What is Evil?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

101 to 150 of 203 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | next > last >>

4 people marked this as a favorite.

DnD has absolutes so that my game-time doesn't turn into philosophical-argument time.

Unless that's what I want my game to be, of course.


Ruggs wrote:

DnD has absolutes so that my game-time doesn't turn into philosophical-argument time.

Unless that's what I want my game to be, of course.

I have found nothing except the exact opposite effect. In games without absolutes, I have never had an alignment argument. The problem is that absolutes always lead to absolute absurdity; just like Malignor points out.


Define evil?

Evil is beleiving that something is wrong, and morally reprehensible. And doing it anyway.

An individual that cannot tell right from wrong is not evil.

An individual that deludes themselves with good intentions, along with reasons and excuses still does an evil act, and is therefore evil. (W/Guilt, yay.)

A creature that does 'evil' things to survive/is part of it's nature is not evil.

An individual who is raised in a twisted culture, in which an act that 'normal' might think is evil, but they don't see it that way? That's where it gets confusing thanks to DnD rules.


Shiney wrote:
A creature that does 'evil' things to survive/is part of it's nature is not evil.

Evil outsiders aren't evil?


Alitan wrote:
Robespierre wrote:
I love how people act as if evil and good are objective.
The fun part is, in PF they are objective. Demonstrably so. Detect Evil. Good. Etc.

So tell me how can I detect an alignment on someone that is torturing without the assumption that it's evil or good? As for people that think evil and good descriptors are sensible I think you're nuts. However that's just my opinion and you don't have to take it to heart.


Just because someone fails to correctly judge the moral value of their actions doesn't change the moral value of their actions.

And while on the torture subject I'm pretty solid, the whole alignment descriptor thing isn't something I've been claiming is sensible, it's just what we've got.

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Sigard Spleenbiter wrote:


Torture, like most things, is neutral. It depends how it's used. It could be a just punishment for a very evil act.

No, torture is always evil. The thing that makes it possibly justifiable, and not a 'net evil' in practice, is when its use is clearly the "lesser evil" means used to prevent a "greater evil" from occurring. While I do not think the "Ends justify the means" is a legitimate principle to cover any and all means one can use... it is reasonable up to a point (this one).

Sigard Spleenbiter wrote:


However, a wise philosopher once said, "There are some acts of justice that corrupt those who perform them." Kind people would damage themselves by torturing others.

True enough. And, it's because some acts of justice are rather evil acts in and of themselves, but are justified under the circumstances-- kind people still can't handle their use.

Sigard Spleenbiter wrote:


Likewise, there's nothing inherently evil in poisoning. We use it today to execute criminals and call it humane.

Ummm... it's evil. But not because it's poison. It's inherently evil because it's willfully and deliberately taking a human life. It is another frequently justifiable evil, that becomes "not evil" in practice if the circumstances make killing necessary to prevent greater evils. As punishment-- it's lawful evil, because the principle of an "eye for an eye" will only lead to a world where everyone is blind.

Sigard Spleenbiter wrote:


The soldier who enjoys killing, who doesn't care who he kills so long as it's legal, would be Lawful Evil.

Yeah. If his only concern is the letter of the law, and other than that he'll snuff anyone and anything that he's legally allowed to kill-- he's evil. If a soldier enjoys killing, but he works hard to keep his feelings and desires in check and follows more of a moral code about whom he kills and whom he spares, he might still be neutral (or potentially good).

Sigard Spleenbiter wrote:


Now, the character Dexter Morgan who only kills evil people could be either Neutral Good or pure Neutral.

I really don't follow Dexter closely enough to say. But it might be an arguable point, if Dexter's kills are being done to prevent these people from committing more crimes against others. Really depends on the very complex web of motivations that drive Dexter to kill, and what kind of moral code he has for himself in deciding who's an acceptable target or not.

Silver Crusade

Shiney wrote:

Define evil?

Evil is beleiving that something is wrong, and morally reprehensible. And doing it anyway.

An individual that cannot tell right from wrong is not evil.

An individual that truly cannot tell right from wrong is also morally no better than an animal, and needs to be locked up for his/her own good, as well as the safety of society. Although I'd agree that the person is not evil, in the sense of being morally responsible for his/her actions.

Shiney wrote:


A creature that does 'evil' things to survive/is part of it's nature is not evil.

A creature who does such things knowing they're evil, but only does them because they're necessary to survive-- yeah, the individual probably isn't evil although they've done evil things. Morally, I'd call this mitigating circumstances... but this can only be taken so far as an excuse for actions taken to survive. If what they did to survive includes doing in a whole bunch of others in cold blood to steal resources from them that they would have needed to survive-- hmmm, where do you draw the line between one person's right to ensure their own survival and any right they have to deny others the right to survive and to deprive them of their lives?

You can cross the line into inexcusable evil pretty quick even in do or die/survival situations.

Now, creatures doing things because it's simply part of its nature, no right/wrong considerations or understandings? Okay, I'd agree, not evil-- but you still may need to put that creature down (lethally) for the greater good, rather than allow it to continue with what it's doing. Of course, it would be better if there were solutions to protect society and the creature-- but the greater good may justify such a final solution if there is no other way to protect people.

