ongchewpeng-devil-jesus.jpg Sarah Palin was on Sean Hannity's Fox show this week, and between breaths joined the many commenters who've labeled the Tucson shootings suspect with the "E" word: she mused on "...how, um, evil a person would have to be to kill an innocent." Since prime suspect Jared Loughner cited Nietzsche's Will To Power as a favorite, this seems like a good moment to bring up the problems with "good vs. evil" ideology. It has a peculiar geek resonance because of the ideology's heavy use in comic books and roleplaying: superheroes, arch-villains, chaotic good, lawful evil, and what-not. It's also infused in our political discourse, with someone like Palin or Obama being good or evil depending on your point of view.

Nietzsche is frequently a fave of angry young men who might qualify as what Pesco called confident dumb people. Nietzsche works well for the modern kook with web-induced attention deficits: The fourth chapter of Beyond Good and Evil is a series of 122 Twitter-length aphorisms, and his work is snarky and occasionally humorous. Nietzsche wrote Beyond Good and Evil to criticize earlier philosophers who made assumptions about morality based on pre-Christian and Christian beliefs about "evil." Below I discuss why we need to steal Nietzsche back from these people, and I look at a couple of other writers who have examined what gets called "evil" and have attempted to explain it in more nuanced and rational terms.

(Image: Devil vs Jesus (2008) by ongchewpeng at Deviant Art. Print available. Used with permission.)

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