The Ethical Issues Of Good And Evil In Everyday Life

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This world, though it may seem very black and white, actually has a lot of gray area that people have a hard time seeing and feeling. People generally see the world or the people in this world as either good or evil, but I believe the world and the people in it are a mix of the two. Those who are optimists see all of the good that this world has to offer like love, memories, sunsets, random acts of kindness, stars, miracles, sandy beaches, laughter, and contagious smiles. Those who are pessimists cling on to negative things that happen in this world like sudden deaths, natural disasters, torture, and poverty. Of course nobody wants negative things to happen, but we live in an imperfectly perfect world among great tragedy and even greater blessings. It is easy to believe that the evils of the world outweigh the bad, but I think a majority of us are actually mistaken. When evil things happen, it is hard to remember anything good that has ever happened because of our tendency to see good as the norm. When bad or evil comes in to disrupt the good things going on, we respond and become more focused on it. Because good and evil in our world aren’t necessarily things, it is hard measure just how much good and how much bad there actually is. It is obvious that an earthquake would outweigh a sunset, but quantifying and assessing evil and good in the world as it pertains to a more universal scale is hard. Nonetheless, there is a lot of good even in the midst of evils that are physical and cannot be prepared for. In Candide by Voltaire, there is a lot of evil portrayed in the world while in Les Miserables, evil is portrayed more in people and society. Unlike Pangloss, a character in Candide who is unrealistically optimistic, I do not believe we necessarily live in “the best of all possible worlds,” but I do believe that the good in our world outweighs the bad and we must look at the bigger picture when evil strikes.

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After researching many resources, I have found that I am not the only one who thinks the good outweighs the bad and that we are a combination of both good and evil. In the article Light and Dark: The Duality of Good and Evil, Kevin Prchal states that “just like light and dark exists in every room, good and evil exists in all human beings” (Prchal, 2012). He also stated that “oozing out of the seams of every one thing wrong comes a world of love and empathy.” In Candide’s Garden, the author William Bottiglia states that the goal of Candide “is a return to common sense, middle course, the Golden Mean; neither optimistic not pessimistic extremes, but an equilibrating meliorism” (Bottiglia, 725). Meliorism is that idea that with human forces, effort, and goodness through people, we can make the world a better place. Because I believe that we as people have more goodness then evil inside us, then the world itself is actually more good than evil as well since we are combating evils with kindness, greatness, and positivity. In The Line Between Good and Evil by Anna Hoiseth, she questions whether or not people are “essentially evil or situationally evil” (Hoiseth). She also mentioned the dangers of labeling people as evil because it “names ourselves [as the] protectors of good.” I loved when she said “we must not find comfort in calling others evil, because evil can be committed by any of us.” All of these quotes show that we have the capacity to be evil, but we also have free will and are able to be good, hense furthering that we are a blend of good and evil.

