Human Corporality and the stake of the contradiction of Good and Evil

Good and evil, two concepts that have occupied philosophy as a human activity for centuries now. These two concepts separately, but above all the essence of their relationship is a puzzle for man, even though it governs him and defines him throughout his life.

 This ontological contradiction is inscribed in human existence and becomes active as man opens himself up to the world, ready to experience it in its entirety by revealing his Being through life. 

 The human being from the first years of his life is confronted with the contradiction of good/evil realizing that his only certainty is his body[1] and at the same time the absolute evil, death. Precisely at that moment he experiences the absurdity that governs him as a being, i.e. he realizes existence and at the same time non-existence, thus arising, the deepest existential anxiety[2] to face evil, this power of negativity and cancellation of his existence, overcoming his limitation.

 After all, what is evil? Is it an autonomous force or does it always coexist with good? “Both good and bad. [one and the same] The fur doctors, cutting, burning, everything, torturing badly the sick, begging, they receive no wages worthy of anything but the sick, these workers”, if we refer to the Cosmic Analects of Heraclitus[3] we will see that evil is always found together with the good, often even as necessary, as we see here, that doctors cut, burn and torment the sick in order to cure them, many even accusing them of working the same evils as the diseases, while in another point: agathon, sickness made health a pleasant good, famine made pleasant the saturation and the toil made pleasant the rest.

 As seen in Herakletian thought, good and evil do not simply co-exist, they constantly alternate. Perpetual change characterizes the relation of contradiction between good/evil by demonstrating the constant transition of being from good to evil and vice versa. Being is prospectively non-being, while non-being is potentially being. For Heraclitus, this constant change is necessary, he even considers that strife, which is one of the manifestations of evil, constitutes the becoming of the complex and complex whole, bringing change and the continuous renewal flow.

 Through the alternation of good and evil the end is fulfilled, as birth occurs which alternates with decay, constituting the real course of life and the essence of truth.[4]

 The life that permeates human existence as the thoroughness of its Being[5] is constantly moving as an intermediate reality, passing from good to bad and vice versa, just like man who follows its path in search of the meaning of existence and the value of life by opening as a whole in the world wondering if this world in which he lives, Here and Now, is his own. 

 The realization of its existence is accompanied by the vertigo of agony caused by the possibility of freedom which is compromised by the absurd certainty of impending death, the chronological fragmentation of eternity.

 Within this confrontation of the individual with freedom, according to Kierkegaard,[6] the possibility of sin is developed, as the possibility of freedom is an eternal enigma, causing man’s anxiety as to how to assume his relationship with the good and the evil which becomes synchronous with the mission of his body. 

 The certainty of man introduces him to an absurdity of questioning his freedom. this questioning pushes him into a dead-end situation, in which he experiences the loss of himself, since he does not take up his privileged relationship with nothingness, so as to transcend it by passing into Being, but remains there sinking into nothingness, being vulnerable to evil , as a result of which it is led to less perfection, as Spinoza emphasized in the Ethics,[7] who considered that evil and sorrow are impossible to understand through the essence of man. When his spirit is overwhelmed by negative physical influences, at the same time the body receives influences that dampen the power of his energy, as his action is not in accordance with his intimate nature. The individual is unable to stick to his Being, as a result of which he is shaken as a whole, often committing heinous acts that are against human nature. 

 Thus the human body cut off from its familiar nature, therefore from the Good, pays the contradiction of good/evil, passing through delusions in search of an answer to the riddle of life.

 The search for the answer to the riddle of life is arduous, just as the good is difficult and rare, especially in our day, in contrast to the Epicurean “good to be obtained” of Tetrapharmacus.

 The good is the basis of Socratic thought which is interwoven with the true knowledge to which the individual is led through the use of the Dialectical and Midwifery method. In this way, Socrates moves from the sphere of the relative to the sphere of universal certainty. The acquisition of knowledge, therefore of truth, is identified with virtue. The individual encloses the good by conquering knowledge, which highlights the identification of knowledge with virtue in Socratic thought, while ignorance with vice, as seen in the Platonic dialogue “Euthydemus”. Wisdom as a necessary condition of entrepreneurship includes success, the ability to reach one’s goal. Plato at this point gives an inner meaning to happiness as opposed to its usual meaning that it depends on external factors of chance and not on us.[8]

 The Good is the cause of all beauty and rightness, identified with light, because thanks to it, man comes out of delusion and is led to complete transparency, as presented through the Platonic dialogues, as we saw above in “Euthydemus”. In “Symposium” the good appears through love and beauty as interest in the good. In “Philebus”, a dialogue of Plato’s mature age, the perception of the good is connected with the harmony and symmetry between pleasure and wisdom.

