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Read the four short articles. Address the following:Why did the four articles catch your attention?What significant similarities and differences about the way in which evil is conceived and used can you discern as you reflect on the individual articles?How do the articles fit into your current belief system and knowledge about evil? How do they affirm existing beliefs and/or knowledge? Challenge them? Refer to specific articles and passages to create a unified and developed response. A well-developed journal will be between 2 to 4 pages in length (double spaced) in MLA format.…*** I also attach 2 of the 4 articles***


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From The Philosopher, Volume LXXXIV, 1996
Good and Evil
in Chinese
The Philosopher has printed many articles in its long
history on the exact nature of ‘the good’. But the meaning
of the words Good and Evil in Chinese philosophy can be
quite different to those of the West. Broadly speaking,
Chinese philosophy consists of two schools of thought:
Confucianism and Taoism. C. W. Chan takes up the story.
The question of human nature, however, is almost entirely
sprung from the Confucian school. It’s generally regarded
that Mencius (c.371-c.289 B.C) developed his entire
philosophy from two basic propositions: the first, that
Man’s original nature is good; and the second, that Man’s
original nature becomes evil when his wishes are not
‘If you let people follow their feelings (original
feelings), they will be able to do good. This is
what is meant by the saying that human nature
is good. If a man does evil, it’s not the fault of
his natural endowment’
A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, WingTsit Chan
All men, according to Mencius, have a mind which cannot
bear to see the suffering of others. For example, if you
suddenly see a child about to fall into a well, your first
reaction is to save him. You don’t do this for the sake of
befriending the child’s parent or to gain praise from the
public; you do it out of your original good nature.
According to Lau: because we are caught off our guard, the
case is therefore a true manifestation of our original human
According to R. E. Allinson, in A Hermeneutic
Reconstruction of the Child in the Well Example, however,
such an example is not intended to prove that all men will
actually take some action in such circumstances. What
Mencius intends to show in the child-falling-into-the-well
example is that all men will at least be moved to
compassion by such a sight. It is not an empirical example.
It is more of a phenomenological one. In other words, all
we need to prove the statement is that we carry out some
sort of self-examination or thought-experiment. Once we
are convinced, that’s the proof. We don’t need the results of
others to confirm our result. That’s a case for science.
The way man loses his original good nature is like the trees
in a mountain that are being subjected to endless
Mencius said, ‘The trees of the Niu Mountain were once
beautiful. But can the mountain be regarded any longer as
beautiful since, being in the borders of a big state, the trees
have been hewed down with axes and hatches? Still with
the rest given them by the days and nights and the
nourishment provided them by the rains and the dew, they
were not without buds and sprouts springing forth. But
then the cattle and the sheep pastured upon them once and
again. That is why the mountain looks so bald. When
people see that it is bald, they think that there was never
any timber on the mountain. Is this the true nature of the
mountain? [Wing-Tsit Chan]’
Likewise with human nature. If a man is constantly
subjected to negative influence, his character is bound to be
affected accordingly, despite occasional good education.
But that is not his true character, or his original nature. His
original nature, as Mencius always insists, is good. The
evil in him is a result of external influence.
In fact, as A. C. Graham pointed out in The Background of
the Mencian Theory of Human Nature, only on three
occasions did Mencius actually affirm that man’s original
nature is good: firstly, in a debate with Kao Tzu; secondly,
during a discussion with his disciples on the three current
doctrines; and finally in a conversation with the crown
prince in the Pre-Han period (206 B.C – 220 A.D).
However, according to Graham,
‘Man’s original nature was never referred to as good, bad,
without good or bad, capable of becoming either good or
bad, or good in some and bad in others, except in
controversies between philosophers or in formulae
summing up the doctrines of philosophers.’
In Taoism, everything has it own course of nature: those
who follow their own courses of nature or Tao will become
good; those who don’t will become evil. For example, to
lengthen what is supposed to be short or to shorten what is
supposed to be long, as in the following passage, will bring
only discomfort.
‘For this reason, although the duck’s legs are short, to
lengthen them with stilts would be worry to him; although
the crane’s legs are long, to trim them would hurt him.
Therefore what is long by nature is not something to trim,
what is short by nature is not something to lengthen.’
