The phrase “the lesser evil” seems to ring a bell for most us. We may have encountered or applied this phrase at some points of our lives. Sometimes we may have witnessed the application and the choice of lesser evil from other people. The concept of choosing the lesser evil for the seeming good of oneself or others can be associated with utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is more or less defined as an ethical theory wherein actions can be morally right or wrong depending on their effects. Under the umbrella of utilitarianism, a method called proportionalism is what comes closest to the “term lesser evil”.
Proportionalism, broadly defined, is a method of moral thinking wherein a person should choose an alternative course of action which promises the greater proportion of good over evil. In other words, in proportionalism, it is believed that intelligent concern for the human good and welfare requires an assessment of all the good and evil involved in alternative possibilities for action. The aim of this assessment is to determine, before making a choice, which of the alternatives promises the greater good or the lesser evil. Because it is considered a moral thinking, it can therefore be converted to action. Proportionalism, or choosing the lesser evil is evident in different cultures, societies and communities.
A hotly debated example would be the use of contraceptives to control unwanted pregnancies rather than continuing with the unwanted pregnancy which can lead to overpopulation or abortion. The use of contraceptives is considered the lesser evil in this example. The moral justification is that with contraception, we can stem the tide of overpopulation and its evil twin: poverty. Another justification for contraception is that we can eliminate, if not, minimize cases of intentional abortion due to unwanted pregnancies. For the religious groups and their “pro-life” stance, they believe that conception is a sacred process and should not be interfered with contraception. They value the lives of unborn children no matter the circumstances that led to their conception.
In the political scene, we see the example of choosing an uncouth president that can deliver results and the possibility of socioeconomic change for his country versus choosing a popular and well-liked president with lofty ideals and promises for his fellow countrymen but ends up following the treads of traditional politics: the politics of nepotism and elitism. My guess is that most of us will choose the former despite his brash attitude and foul mouth. As thinking and social individuals, we believe that the “lesser evil” in this example can bring the country more benefits and advantages despite being politically unconventional. As humans, we sometimes embrace a thought or course of action that is less damaging but wherein we can reap more benefits.
We have to remember that not all morally correct results and choices are just and righteous before God. Simply put, not all morally right choices are absolutely righteous choices. Most importantly, the lesser evil is still essentially evil. If given a choice to choose a solution to a problem, why not choose the good choice or the good alternative. If we take two forms of evil options and the lesser evil is chosen from the two, it will never come out as good as it is essentially evil. God is always there for us, to give us a positive outlook in life and to give us important lessons and teachings in His inspirational book: the bible. A choice made through God’s intervention is the best choice in life.