In Candide, it is apparent that the world is falling apart and has been taken over by evil. However, because of the satirical nature of the work, Voltaire has emphasized and detailed the tragedies that the characters faced along their journey throughout Europe and Latin America. By highlighting the horrors faced like an earthquake, rape, murder, war, disease, and abuse, it hard for the readers to believe or see that there is any good after reading this. Voltaire fails to leave out any of the good the world has to offer which puts a great emphasis on evil to the point where the reader is completely blinded by evil. Even though Voltaire did this to make Pangloss look silly for believing we live in “the best of all possible worlds,” the story is absent of positivity and goodness which makes it difficult as readers to believe that there is a chance that good actually can and does outweigh the evil. The issue is not the abundance of evil in the novel, but the absence of goodness in the novel due to Voltaire trying to further his position that we don’t actually live in as great of a world as it is made out to be. In the article Candide’s Garden, the author agree that evil and good are not balanced by saying “Candide is a deliberately exaggerated polemic which sets an example by protesting vigorously against current evils” (Bottiglia). In Candide, a solution to maintaining and celebrating goodness was created on the idea that we should all “tend to our own garden.” However, many of the evils in the novel were human-made, meaning that this kind of evil could have been avoided and prevented had people just found a little more compassion and goodness in their hearts which I know we all have an abundance of if we just have the hearts to see it and act on it. I took this as explaining how we as humans have free-will and the ability to determine our own happiness and success. It is not by God, but by our hearts and hard work that we as a society will change and grow together to be better, see better, and act better towards and for each other. Though there is evil both in the world and in our hearts, we are able to rise above and be better then the evil within us. We are also able to tend to ourselves, be aware of the evil that are around us, but also recognize that there is more good then bad if we just find it in our hearts to celebrate the good things surrounding us and within us. There is an article by Rabbi Abramowitz called Is There More Good or Evil in the World. His answer to this simple question was this: “Evil only exists as a small percentage of the human experience, which is a tiny fraction of the universal whole” (Abramowitz). This shows how our world is so vast, and the evils within it are so miniscule when the bigger picture is taken in to account. He then goes on to express how “the universe is not here to fulfill our whims.” Just because we will something does not mean God will will it. On this earth, we are not entitled to goodness, we are blessed with it; we must create goodness and choose to see the goodness surrounding us.

Just as there appears to be an abundance of evil in the world, it may seem as though the majority of people are evil, too. In Les Miserables, Valjean is seen as the symbol of good, and Javert is seen as the symbol for bad. Valjean, though he went to prison for stealing bread for his family, was able to realize his wrongdoings and made it a point in the rest of the story to show mercy, love, and forgiveness to all. He adopted a young girl named Cosette, who had been physically and emotionally abused by Les Thénardiers, the closest to evil as they come. He also showed mercy to Javert, a guy who kept him locked up in prison for taking some bread to feed his family. Rather then being resentful and bitter, Valjean didn’t seek revenge. This shows just how much good was in his heart, despite having every reason to be hateful and evil to others. Javert forcefully upholds the law and shows no mercy, regardless of the circumstances. He is a very black and white thinker when it comes to morals and the law, but that does not make him an evil man at heart. These two men are great examples of we are all a mix of good and evil. There was a quote in the novel that I felt really showed how evils can be turned in to good. It goes as followed: “The pupil dilates in darkness and in the end finds light, just as the soul dilates in misfortune and in the end finds God” (Hugo, 1078). I think this quote shows that when things are going wrong and it feels that there is one evil thing after another, we have the ability to grow as individuals and still see the light in the world during times that may feel so dark. Though not everyone may be able to see this light in the midst of darkness, I believe we all have the capacity to see how the good ultimately outweighs the bad. In Gull in the Garden, the author R. Wolper mentions how “charity is everywhere” but that even “if one is charitable, there is no guarantee of a better world or of personal happiness” (Wolper, 277). I find this to be somewhat contradicting to my idea that through our own actions, we can find happiness and create a better world. Valjean was a very charitable and serving guy, and there was a lot of joy in him that was obvious through how he carried himself. I would also go as far to say that his actions and kindness to strangers was in fact making the world a better place because kindness spreads like a chain reaction. When everyone is being their best and showing goodness and kindness in their respective locations, then the whole world with indeed be a better place. Of course it would be be impossible for one person to change the world, but each person can reach one person and change their world. Valjean was able to change Cosette and Fantine’s world, just as M. Myriel did for him.

There are roughly 7.7 billion people in this world, and to believe that the majority of these people are evil is just not reasonable. I’d go as far to say that about 95% of the people in this world are mostly good, but it is that 5% of the world with such evil in their hearts that make people skeptical of the goodness that really does fill out population. Within us all are hearts that are able to love because love comes more naturally to people then hate. However, we must stay willing and excited to be our bests, just like Valjean. We must also understand that our minds have a tendency to focus on the negative things going on in the world because goodness seems to be what is comfortable and normal. It is easy to cling on to the negative things that happen, but remembering that this world is so vast is important because on any given day, there will be more good then bad.  

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