Shiney wrote:


An individual who is raised in a twisted culture, in which an act that 'normal' might think is evil, but they don't see it that way? That's where it gets confusing thanks to DnD rules.

Hmmm... I think they're still committing evil, and may even properly be identified as evil (or insane-- not having an acceptable understanding of right and wrong) if they've been conditioned to think that murder, assault, oppression, denial of others' rights, etc. are perfectly okay. But, there are definitely mitigating circumstances here, and some sympathy required (and room for educating the individual, rather than punishing them for crimes that they did not understand were wrong).

Silver Crusade

Malignor wrote:


No weaseling here, simply awareness of the broken concept.

"torture = evil" means that a Paladin can never intentionally inflict pain and suffering, to anyone or anything.

Is punishing someone by cutting them with a knife or sword torture? (Yes.)
Is chopping up a sentient being in order to reclaim something they stole an act of torture? (Yes.)
If you beat/subdue someone, drag them to a town filled with their enemies, and submit them for confinement, starvation, abuse and/or the humiliation of public execution an act of torture? (Yes.)

If these aren't torture, where is the line drawn?

Most people, when they think of torture, think of chaining them up against a wall and burning em with pokers... or other such theatrical notions. But when you take 30 seconds to really ask yourself what constitutes torture, you realize that branding it "evil" in a game which focuses on violent conflict is a great way to look like a hypocrite... or as someone who simply made a mistake in definition.

Nope. ALL of these things that you've mentioned are evil in and of themselves. Some of them can be justified as necessary and correct actions to take, if they are the only way (or least evil way from possible/available ways) to prevent greater evils from occurring (or to stop something that is and-or represents a greater evil that is occurring).

A Paladin can (IMO) justify attacking and killing people if and only if it's the only way to stop them from attacking others (or from attacking the Paladin)-- some extensions given for legitimate warfare in a good cause (but the basic point is, self-defense and defense of others is legit-- assaulting others without legitimate cause-- evil. Period.).

Now, regarding pain inflicted in the course of combat to kill or capture a legitimate enemy? Not torture, because the deliberate infliction of pain is not part of the method-- pain is an unavoidable by-product of the need to put the opponent down, and not having any more humane ways that are also reasonably effective to do it. And even at that, because you are depriving your opponent of life and liberty, is evil unless you have very good reasons to justify it.

Again, all of these things are generally evil in and of themselves, and only become good actions (therefore acceptable for a Paladin to do) if there is sufficient need/requirement and justification in achieving the greater good and preventing greater evils, and these are the least evil means to accomplish the good goals that the Paladin must support and achieve.

No weaseling here-- just a consistent, but perhaps more nuanced, view of right and wrong than many others apply to questions of ethics and morality.


You've got a definition problem here. You're calling justice evil because you refuse to acknowledge that evil is circumstantial. Black and black morality may be fine for White Wolf, but it doesn't work for most D&D based stuff.

Your insistence that the lesser evil is still evil is philosophically troubling and appears motivated by a desire to be able to say X is always evil even though X is frequently justified, presumably because people get in a snit if you say that X is ever not evil.

The lesser evil among two choices or the least evil among more is also the greatest possible good. If the greatest possible good is not good there can be no good aligned adventurers or rulers. "No one is good but God alone," doesn't make for an acceptable alignment system. Human depravity must go out the window for their to be a two axis alignment system and dirty hands must be merely dirty, not evil.


Atarlost wrote:

You've got a definition problem here. You're calling justice evil because you refuse to acknowledge that evil is circumstantial. Black and black morality may be fine for White Wolf, but it doesn't work for most D&D based stuff.

Your insistence that the lesser evil is still evil is philosophically troubling and appears motivated by a desire to be able to say X is always evil even though X is frequently justified, presumably because people get in a snit if you say that X is ever not evil.

The lesser evil among two choices or the least evil among more is also the greatest possible good. If the greatest possible good is not good there can be no good aligned adventurers or rulers. "No one is good but God alone," doesn't make for an acceptable alignment system. Human depravity must go out the window for their to be a two axis alignment system and dirty hands must be merely dirty, not evil.

>ahem<

A black and white morality is what PF HAS. And you're again confusing justice with goodness: the two are not the same. Justice is a matter of law, of order; if you're LUCKY, that order allows for as much good as possible. And again, given the magical resources easily, cheaply, and generally available, "X" is not, in strict terms, justified. It's just EASIER than having to go to the effort for a non-X solution. Expedience doesn't make anything good; quite often the opposite.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Philosophical minds have been trying to define evil for thousands of years with only limited success. You might be asking for too much, here.


Finn Kveldulfr wrote:
Sigard Spleenbiter wrote:
Now, the character Dexter Morgan who only kills evil people could be either Neutral Good or pure Neutral.
I really don't follow Dexter closely enough to say. But it might be an arguable point, if Dexter's kills are being done to prevent these people from committing more crimes against others. Really depends on the very complex web of motivations that drive Dexter to kill, and what kind of moral code he has for himself in deciding who's an acceptable target or not.

