The Lesser of Two Evils

How often do we tell ourselves we are choosing the lesser of two evils only as an excuse for choosing evil? For the lesser of two evils is nevertheless, by definition, an evil. Are we sure we have exhausted all possibilities in the situation and finally arrived at no available courses of action whatsoever beyond these proverbial “two evils”? Or have we rather created, or allowed ourselves to be hoodwinked into accepting, a false dichotomy?

Furthermore, even if we are choosing naively, which is to say without any subtle rationalizations for choosing an evil (albeit a “lesser” one), there is the more complicated question of which of the two evils in question is truly lesser (or, conversely, greater), and how one is to judge this. For sometimes the apparently lesser of two evils may merely be the slower of two evils, the stealthier of two evils — the more patient or insidious of two evils. Is it not a typical trait of the devil to be a trickster, to tempt us with superficial comforts or reassurances into choosing against our best interests while believing we are doing precisely the opposite? How often might the apparent lesser of two evils turn out to be the greater of the two, seen from a more enlightened, longer-term, or more fully informed perspective? Do we humans not typically judge lesser and greater — whether in goods, evils, risks, pleasures, or needs — from the deceptive vantage point of apparent proximity?

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