Above Good and Evil
"The man who is to be great is the one who can be the most solitary, the most hidden, the most deviant, the man beyond good and evil, lord of his virtues, a man lavishly endowed with will - this is precisely what greatness is to be called: it is able to be as much a totality as something multi-faceted, as wide as it is full."
A character declares that he or his objectives are more valuable than meaningless considerations about good and evil. Such distinctions are for slaves and lesser beings, not for him. He often terms them antiquated or childish. He may go on to question What Is Evil?
The signature trait of The Unfettered, and associated with The Ubermensch and the Nietzsche Wannabe (along with any other things Nietzsche-related), but other people who can claim this trope include the Complete Monster, extreme narcissists with delusions of godhood or just someone with Blue and Orange Morality—or all of the above combined. Can be a sign of an Eldritch Abomination if it is considered as being beyond standard human affairs, thus very common in Cosmic Horror Story.
The exact objectives of this character differ widely. Sometimes it is power, othertimes knowledge, or in the case of the Ubermensch, his own values to replace traditional morality. In all cases their willingness to do anything to get there is absolute. In stories where morality is highly valuable, expect a character holding to this philosophy to suffer from Laser-Guided Karma. When suffering payback, the character rarely excuses the wrong done to them under the same principle. After all, the hero or other character doing the paying-back likely lacks the qualifications, according to his philosophy, for the status of a superior soul who is above good and evil.
In practice, Above Good And Evil usually ends up meaning evil and/or hard to distinguish from having unrelated concerns.
Compare Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad. Villains whose strong point is not logic will sometimes use both tropes. Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught is a related concept, but it's more practical than philosophical.
- Huey Laforet from Baccano! is this trope via his several hundred year For Science! ambition. Everyone and everything in this world, including his own daughter, is nothing more than components of a grand experiment- ethics be damned. Even amongst his peers he is considered the creepiest of the lot. Go look at the show's and character entries to see just what that means.
- The Lord of Nightmares from the Slayers continuity is Above Good and Evil, and creator of both. She represents the primal chaos from which all things emerge, and can side with creation just as easily as with destruction. Most people are only aware of her destructive side, and consider her the Dark Lord above the Dark Lords.
- Medaka Box: Ajimu, who as almost 13 quadrillion super powers is basically this, and states that life, death, love, hate, etc. is meaningless garbage. This is because she is under the delusion that everything is fake.
- A rare heroic example is Touma, the main character from To Aru Majutsu no Index who considers good and evil to be mere shackles, and just does whatever he feels is right at the time. In the World War 3 arc he tells Accelerator that his thoughts that he is a villain are just holding him back.
- Sousuke Aizen from Bleach uses this to justify his depraved actions, claiming that distinctions of good and evil would merely limit his potential.
Comic Books[edit | hide]
- Galactus, foe of the Fantastic Four, is a Planet Eater who often uses this justification; he (and other Cosmic Beings of the Marvel Universe) claim that he will one day do something that more than makes up for the uncounted trillions of deaths he causes, which sort of falls under Take Our Word for It, since you'd have to wait billions of years to find out what that is. Galactus has always been treated not as a villain, but as a force of nature who really is above good and evil and takes no pleasure in consuming worlds.
- One more recent explanation is that there is an Eldritch Abomination for which he is the seal, so if he doesn't get enough energy to keep the seal up, the entire multiverse gets destroyed - and the only great enough source of calories is planets.
- An earlier explanation is that he basically is the Big Crunch, and at the end of everything, will explode into a Big Bang, creating the next universe.
- The part of him that is still Galan denies that he is this. In one storyline when he was depowered, Galan decided that he had to do his best to delay his inevitable merging with the Power Cosmic for as long as possible.
- Roque Ja from Bone holds the "There is no good and evil, there is only power" philosophy. Unlike most others, he is actually neutral; he works for the bad guys for pay, but will turn on them if they insult him and he lets the heroes go so that they can defeat the Locust at the end.
- Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen expresses this attitude. He just did not care about humanity anymore, until Laurie showed him that the complexity and drama of human existence.
- New Gods: Darkseid.
- Word of Geoff Johns says that Nekron was intended to be this. Given that he spends most of his panel-time committing atrocity after atrocity, culminating in putting people's minds in an And I Must Scream state Forced to Watch as their now-undead bodies mindlessly slaughter their friends, fans tend to disagree.
- The Dark Knight:
- The Joker in The Dark Knight considers himself something like this. He seems to think that everybody in the world is a sick, twisted individual deep down, and that he's the only man brave, smart and sane enough to realize that. As such he commits and incites horrific acts to try and make people 'see the light'.
Joker: I'm an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It's fair."'
- Later in the film, Joker's words are "echoed" by Two-Face's apology of "blind justice".
- The Cenobites in the Hellraiser movies make this sort of argument when someone calls them demons. "There is no good or evil, only flesh." They also claim they would be "Demons to some, Angels to others," depending on your perspective. In the first and second movies Pinhead, who acts as their voice, explains that they only appear when somebody desires to summon them. They're scary, and torture people, but they only come when called. It's just what they do. Later movies tend to just make them straight-up demons, instead of otherworldly beings with alien perspectives.