Thus, by nature, man’s orginal nature must be good. Man’s
original nature becomes evil when his occupation goes
against nature.
In the Great Appendix of the Book of Changes, it says:
‘The alternation of yin-yang is what is meant by the way.
What follows next to it is goodness; what has it complete is
our nature. When the benevolent see it they call it
benevolent, when the wise see it they call it wisdom, the
peasants use it every day without knowing.’
To this Su Shih (1036-1101) replied:
‘Formally, Mencius’ theory that goodness is our nature
seemed to me the last word. Only after reading the
‘Changes’ did I understand that he was wrong. Mencius in
studying our nature evidently saw only what follows next
to it. Goodness is putting into practice of our nature.
Mencius did not get as far as seeing our nature but saw the
putting into practice of our nature, and so took what he saw
for our nature itself.’
Thus, as far as the Principle of Yin-yang is concerned
man’s original nature is neither good nor evil.
In the willow-and-bowl debate, Kao Tzu argues that man’s
original nature is like the willow, and his goodness is like
its derivative. In other words, the cups and bowls that made
from the willow are derived from what was originally
endowed on the willow, so that the goodness of man is not
his original nature but an outgrowth of his original nature.
To this Mencius replies: in order to make anything out of
the willow, one must first put to end what was, by nature,
belonged to the willow. Hence, what is destroyed can no
longer be referred to as Nature.
Hsn Tzu (c.298-c.238 B.C), on the other hand, takes a
different view. Mencius regards man’s original nature as
good, but Hsn Tzu regards it as evil.
‘The nature of man is evil; his goodness is the result of his
activity [Wing-Tsit Chan].’
At one point Hsn Tzu even accuses Mencius for not
knowing the difference between man’s nature and his
effort, and thus claims man’s original nature is good.
Mencius said, ‘Man learns because his nature is good.’ This
is not true. He did not know the nature of man and did not
understand the distinction between man’s nature and his
effort. Man’s nature is the product of Nature; it cannot be
learned and cannot be worked for. Propriety and
righteousness are produced by the sage. They can be
learned by men and can be accomplished through work.
What is in him and can be learned or accomplished through
work is what can be achieved through activity. This is the
difference between human nature and human activity …..’
Mencius said, ‘The nature of man is good; it becomes evil
because man destroys his original nature.’ This is a
mistake. By nature man departs from his primitive
character and capacity as soon as he is born, and he is
bound to destroy it. From this point of view, it is clear that
man’s nature is evil [Wing-Tsit Chan].’
For Hsn Tzu, man’s original nature is a manifestation of
his desires, which is what is responsible for his
misconduct. What is therefore required to correct him is
teaching and enforcement of law and order. Even though
Mencius and Hsn Tzu differ so greatly in regard to man’s
original nature, they nevertheless share one common belief,
and that is, all men are capable of becoming sages
[Mencius, D. C. Lau].
Tung Chung-shu (c.179-c.104 B.C), on the other hand,
regards man’s original nature similar to that of the Book of
Changes. Man’s original nature is what Tung called the
‘basic stuff’. The nature of this basic stuff of man is not
necessary good or evil.
‘Goodness is like a kernel of a grain, and the nation is like
the growing plant of the grain. Though the plant produces
the kernel, it cannot itself be called a kernel. Similarly
though the hsing (here used in its broader sense, i.e., the
basic stuff) produces goodness, it cannot itself be called
goodness. The kernel and goodness are both brought to
completion through man’s continuation of Heaven’s work,
and the external to the latter. They do not lie within what
Heaven itself does. What Heaven does extends to a certain
point and then stops. What lies within this stopping point
pertains to Heaven. What lies outside of it pertains to the
chiao (i.e., teaching, culture) of the sages. The chiao of the
sages lies outside the hsing (the basic stuff), yet without it
the hsing cannot be fully developed. [From chapter 36 of
Ch’un-Ch’iu Fan-lu, A Short History of Chinese
Philosophy, Y-L Fung].
Unlike Hsn Tzu, Tung Chung-shu does not imply that
man’s original nature or the basic stuff is actually evil.
Goodness, according to Tung, is a continuation of nature.
