Eth8. Reasons to believe jazz is not evil
- 1 Discussion
- 2 Critique of Conceptions of Evil
- 3 How this applies to jazz
- 4 Internet Resources on Jazz and Evil
- 5 NOTES
Critique of Conceptions of Evil
No one can make an argument as to whether jazz is or is not evil without defining evil first.
Objections to evil as the absence of good
Wikipedia: Evil reports that evil has multiple meanings, including being the opposite or absense of good. This is a poor conception of evil and is mistaken. The absence of good could just mean neutral, but not have any negative connotations. A tiny smooth rock on the beach is neither good nor bad, so there is an absence of good, yet there is no evil involved concerning the rock.
CONCLUSION: Therefore, evil cannot be the lack of good since evil requires some additional negative aspects, such as creating unnecessary pain, or acting immorally, etc.
Critique of Spinoza's understanding of good and evil
Baruch/Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677) gives definitions for good and evil:
- “1. By good, I understand that which we certainly know is useful to us.”
- “2. By evil, on the contrary, I understand that which we certainly know hinders us from possessing anything that is good. (bold and bold italic not in original)
Who does Spinoza include in his "we" and "us"
Right away we have a problem of interpreting what Spinoza means and to whom does he refer when he talks about "we" and "us." Who is "us"? The candidates for us potentially include kinds from the list below. The list states who 'us' might be limited to and who would be excluded who ought to be included.
- Wikipedia: Human informs us that humans “are a species of highly intelligent primates. They are the only extant members of the subtribe Hominina and—together with chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans—are part of the family Hominidae (the great apes, or hominids). Humans are terrestrial animals, characterized by their erect posture and bipedal locomotion; high manual dexterity and heavy tool use compared to other animals; open-ended and complex language use compared to other animal communications; larger, more complex brains than other primates; and highly advanced and organized societies.” Genetically, humans “like most animals, are a diploid eukaryotic species. Each somatic cell has two sets of 23 chromosomes, each set received from one parent; gametes have only one set of chromosomes, which is a mixture of the two parental sets. Among the 23 pairs of chromosomes there are 22 pairs of autosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes. Like other mammals, humans have an XY sex-determination system, so that females have the sex chromosomes XX and males have XY.
- “No two humans—not even monozygotic twins—are genetically identical. Genes and environment influence human biological variation in visible characteristics, physiology, disease susceptibility and mental abilities. The exact influence of genes and environment on certain traits is not well understood. Compared to the great apes, human gene sequences—even among African populations—are remarkably homogeneous. On average, genetic similarity between any two humans is 99.5%-99.9%. There is about two to three times more genetic diversity within the wild chimpanzee population than in the entire human gene pool.”
- “A rough and incomplete human genome was assembled as an average of a number of humans in 2003, and currently efforts are being made to achieve a sample of the genetic diversity of the species (see International HapMap Project). By present estimates, humans have approximately 22,000 genes. The variation in human DNA is very small compared to other species, possibly suggesting a population bottleneck during the Late Pleistocene (around 100,000 years ago), in which the human population was reduced to a small number of breeding pairs. By comparing mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited only from the mother, geneticists have concluded that the last female common ancestor whose genetic marker is found in all modern humans, the so-called mitochondrial Eve, must have lived around 90,000 to 200,000 years ago.”
- EXCLUDED: All persons who are not homo sapiens sapiens could possibly include any extinct species of archaic humans, that includes hominids, Neanderthals, or Denisovans, Homo rhodesiensis (300–125 ka), Homo heidelbergensis (600–200 ka), Homo naledi, Homo ergaster, and Homo antecessor. Other animal types that may be persons include chimpanzees, gorillas, Martians 👽, all technologically sophisticated outer space aliens 👾 such as Spock's father Sarek, Vulcan Ambassador to the United Federation of Planets 🪐, angels, leprechauns, fairies, trolls, and giants. It would also eliminate any non-biological persons, such as artificial intelligence self-conscious android robots who can pass the Turing test such as Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek, or everyone in the list of humanoid aliens.
- 💠 (RB) Rational beings, who strive to conform one's beliefs with one's reasons to believe, and one's actions with one's reasons for action.