I do follow Dexter and I can assure you that Dexter kills because he likes to do so. He gets off on it. He can hardly wait to kill again, gets antsy until he does so. Dexter Morgan is an Evil man in game terms. He doesn't kill serial killers to make the world a better place; he kills them because he has to kill someone.

/ Dex is in fact Lawful Evil (he has a code that he lives and kills by). His brother, Brian, on the other hand is Chaotic Evil (he kills wantonly).


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

Good and evil in the game is not the same as good and evil in the real world.

We're using the same words for different concepts. That's the problem in these discussions.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Finn Kveldulfr wrote:


No weaseling here-- just a consistent, but perhaps more nuanced, view of right and wrong than many others apply to questions of ethics and morality.

With all due respect, I don't think it is consistent (or at least you haven't yet demonstrated it as such). Sometimes you are declaring the morality of an act a property of the act itself, other times you are invoking the actor's motivation, knowledge or intent.

Why is inflicting pain through combat acceptable if there's no other way, but torture always evil?

How are you deciding which act is irrevocably evil and which is not evil if you've got a good enough reason?


Steve Geddes wrote:

Good and evil in the game is not the same as good and evil in the real world.

We're using the same words for different concepts. That's the problem in these discussions.

Pathfinder has concrete mechanics that define some specific acts as Good or Evil within the context of the game. Then there's everything else and you can't really judge those actions by themselves. You have to look at all of a characters's major decisions through the course of the game.

You can kill the puppy once probably, no problem. But if your solution to the Puppy question is always to kill it, for whatever reason or rationalization, then there is a definite trend toward Evil.


loaba wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:

Good and evil in the game is not the same as good and evil in the real world.

We're using the same words for different concepts. That's the problem in these discussions.

Pathfinder has concrete mechanics that define some specific acts as Good or Evil within the context of the game. Then there's everything else and you can't really judge those actions by themselves. You have to look at all of a characters's major decisions through the course of the game.

You can kill the puppy once probably, no problem. But if your solution to the Puppy question is always to kill it, for whatever reason or rationalization, then there is a definite trend toward Evil.

But I haveta kill the puppy to turn it into a funny hat.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
loaba wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:

Good and evil in the game is not the same as good and evil in the real world.

We're using the same words for different concepts. That's the problem in these discussions.

Pathfinder has concrete mechanics that define some specific acts as Good or Evil within the context of the game. Then there's everything else and you can't really judge those actions by themselves. You have to look at all of a characters's major decisions through the course of the game.

You can kill the puppy once probably, no problem. But if your solution to the Puppy question is always to kill it, for whatever reason or rationalization, then there is a definite trend toward Evil.

Sure. However, when judging the alignment implications of various in-game actions, one shouldn't get sidetracked by trying to resolve real world, moral questions. That was my point.

In PF a place can be evil, for example. That's not even a meaningful concept in reality. In any alignment discussion, I think it's important to remember we are discussing a game mechanic, not morality. It's one example where the game does a bad job of simulating the way things actually are.


I would suggest that calling something Evil is exactly the same as saying, "Ew, I don't like that." And conversely, that calling something Good is exactly the same as saying, "Yay, I like that."

I'm not certain that many people really explore the concept of Neutrality though. I suppose, to continue the above, that calling something Neutral is exactly the same as saying "Meh, I don't care." But it seems problematic that someone could say "Meh, I don't care!" as if they had real passion or fervor for something that indicates a lack of passion by its very nature.

So I guess I'm saying that Good and Evil appear far less interesting than the possibility of actually devoting yourself to Neutrality as an ideal. Would that be closer to a "nothing is forbidden" personality that would be viewed by others as good or evil based purely on its most recent or memorable actions or would it be a "moderation in literally all things" sort of personality that actively sought to balance kindness and unkindness, fortune and misfortune, harm and care?

And would people who believe in Good or Evil even recognize neutral as Neutral, given that THEIR positions appear to be based more upon preference than higher truth. Essentially, that Good would view Neutral as Evil, while Evil would view Neutral as Good. And that Neutral would in fact be the only reliable arbiter of what Good and Evil are.


Neutral just means that the character isn't predisposed to Law or Chaos or Good or Evil. A Neutral Evil character doesn't have a code that he lives by nor is he terribly flighty; he's very likely steadfastly looking out for number one.

Silver Crusade

Atarlost wrote:
You've got a definition problem here. You're calling justice evil because you refuse to acknowledge that evil is circumstantial. Black and black morality may be fine for White Wolf, but it doesn't work for most D&D based stuff.

EDIT: to remove snark, because Steve pointed out that I wasn't as clear about what I meant as I should have been. No, I'm not arguing for a "black and black" morality. See further discussion below, and my apologies if it's the words I chose before that caused the confusion (presuming this post of yours was a response to me to start with)

Atarlost wrote:


Your insistence that the lesser evil is still evil is philosophically troubling and appears motivated by a desire to be able to say X is always evil even though X is frequently justified, presumably because people get in a snit if you say that X is ever not evil.

