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Encyclopedia of Evil Claims, Claimants, Counter-claims, and Sigils

Proposed facility in support of current global strategic priorities (Part #1)


Executive summary
Search interface adaptation to profiling evil
Funding possibilities for evil insight
Existence of evil as authoritatively claimed to be an overriding strategic concern
Framing by others of claimants of evil as evil

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Executive summary

Considerable significance is currently attached, at the highest level of authority, to the determining role of evil with respect to ongoing global crises and those recently past. As declared by Hannah Arendt in 1945: The problem of evil will be the fundamental question of postwar intellectual life in Europe (Essays in Understanding, 1994, p. 134)

The concern here is to provide a context within which such claims can be more systematically recognized, analyzed and discussed. This follows from the observation that, despite the frequency of references to evil, claims regarding its manifestation are not well-documented. Given its assumed importance in justifying strategic initiatives in practice, there is therefore a strong case for exploring ways of holding such claims more creatively and fruitfully. The question here is how to frame the disparate current perceptions of evil.

However, rather than envisaging massive investment in a new documentary initiative, the argument here explores ways of benefitting from advances in information technology. With limited investment, these could enable a specially designed search interface, namely a means of reframing the search results in terms of "evil", as outlined in Annex 1: Search interface adaptation to profiling evil. Such a facility could benefit from an initiative over decades, now taking the form of an online Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, using its database on world problems as a primary source.

This frames the question of the extent to which the "problems" claimed to exist by international constituencies can be reinterpreted as constituting claims for a manifestation of "evil" -- at least in the eyes of some. That initiative notably features specific articulations claiming the problematic nature of an issue, as well as counter-claims strongly questioning the validity of the arguments made. The search facility could also benefit from results accessible through other search engines to mine specific references to "evil" in relation to any issue conventionally framed as a "problem". The funding for such a search interface is relatively modest, as discussed in Annex 2: Funding possibilities for insight into evil.

An indication of authoritative claims for the determining role of evil as a challenge to global order is presented in Annex 3: Existence of evil as authoritatively claimed to be an overriding strategic concern. Especially significant at this time is the use of "evil" to render unnecessary, inadequate and irrelevant any more conventional explanatory process. To the extent that the latter may call for comprehension of greater systemic complexity, as cultivated by knowledge elites, use of "evil" offers the simplest of explanations readily comprehensible to the population in general, especially in a democratic society with a populist dimension.

Ironically the controversial real-world problems, especially challenging to conventional methodologies, are now described as wicked problems by the policy sciences. It is of course the case that religion readily associates "wrong" with "evil".-- especially in the case of dissident belief. This pattern is echoed in political systems in which dissidence may be as severely condemned. With respect to governance, it is in this sense that a degree of transition is evident from the neutrality of "problem", as has been conventionally favoured in the management sciences, to "evil". The latter offers a succinct clarification of any issue requiring little further reflection. Evil usefully embodies a value dimension and a simple indication of cause -- both being a challenge in more conventional terms.

It is of course also the case that the attribution of "evil" by one constituency to the initiatives and motivations of another is typically matched by counter-claims -- both denying the merit of that judgement and arguing that the attribution is more significantly appropriate to the constituency making the claim, as indicated in Annex 4: Framing by others of claimants of evil as evil. The situation is therefore highly dynamic and fluid in documentary terms, usefully framed as "slippery", if not "serpentine" -- itself often considered a characteristic of "evil". Rather than being "straightforward", any such exploration is often seen as "bent" and full of "curves", alien to conventional logic.

Clearly claims regarding evil are not a focus of the mainstream disciplines, especially the natural sciences, for which it is necessarily as much a delusion as any preoccupation with the divine, as discussed in Annex 5: Epistemological and definitional challenges to profiling evil. From that perspective, the argument of Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion, 2006) implies a complementary argument regarding Satanic Delusion -- currently one primarily explored from a religious perspective. Use of the term "evil" is however not infrequent in the pronouncement of judgement in court proceedings -- irrespective of whether it can be considered as existing or defined in legal terms. Far greater attention is of course given to the determining role of that dimension by theology and in any associated legal system (canon law, sharia, etc). Typically it then features in the condemnation of heretics, unbelievers, blasphemers and apostates.

The closest that knowledge elites -- the sciences -- tend to come to acknowledgement of a quality resembling "evil", is the declaration that some conclusion is "wrong" or "nonsense" , but with little capacity to manage information on "wrongness" and the ignorance from which it may arise. Curiously academic debate is typically characterized by constituencies declaring each other to be "wrong" (purveyors of "nonsense" by implication) -- in some cases not even wrong. There is an emphasis on marginalizing minority perspectives in favour of a mainstream held to be unquestionably "right".

An extensive preliminary clarification of the proposed methodology can be derived by using as a "template" that of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, as discussed in Annex 6: Adapting a proven problem profiling methodology to profiling of evil and Annex 7: Employing a problem profile as a template for an evil profile.

Of particular significance to this approach is the extensive work on detection of "vicious loops" of different lengths by which the world problems are systematically connected, each aggravating the next -- and on the manner in which such loops are themselves interconnected to form larger complexes (Feedback Loop Analysis in the Encyclopedia Project, 2000; Loop Mining in the Encyclopedia of World Problems, 2015).

As discussed in Annex 8: Evil loops and sigils as a pattern language, such loop interlocking is perhaps appropriately characteristic of the wickedness attributed to so-called wicked problems. From an "evil perspective", these might well be recognized in terms of the sigils by which patterns of evil were identified in the grimoires of some traditional approaches to evil -- and in their recent reframings (as in the variants of the Book of Shadows).

It is appropriate to note that the absence of a colon following "Evil" in the title of this proposal introduces a degree of ambiguity which may be either misleading or appropriate to the challenge. Indeed "claims", "claimants" or "counter-claims" may themselves be perceived as evil -- as with the sigils.

Responding to the challenge of evil is widely perceived as especially dangerous and inherently problematic. In the light of the proposed facility, and the methodology outlined, possible implications for a more proactive approach are indicated in Annex 9: Engaging fruitfully with deadly opposition and fear of transformation


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