- 💠 (RB) Rational beings, who strive to conform one's beliefs with one's reasons to believe, and one's actions with one's reasons for action.
- 💠 (SC) Self-conscious beings, recognize their own identity and their own character, feelings, motives, or desires with both internal self-awareness or external self-awareness. Self-conscious beings can be found in three areas. First is bodily self-awareness, including proprioception and sensation, allowing animals to recognize they are different from the environment. That recognition explains why animals do not eat themselves. “The second type of self-awareness in animals is social self-awareness. This type of awareness is seen in highly social animals and is the awareness that they have a role within themselves in order to survive. This type of awareness allows animals to interact with each other. The final type of self-awareness is introspective awareness responsible for animals understanding their own feelings, desires, and beliefs.”
- 💠 (P) Person is not a biological category at all. Biology is irrelevant. Any entity that satisfies the relevant criteria for personhood qualifies regardless of biological, or even physical, make-up.
“According to philosopher Mary Anne Warren (1973), "the traits which are most central to the concept of personhood . . . are, very roughly, the following: 1. consciousness . . . and in particular the capacity to feel pain; 2. reasoning (the developed capacity to solve new and relatively complex problems); 3. self-motivated activity (activity which is relatively independent of either genetic or direct external control); 4. the capacity to communicate, by whatever means, messages of an indefinite variety of types . . . ; 5. the presence of self-concepts, and self-awareness. . . ."
Warren thinks that these traits comprise what we mean by a person in the full-blown sense, but that a being need not have all of these attributes in order properly to be considered a person in some sense. I think that most of us would agree with that. We might lose the ability to communicate and yet still remain the same essential person. And if self-motivated activity were truly a necessary condition for personhood, we’d all be in trouble some of the time!
But Warren seems to believe that reasoning is both a necessary and sufficient condition for personhood. This raises the intriguing possibility that some non-human animals like chimps and dolphins might qualify as persons, but also the disturbing implication that some human beings would not qualify, such as the severely retarded or demented. In other words, if we set the bar as high as Warren has, we logically exclude many vulnerable human populations from the category of persons, and thus from the rights we ascribe to persons, which is very troubling.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
Spinoza would be surprised as well as shocked to discover that scientist's experiments in self-recognition reveal that chimpanzees and other apes compare the most to humans with the most convincing findings and straightforward evidence in the relativity of self-awareness in animals so far. In addition to other primates, dolphins were put to a similar test and achieved the same results when psycho-biologist at the New York Aquarium Diana Reiss discovered that bottlenose dolphins can recognize themselves in mirrors. Elephants could also recognize themselves in a mirror. Researchers used the mark test or mirror test on magpies and they also passed the self-recognition test.
Certainly known requirement unnecessary for good or evil
Both of Spinoza's definitions suffer from the same defect. Suppose that U is extremely useful to us. Would this make U be good? Spinoza must answer that according to his definition of good U would not be good unless it were also "certainly known." This epistemological requirement is not required for something to be useful to us. Unknown things can be (potentially) useful to us before they are discovered or known. "Useful to us" means useful to beings with minds. Spinoza's definitions require that the useful items must be "certainly known" to the users to qualify as good. The same problem is inherent in his definition for evil. Evil things can happen to people in situations where no one knows anything. A lack of knowledge cannot prevent evil from occurring to people.
Problems for hindrance theories of evil
“impeding, stopping, preventing, or the like; the state of being hindered; a person or thing that hinders” and something hinders when it “causes a delay, interruption, or difficulty by hampering or impeding. Hindrances can prevent from someone or something from doing, acting, or happening. A hindrance may be an object or an impediment.”
The Spinozistic equation, if we ignore the requirement for being "certainly known," is that the good is the useful while evil hinders possession of it (the useful).
The equation has several problems. Hindering does not always prevent success. If one eventually succeeds despite the hindrance then this cannot be as bad as were there to be complete prevention of success. This distinction requires recognition of relative versus absolute evil. Absolute evil cannot be overcome by definition since it requires complete prevention from ever finding the useful.