Unless I was just totally unclear in what I was saying-- in which case, I suppose you get a pass for that-- No, I was saying that the "lesser evil" if taken all by itself (no context, no situation, just the cold act) is evil. Which is why I then refer to it as the "lesser evil" in other contexts-- but since situations, and motivations, and context matters... these things that would be evil if simply done for their own sake, are not always evil acts-- it depends on why, for what purpose/justification, you're doing that.

Atarlost wrote:


The lesser evil among two choices or the least evil among more is also the greatest possible good.

Ummm... presuming those are your only options (there is no "good in and of itself" act to choose), yes. Where did you get the idea that I wasn't saying that?

Atarlost wrote:


If the greatest possible good is not good there can be no good aligned adventurers or rulers.

And again.... hmmm... where did you get the idea that I don't agree with this point? The greatest possible good, is exactly that-- the greatest possible good. And the person who makes the choice to achieve that, is choosing good. If he/she consistently does this... then yes, that's probably a 'good' person.

Atarlost wrote:


"No one is good but God alone," doesn't make for an acceptable alignment system.

Wasn't anything to do with my arguments AT ALL, but I agree with this statement too. No, I don't accept the Christian idea that "good" is whatever God says it is.

Atarlost wrote:


Human depravity must go out the window for their to be a two axis alignment system and dirty hands must be merely dirty, not evil.

And I'm really not sure where you're trying to go with this. Although, "dirty hands" can be justified (sometimes)-- in practice however, too often it becomes an excuse and a bogus justification for unnecessary evils committed by those in power. One really must be careful how far one tries to push the arguments of necessity, lest they become arguments justifying brutality, murder, cruelty, rapine, etc. out of expediency and convenience, rather than true necessity.


Alitan wrote:


>ahem<

A black and white morality is what PF HAS.

Do you actually read people's posts? If the lesser evil is not accepted as good there is no white. Just black. That's fine for vampire larping, but it's not fine for a game that needs white and grey for mechanical and cosmological reasons.

And how can X be unjustified by magic when X is not defined until a situation that requires a choice is presented? Perhaps X is dominate person, one of the most evil spells imaginable -- possibly surpassed only be Trap the soul -- is used on an innocent, but perhaps the lesser evil when used against a murderer.

How you plan to define evil when you insist that justice is orthogonal to good I don't see, and suspect you're blowing smoke. Theft is evil because it is unjust. Slander is evil because it is unjust. Even torture, which you obsess over, is only evil as it is unjust else Pharasma who condemns to endless torture in Hell is evil, and if I may bring real religion into it you also condemn YWH and Allah and any other god that judges as evil.


Y'know, ol' Dexter Morgan is actually a great example of game-style Evil. Dex kills bad guys, so he must be Good. No, not necessarily. The character that the author created likes killing other human beings and doesn't even feel like he relates to them at all. Dex kills bad guys because he doesn't want to be caught. His driving motivation is the personal satisfaction that he derives from watching people die.


loaba wrote:
Neutral just means that the character isn't predisposed to Law or Chaos or Good or Evil. A Neutral Evil character doesn't have a code that he lives by nor is he terribly flighty; he's very likely steadfastly looking out for number one.

It COULD mean that but within the realm of Golarion it certainly doesn't. (Nor in the real world, imo)

Neutrality can and often is championed by such organizations as the U.N. and churches of Lawful Neutral deities. It is often championed by individuals as well, sometimes even from the position of Good (like a priest who accepts confession without judgement) or Evil, as in the case of a high stakes game of chance (think Two-Face, or russian roulette - which involves taking a life by definition but doesn't single out a target or typically involve unwilling participants).

Silver Crusade

Steve Geddes wrote:
Finn Kveldulfr wrote:


No weaseling here-- just a consistent, but perhaps more nuanced, view of right and wrong than many others apply to questions of ethics and morality.

With all due respect, I don't think it is consistent (or at least you haven't yet demonstrated it as such). Sometimes you are declaring the morality of an act a property of the act itself, other times you are invoking the actor's motivation, knowledge or intent.

Why is inflicting pain through combat acceptable if there's no other way, but torture always evil?

How are you deciding which act is irrevocably evil and which is not evil if you've got a good enough reason?

Steve--

I made an error in my writing, in that line saying "torture is always evil."

I specified better what I meant in the reply I just wrote to one of Atarlost's posts. I think torture, like a lot of other actions one can choose to do, including killing someone, is, in and of itself without any other context to go by evil. But context, motivation, intent, etc., always matter-- as do principles of restraint, and choosing the means that cause the least harm (if there are no non-harmful means available that will work) to achieve the best possible ends.

So, yes, taken in and of themselves, without situation and context, some things really are evil, because they result in evil consequences-- killing is evil, taken by itself without context, because you are depriving someone of their life, for instance. In context-- yes, even torture can be justified as a good action under some circumstances (at least theoretically).

If I wasn't explaining that clearly before, my apologies.


Finn Kveldulfr wrote:

Nope. ALL of these things that you've mentioned are evil in and of themselves. Some of them can be justified as necessary and correct actions to take, if they are the only way (or least evil way from possible/available ways) to prevent greater evils from occurring (or to stop something that is and-or represents a greater evil that is occurring).