 In the “State” the good is the culmination of ideas. From the supreme idea of ​​the Good spring all the ideas referred to in it. The Good in question is considered the highest of the sensible world and constitutes the guide of truth. It is the cause of all correctness and perfection identifying with complete transparency.

 The essence of Agatho (good, possession) naturally also concerned Aristotle. His philosophical thought about the good is developed mainly in the Nicomachean Ethics, defining it as the purpose of human actions, giving it a teleological character.[9] Therefore, when the person acts constantly with the good in mind, then the custom turns into the highest virtue that directs the person to bliss, the ultimate good for which no efforts and appetites are in vain. 

 “Because the many and the gifted speak of happiness, the good life and the good actions are considered blissful.”[10]Only in the virtuous life does the real, the essential pleasure exist. Of course, the virtuous life is an arduous process, as it requires effort and struggle, so that the individual, having fully grasped the essence of good and self-sufficiency, not dependent on meaningless and ephemeral pleasures, acting with the intention of good which through the act is transferred from the form of possibility in the form of thoroughness. Human’s actions characterize man as an entirely rational physicality. Man as a being acts according to his will through his body. His actions externalize his inner being. As Descartes underlines in his work “The passions of the soul”: “whatever is passion in the soul, is energy in the body“.[11]

 Passions are reflected in a person’s actions. Aristotle foresaw this, as can be seen in his work Rhetoric:[12] “And the passions, by which they change and differ towards judgments, are followed by sorrow and pleasure” and in book A of the work “On the Psyche”:[13] “Passions are reasons for » trying to demonstrate that any change that occurs in the inner reality due to the passions, becomes visible as a physical action.

 Man does both good and evil with his body, which is an intersubjective transmitter and receiver at the same time. Of course, it is not possible to characterize an act as good or bad based only on the result, but mainly on the basis of motivation. Based on Kantian philosophical thought, man must always act in such a way that the subjective opinion wants to become universal”.[14] Of course, a necessary condition for the subjective opinion to acquire the character of a universal law is the predominance of logic over the impulses, so that the actions of the individual to be genuinely moral free from the same end. 

 The human existence which presupposes a body, not as a simple material or machine, but as a complex intersubjective entity that is in the world, is spatial and temporal expressing both the physical and the human, both Being and Appearance, is therefore, for the Flesh, referring to Merleau Ponty, this complex human entity.[15]

 The question is how existence taps into the Heideggerian in-der-welt-sein Being in the World and how it assumes its relation to the hic et nunc. Man’s relationship with the world is a perpetual process of questioning that leads the individual to the enigma of life. The individual searches for an answer by trying to balance between being and non-being, Being and Zero, life and Death, often being seduced by the subjective-objective divide, which which Edmund Husserl foresaw[16] and which constitutes the deepest cause of the modern crisis of humanity. 

 The human being often does not assume a privileged relationship with his body, and therefore with reality. He withdraws from himself, closing the opening to the world. He is no longer in the world, he is not of the world, and much more probably it is not his body which he treats manipulatively, domineeringly, as a tool, as a means of realizing evil and with which he attempts to dominate other bodies. 

 The gloomy reality that we experience and the heinous events that follow one another declare that man is in the world,[17] but in a world of contradiction from which the human disappears.

 Perhaps it is time for man to seek his deepest self, to authentically experience his relationship with his body by redefining his place in the world and through philosophy to sculpt chaotic reality.

[1] Albert Camus, Ο Μύθος του ΣίσυφουLe Mythe de Sisyphe), μτφρΙάνη Λο Σκοκκο, εκδ. Αλεξ. Χ Ρούγκα, copyright: Ελικών, σ. 13.

[2] Παναγιώτης Δόικος, Kierkegaard και Molla Sadra, το ζήτημα της ύπαρξης και η ανατολική σκέψη, εκδ. Ρώμη Θεσσαλονίκη 2013, σ. 100.

