Wednesday 6 July 2011

Evil is as BattleTech Does?

Over on the Classic BattleTech Forums there has been a certain amount of banter about evil in the in game universe with particular respect to two of the developed powers that people can play. This made me think about what is evil, or what makes something evil?

One definition of evil is that it is something defined by some source or another. For instance, from deities, religion, nature and evolution, morality, or from common sense, whatever that means? Such an approach can be described as one of moral absolutism. Here if an action is wrong, then regardless of any good that might arise, it remains a wrong thing to do.

The dichotomous opposite would be that there is no such thing as evil per se. So killing someone is neither right or wrong. Obviously, the consequences will depend on whether or not the action takes place within a framework where the rules permit, or do not permit such an action, and therefore the term evil is something we create to describe the breaking of rules that have been made by mankind.

Another stance is to look at evil from the perspective of moral relativism, which leads to the position that what is evil is a subjective product of local customs, mores and prejudice. To me this seems so open minded as to be a position where one has no brain because it has fallen out.

Finally, another approach to the definition of evil is to come from the position that one has to compromise between the absolute and the relativist position to find a third way. This way posits that morality has to be flexible and one must finds ways of measuring happiness and suffering to find the common denominator of what is considered evil.

Needless to say all of these arguments are rooted in ethics and philosophy and can make for an interesting discussion in any group, depending on the definition of the word interesting?

Within the BattleTech universe background I think that one can see that all the majors powers have done things that would be considered evil from at least one of the above four perspectives. Depending on one's beliefs the individual details of the various evils will appeal, or disgust you accordingly. Therefore I am of the opinion that any Inner Sphere polity that either all are evil, or none are truly evil.


  1. I'm in the Rule Utilitarian/Consequensitialist camp myself, which I believe would fit the third way approach you describe. In college I took Moral Philosophy with kids 10 years younger than myself and generally found myself the only person not considered a Hedonist or Denotologist.

  2. It's amazing that a game of giant stomping robots can engender discussion ranging from game theory through to the philosophy of what is ethical. No wonder I still play after all these years.

  3. Always figured what ever faction thought they were the epitome of good and righteous thought, all the other guys are puppy kicking evil bastards

  4. I tend to view true evil as purposely taking actions that, when taken on a grand scale by all sides, would end humanity. So murder is bad because if there is murder on a grand scale eventually humanity ends. Other than true evil everything else is just a difference in custom or religion or what not, despite how wrong it might seem.

  5. DevianID: A good working definition, and one could make an argument that was exactly the position all the Houses of the Inner Sphere had taken up to the end of the 3rd Succession War. Only in universe changes have prevented the end of the star faring of humanity in the Inner Sphere.

  6. Evil is locking me in a room full of new Battletech miniatures and paint, but not giving me a paintbrush.

    Ashley: I'd like to send/show you something - can you give me an address? Contact me at Trebuchet3025 @AT@ gmail .dot. com

  7. You've got mail... ;-)

    At Fred: Surely you mean kittens, as they are cuter than puppies.

    At John: I tend to consider myself a pragmatic realist.