In chapter 25 of Ch’un-Ch’iu Fan-lu, he writes: ‘Mencius
evaluates the basic stuff of man in comparison with the
doings of the birds and beasts below, and therefore says
that man’s original nature is already good. I evaluate it in
comparison with the sages above, and therefore say that
man’s original nature is not yet good.’ Thus the difference
between Mencius and Tung, as pointed out by Fung, is that
the former says man’s original nature is ‘already good’ and
the latter, ‘not yet good’.
Back to main journal.
The Fountain Magazine
On Life, Knowledge, and Belief
Issue 50 / April – June 2005
Good and Evil in Islam
Alphonse Dougan
The relationship between good and evil has always intrigued people, and it is one
of the central principles upon which religious doctrine and belief systems are
built. Religion plays a central role in shedding light onto these abstract concepts,
and Islam is no exception. In fact, Islam offers a complete picture in explaining
good and evil. To understand the Islamic teachings on good and evil, however,
one first needs to understand that Islam views life as a test of deciding between
good and evil.
The Meaning of Life According to Islam
Said Nursi explains the aim of creation in the following words: “Belief in God is
the highest aim of creation and the most sublime result, and humanity’s most
exalted rank is knowledge of Him. The most radiant happiness and sweetest
bounty for the jinn and humanity is love of God contained within knowledge of
God.” In other words, we are created to believe in God. Once a person believes
in God they will try to get to know Him and acquire knowledge about Him. This
knowledge of God can only be built on a belief in God. This intimate knowledge
of God must surely lead to the love of God, which is described as the highest
degree of happiness a human being can achieve. A person with a heart that
overflows with the love of God will strive to keep his commandments and express this love through worship.
Achieving closeness to God gives life its real meaning. The closest proximity to
God can be achieved only in Heaven. While God is closer to us than ourselves,
we may put barriers between our conscious and subconscious, and our heart
and our Lord. Islam teaches that, from our perspective, doing good and staying
away from evil is a means of getting closer to God. Islam teaches that humans
are equal in all respects (e.g. race, gender, status, occupation, appearance, etc)
except for closeness to God. Every good deed brings a person closer to God,
and every evil act takes them further away from God. We can understand this, as
there are many ranks or stations in closeness to God. Thus, the test of choosing
between good and evil has the purpose of giving people the opportunity to rise
through these stations of spirituality.
Islam teaches that angels have fixed stations. They cannot commit sins or
descend to lower stations, nor can they achieve a higher station through good
deeds. Unlike angels, however, humans can get closer to God and rise through
these stations by doing good deeds or descend and get further away from God
by committing sins. So, God gives hu-man beings the opportunity to rise to a
level beyond the angels or go below the level of Satan; it is all our choice.
Without the creation of Satan or evil, there would not be any stations for humans
to pass through to get closer to God, and therefore, we would be like angels with
fixed stations.
The Concepts of Good and Evil in Islam
As humans, our definitions of good and evil are based on our perceptions and
thinking. Human experience, however, is limited in many ways. Many things and
events which at first appear to be good may prove in the final outcome to be evil,
and vice versa. True knowledge, that is knowledge which is not subject to
limitations, is only with God. The Qur’an clearly states that God is the only
authority in defining good and evil. Therefore our perceptions of good and evil
may be misleading:
. . . but it is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and that you
love a thing which is bad for you. But God knows, and you know not. (Baqara
The Islamic definitions of good and evil are based on the purposes of creation
and the meaning of human life. As mentioned above, the ultimate goal of human
life is to become perfected spiritually through belief in God (iman), the knowledge
of God (marifatullah), the love of God (muhabbatullah), and the worship of God
(ibada). Accordingly, whatever brings a person closer to God and will benefit him
in the Next World is good, and whatever takes a person away from God, and
thus incurs His anger is evil.
Extrapolating from these definitions, one can see that those things and events
that we perceive as evil may in reality be good, if they lead us closer to God. For
instance, a disease may be perceived as evil. But a person who goes through the
disease with patience grows spiritually and becomes closer to God.
No calamity strikes except by God’s permission. (Taghabun 64:11)
Wealth and health may be perceived as good. But if they lead a person to
indulge in worldly desires and forget God, then they become evil for that person.