[3] Ηράκλειτος, Τα Κοσμικά Ανάλεκτα, 46-44, Ν.Ν. Μπουγάς [Π],  ΠΑΠΥΡΟΣ  BRITANNICAT. 27, σ.. 150, copyright: 1978, 1980 Librairie LarousseEncyclopaedia Britannica Inc., 1984 Πάπυρος Γραφικαί Τέχναι ΑΕ, Αθήνα.

[4] Σωκράτης Δεληβογιατζής, Ζητήματα Διαλεκτικής, εκδ. Ερωδιός (4η έκδοση), 2010, Θεσσαλονίκη, ΙΙΙ, σ σ. 138-139.

[5] Étienne GilsonΤο Ον και η Ουσία, ( L’ Etre et L’ Essence, 1948) μτφρ. Θάνος Σαμαρτζής, εκδ. Πανεπιστημιακές εκδόσεις Κρήτης, 2009, ΙΙΙ, σ. 208.

[6] ο.π. Παναγιώτης Δόικος, 100.

[7] Spinoza, Ηθική ( ETHICA Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata), μτφρ Ευάγγελος Βανταράκης, Εισαγωγή Βασιλική Γρηγοροπούλου, εκδ. Εκκρεμές, 2009, Αθήνα, IV, πρόταση 65, σ. 429.

[8] Πλάτωνος Ευθύδημος,(μτφρ. Ηλία Κ. Λάγιου), εκδ. Ι.Ν. Ζαχαρόπουλου, 1956, Αθήνα, 279d, σ σ. 52-53.

[9] Αριστοτέλους Ηθικά Νικομάχεια, μτφρ. Δημήτριος Λυπουρλής, εκδ. Ζήτρος, 2006, Θεσσαλονίκη (γι αυτήν την έκδοση το ΒΗΜΑ/ ΑΛΤΕΡ ΕΓΚΟ ΑΕ), 1094a, 1, σ σ. 120-121.

[10] ο.π. Αριστοτέλους Ηθικά Νικομάχεια.

[11] Rene DescartesΤα Πάθη της Ψυχής, μτφρ. Γιάννης Πρελορέντζος, εκδ. Κριτική, 1996, 2017, Αθήνα, Άρθρο 2, σ. 96.

[12] Αριστοτέλους Ρητορική, μτφρ. Ηλ. Ηλιού, εκδ. Ε&Μ Ζαχαρόπουλου Ε.Π.Ε, Αθήνα, Β’ 1, 1378a 5-27, σ σ. 172-173.

[13] Αριστοτέλους  Περί Ψυχής, μτφρ. Β.Ν. Τατάκη, εκδ. Ε&Μ Ζαχαρόπουλου Ε.Π.Ε, Αθήνα, Α’, 403a, 15-20, σ σ. 28-29.

[14] Immanuel KantΤα θεμέλια της Μεταφυσικής των ηθών, μτφρ. Γιάννη Τζαβάρα, εκδ. Δωδώνη, Αθήνα- Γιάννενα, 1984, Ι, σ σ, 36-37.

[15] ο.π. Σωκράτης Δεληβογιατζής, ΙΙ, σ σ. 92-93.

[16] Edmund HusserlΗ Κρίση της Ευρωπαϊκής Ανθρωπότητας,[ Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentalePhänomenologieEine Einleitung in die phänomenologische Philosophie] μτφρ. Παύλος Κόντος, εκδ. Εκκρεμές, 2011, Αθήνα, σ σ. 20-21.

[17] Maurice Merleau PontyΗ Φαινομενολογία της Αντίληψης,  [Phénoménologie de la Perception]

  μτφρ. Κική Καψαμπέλη, εκδ. Νήσος, 2016, Αθήνα, σ σ. 24-26, IV  270-286.

Thomae Ragia

Thomae Ragia was born in Thessaloniki. She completed her undergraduate studies in the department of Education and Literature of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. She also holds a MA degree in Systematic Philosophy. Since 2019 She is a PhD candidate at the same university focusing on the field of Philosophical Anthropology, Dialectics and Phenomenology. She is also engaged in Poetry and has published three poetry collections.

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