Mad or bad?

Jan Hus being burned at the stake

Image via Wikipedia

I don’t want to write about “mad or bad” but I can’t get it out of my mind – so here goes. I suspect I will come up with more questions than I do answers.

A man has thrown his four-year old daughter off a bridge to her death. He pleaded insanity and was charged with murder. The jury took its time in coming to its decision. I would not want to have been in their shoes and having to decide one way or the other. Was he mad or bad? The decision by the jury is that he is a murderer.

I know this debate is as eternal as good and evil but are we any closer to resolving it? Do psychiatrists have the formula to determine if someone is willfully bad (evil) and cannot control their behaviour. I have known of psychiatrists to misdiagnosis patients, partly because the patients can be skilled at displaying the symptoms required to be labelled depressed, manic, paranoid etc. Or the psychiatrist can just get it wrong sometimes.

How can evil be diagnosed? Given that different cultures and religions call different actions to be evil, how can the definition be universal? Witches were burnt at the stake once. In the 21st Century, in some countries women are severely punished for seemingly minor infringements of their culture/religion.

Something believed to be a deviation in the past is broadly accepted as normal today, such as homosexuality. Now gender issues are part of government policies and rightly so.

So…what is believed to be good, here and now, may be quite different somewhere else tomorrow!

Enough for today 🙂



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