Have you seen the one who takes his desires as his god? (Furqan 25:43)
The tricks of the devil may be perceived as evil. But they are evil only for those
who fall for those tricks and forget God:
Satan got the better of them and caused them to forget God. Those are the party
of Satan. Truly the party of Satan are the real losers. (Mujadila 58:19)
On the other hand, through resistance to the devil and through patience in
submission to God, one grows spiritually and becomes closer to God. So, for
such a person, the existence of the devil and his tricks is a means of spiritual
…And those who persevere in seeking the pleasure of their Lord, and keep up
prayer and spend (benevolently) out of what We have given them secretly and
openly and repel evil with good; as for those, they shall have the (happy) issue of
the abode. (Rad 13:22)
The following verse from the Qur’an exemplifies good and evil as they relate to
the conduct of our lives:
It is not righteousness that you turn your faces toward the East and the West, but
righteousness is this that one should believe in God and the last day and the
angels and the Book and the prophets, and give away wealth out of love for Him
to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the
beggars and for (the emancipation of) the captives, and keep up prayer and pay
the poor-rate; and the performers of their promise when they make a promise,
and the patient in distress and affliction and in time of conflicts-these are they
who are true (to themselves) and these are they who guard (against evil).
(Baqara 2:177)
An inclination toward good and a dislike for evil is inherent in every human being.
Prophet Muhammad teaches that good is the beautiful personality and beautiful
virtues of a person, while evil is what makes one’s heart uncomfortable, unhappy,
and is that side of a person that they do not want anyone to know about. Islam
teaches that good deeds in this world are like seeds that will be harvested in the
Then shall anyone who has done an atom’s-weight of good, see it! (Zilzal 99:7)
Also the Prophet said: “Save yourself from the Fire, even by giving half a date in
charity, and if you do not find (half a date), then by saying a good word.” God is
Just. Good will be rewarded sooner or later.
God is never unjust in the least degree: If there is any good (done), He doubles
it, and gives from His own presence a great reward. (Nisa 4:40)
The Prophet explained these verses with the following words: “God rewards
every single good deed that we do in this life and He is Just. He rewards people
both here and in the Hereafter. For the unbelievers, on the other hand, they
receive all their rewards here in this life and for them nothing is left for the
Hereafter.” The Messenger of God states that all good deeds are important. “Do
not underestimate any of them. Even smiling is not an unimportant action.”
Doing good deeds results from an intention and motivation that causes the
action, and therein lies its value. A seemingly good action, if done for reasons
other then pleasing God, may not be valued by God as a good deed and may not
contribute to that person’s rising to the stations of spirituality. Good deeds done
without the intention of pleasing God are most likely motivated by one’s ego.
Therefore, it can be said that belief in God should be strongly located in the heart
of a person when doing good deeds. Only a strong belief in God can guide
people toward committing good deeds.
Human beings are not free to choose in many things. We cannot choose to live
without eating, we cannot choose to live without drinking, and we cannot choose
to live without sleeping. However, we are completely free in one thing: we can
choose between good and evil. Life is about options, and decisions, and
situations to choose between; good and evil are in front of us as options. We
make our decisions, and God creates good and evil based on our decisions. It is
inherent in Islam to believe that both good and evil comes from God.
Wherever you are, death will find you out, even if you are in towers built up
strong and high! If some good befalls them, they say, ‘This is from God’; but if
evil, they say, ‘This is from you’ (O Prophet). Say: ‘All things are from God.’ But
what has come to these people that they fail to understand a single fact?” (Nisa
God creates both good and evil based on our choices. Once we have made a
choice, the action itself is independently created by God. For example, when a
person decides to lift his arm, God creates all the necessary action in the
muscles for that action to happen. The lifting of the arm might be to help
somebody or to harm somebody; that decision is made by the person, and God
merely converts the decision to action. We know, or are obliged to know, the
consequences of our actions. People know that if they steal and are caught, they
go to jail. We cannot blame the authorities for making that person suffer; it was
their action that caused them to end up in jail. The authorities merely implement
the law which states: if you steal, you go to jail. Similarly, God’s rule is that if you
choose evil, it will be given to you; if you choose good, it will be given instead.
People are influenced by a number of forces in making choices. People are
naturally inclined to do good. The reflections of God’s beautiful attributes, such
as mercy and love, guide people toward good. However, two enemies work
constantly against people to force them into evil. These enemies are Satan and
one’s ego or carnal self.

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