Date: October 12, 2017 11:44AM
"It's a subjective human concept, not a "thing."
COMMENT: I agree, generally. However, it is amazing how much is packed into this statement. Notwithstanding the fact that "evil" is a human concept, born of human subjective feelings about moral right and wrong, it can arguably be "objectified," at least in principle, by appealing to the universality of such feelings. When this is possible relativism is avoided, and moral judgments can be made based upon such objectification. (Even though the metaphysics of good and evil remains elusive.)
For example, there is arguably a universal moral prescription against the rape and/or torture of children. More generally it is universally accepted (I think) that it is immoral to inflict moral punishment on the innocent. Of course, the more complex the moral dilemma, the more difficult the objectification. In fact, the very existence of moral disagreement betrays the fact that at least with respect to the particular dispute objectification has failed and relativism rules.
The fact that "evil" is not a thing does not, of course, undermine its legitimacy as a social concept with "objective" content, in the sense noted above. After all, mathematics is not a "thing" either. And we can note that mathematics is also a useful concept that is metaphysically elusive; as evidenced by the continual debate regarding mathematical realism.
"And it's whatever a particular group of people decide it is. What they decide varies from time to time, and place to place."
COMMENT: Obviously, you are right, and that is precisely the dilemma of moral relativism. You might be able to "objectify" morality within the group, but this is hardly satisfying to those outside the group. Moreover, in extreme cases, such as your tobacco example, the difficulties of "objectification" of morality just seems to be insurmountable. Even if you had pointed out that tobacco has medicinal qualities and functions, I doubt that it would have penetrated the Mormon objectification of tobacco as an evil of itself.