Evil vs. The Vanishing Heap
Does evil exist? Is it an entity, a collective, a force?
– or –
Is evil like a heap …
Suppose I show you a heap of sand, and you agree it is a heap of sand. If I remove one grain, then you would agree that it is still a heap of sand, and if I keep removing a grain of sand until only one remains, then you would agree that it is no longer a heap of sand. You would also agree that there was no magical grain whose removal transformed the heap into a non-heap, and yet, the heap did indeed transform into a non-heap. How is that possible?
Some will claim that heaps therefore do not exist, and in certain strict academically rigorous contexts, they are correct, but to say they don’t exist in 99.99% of contexts is a logical fallacy—the fallacy of the vanishing heap.
A heap is a fuzzy but useful concept. Our language is full of fuzzy but useful concepts like: heap, big, race, good, right, moral … and evil.
Evil is really just an accusation that means that you have an intense dislike and/or distrust and/or disrespect for the target of your accusation, and that you believe others would agree with you if they knew what you know. In other words, evil is a weak threat that is mostly bluff. Its power is mostly dependent on your reputation with your audience.
I prefer to use more precise terms like useful, profitable, objective, falsifiable, or voluntary. Of course, one can often just let the facts speak for themselves.