Are there many things in the universe of which we are unaware yet that would be useful to us, especially if we knew about it with certainty? Yes, there is potentially an infinite number of such discoveries. Are all of the possibly useful to us things in the universe going to eventually be discovered by us? No, they are not. On Spinoza's conception of absolute evil, the universe itself exhibits absolute evil since its vastness and potential infinity is a hindrance to our finding out these useful things. This does not sound right, therefore this is an objection to Spinoza's definition of evil.
“Although the Higgs field exists everywhere, proving its existence was far from easy. In principle, it can be proved to exist by detecting its excitations, which manifest as Higgs particles (the Higgs boson), but these are extremely difficult to produce and detect, due to the energy required to produce them and their very rare production even if the energy is sufficient. It was therefore several decades before the first evidence of the Higgs boson was found. Particle colliders, detectors, and computers capable of looking for Higgs bosons took more than 30 years (c. 1980–2010) to develop.
The importance of this fundamental question led to a 40-year search, and the construction of one of the world's most expensive and complex experimental facilities to date, CERN's Large Hadron Collider, in an attempt to create Higgs bosons and other particles for observation and study. On 4 July 2012, the discovery of a new particle with a mass between 125 and 127 GeV/c2 was announced; physicists suspected that it was the Higgs boson. Since then, the particle has been shown to behave, interact, and decay in many of the ways predicted for Higgs particles by the Standard Model, as well as having even parity and zero spin, two fundamental attributes of a Higgs boson. This also means it is the first elementary scalar particle discovered in nature. . . . Higgs boson is also very unstable, decaying into other particles almost immediately.” (bold not in original)
The Higgs boson has remained hidden to humans for more than 300,000 years--as long as humans have been in existence until it was discovered in 2012 and fairly confirmed in 2013. Now, that's what you can call a 300,000 year old hindrance. Was it evil? Intuitively, it seems not because otherwise the universe is intrinsically evil as its complexity and immensity are a hindrance to us finding out everything that might be useful. Since no one thinks that reality is itself intrinsically evil, Spinoza's definition for evil is wrong.
Evil as wickedness
Another conception of evil is that of wickedness where a wicked person commits an evil act consciously and of free will. Evil actions are those that should not be done. Evil in this sense is the opposite of good and occurs when someone acts immorally. Immorality is a violation of moral laws and refers to agents doing or thinking something they know or believe to be wrong.
How this applies to jazz
The attribution of evil to jazz has numerous possible applications. Categories of what the adjective evil may apply to cover evil musicians, evil music, evil consequences, evil origins, evil aspects, or evil environments of jazz.
- ➢ Can each attribution be shown false?
Assume evil means wickedness and wicked acts are ones willingly and knowingly perpetrated by bad people for immoral purposes.
- ➢ Are jazz musicians ever wicked while playing jazz?
No more than any other profession.
- ➢ What would it mean for the music itself to be evil?
Music cannot do anything intentionally therefore music itself cannot knowingly cause any immoral activities. Therefore, music cannot be wicked. Nevertheless, a critic may argue that the musicians can unintentionally or intentionally promote bad things with their music.
- ➢ Can music have evil consequences?
Music having evil consequences has to mean that when music is played it causes bad things to happen. What counts as bad things? Anything that is immoral would be bad, or cause unnecessary suffering.
- ➢ Does jazz music cause immoral things to occur?
It would seem that in the past over the first thirty years of jazz's existence that some people believed that listening to jazz caused immoral behavior.
- ➢ Which immoral behavior is the most likely?
Possible immoral behaviors that listening to jazz might cause often claimed by critics:
Because jazz emphasizes sensual harmonies and rhythm it:
- promotes lascivious and licentious behavior in both women and men
- encourages sexual intercourse (outside of marriage)
- encourages prostitution
- encourages physical and carnal appetites that make people act on instinct to possess the desired thing so as to quench these wants. Such appetites include desire for wealth, power, lust, or greed.