A Paladin can (IMO) justify attacking and killing people if and only if it's the only way to stop them from attacking others (or from attacking the Paladin)-- some extensions given for legitimate warfare in a good cause (but the basic point is, self-defense and defense of others is legit-- assaulting others without legitimate cause-- evil. Period.).

Now, regarding pain inflicted in the course of combat to kill or capture a legitimate enemy? Not torture, because the deliberate infliction of pain is not part of the method-- pain is an unavoidable by-product of the need to put the opponent down, and not having any more humane ways that are...

I recall someone saying that, with the existence of spells like Suggestion and Charm Person, there is no need for torture.

Also, I recall something about Paladins and performing evil acts...


Kuma wrote:
loaba wrote:
Neutral just means that the character isn't predisposed to Law or Chaos or Good or Evil. A Neutral Evil character doesn't have a code that he lives by nor is he terribly flighty; he's very likely steadfastly looking out for number one.

It COULD mean that but within the realm of Golarion it certainly doesn't. (Nor in the real world, imo)

Neutrality can and often is championed by such organizations as the U.N. and churches of Lawful Neutral deities. It is often championed by individuals as well, sometimes even from the position of Good (like a priest who accepts confession without judgement) or Evil, as in the case of a high stakes game of chance (think Two-Face, or russian roulette - which involves taking a life by definition but doesn't single out a target or typically involve unwilling participants).

You've missed the point I'm afraid and you're muddying the water with the real world as well.

Neutrality on the Good/Evil or Law/Chaos axis means that one of those two simply isn't important to the character. A Neutral Good character will err towards Good, largely ignoring Law and Chaos.

Silver Crusade

loaba wrote:


I do follow Dexter and I can assure you that Dexter kills because he likes to do so. He gets off on it. He can hardly wait to kill again, gets antsy until he does so. Dexter Morgan is an Evil man in game terms. He doesn't kill serial killers to make the world a better place; he kills them because he has to kill someone.

/ Dex is in fact Lawful Evil (he has a code that he lives and kills by). His brother, Brian, on the other hand is Chaotic Evil (he kills wantonly).

loaba--

Then Dexter can also serve as an example that evil characters can still (quite knowingly even) serve the forces of good and/or knowingly achieve good ends, yet still be thoroughly evil themselves (based on what motivates and guides their choices, and the means and methods they use-- i.e., even though the ends are good, they have chosen unnecessarily evil means to get there).

I don't follow Dexter enough to be sure; but I think from the little bit I've watched, Dexter is trying to achieve some good in the world from his evil desires and needs, not just trying not to get caught. He could pick easier targets, whose deaths are easier to cover up, if he didn't have some sense of restraint and control and the desire to try to limit his kills to those who really deserve it (in Dexter's judgement).

Doesn't make him good at all (alignment-wise), but it certainly makes him a more sympathetic anti-hero, and better for the world than this brother of his you mention.

Silver Crusade

Malignor wrote:

I recall someone saying that, with the existence of spells like Suggestion and Charm Person, there is no need for torture.

Also, I recall something about Paladins and performing evil acts...

Regarding Paladins and evil acts, I apparently didn't explain this as well as I should have in my replies to Sigard and you-- so that I don't have to retype everything, please check my replies to Atarlost and Steve Geddes-- hopefully that explains things a little better, from the point of view I'm arguing for.

And yes, with charm, zone of truth, suggestion, and many other spells, the need for torture (presuming you've got someone who can cast those) is much less justifiable.


loaba wrote:

[

You've missed the point I'm afraid and you're muddying the water with the real world as well.

Neutrality on the Good/Evil or Law/Chaos axis means that one of those two simply isn't important to the character. A Neutral Good character will err towards Good, largely ignoring Law and Chaos.

Well, I'm not muddying the water by accident. I feel that the argument is equally applicable in and out of game and I wanted to point out examples of devoted Neutrality in both.

Let me be clear: Neutrality does NOT automatically mean you don't care. That is the whole point of my comparison of "meh." and "MEH!" The second one is an exclamation that serves the same mechanical function as the first but implies that the subject is more important to the speaker than you seem to believe is possible.

Since conflating in and out of game Neutrality is maybe too confusing, I'll just restrict my argument to in-game... It is entirely possible to play a character who pursues Neutrality with deliberate forethought, as a means to an end. To most easily see my point, take a True Neutral character. There is no law/chaos/good/evil for them to err towards. Yet they are capable of having a moral and ethical center. The main thrust of my argument is that it IS in fact possible to actively desire and promote Neutrality. It's not just the default "no preference" state. Again, it could be for some, but that simply isn't the way it's portrayed in-game.

