October 7, 2010


GW - I only attribute wickedness to those who carry their wills in their hands...


In December last year, I started GW, that abbreviates Golden Words in English (some - not many - are Dutch). Since I am physically not well and had promised someone two fine quotations from Hazlitt, here they are, the second in this Nederlog, the other one in the previous one.

But this is not wickedness, but despondency and want of strength of mind. I only attribute wickedness to those who carry their wills in their hands, and who wantonly and deliberately suffer them to tyrannise over conscience, reason and humanity, and who even draw an additional triumph from this degrading conquest. The wars, persecutions, and bloodshed occasioned by religion, have generally turned on the most trifling differences in forms and ceremonies; which shews that it was not the vital interests of the questions that were at stake, but that these were made a handle and a pretext to exercise cruelty and tyranny on the score of the most trivial and doubtful points of faith. There seems to be a love of absurdity and falsehood as well as mischief in the human mind, and the most ridiculous as well as the most barbarous superstitions have on this account been the most acceptable to it. A lie is welcome to it, for it is, as it were, its own offspring; and it likes to believe, as well as act, whatever it pleases, and in the pure spirit of contradiction. The old idolatry took vast hold of the earliest ages; for to believe that a piece of painted stone or wood was a God (in the teeth of the fact) was a fine exercise of the imagination; and modern fanaticism thrives in proportion to the quantity of contradictions and nonsense it pours down the throats of the gaping multitude, and the jargon of mysticism it offers to their wonder and credulity. Credo quia impossibile est, is the standing motto of bigotry and superstition; that is, I believe, because to do so is a favourite act of the will, and to do so in defiance of common sense and reason enhances the pleasure the pleasure and merit (ten-fold) of this indulgence of blind faith and headstrong imagination.

     -- William Hazlitt: The Plain Speaker: (*)
         On Depth and superficiality, p. 351

A lot of what is called wickedness - badness, evil, what one strongly disapproves of, immorality, sin - is not due to the intent to be wicked, but to personal unhappiness, lack of intelligence, or lack of adequate knowledge.

What is properly called wickedness is malicious intent, malice aforethought, and it consists in the wanton destruction of life, happiness, chances, health or property of others.

It is a myth most men mean well most of the time, for if the myth were true, human history would not present its tenthousands of wars, a point that is doubly made by the many wars of religions, between followers of one infinitely good, powerful and loving God and the followers of another God, possibly and often just like the first one, except for some differences of theological detail or stress.

It is also a myth most men desire to think rationally most of the time, even if to do so would be much in their own and others' interests: Much rather than reason rationally and behave reasonably, they reason by wishful thinking, by fallacy, and by prejudice, and they act by malevolence to whoever seems not of their kind, interests, creed, colour, or club.

What most men desire to believe and hold moral to believe is the cant, chauvinism and currently fashionable ideas and values of their time and group; what most men desire others to do is to conform to their norms of what is good and true, or else be conformed to it or punished by it for being immoral.

And that is why

"History is little else but the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind"


"Stupidity and greed are the roots of evil"


"Malice is pleasure derived from another's evil which brings no advantage to oneself.
   (Marcus Tullius Cicero)

"[W]e commonly pervert our adversary’s conduct, by imputing malice or injustice to him, in order to give vent to those passions, which arise from self-love and private interest."
   (David Hume)

"We never hurt each other but by error or by malice." 
   (Sir Robert Chambers, possibly inspired by Dr. Johnson)

There is no evil and no malice that cannot be represented as well-intended, noble, for the best of reasons, or the interest of mankind, or our own nation, group, church, club or race, and many of the noblest ideals of mankind have been perverted and abused as tools to harm others for one's own benefit, real or imaginary.

Most of the evil that men do is done out of conformism and cowardice, and is done with pride, indifference, or out of cruelty, always for the best of purported reasons and for the highest of human ideals, but in fact for private gain or malice, or for the benefit of one's own group, church or club.

P.S. As I said, I am taking up a theme I started in December last GW. The links in my comment are all to my Philosophical Dictionary.

It may be I have to stop Nederlog for a while. The reason is that I am physically not well at all. I don't know yet, but if there is no Nederlog, now you know the reason.


As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

6. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7. Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)

Short descriptions:

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
   "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon
     insufficient evidence
7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.

    "Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!
     - (Shelley, "Prometheus Unbound") 

    "It was from this time that I developed my way of judging the Chinese by dividing them into two kinds: one humane and one not. "
     - (Jung Chang)


See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources

P.P.S. ME - Resources needs is a Work In Progress that hasn't progressed today.

(*) p. 351 in my Everyman's Edition of The Plain Speaker.

Maarten Maartensz

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