Evil Perception and the Existence Essay

Total Length: 946 words ( 3 double-spaced pages)

Total Sources: 3

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In the poem and essay "Compensation," Ralph Waldo Emerson makes a much more cogent and coherent assessment of how perspective seems to determine good and evil. His examples, however, are purely situational and do not adequately support his central thesis. For example, he compares a farmer jealous of power to the President examining what he has had to sacrifice to earn the White House (par. 11). While it is true that what one might see as a "good" here might be seen as an "evil" by the other, this has nothing to do with real morality. It is not what the President sacrificed of himself that determines the evil of this situation, but whether he sacrificed others for his own personal gain.

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of the most well-known pieces of literature in the Western world. Robert Louis Stevenson shows the novels protagonist, Dr. Jekyll, at first pleased with his ability to transform into the conscious-free Mr. Hyde, making it clear that evil only exists for those that feel a need to perceive it. Ultimately, however, Mr. Hyde's evil ends up destroying both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When Dr. Jekyll writes, "I am careless" just prior to his final transformation into Mr. Hyde and his subsequent suicide, he seems to have not more regard for morality at this point than does his darker counterpart (chapter 10). It is only because Hyde's evil has brought his life to a close, however, that he feels this way. While this fact could be used as further fodder argue that good and evil truly are a matter of pure perception, in that even Jekyll no longer cares about the difference, it is more potently read as evidence of the degradations that evil causes.
It is impossible to wholly define good and evil in absolute and purely objective terms. This does not mean that good and evil are purely subjective, however; the world is not made up of black and white, but rather exists in shades of grey. Harming others for ones own enjoyment and/or benefit is always evil and is in fact the essence of evil, and though it can be difficult to determine when these tests for evil are met, they certainly exist. Attempts to argue otherwise are at their heart usually simple attempts to excuse immorality and are ultimately invalid due to the vary absolutism from which such arguments spring.

Works Cited

Blake, William. "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell." Accessed 11 November 2010. http://www.levity.com/alchemy/blake_ma.html

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. "Compensation." Accessed 11 November 2010. http://www.rwe.org/works/Essays-1st_Series_03_Compensation.htm

Merwin, W.S. "The Stranger." Accessed 11 November 2010. http://www.breakoutofthebox.com/stranger.htm

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Accessed 11 November 2010. http://www.online-literature.com/stevenson/jekyllhyde/.....

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