EDIT: I thought this was a known quantity but I sometimes forget how long I've been roleplaying. Are you aware that it used to be common for druidic orders in D&D to be devoted to Neutrality to the point that they would actively pursue Evil in order to balance Good and vice versa? This is a prime example of what I'm talking about and what I don't seem to be describing adequately to you. Druids of this nature could not be called Good except by Evil, or Evil except by Good. But likewise, Good could not resist calling them Evil and Evil could not resist calling them Good. Did that make them Evil or Good? They certainly weren't accepted by either side. I'm suggesting that since Neutrality is the only alignment that is capable of seeing itself for what it is, Neutral, then perhaps it is likewise the only alignment capable of defining Good or Evil, which have already proved their own bias in their treatment of Neutrality.


If you know it causes suffering to watch you perform, is purposely performing bad a form of torture? What about when a child bites another? What about just hitting someone? If you rap someone's knuckles, is that torture or is that just being mean? Is it torture or a punishment if someone holds out on giving more food than necessary until the other person cooperates? Is it torture to force read to someone the F.A.T.A.L. rulebook?

For many people, what makes torture "torture" is the severity of the action. Many people use the term "torture" when what they really mean is interrogate. Would you regard all the above examples as evil?


I think neutrality on the Good-Evil axis has to mean apathy. You can make a case that a balance between Law and Chaos is desirable either to maximize good (if neutral good) or evil (if neutral evil) or even for abstract metaphysical reasons (if true neutral) but the very notion that good must be balanced by evil requires you to willfully commit evil which will not allow you to retain a neutral alignment on the good-evil axis.

Since this thread is expressly about the good-evil axis to the exclusion of concerns for law or chaos neutrality as balance simply isn't on topic.


Ragnarok Aeon wrote:

Is it torture to force read to someone the F.A.T.A.L. rulebook?

It's borderline torture to remind us of it.


Kuma wrote:
Ragnarok Aeon wrote:

Is it torture to force read to someone the F.A.T.A.L. rulebook?

It's borderline torture to remind us of it.

I've never read the thing, but I read an article about it once... From what I read, it sounds like it was written by evil though.


Atarlost wrote:

I think neutrality on the Good-Evil axis has to mean apathy. You can make a case that a balance between Law and Chaos is desirable either to maximize good (if neutral good) or evil (if neutral evil) or even for abstract metaphysical reasons (if true neutral) but the very notion that good must be balanced by evil requires you to willfully commit evil which will not allow you to retain a neutral alignment on the good-evil axis.

Since this thread is expressly about the good-evil axis to the exclusion of concerns for law or chaos neutrality as balance simply isn't on topic.

There are two alignment axes. They are more or less ethics and morals (I know that's simplifying both) but Neutrality is an integral part of both. It's not divorced from either.

Law - Neutrality - Chaos
Good - Neutrality - Evil

Those are the alignment axes. Any discussion of Good/Evil OR Law/Chaos must necessarily involve Neutrality. It's an integral part of the alignment system.

What you suggest, that committing evil acts removes you from Good, can be countered by the simple fact that in a cosmology in which Good and Evil are ends of a spectrum, committing good acts removes you from Evil. If you murder a child and save the lives of a dozen children, are you more murderer or savior? If there is no balance between the value of the acts, then according to you there can be no redemption. One stain on your soul renders you beyond redemption? One act of mercy makes up for a lifetime of random killings? No. That would be the premise of Balance (to capitalize another term) as an ideal.

Perhaps another example will help: Mechanus and the Inevitables. Outsiders devoted to the ideal of Balance and the LN plane itself. Inevitables support the immutable laws of the planes, as written directly in their stat blocks, and are a living representation of the exact kind of Neutrality you deny exists.


Ragnarok Aeon wrote:
I've never read the thing, but I read an article about it once... From what I read, it sounds like it was written by evil though.

I think it was more a product of damaged, juvenile, minds than anything else. It is, however, one of the rare artifacts of culture that makes me seriously consider the existence of real "Evil".

Dark Archive

In traditional D&D sense, Evil creatures are ones you can kill and loot without fear of retribution. It's almost like they've got a target sign painted over the vitals.

In a real-world sense, Aristotle proposed thousands of years ago that nobody can knowingly perform an evil act, introducing the idea that good and evil are entirely subjective. I studied moral philosophy for a short period of time and found that this view predominates even though the issue is far from resolved.

In my game, I define alignment as a circumstance of your birth which pre-disposes you to certain behaviour (almost like Astrology) without dictating it. You cannot change your alignment, and 80% of NPCs behave according to their alignment 80% of the time (as a guideline). Game rules work as written (i.e. you are affected by spells, etc, according to your birth alignment, however you behave). You can, however, circumvent alignment pre-requisites for classes by paying an experience point cost.

Richard


That's a very interesting in-game approach, Richard.


Aristotle is provably wrong. Adherents of Christian morality knowingly commit acts they consider evil all the time. If Aristotle were right nobody would ever feel guilty because they would already feel themselves fully justified in all their actions. Millions of Catholic priests whose confessionals aren't perpetually vacant give lie to that notion.


Adherents of many religions knowingly claim values they don't actually hold because it's part of a group identity they adhere to. It doesn't mean anything one way or another regarding Good or Evil.

Being unable to knowingly perform an evil act implies that you can unknowingly perform an evil act and discover the truth about it later, causing regret/shame/guilt.

