and illness, violence, harm to others. Why would English scholars not define word better to stop this confusion?

Edited by nec209
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When you look up the word evil in the dictionary you get morally wrong, bad, immoral, wicked, harmful, injurious, misfortune, suffering, unfortunate, disastrous, bad conduct or character, wicked or immoral, anything causing injury or harm, pain, profound immorality, sorrow,vice,bad, or distress so on.

 

This can make communication problem with other English speaker a problem, because word is not define be it Philosophy problem or English language problem.

 

 

Huh? You just looked it up in a dictionary. Therefore it is defined.

 

And of course, it is a concept that philosophers have discussed for thousands of years. For example:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/concept-evil/

 

 

 

Why would English scholars not define word better to stop this confusion?

 

The meanings of words are not defined by scholars. They are defined by usage. You can then use a dictionary to look up how the word is used:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/evil

 

And, of course, this is the same in all languages (for all words).

When you look up the word evil in the dictionary you get morally wrong, bad, immoral, wicked, harmful, injurious, misfortune, suffering, unfortunate, disastrous, bad conduct or character, wicked or immoral, anything causing injury or harm, pain, profound immorality, sorrow,vice,bad, or distress so on.

 

 

I think you might have made the mistake of looking in a thesaurus rather than a dictionary.

 

And if you are interested in the origin of the word, then this might be useful: http://etymonline.com/index.php?term=evil

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No don't think people understand what I'm saying here.

 

Some one in country x looking at adultery may view person as evil and punishment by stoning. Country y looking at adultery and cheating may view it as a misdemeanor offense or nothing.

 

Some one having too much booze or always drunk may view as evil or wicked.

 

Some one stealing loaf of bread may view as evil theft and punishment by cutting of the person had or hanging in country xx well in country xy a misdemeanor offense.

 

Country x may view homosexuality as evil well country y as not evil.

 

Well speeding may be view even if you only going 5 over as evil or criminals may be view evil even if no harm came person.

 

My question is talking to other English speaker how do you determine what evil is or what type of evil you mean when talking. Well surly you don't apply evil theft stealing stuff as evil as say killing or torture.

 

How do you communicate to other English speaker when one country some thing is evil and other country it is not?

 

All those words where listed in the dictionary not just meaning like say killing, torture, pain, suffering and illness, violence, harm to others as evil.

 

All these words are listed in dictionary as evil like morally wrong, bad, immoral, wicked, harmful, injurious, misfortune, suffering, unfortunate, disastrous, bad conduct or character, wicked or immoral, anything causing injury or harm, pain, profound immorality, sorrow,vice,bad, or distress so on.

 

It does not just mean killing, torture, pain, suffering and illness, violence, harm to others as evil.

 

But how to you communicate to other English speaker when surly don't mean example say serial killer vs drunk or alcoholic or some one stealing or social taboo so on.

 

You world not go to court say that serial killer evil like the kid stealing candy and both should spend 200 years in prison.

 

Otherwise court have 100 years in prison for every offense and there would be no distinction of crime.

Edited by nec209
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..

My question is talking to other English speaker how do you determine what evil is or what type of evil you mean when talking. Well surly you don't apply evil theft stealing stuff as evil as say killing or torture.

...

 

When you want to describe something as evil you use the word evil - and when you do not you do not. You might also use modifiers to express your opinion of another's moral compass -"so-called evil", "allegedly-evil", "if you live under a misogynist bronze age religion that still thinks patriarchy is brilliant you call it might called it evil" etc.

 

But at the end of the day "evil" is a moral judgment and thus subjective

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My question is talking to other English speaker how do you determine what evil is or what type of evil you mean when talking.

 

 

The same is (potentially) true of every word in every language. Which is why the question is very, very silly. Why focus on "evil" and English? Why not the word "blue" (which covers a huge range of colours). Or Japanese (where the word for blue encompasses everything from blue to green)?

 

If someone doesn't understand the exact way in which you are using a word then you explain it.

 

"When you say 'aoi' do you mean a colour like the sky or like grass?"

"No, I mean the flower."

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The same is (potentially) true of every word in every language. Which is why the question is very, very silly. Why focus on "evil" and English? Why not the word "blue" (which covers a huge range of colours). Or Japanese (where the word for blue encompasses everything from blue to green)?

