|Evil, in the end, really cannot be explained, at least without resorting to some sort of denial of its existence.|
At least, I don't feel that comment was explained thoroughly.
One thing I meant was that the concept of evil does not refer to something reducible to materiality. So, for instance, if you give an account of all the physical occurences that take place in a given situation, you wonít need any recourse at all to the concept of evil, but if you want to give a moral account, you might. Now that gets more complicated. Genetics is obviously a study of matter, as is neurology, but it isnít clear that psychology is ípureĎ in that sense, nor does it need to be. Or if we talk about the "experience" of abandonment, for instance, weíre not talking about matter (brains) but about qualia.
Iím not saying that evil is inexplicable simply because all the factors that go into it are too complicated to grasp. Iím claiming that, in the domain in which discussions about evil make sense (moral discourse), we need to appeal to certain kinds of reasons to give an account. Maybe I could give some examples, first of what an explanation of a good action might be and why that couldnít apply to the evil action:
Say I helped a friend who had fallen on hard times find a job. The question is asked, "Why?" in different ways
a) materially: when my brain received certain stimulations, which it interpreted in certain ways, it responded in such and such a way that the rest of my body also moved, which eventually resulted in the body called "my friend" having what is called "a job."
b) psychologically: having been raised in relative comfort, and having witnessed kindness and compassion all my life, I responded to my friend's need kindly and compassionately.
c) morally: it was right to help my friend find a job because it exemplifies virtues and maintains a proper relationship between the two of us.
Now, a psychoanalyst might want to claim that c) is entirely reducible to b) or even a), but c) is the only one of these three that makes normative claims: it is "right" and the relationship is "proper." To reduce the normative claims to materiality is to remove any claims to their legitimacy. The meaning of "right" is radically transformed in the reduction to, either "the appearance of right," or "what this body speaking 'desires' to be right," or something very similar.
In the case of evil, answers a') and b') can be given just as well, but answer c') cannot be given. The moral explanation only runs one way, towards substantive or formal goods. Evil is that which rejects this (which, as I said, is distinct from the case of insider trading). Because it doesnít seek goods it cannot be explained as evil. This led some people (like the Stoics) to claim that no one does any evil willingly; thereís always some good that is sought. I donít believe this, and I think the case in the OP is sufficient evidence that the Stoics were wrong. But I also think it would be wrong to toss the whole category c) out the window on this basis.
One objection you could raise would be to say something like this:
"If it is to be accepted that 'I did X because it was right and it was right for l,m,n reasons,' is an explanation for X, then why couldnít that be inverted: 'I did Y becuase it was wrong and it was wrong for p,q,r reasons'?"
My response would be that the nature of explanations is that they become explanations by living in a systematic conceptual framework. What is morally good has such a framework and is defined positively. But what is evil is nothing but a negation of that framework. Thus, asking about the explanation for the morally evil is analagous to asking for a physical explanation for the physically impossible. The cup that impossibly hovers in mid-air does so only by failing to obey the laws of physics. If you see it happen, you have to decide whether you really saw it, our current understanding of physics is wrong, or whether there simply is no explanation. I think people respond similarly when faced with the morally 'impossible.'
On redemption, yeah, I was at least in part talking about redemption from God, but not without human consequences.
I think of irredeemable as something some people are because they are too mentally damaged. That is, corporeally.
Iím a certain kind of compatibilist when it comes to mind-body questions, so I don't think conceiving of irredeemability this way is too far off. What I would say is that, what I described as irredeemable would necessarily be attended by certain physical states. Just as the mental experience of pleasure is necessarily attended by certain physical brain-states, so would any other mental experience.
I really hope that helped clarify some things. I appreciate your patience because I am doing my best.