Dark Archive

Aristotle's point, as far as I understand it (and remember that people have been debating this for thousands of years) is that you justify everything you do, hence it isn't evil to you (at the time, whatever you might choose to say about it later, and definitely regardless of anyone else's opinion on the matter).

Richard


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Finn Kveldulfr wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:
Finn Kveldulfr wrote:


No weaseling here-- just a consistent, but perhaps more nuanced, view of right and wrong than many others apply to questions of ethics and morality.

With all due respect, I don't think it is consistent (or at least you haven't yet demonstrated it as such). Sometimes you are declaring the morality of an act a property of the act itself, other times you are invoking the actor's motivation, knowledge or intent.

Why is inflicting pain through combat acceptable if there's no other way, but torture always evil?

How are you deciding which act is irrevocably evil and which is not evil if you've got a good enough reason?

Steve--

I made an error in my writing, in that line saying "torture is always evil."

I specified better what I meant in the reply I just wrote to one of Atarlost's posts. I think torture, like a lot of other actions one can choose to do, including killing someone, is, in and of itself without any other context to go by evil. But context, motivation, intent, etc., always matter-- as do principles of restraint, and choosing the means that cause the least harm (if there are no non-harmful means available that will work) to achieve the best possible ends.

So, yes, taken in and of themselves, without situation and context, some things really are evil, because they result in evil consequences-- killing is evil, taken by itself without context, because you are depriving someone of their life, for instance. In context-- yes, even torture can be justified as a good action under some circumstances (at least theoretically).

If I wasn't explaining that clearly before, my apologies.

Let me first reiterate that I'm speaking about good/evil in the world, not the concepts in PF with the same names. Having said that:

This exposition is certainly clearer, except now it appears that your contrasting torture with battlefield murder is merely a comparison of one contextless evil act with an evil act with an implied context. If you don't consider the two qualitatively different, I don't really see a problem with your view - you and I don't seem very far apart on the issue. Having said that, note that you aren't really providing discussion on good versus evil so much as highlighting the difference between morality and ethics.

As I've seen the terms used, morality refers to a conflict between good and evi. Moral questions are usually pretty easy and uncontroversial:

Is it wrong to kill? To steal? To lie? To cheat?

You're quite right to put torture in this group of "evil acts" but you should also include hurting an enemy soldier (sans context).

Ethical questions arise when there is a conflict between two goods (or if it's necessary to choose between two evils):

Should you steal to feed your starving family? Should you provide incriminating evidence to the police about your boss if you believe them innocent? Is it ok to kill if you think your child's life is in danger? What if they're just likely to get seriously injured?

Seen in this light, torture and battlefield violence are not qualitatively different, in my view, although I agree with you that there is an implied context in a war setting greatly mitigating the evil act of violence - a context generally missing from most torture scenarios. Nonetheless, each act is wrong, without context, but may be justifiable - and even mandated, in the correct, admittedly extreme, circumstances.

-------

All of that was "real world good and evil" (or at least some of my views on it). To tie it back to the issue of in-game alignment:

The problem is that PF has real, genuine, incontrovertible good and evil. This is much more closely allied with the topic of morality than ethics (as outlined above), but most discussions about what makes a character evil or good generally focussed on actions - which always have a context and hence are more properly seen as ethical judgements. (note that questions never arise as to whether a stealing, lying, cheating murderer is good or evil - its always in the context of tension between two inconsistent moral principles).

Bit of a ramble, I'm afraid. Still - show me a tightly controlled and focussed alignment discussion anywhere. :p


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Ragnarok Aeon wrote:
Is it torture to force read to someone the F.A.T.A.L. rulebook?

YES! OH SWEET JESUS YES! *runs screaming into the night*


Anyone remember the old saying:

"The rules are for the obedience of fools and guidance of wise men"

We have "don't be nasty" rules like "Don't Torture" "Don't Kill" "Don't Poison" "Don't Steal" etc, with a general assumption that if you break rules like this a lot then you are evil.

We have "Be nice" rules like "Be compassionate" "Be Charitable" "Be Merciful" etc with a general assumption that if you do these things like this a lot then you are good.

Like all ethics, these rules boil down to "do unto others as you would have done to yourself"

If you don't make a habit of breaking the "don't be nasty" or complying with the "Be nice" rules then you are probably neutral.

The "Don't be nasty" rules are there to ensure that people think twice about breaking them. You know that if you do break these rules then you are likely to punished, but it does not mean that breaking these rules is always wrong or evil, like a soldier killing on a battlefield in defence of his country is not being evil or going to be punished for example, just that you need to be very careful and think hard before you break them.

It's been interesting to read this forum and see who thinks that the rules are absolutely always to be obeyed, and those that think that they are there for guidance, to make you think twice about doing things before carrying out an act which may have very unpleasant consequences on others.