 

If someone doesn't understand the exact way in which you are using a word then you explain it.

 

But I feel the word evil is just being toss around to mean every thing like the kid stealing candy, guy that had too much booze or serial killer or homosexuality in country x or homosexuality in country xy . The dictionary is not clear on what word evil is like some other words. If English native speaker is having hard time communicating to other English native speaker why did they not define word better.

 

Like kid stealing candy called bad kid and the serial killer called evil. But does not mean the same thing. Or the guy that had too much booze called weak guy or voice but does not mean bad or evil.

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But I feel the word evil is just being toss around to mean every thing like the kid stealing candy, guy that had too much booze or serial killer or homosexuality in country x or homosexuality in country xy

 

 

And some people complain that "literally" is used figuratively. Or that "decimate" is used to mean destroy. Or that "awesome" doesn't just refer to things that inspire awe.

 

Tough. That is the way people use the language. There isn't much you can do about it.

 

 

 

The dictionary is not clear on what word evil is like some other words.

 

You can't blame the dictionary. They just record how people use words. They don't tell people how to use them.

 

 

 

If English native speaker is having hard time communicating to other English native speaker why did they not define word better.

 

Do you have any evidence of this difficulty communicating?

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And some people complain that "literally" is used figuratively. Or that "decimate" is used to mean destroy. Or that "awesome" doesn't just refer to things that inspire awe.

 

Tough. That is the way people use the language. There isn't much you can do about it.

 

 

You can't blame the dictionary. They just record how people use words. They don't tell people how to use them.

 

 

Do you have any evidence of this difficulty communicating?

 

The problem is if evil is not define and just subjective word than if you put 100 people in room they all would have their own view on what evil is.

 

If what is meaning of evil change when laws change and culture change than meaning of evil really as no meaning.

 

If word evil was toss around and used more in past and not used that much today like in far old days than meaning of it has changed does not have much meaning.

 

There people that justify action base on fighting evil.

 

I don't think you will find too many people justify killing adultery people, homosexuality people, drunks, alcoholic,drinking too much booze, petty criminals, kid stealing candy, female going court for divorce, kid broke window of house or car, graffiti so on in most post war sociaty. Because than the meaning of evil got changed. Base now and the way it was in old days. Unless may be go some 3rd world country.

 

Or doing Middle Ages saying earth at center of the universe and earth is flat and any one say otherwise is evil.

 

Or the black death is caused by evil people and if you go to church you heal and not be sick.

 

Or people justifying war or terrorism in the name of fighting evil.

 

Clearly there must be some problem that the word evil is not well define and lead to confusion.

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The problem is if evil is not define and just subjective word than if you put 100 people in room they all would have their own view on what evil is.

 

 

You seem to be confusing two different things: the concept of evil and the use of the word.

 

No one can control how people use the word. (Dictionaries can't and don't even try to.)

 

 

Clearly there must be some problem that the word evil is not well define and lead to confusion.

 

There doesn't seem to be any problem. (Outside of your head.)

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In my opinion the lack of a consistent English definition of evil is caused by a cultural unconscious inheritance. Taking into account England is where the industrial revolution was born, leading to a later marxist wave originally in east -Europe which influenced the whole cultural and intellectual elite; I would rather say there's a tacitus ideological component in linguistics. This idea is based on the great influence of authors such us Goethe who meant the word "evil" as a extraordinary force which could lead to magnificent processes which weren't compulsory negative or immoral. So regarding to that definition, nowadays we could face a linguistic, philosophical o even religious misunderstanding, because in a time where everything which is evil has a negative sense, we would reinterprete its meaning leading to a philosophical and semantic revolution

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In my opinion the lack of a consistent English definition of evil is caused by a cultural unconscious inheritance.

 

Every word has a cultural connection, that's why there are many words for almost every word.

 

 

 

The problem is if evil is not define and just subjective word than if you put 100 people in room they all would have their own view on what evil is.

 

Exactly.

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I don`t really see a problem here. Even the dictionary definitions are fairly descriptive, (but obviously limited by the medium) E.g: morally wrong, causing ruin etc...I can work with that.

