Voldemort and Evil. Part II
Unconditional love, and malice. Letís talk about these for a moment.
A theme throughout the Potter series is that of love, unconditional love. The key element of that love is manifest by Snape in the last book. Voldemort has no idea what unconditional love is. Rowling points it out through example, but what is it? And, how does Voldemort miss it entirely?
But, before we examine unconditional love, let us get a handle on something that will help us in our quest for understanding.
In a previous chapter on deontological ethics, I mentioned a philosopher named Immanuel Kant. Kant speaks of persons as having unconditional value. Rather than repeating a lot of philosophical treatise, let me give the example I used in the chapter. Suppose that I promised you everything that you could possible want. Youíre Faust and I am Lucifer. Only the string attached to the promise is somewhat different. All you have to do to have everything you want, forever, is to torture until death an innocent six year old child Ėthe first child you meet after finishing our conversation. In other words, the child will be chosen at random. Some of you may take the deal. After all, the child is an unknown, you will never be punished, and you will reap untold rewards. Most of you will hold out. So, let me up the ante. The reward will be everything for you, PLUS a cure for all childhood cancers. Nutshell offer is earthly paradise for you, AND life for untold numbers of children who would otherwise suffer terrible, sometimes torturous deaths. Now, I think, maybe, Iíve got most of you to sign the bottom line. Right? Granted you would be causing one terrible death through your own hands, BUT you would be causing the saving of lives of great numbers of children. Surely, to kill by terrible torture is the right action.
Not so for a devoted Kantian. Persons have unconditional worth and should never be treated as a means to an end, NO MATTER WHAT. (Some Kantians will dispute my remark here, but letís go with it.) A person has unconditional value, and should never be treated as merely a means to some end, even if that end were entirely good for other persons. Those of you who chose to kill because of the greater good, especially for other children, did so because the end justified the means. The few of you who stuck it out and said that there is something just wrong, no matter what, with torture until death of an innocent child put the value of a person as unconditional, which is to say that personhood is not conditional upon any good being produced by its manipulation.
So. Why is Voldemort the apex of evil? Because not only does he regard persons as having conditional value, but also the value is conditional upon whatever good comes to him. And, paradoxically, the good here is his intake of the growth of suffering that he causes. One even wonders whether or not he even feels pleasure from the tragedies he causes. Voldemort is a being that employs reason to produce untold trauma by treating persons of unconditional value as mere means to the production of the trauma. He is so much an efficient evil maker that he relishes in that fact. Thus, Voldemortís bad nature is the apex of unworthiness, for he uses persons merely as means to his own end, which ends are the utmost of horror. Moreover, he is not insane, but a powerful strategist who knows how to use best the means at his disposal.
Ask yourself, how much do I treat persons as mere means? And, when I do, are the ends for everyone or myself. Rowling is pressing these questions on you throughout her works, but most especially at the end.
Which brings us to unconditional love. (To be continued)