On evil

What is evil? Is it a body that moves around, a wolf or a lion, that can overtake and overcome the natural goodness of men? Is it a force that, like the wind, cannot be seen itself but drives men on to cause destruction? No. Evil is just this: the worst that humans can do and the worst that nature can do.

What, then, is the cause of evil? It is the actions of men done without wisdom. You, who seek to cultivate and follow virtue, are not so different from the one who commits evil. Socrates declared, “Wisdom alone is the good for man, ignorance the only evil.” What is this “ignorance” if not the opposite of wisdom? Do not all humans know it is wrong to murder? Whence, therefore, murder? Because not all humans are able to tell murder from some other sort of killing because when not guided by the hand of wisdom.

It is wisdom that allows you to empathize with another, to see in this poor wretch your fellow human, as much deserving of life as yourself. It is wisdom that causes you to stay your hand when you would strike another in anger. It is wisdom that guides you towards the truly right, rather than towards that which only seems right.

Those who have not wisdom should not, therefore, be objects of your disgust and hatred. They should be the objects of your pity. For they share one nature with yourself, and but for the mercies of Fortune, you too could do these things. Can you say that were you born in this devil’s place that you would not have done likewise? The only wise answer is “No, I too may have performed such horrors,” for otherwise you both inflate your own strengths and ignore your own weaknesses — and is this not the very opposite of wisdom?

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