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Know What Good and Evil Are

Good and evil are simple enough. But it makes sense to clear up one huge misconception. Good is values not virtues. The word virtue crops up 253 times in Aristotle's Ethics. Values are barely mentioned.

The highest goods and the most egregious evils are related to the achievement of freedom, truth and beauty at the top and the avoidance of the ascending levels of harm at the bottom. We human beings are a spectrum of good and evil. Just look at the following hierarchies to become aware of the incredible mix of good and evil we are.   

Hierarchy of Good

1. Being loving and free

2. Acting and expressing for truth and beauty

3. Valuing Non-idolatry

4. Valuing Democracy

5. Valuing Helpfulness

6. Valuing Tolerance

7. Contributing to the community

8. Being responsible

9. Critical thinking

10. Self-respect

Hierarchy of Evil

10. Thoughtlessness

9. Selfishness

8. Judging others

7. Ganging Up

6. Excluding

5. Intolerance

4. Opposing democracy

3. Unhelpfulness

2. Causing injury

1. Killing

Whatever adjustments you might make in these hierarchies, I trust you would agree that they evoke the actual values that lead to the actual behavior indicated. Some gang up and exclude, some oppose democracy. Some kill. Some pay taxes whose effects cause harm.  Some support businesses that do the same.  Some accept practices that are proved to be harmful. That's merely a fraction of the downside. On the upside, positive values have been instrumental in generating historical progress over the centuries. Particularly those which form the ethical index of triadic philosophy: tolerance, helpfulness, democracy and non-idolatry.

How much more progress there would be if these positive values were accepted universally. They are a true and apt measure of what does good.

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Stephen C. Rose (1936-) was born in New York City and raised there. He currently lives there. He was educated at Trinity, Exeter, Williams and Union Theological Seminary. He served in the Student Interracial Ministry in Nashville. He founded and edited the prize-winning Renewal Magazine in Chicago and studied with C. A. Doxiadis in Athens. His first books "The Grass Roots Church" and "Who's Killing The Church" established him as a prominent critic of American Protestantism and American religion. He was and remains a civil rights activist. He has interviewed and done in depth pieces on Saul Alinsky and Martin Luther King, Jr. He won awards for editorial courage and for two documentary films. He has written and published many songs and musical works including "We Are All Americans". During the late 90s and early 2000s he worked for UN agencies, most recently editing CHOICES Magazine at UNDP. Since 2000 he has written several books for distribution via K…