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The ultimate test ... to see the good in evil and the evil in good.

FRANK HERBERT, Heretics of Dune

Being against evil doesn't make you good.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY, Islands in the Stream

Evil seeks out evil.

ROY THOMAS & CLARA NOTO, Red Sonja, vol. 1, no. 2

Men may keep a sort of level of good, but no man has ever been able to keep on one level of evil.

G. K. CHESTERTON, "The Flying Stars," The Innocence of Father Brown

No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.

MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY, A Vindication of the Rights of Men

I preferred my villains to be evil and stay that way, to act like Dracula rather than Frankenstein's monster, who ruined everything by handing that peasant girl a flower. He sort of made up for it by drowning her a few minutes later, but, stil, you couldn't look at him the same way again.

DAVID SEDARIS, When You Are Engulfed in Flames

The wicked know that if the ill they do be of sufficient horror men will not speak against it. That men have just enough stomach for small evils and only these will they oppose.


All spirits are enslaved which serve things evil.

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, Prometheus Unbound

If there is good to be said, the writer should say it. If there is bad to be said, he should say it in a way that reflects the truth that, though we see the evil, we choose to continue among the living.

JOHN GARDNER, The Art of Fiction

Life is composed of lights and shadows, and we would be untruthful, insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows. Most things are good, and they are the strongest things; but there are evil things too, and you are not doing a child a favor by trying to shield him from reality. The important thing is to teach a child that good can always triumph over evil.

WALT DISNEY, Deeds Rather Than Words

Evil is retributive: every trespass slips fetters on the will, holds the soul in durance till contrition and repentance restore it to liberty.


Length of days with an evil heart is only length of misery.

C. S. LEWIS, The Magician's Nephew

The world was new each day for God so made it daily. Yet it contained within it all the evils as before, no more, no less.


A check on itself, evil subserves the economies of good, as it were a condiment to give relish to good.


In some situations there is no absolute good or evil, simply points of view.


All the evil that is tormenting the world seemed to him to be concentrated in a "red flower," in one red flower. It was but necessary to tear it down, and the incessant, heart-rending cries and moans which rise to the indifferent sky from all points of the earth, like its natural breathing, would be silenced. The evil of the world, he believed, lay in the evil will and in the madness of the people. They themselves were to blame for being unhappy, and they could be happy if they wished. This seemed so clear and simple that Max was dumfounded in his amazement at human stupidity. Humanity reminded him of a crowd huddled together in a spacious temple and panic-stricken at the cry of "Fire!"

LEONID ANDREYEV, "Love, Faith and Hope"

You would not easily guess
All the modes of distress
Which torture the tenants of earth;
And the various evils,
Which like so many devils,
Attend the poor souls from their birth.


It is not easy for some men to know they have done evil, for reasoning and honor are often clouded by pride.


The theory of evil being merely permitted by God, is unspeakably absurd; for, if he permits any act, he either does the act himself, or some other power, who is not God, does it; but no other power, which is not God, can possibly do anything whatever; for then there would exist an operative power, acting from itself, independently of God, a power of the Divine Order, only weaker -- which is absurd by the hypothesis that God is absolute.

WILLIAM BATCHELDER GREENE, Remarks on the Science of History

When anything is in the presence of evil, but is not as yet evil, the presence of good arouses the desire of good in that thing; but the presence of evil, which makes a thing evil, takes away the desire and friendship of the good; for that which was once both good and evil has now become evil only, and the good has no friendship with evil.

PLATO, Lysis

Evil is movement towards void.

DON DELILLO, Great Jones Street

There's evil in the world, all right. Being aware of it makes you a realist, not a paranoid.

DEAN KOONTZ, Your Heart Belongs to Me

What we are accustomed to decry as great social evils, will, for the most part, be found to be only the out-growth of our own perverted life; and though we may endeavor to cut them down and extirpate them by means of law, they will only spring up again with fresh luxuriance in some other form, unless the conditions of human life and character are radically improved.


No evil can happen to a good man, neither in life nor after death.

PLATO, The Apology

Most of us have learned to be dispassionate about evil, to look it in the face and find, as often as not, our own grinning reflections with which we do not argue, but good is another matter. Few have stared at that long enough to accept that its face too is grotesque, that in us the good is something under construction. The modes of evil usually receive worthy expression. The modes of good have to be satisfied with a cliche or a smoothing down that will soften their real look.

FLANNERY O'CONNOR, Mystery and Manners

No man commits evil for the sake of it; even the Devil himself has some farther design in sinning, than barely the wicked part of it.

DANIEL DEFOE, Robinson Crusoe

Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.

G. K. CHESTERTON, Illustrated London News, Oct. 23, 1909

Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it.

BALTASAR GRACIAN, The Art of Worldly Wisdom

The evil you do to others you may expect in return.

PUBLILIUS SYRUS, The Moral Sayings of Publilius Syrus

There is very much in the world that is bad. But usually the attempt to defeat evil engenders more evil. I advise you to do good; that is the only way to win the victory.


The idea that an unbridgeable chasm separates good people from bad people is a source of comfort for at least two reasons. First, it creates a binary logic, in which Evil is essentialized. Most of us perceive Evil as an entity, a quality that is inherent in some people and not in others. Bad seeds ultimately produce bad fruits as their destinies unfold. We define evil by pointint to the really bad tyrants in our era, such as Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, and other political leaders who have orchestrated mass murders.... Upholding a Good-Evil dichotomy also takes "good people" off the responsibility hook. They are freed from even considering their possible role in creating, sustaining, perpetuating, or conceding to the conditions that contribute to delinquency, crime, vandalism, teasing, bullying, rape, torture, terror, and violence. "It's the way of the world, and there's not much that can be done to change it, certainly not by me."

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

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Read William McEwen's essay: On the Inevitable Misery of the Wicked


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