 

Of course it`s just a word - used for one of the most complex subjects known to man. You can`t expect a dictionary, or even a few sentences to cover all possible angles. But! there`s a thing called Wikipedia, they have a "definition" and, more importantly, many links to follow:

 

Evil, in a general context, is the absence or opposite of that which is described as being good. Often, evil is used to denote profound immorality.[1] In certain religious contexts, evil has been described as a supernatural force.[1] Definitions of evil vary, as does the analysis of its motives.[2] However, elements that are commonly associated with evil involve unbalanced behavior involving expediency, selfishness, ignorance, or neglect
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I don`t really see a problem here. Even the dictionary definitions are fairly descriptive, (but obviously limited by the medium) E.g: morally wrong, causing ruin etc...I can work with that.

 

Of course it`s just a word - used for one of the most complex subjects known to man. You can`t expect a dictionary, or even a few sentences to cover all possible angles. But! there`s a thing called Wikipedia, they have a "definition" and, more importantly, many links to follow:

 

I don't think dictionaries define words as much as record common usage of the day.

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Evil=something morally wrong. It`s a definition. About as concise as one can get, but still.

And they will use a reference source to obtain that definition...they don't de facto define words...but still...

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In my opinion the lack of a consistent English definition of evil is caused by a cultural unconscious inheritance. Taking into account England is where the industrial revolution was born, leading to a later marxist wave originally in east -Europe which influenced the whole cultural and intellectual elite; I would rather say there's a tacitus ideological component in linguistics. This idea is based on the great influence of authors such us Goethe who meant the word "evil" as a extraordinary force which could lead to magnificent processes which weren't compulsory negative or immoral. So regarding to that definition, nowadays we could face a linguistic, philosophical o even religious misunderstanding, because in a time where everything which is evil has a negative sense, we would reinterprete its meaning leading to a philosophical and semantic revolution

I think I understood every word of that (except "o" which I think is a typo).

However I didn't understand a single sentence.

 

Is it just me?

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Evil=something morally wrong. It`s a definition. About as concise as one can get, but still.

 

 

It is a definition/description recording how people use the word, not defining how the word should be used.

I think I understood every word of that (except "o" which I think is a typo).

However I didn't understand a single sentence.

 

Is it just me?

 

 

No, it isn't just you.

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And they will use a reference source to obtain that definition...they don't de facto define words...but still...

It is a definition/description recording how people use the word, not defining how the word should be used.

 

This is a rabbit hole, and I wonder, why are you guys heading down into it? For the record: I never stated that dictionaries define words (as a process) or analysed the process of defining.

 

Please answer a simple question, if you will: Do you consider the following definitions (snippets of, for the sake of space) which are found in a simple dictionary, as reasonably descriptive and meaningful (of course on an intrinsically simplified "dictionary level") ?

 

-love: A strong feeling of affection and concern toward another person, as that arising from kinship or close friendship.

-fridge: a box, room, or cabinet in which food, drink, etc., are kept cool by means of ice or mechanical refrigeration.

-cutting: Capable of or designed for incising, shearing, or severing

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This is a rabbit hole, and I wonder, why are you guys heading down into it?

 

 

It is not a rabbit hole. It is a simple matter of fact, which you seem to be trying to turn into a molehill (to mix metaphors).

 

The OP was (apparently) suggesting that someone or some organisation/group should provide an official definition of the word "evil" in English, so that it could be used as a standard term and avoid ambiguity, and he mentioned dictionaries in this context. (Why he picked on the word "evil" and the English language is beyond me. Which is why I think this clearly falls into the category of "stupid questions".)

 

However, the role of a dictionary is not to be an arbiter of meaning and to provide "definitions" in the sense of "this is how you should use this word".

 

The role of a dictionary is to provide descriptions of how a word is used. You can, quite reasonably, call these descriptions "definitions" but they do not have the purpose or authority (equivalent to that of an industrial standard, for example) requested by the OP. People will continue to use words in new and different ways, irregardless of what the dictionary says. Eventually the dictionary will catch up with those changes. Dictionaries follow, they don't drive.

 

So it seems you are playing with the loose definition of the word "definition" to create an argument where there is none.

 

What exactly is your point?

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However, the role of a dictionary is not to be an arbiter of meaning and to provide "definitions" in the sense of "this is how you should use this word".

