Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 M - Malevolence


Malevolence: Wishing someone ill, possibly backed up by deeds.

Human beings certainly feel malevolent to some, and benevolent to others, and both can be inferred from their words and acts. Often these feelings are not rational, and in case of malevolence often due to lack of familiarity, hormones, groupthinking or prejudice, but this does not mean these feelings may not be strong.

Indeed, judged by human history - "History is little else but the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind" : Gibbon - the forces that dispose human being to malevolence seem on average stronger than those that move them to benevolence. One reason for this seems to be that most atrocities are committed by men who are not happy, and human life and human society offers many reasons to become unhappy, and few not to.

To those who believe that this diagnosis is too pessimistic, it may be granted that it is hard to speak both with confidence and rationality about such quantities as "the sum of human (un)happiness", and also that much misery has been caused by indifference - since it is so easy to bear the pain of someone else.

In any case, it is merely a mark of stupidity to deny or turn a blind eye to the great capacity for malevolence that inheres in humans, and to the fact that there is much misery in any human life, and little pure joy or happiness, and that what keeps most men's lifes tolerable are hopes, dreams and illusions.

And so far, the three main source of human misery, namely human stupidity, human malevolence, and human totalitarianism have not found effective remedies, though the last 25 centuries of human history give many reasons to support the notion that if intelligence or happiness or both could be doubled, by a simple pill without physical side-effects, addiction etc., human history might become very different.


See also:  Bad, Benevolence, "On "The Logic of Moral Discourse"", Good, History, Love, Misery, Stupidity


Browning, Bullock, Conquest, Oksenberg-Rorty, Laqueur

 Original: Dec 9, 2004                                                Last edited: 12 December 2011.   Top