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March 10, 2020 / Congau

Why We Hurt Others

People hurt people for their own benefit, however that is perceived. It’s hard to imagine someone ever hurting anyone if there’s absolutely nothing in it for them, and I doubt that it is even possible.

The sadist (to take the most extreme case first) enjoys seeing people suffer, and this enjoyment is his benefit. This is probably the closest we can come to pure evil, although it also has a very small redeeming element in the pleasure that is gotten from it. If someone were to harm for no reason other than a wish for suffering, it would be the purest evil.

The desire to punish without any practical benefit for oneself is a far more common cause of harm that has a considerable amount of evil and malice in it. Still, there is an emotional benefit in that the evildoer somehow imagines that justice is being done. In a fit of anger, we want to strike back at the person who’s bothering us believing, at least at that short instant, that revenge is required.

A lot of malice in the world comes from a misconceived perception of justice. It is often disguised as selfless desire for universal justice, and the agent frequently believes in it himself or is able to convince himself of his impartial behavior. He doesn’t think he is all that bad, and in fact you will rarely, if ever, find anyone who openly admits that he is nothing but a crook.

Seen from outside it is rather obvious that the alleged principle of justice is molded so as to fit into the perspective of the avenger. Nevertheless, we all have this tendency of self-righteousness in us and therein our inclination towards malice is also found. Our instinctive attitude that our own right to justice has precedence over everyone else’s makes us do harm to our fellow humans.

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