- “Jazz compositions may contain at most 10% syncopation; the remainder must consist of a natural legato movement devoid of the hysterical rhythmic reverses characteristic of the barbarian races and conductive to dark instincts alien to the German people (so-called riffs).” (bold not in original)
- fraternization between the races
- “Harry Anslinger, commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics between 1930 and 1962, more or less invented the war on drugs with his reefer madness war on jazz. He said it [jazz] sounded like “the jungles in the dead of night” and could “lure white women.” (bold not in original)
The music encourages emotionalism so it can cause:
- frenzied or psychotic behavior
- “an entirely different type of music might invoke savage instincts.”
- “Jazz is worse than the saloon! Why?” I asked.”
- “Because it affects our young people especially,” said Mr. Bott. “It is degrading. It lowers all the moral standards. Unlike liquor, a great deal of its harm is direct and immediate. But it also leads to undesirable things. The jazz is too often followed by the joy-ride.” (bold not in original.)
Jazz has evil origins:
Assessment of the evils alleged of jazz
The bulk of the criticisms above were made by prudes from the 1920's who likely had Victorian morality and were strong social conservatives. How do we assess their complaints from the point of view of the 21st century?
Take the above complaints against jazz in order and consider the truth of their claims.
Does jazz cause dancing 🕺? It can, but much modern jazz is not as easy to dance to as it may have been in the 1920's when the music was ragtime or popular music with a syncopated beat. Dancing can possibly be considered a way to encourage interaction between the sexes and this can lead to possible sexual activity. Does this strike most people from the Westernized 21st century as problematic? Generslly speaking, it does not. How to prove this? Take a survey of current opinion about dancing.
This website argues that some dancing as found in the Bible can be acceptable, especially if it is done without any partner of the opposite sex. On the other hand, this particular website frowns upon dancing if it leads to “examples of how dancing can become sinful and even cause others to sin. If it is associated with false worship, a drunken party or seductive entertainment it is sinful.”
Dancing to jazz need not lead to any false worship. Neither is jazz always surrounded by alcohol as there are some liquor free jazz establishments such as "The Jazz Bakery" in Los Angeles, CA that existed for many years without serving any alcohol.
Internet Resources on Jazz and Evil
Faulkner, Anne Shaw. August 1921. "Does Jazz Put the Sin in Syncopation?." Ladies Home Journal: 16-34.
Johnson, Russell L. 2011. ‘“Disease is unrhythmical”: jazz, health, and disability in 1920s America.’ Health and History 13(2): 13-42.
"Jass: "Its musical value is nil, and its possibilities of harm are great," an editorial published in The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, June 20, 1918.
- As quoted at Wikipedia: Evil.
- Wikipedia: Self-awareness, Neuroanatomical basis, Non-human animals, third paragraph.
- Dr. David L. Perry (was Director of the Ethics Programs, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, and Lecturer in Religious Studies), "Ethics and Personhood: Some Issues in Contemporary Neurological Science and Technology," adapted from a presentation at a "Works in Progress" forum sponsored by the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University on December 11, 2001, paragraphs 8–10.
- See Wikipedia: Self-awareness, Neuroanatomical basis, Non-human animals, third paragraph.
- Wikipedia: Higgs boson.
- Pastor Andrew Grosjean, "Can Music be Evil, Are Christians in Danger," updated on July 5, 2016.
- "The Nazis’ 10 Control-Freak Rules for Jazz Performers: A Strange List from World War II," in Open Culture, History, Literature, Music, March 28th, 2013.
- "In the 1920s America, Jazz Music Was Considered Harmful to Human Health, the Cause of “Neurasthenia,” “Perpetually Jerking Jaws” & More," in Open Culture, History, Literature, Music, February 7th, 2019.
- Anne Shaw Faulkner, (Head of the Music Department of the General Federation of Women's Clubs), "Does Jazz Put the Sin in Syncopation?", Ladies Home Journal, August 1921, 16-34.
- From an article by John R. McMahon in the Ladies Home Journal "Unspeakable Jazz Must Go," December 1921, 160 saying why jazz was ruining the country. Quoted at "Why Jazz is Evil" at Johnny Goodtimes posted on November 17, 2009.
- "Is Dancing Sinful?, Northwest Church of Christ, Fort Worth, TX.