Wednesday, 2 April 2008

The nature of good and evil and other such stuff

I blogged last week about Boy A by Jonathan Trigell and tonight my book group met to discuss it.

We (two speech and language therapists, an educational psychologist, a Teaching Assistant in an autism unit, a child minder and a gap year student working in social work) were left with several unresolved questions:

Is there a ‘core’ of every person which remains unchanged throughout life?
Is ‘evil’ a useful concept?
Can a crime like murder ever be put in the past so much that both the perpetrator and those who live with him/her forget about it to all intents and purposes?
Are reasons and excuses morally equivalent?
Should the primary aim of prison be to redeem/reform the criminal?
Why are there no books about happy stuff?

Answers in the comments box as usual, fellow inhabiters of the blogosphere…


KAREN said...

Interesting post.

I have good reason to believe there is a 'core' of every person that remains unchanged, no matter what. I think character is inborn.

Evil is a useful concept in as much as it gives us a word to attach to something we find unspeakable but, for me, it has supernatural overtones. 'Abnormal psychology' would be a better one.

In my opinion, you could never put a murder behind you to the point where you'd forget about it. It depends on the circumstances. A perpetrator could probably justify it to the extent that they could learn to live with it and maybe the people around them could too. If it was self-defence, say.

To me, a reason is an acceptance of responsibility whereas an excuse is an evasion or avoidance - so no, I don't think they're morally equivalent.

The primary aim of prison should be punishment, with rehabilitation as a priority task.

Well, there're books that make you laugh while the bad stuff is going on (Mil Millington). And most books end up happy, at least!

Alis said...

Karen, you are a star to reply so extensively. I was quite surprised at our book group - there was a real lack of sympathy for Boy A whilst I had felt immediate and enduring sympathy for him. I agree with you about evil having supernatural overtones - the ed psych in the group was able to correct me about psychopathy - I though psychopaths were made not born but she says there is a strong genetic component.

The whole subject of rights and responsibilities is one I find fascinating - though a thing might always be wrong are some people put in such unbearable circumstances that their culpability is lessened, for example?

Akasha Savage said...

Sebrenka told me all about the book group discussion, it sounded a very animated meeting!

I believe that a leopard never really changes it's spots. Our 'core' remains the same throughout, no metter how much we try to fool ourselves, and others, differently.

Leigh Russell said...

So many intersting questions!

Core - I think yes, but the core is organic and changes. (Am I sitting on the fence a bit?)

Evil - I'd like to say no, but I think the answer has to be yes. Some acts are so evil I think the perpetrator is evil.

Putting murder in the past? My problem with that is that the victim & his/her family can't do that so why should the perpetrator? That said, I would distinguish between some acts of murder and, for example, a victim of abuse who kills his/her tormentor.

Reason/excuse - I agree with Karen.

Redeem/reform - Yes, the purpose of prison should be to punish and reform. But then again, see my comments on murder.

Happy books - there are happy books. I can't think of any just now...