Malice and Ignorance

I was recently introduced to a concept referred to as Hanlon’s razor, which states: “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” It’s a marvelous and liberating concept, really, one that provides and efficient philosophical razor for eliminating unlikely explanations for human behavior.

Let’s take it apart for a moment.

“Never attribute to malice…”

If you assume that all wrongdoing in the world is intentional, you eventually come to the conclusion that the world is a terrible, cruel, dark place and that human beings are fundamentally evil. Of course there are elements of darkness, of evil in action all over the world and undoubtedly in each one of us to the degree that we have not allowed ourselves to be fully redeemed from the tendency to choose expediency over integrity, but taking that to mean that mankind is fundamentally flawed or fundamentally evil seems to me to go too far. It leaves no exits in a world where “l’enfer, c’est les autres” (“hell is other people”) as Sartre said so eloquently. Such thoughts constrain to nihilishm.

And the second part:

“…that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

If anything, we as a species are plagued by ignorance, misunderstanding and lethargy more than we are by malice, resentment, and bitterness. While the latter qualities do seem to be surging in a world where everyone is given virtually unrestricted access to a variety of free, globally-reaching platforms, the tab will come eventually come due in conscience. Even the perfect crime—the perfectly rationalized withdrawal of love or deviation from truth—does not go unpunished. Violating the laws of being, which are rooted in love and truth, always results in torment, disease and eventual death, unless there is deep and meaningful repentance.

The moment you recognize that the overwhelming majority of foolish and hurtful things people do to one another is primarily due to ignorance and not malice is the moment you see that there is hope for mankind. It is much more difficult to reform than to educate, isn’t it?

We need one another and we each have something of exceptional value to bring to the world. We need those who speak truth from a place of steadfast orientation in love, but more importantly, we need people who govern themselves accordingly.

Will you dare to rise to the call? To do anything less is, well, just plain stupid.

Photo by Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash

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