Damn, you are really going to make me fight for this one aren’t you Xwing?
Alright here goes. Crime and punishment are not only the basis of morality, but also based off of morality. Let’s look at things from a natural order point of view.
I ask that we can make two assumptions about human beings, and I’d like to focus on the argument that these lead to first. If these assumptions go completely against some base philosophy, then we can try to work that out, but otherwise, please work with me on this:
1-human beings are a social animal
2- because human beings are social, they exist more happily in the presence of other human beings
[I know that there are some major flaws to this, and it can easily be nitpicked, but it makes for a damn good starting point, so lets move from here rather than argue at that point.]
Living in the presence of another creature that is dangerous is a bad idea, thats why most people tend not to enjoy living in the panda den at the zoo, because their lives are threatened constantly be the panda. If a person poses the same threat to another person that the panda poses, the threatened person would sanely wish to be removed from the presence of the threat.
There is an obvious problem with this scenario when people pose threats to each other, but simultaneously find themselves drawn into community. At a primal, subconcious level, we all recognize this subtle threat that others pose, and usually we can recognize that we too pose a similar threat. And so a social hierarchy is born, in which each person accepts the level of threat they are willing to allow imposed upon themselves and limits the threat that they impose upon others. If someone oversteps the bounds of danger that another as defined as their limit, then the person who has become to much of a threat will lose their role within the community, not by punishment, but by the nature of the beast.
And so, the very basic levels of morality are defined by how much of a threat each person is willing to accept from each other person. Then those limits, which we place upon each other are turned upon ourselves (if we are moral people) and we do not impose upon others to any extent further than we allow them to impose us.
So yes, there is a benefit for being good, but it is so instinctual that it is almost invisible to us. If you are good, people like you, if you are bad, people dislike you, is the basic concept behind it. Now you might argue that some morally horrible people are well liked, and in response I will point out that it is a rare occurance when someone severly threatens another’s place in life and is liked by the person threatened. More often than not, such ‘bad’ people are liked by people who either fail to see the persons threats, or do not feel threatened themselves, and are therefor immoral themselves.
All morals and ethics stem from this basic (and formerly unspoken agreement) not to threaten another person. Now it could have spiraled out of control since the term threaten [in the sense that I have been using it] can mean almost anything that puts another’s health, property, social worth, or emotions at risk of being diminished. Instead of getting this bad however, a measure of conviction and desire to survive kicked in and decided that sometimes people get hurt, and nothing can be done to stop it. So we step back our morality to the point where we decide that a “moral person” is one who does not go out of their way to threaten others in a hostile way, but instead attempts to inspire friendly competition when they threaten another’s place in life. This person will not allow themselves to become threatened by their own inaction, but will not intentionally take action that is harmful to others according to their own definition of what is harmful.
Ultimately, wrong can be summed up in the phrase “wrong is what other people do when we feel that our value or place in life is threatened by the actions of others.” And evil can be summed up with the phrase “evil is when we do things that we think are wrong.” Meanwhile good is best left to the void, but can sort of be specified as “acting in a way such that it strengthens the communal bonds within a given social order.” So yeah, good can be evil. That is my specialty.