Friday, January 15, 2010

Good vs Evil

While reading a fantasy book, I came across a good piece of dialogue between two characters. It was a discussion about Good vs Evil. Once you have read it, you may think, like duh....obviously, but we probably wouldn't have thought of it if we had to ourselves. Just something for you to ponder about.

Background: Prince Robert is talking to Sir Neil (A knight). At this time Prince Robert is in talks with a country called Hansa about a possible alliance (thus peace), but Sir Neil is against because they have been their sworn enemy since the beginning of days.
"Until I came to Eslen, I thought my world was large. The sea, after all, seems endless when one is upon it, and the islands seem uncountable. But then I came to discover all of that could fit into a cup if the world were a table."
"Poetic" Robert said.
"In the little cup of the world I lived in," Neil went on, "things were pretty simple. I kjnew who I fought for, I knew why. Then I came here, and things became confusing. As I travel farther into the world, they became more confusing yet."
Robert smiled indulgently. "Confusing how? Did you lose your sense of right and wrong?"
Neil returned the smile. "I grew up fighting, and mostly I fought Weihand raiders. They were bad people because they attacked my people. They wer bad people becuase they gfought for Hansa, people who once kept my people inbondage and would do it again if they could. And yet looking back on itm most of the men I killed were probably not that different from me. They probably died believing their cause was just, hoping their fathers would look from beyond the world and be proud of them."
"Yes, I see," Robert said. "You may not know this, but there is a philosophy of considerable weight built on that same premise. It is not a philosophy suited to the weakminded, hoiwever because it suggests-as, in fact, you just suggested-that there is really no such thing as good or evil that most people do what they think is right. It's just the lack of agreemnent on what is right that leads us to believe in good and evil."
"Uou traveled great distances, Sir Neil. Leagues. But one can also travel, so to speak, in time, through the study of history. Consider the argument that sits before us now; I am vilified for trying to strenthen our bonds of friendship with Hansa and thus avert a war we can ill afford. My detractors point out that by doing so I create conditions that might allow a Reiksbaurg (Leader of Hansa) to take the throne a few years hence."
"Now, why should that be considered wrong? Becayuse Hansa is evil? Because they desire control of this kingdom? And yet my family, the Dares, wrested Crotheny from Hansa in a bloody conflict. My great-great-grandfather murdered the Reiksbaurg emperor in their Castle. Who was good and who was evil then? It's a meaningless question, don't you think?"
"I'm not as learned as you," Neil acknowledged. "I know little about history, even less about philosophy. I am a knight, after all, and my job is to do as I am told. I have killed many ,men I might have liked if we had met under other circumstances, because they weren't - as you say - evil. We were merely serving masters at cross-purposes. In some cases, it wasn't even that. To do my duty, I had to stay alive, and to stay alive sometimes means killing others.
"As you say, most people in this world are just trying to do the best they can, to protect the ones they love and the life they know, live up to their duties and obligations."

Keyes, G (2006) The Blood Knight (pg. 341-342). New York.

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