If evil triumphs when good men do nothing, does that mean that evil men are less important than inactive good men or worse, unnecessary even for the cause of evil? Is evil the inaction of the good rather than any action on the part of evil men?
If evil is the inaction of good men, are there even evil men? Perhaps there are no actually evil men, in so much as misguided or fanatical good men who are taking action with too narrow a focus or consideration in their pursuit of what they deem good?
Certainly in any person’s own code of good or evil, they are working for what they deem to be good; regardless of how others or history later judges them. Assuming anyone is left to perform a historical assessment.
It’s that “own code” that’s the rub. If there is no absolute external good or evil, then any action cannot be deemed as either until after the dust has settled and the survivors either support or regret the action and it’s outcome.
For there to be an absolute good and evil, these concepts could not be culturally dependent and would be reflected fairly universally in cultures throughout history and in all or most regions. There are no such universal norms or values, because every culture has embodied and codified a range of good and evil concepts, both regionally and historically dependent.
To further complicate the matter, evil or bad actions are often excused or deemed acceptable if they can be argued to have a good outcome. Torturing is as a generality, evil or bad, but when used to obtain information with the possibility of saving lives, becomes normal operating procedure at best or quasi-bad at worst.
Generally, what’s evil or bad is what’s done to the good guys and the evil or bad done by the good guys to the bad guys is justifiable. Even and especially when it’s the same action.
That evil actions can be justified demonstrates that they are not inherently evil actions, and are more dependent on the perception of the person performing them and the outcome in relationship to the person determining what is good or evil. One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist, after all.
People will often resort to religion as a means of determining good and evil, however, this framework is limited, all religions have the same basis of authority – personal preference – and the same amount of evidence to support their claims – none at all. Religion muddies the good/evil divide further by being the mechanism by which great evils have been justified through history and are often the reason why good men do nothing.
Good and evil become almost childish concepts, unhelpful to base determinations on, given that they are interest based rather than being any means of objective measure.
By following a harm minimization model, which provides a clearer and objective framework to assess any action or outcome of an action, it is possible to determine in real time, whether an action will result in net good or net evil being created.
Harm minimization means that the action is judged by something other than a personal or cultural code of good or evil, and prevents a narrow focus of facts from leading to extreme action – since more interests and needs must be taken into account than narrow, fundamental or fanatical goals allow for.