Good and evil

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Good and evil are two opposite concepts describing actions that are moral (good) and those that are not (evil). The idea that good and evil exist is the opposite view to moral relativism (see postmodernism), which contends that there are no such things as absolute good and evil, and that the prevailing moral code in any society is merely a set of ultimately arbitrary conventions.

Most religions include a belief in the dichotomy of good and evil, often represented by two opposing figures such as God and the devil. Good can then be defined as anything in accordance with God's will. Zoroastrianism has been claimed to be the first religion to frame morality in these terms, but it is also a cornerstone of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and many other faiths. However, even within a religion where it is agreed that good and evil exist, discerning the difference between the two in specific cases tends to prove problematic. In World Scripture we read:

How can we define what is good and what is evil? Are there universal indicators behind, within, or consequent upon an action by which one can determine whether it was a good or an evil act? How can one tell whether a person is good or evil? The scriptures of the world's religions provide a variety of answers to these questions.[1]

Some humanist schools of thought also acknowledge the existence of good and evil, although in the claimed absence of a divine will it can be harder to explain their origin. Good may be defined as anything which produces happiness, or which avoids suffering, or which advances the goals of society.

See also


  1. World Scripture - Good and Evil