Ashiel wrote:
Ragnarok Aeon wrote:
Is it torture to force read to someone the F.A.T.A.L. rulebook?
YES! OH SWEET JESUS YES! *runs screaming into the night*

The author was clearly a bit unhinged, but I had some laughs reading part of that system.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
OldManAlexi wrote:


Say a boy's parents are killed by orcs and he grows up an orphan. He eventually becomes a mercenary and takes great pleasure from slaughtering orcs. However, he donates a great deal of his earnings to orphanages. His love of killing orcs is evil while his selfless donations to charity are good. Assuming that each would be strong enough to make him good or evil on their own, what is his alignment?

This is actually a good demonstration of why alignment isn't really something for discussion of very complicated characters. One thing you have to remember that the purpose of alignment was pretty much nothing more than identifying what kind of piece you were in the Good vs. Evil wargame that D&D evolved form. i.e. Heroes Good, Orc in the 10x10 foot room guarding a chest, evil. Warhammer takes a very simmilar approach in the way they reduced alignment to the one dimension of Law to Chaos with Good and Evil in between.

While White Wolf's alignment system of Humanity is even simpler, it is arguably much better at listing characters like the above described because it's not a measure of how "good" or how "evil" or how "balanced" you are, it's the measure of where you draw the line in choosing your actions. Much like that famous test that I can't think of the name of right now... the one where the subject is convinced he's experimenting the value of pain in learning.


Finn Kveldulfr wrote:
Malignor wrote:

I recall someone saying that, with the existence of spells like Suggestion and Charm Person, there is no need for torture.

Also, I recall something about Paladins and performing evil acts...

Regarding Paladins and evil acts, I apparently didn't explain this as well as I should have in my replies to Sigard and you-- so that I don't have to retype everything, please check my replies to Atarlost and Steve Geddes-- hopefully that explains things a little better, from the point of view I'm arguing for.

And yes, with charm, zone of truth, suggestion, and many other spells, the need for torture (presuming you've got someone who can cast those) is much less justifiable.

From what I gather in your response to Atarlost, you're saying that the lesser evil is okay "in the context of" preventing greater evil.

That falls directly under the unbrella of "the end justifies the means" ... if you use evil means (torture) to prevent a greater evil (genocide), than the torture isn't evil.

This backward justification goes against most moral standards, real and fantastic.

Now, I'd like to point out that your targeting of my arguments is under false pretenses. If you look back, I say that the RAW absolute "torture = evil" is oversimplified and broken, and my comments on that are what you are attempting to contradict.

I see no act being evil in an absolute sense, so we are in agreement and should have no quarrel.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Kuma wrote:


There are two alignment axes. They are more or less ethics and morals (I know that's simplifying both) but Neutrality is an integral part of both. It's not divorced from either.

Law - Neutrality - Chaos
Good - Neutrality - Evil

Those are the alignment axes. Any discussion of Good/Evil OR Law/Chaos must necessarily involve Neutrality. It's an integral part of the alignment system.

Neutrality itself is a major flaw in the traditional two axis system as you describe it.

Because basically there are two forms of Neutrality which really don't connect with each other and don't necessarily flow from the extreme poles.

The first form is what I call the true Unaligned. Folks whose actions on the whole wind up neutral because they are true fence sitters, they're not committed to anything beyond immediate goals and not even those if they're too stressful.

Then you have the Balancers like Mordenkainen or Sepiriz and the various agents of Moorcock's Balance. They are active agents who deliberately throw spanners in whatever works they deem neccessary to keep the world from leaning to any particular axis.


LazarX wrote:
Much like that famous test that I can't think of the name of right now... the one where the subject is convinced he's experimenting the value of pain in learning.

The Milgram Experiment, which was ironically designed to disprove the common German servicemens' explanation that their acts of evil were 'just following orders'. At its onset, it was estimated that only roughly 3% of those undertaking the task would see it through to completion. Instead, a remarkable 65% of the subjects did an evil despite only (pitifully) minor coaching by a figure of authority.

Now, taken back into context, this either means that more than half of all people are Evil, or that half of all people have really terrible Will-saves. I doubt its either. Rather, that humans are humans (and demihumans if you so desire). Alignment is just a tool which Paladins can use to see who can be Smote, which I justify as he sum total of a person's beliefs and actions. Do you become evil the first time you stomp a puppy? Probably not. Are you evil if you make a habit of stomping puppies? Yes, probably. There is no tipping point, only a blobby, blurry morass which can be reversed or held, depending on the individual.

It's reasons like this that I prefer nWoD's Morality/Humanity system to D20's alignments, really.

Grand Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
James the Dark wrote:


It's reasons like this that I prefer nWoD's Morality/Humanity system to D20's alignments, really.

D20's system works for what is is.. it's a mechanic for a game which is mainly about escapist heroic fantasy. If I'm looking to go dark and cynical and modern edgy explorations to modern morality, that's when I either skip D20/Pathfinder in favor of White Wolf or play it's Modern Path version.

When a game includes classes like Paladins, and Anti-Paladin, built directly on generic simplistic alignment tones, it's really not the game for White Wolf level explorations on modern ethical and moral thought. What you're looking really is a worldview more on the cynical end of the cynic-idealism scale of world portrayal. And that's where White Wolf made it's bread and butter.

101 to 150 of 203 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | next > last >>
Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / General Discussion / What is Evil? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.