 

 

True, but it depends to some extent on the language in question. Take French for example, with their Académie français. This body has systematically dictated the use of words and stifled so many neologisms that French vocabulary is only about one fifth of English vocabulary, and perhaps the language is worse for it. (I think I remember their banning the use of le weekend - they hate any English influence.) English has never had any official body which determines grammar, spelling and meaning of words, and the meaning of a word ultimately depends on a consensus of how you should use it. Vast numbers of words have taken on meanings which derive from an incorrect use: to decimate meant to kill every tenth, now it means to destroy; to aggravate means to make worse, but now usually means to annoy, and so on. It is the same with evil - the Christian church hijacked the word to mean something specific, but is now used in a variety of different ways. Only recently I had a chicken vindaloo which somebody described as evil. It was, and I had forgotten to put the toilet paper in the fridge. But I can use the word in that context, knowing that the meaning is not the same as, say, when talking about Trump.

 

Although works like the Oxford English Dictionary has, or used to have, some authority, an English dictionary is ultimately descriptive, not prescriptive.

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It is not a rabbit hole. It is a simple matter of fact, which you seem to be trying to turn into a molehill (to mix metaphors).

 

The OP was (apparently) suggesting that someone or some organisation/group should provide an official definition of the word "evil" in English, so that it could be used as a standard term and avoid ambiguity, and he mentioned dictionaries in this context. (Why he picked on the word "evil" and the English language is beyond me. Which is why I think this clearly falls into the category of "stupid questions".)

 

However, the role of a dictionary is not to be an arbiter of meaning and to provide "definitions" in the sense of "this is how you should use this word".

 

The role of a dictionary is to provide descriptions of how a word is used. You can, quite reasonably, call these descriptions "definitions" but they do not have the purpose or authority (equivalent to that of an industrial standard, for example) requested by the OP. People will continue to use words in new and different ways, irregardless of what the dictionary says. Eventually the dictionary will catch up with those changes. Dictionaries follow, they don't drive.

 

So it seems you are playing with the loose definition of the word "definition" to create an argument where there is none.

 

What exactly is your point?

 

So if I understand what you are trying to say to me the dictionary does not tell you what words to use or how to use words but socially the culture the people in group dictate. You use word awesome being missed used or people using word awesome for things not really awesome but okay or great. So where does this communication problem break down that 100 people have own views what evil is?

 

If there was ever alien contact from other world how would you ever communicate if English language is so loosely that only being culturally emerged where just a misunderstand of a word could cause space war with alien race or major problems.

 

An other poster here said the word evil is a subjected word and well it is, so is word good or evil because philosophers debate what is good and evil or what should be good and evil and people have different views what is good and evil. Laws and culture norms dictate good and evil so does religion!! Some things that where evil are no longer evil. Under some laws where things are not evil under religion it is evil.

 

The word evil is messy word that means different things. And well just about everyone on earth agree killing, torture, pain, suffering and illness and violence is evil.

 

Where theft, burglary, stealing, public intoxication, shoplift can be more messy where some places on earth call it evil and punishment by hanging or cutting the person hand off!! Other places call it more a public ordinance crime on property.

 

Most people don't go back to old school of thought the person soul is evil and that what cased the theft, burglary, stealing, public intoxication,drunk, shoplift and the only way is to kill the bad person. Where there is no such thing as what caused the crime only good people and bad people. No science studying crime or cause of crime. And these people will keep doing crime because well they have a evil bad soul.

 

Some of this comes from religion making the word well more confusing if mean evil bad soul a evil person that done theft, burglary, stealing, public intoxication, shoplift. They called sinners thus evil. A bad souls is reason for the crime and only answer is to kill the person.

 

 

Where morality and culture norms are always dictate by norms of group, laws and religion and many ceases always changing. Saying okay Son or Daughter the word evil may also say morality is pointless because morality is not define. What is immorality on city x on earth may not be immorality on city y on earth. What was immorality may not be immorality now. What is immorality in religion x may not be immorality under religion y. So the word immorality under evil is really messy.

 

May be the problem with the word evil was translating it well from other language and thus is why English language the way it is because under language x the word evil means this word and if we don't have this word that well mean we cannot understand.

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