- In In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, the Evil Sorcerer Gallian tries to destroy the Kingdom of Ehb in order to usher in a New World Order. When someone points out that he could show his merciful side by releasing the prisoners, he explains in a Large Ham way that he's beyond such petty concepts as Mercy, Good, or Evil. After he takes over, Good will be redefined in terms of power (i.e. the more the better). He is also insane, which he doesn't try to hide.
- In Thirst, Tae-ju takes this attitude to vampirism, comparing a vampire killing a human to a fox killing a chicken.
Literature[edit | hide]
- Beyond Good And Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche, of course. In fact, one of the points of the book is criticizing philosophers for trying to tie Christian dogma into their philosophical consideration of morals instead of looking at it with a critical eye.
- In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel False Gods, Magnus the Red is determined to study the warp and gain power, because
Notions of good and evil fell by the wayside next to such power as dwelled in the warp, for they were the antiquated concepts of a religious society, long cast aside.
- In CS Lewis's The Magician's Nephew, when Diggory scorns Uncle Andrew for breaking a deathbed promise, Uncle Andrew scorns such things as fitting for boys but not him. Jadis talks in the same language about using the Deplorable Word:
Men like me who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common rules just as we are cut off from common pleasures. Ours, my boy, is a high and lonely destiny.
- Professor Quirrel in Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone
Lord Voldemort showed me the truth. There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it.
- In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels novel Deus Sanguinius, the triumph of the Chaos forces in Arkio is shown when he declares
There is no right and wrong, no black and white. Only the strong. . . and the weak.
- In Robert Anton Wilson's and Robert Shea's The Illuminatus Trilogy, the Dealy Lama remarks that, "The reason I have lived so outrageously long is that I don't give a fuck for Good and Evil." In his case he's actually a pretty nice guy. He's just seen what happens when people get too taken with those concepts. And he invented them to begin with, 30,000 years ago, and got really disappointed when people misused them.
- In one Warhammer Fantasy Battle novel (part of the Konrad Trilogy), the wizard Litzenreich explains that Chaos is no more good or evil than fire is.
- Rhynn and Kwll are two elder gods in Michael Moorcock's Corum series. They claim to be above the divine squabbling, and are actually unbound by the Cosmic Balance. By the end of the series, Corum gets Kwll to slaughter the entire pantheon of Chaos. Then, for good measure, Kwll decides to off all the Law gods too.
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, there's actually an entire Jedi heresy built around the idea that the dark side doesn't exist. It turned out to be a Sith lie, though.
- Vergere took it even further, believing that not only is there no dark side, but that there's no light side either.
- Gray Jedi are a milder example. They don't necessarily believe that good and evil don't exist, but Gray Jedi of varying backgrounds and species do reject the Jedi Council's dogmatic view of the force and explore both the dark and light side.
Vimes had heard that good and evil were just two ways of looking at the same thing - or, at least, so said people traditionally considered under the category of "evil".
- In Making Money, a professor performing a necromatic rite (an insorcism, which make a dead professor happy and keep him out of their hair), argues with his students that who can say what is right and wrong? When they still argue, he offers to give them all A's. Whereupon one sees that it goes beyond mundane definitions of good and evil, in service of a higher truth.
- Bel-Shamaroth in The Colour of Magic, being an Eldritch Abomination, is described as "the opposite side of a coin where good and evil were the same side".
- In Susan Kay's Phantom, Erik loses all sense of good and evil after realizing how easy it was to kill his Gypsy captor, and regards murder as just another art to master.
- The Children of the Lamp series features the Tree of Logic, proximity to which will eliminate all senses of good and evil from a djinn (possibly a Muggle, but it's never fully explained). It's used in order to judge better, but it also eliminates all kindness, making the affected person a jerk.
- In Dorothy L. Sayers Whose Body?, Lord Peter Wimsey find this attitude a clue to the murderer.
He likes crime. In that criminology book of his he gloats over a hardened murderer. I've read it, and I've seen the admiration simply glaring out between the lines whenever he writes about a callous and successful criminal. He reserves his contempt for the victims or the penitents or the men who lose their heads and get found out. His heroes are Edmond de la Pommerais, who persuaded his mistress into becoming an accessory to her own murder, and George Joseph Smith of Brides-in-a-bath fame, who could make passionate love to his wife in the night and carry out his plot to murder her in the morning. After all, he thinks conscience is a sort of vermiform appendix. Chop it out and you'll feel all the better.
- Ruin of Mistborn is like this, claiming that good and evil have nothing to do with him, his counterpart Preservation, or his reason for wanting to destroy the world (it's not out of malice- it's because destroying worlds is what he does.) Vin disagrees. Strongly.
- G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday:
"First of all, what is it really all about? What is it you object to? You want to abolish Government?"
"To abolish God!" said Gregory, opening the eyes of a fanatic. "We do not only want to upset a few despotisms and police regulations; that sort of anarchism does exist, but it is a mere branch of the Nonconformists. We dig deeper and we blow you higher. We wish to deny all those arbitrary distinctions of vice and virtue, honour and treachery, upon which mere rebels base themselves. The silly sentimentalists of the French Revolution talked of the Rights of Man! We hate Rights as we hate Wrongs. We have abolished Right and Wrong."
"And Right and Left," said Syme with a simple eagerness, "I hope you will abolish them too. They are much more troublesome to me."
- The Dark Court in Wicked Lovely, as stated by Irial. Unusual in that they actually ARE above good and evil, due to Blue and Orange Morality.
Irial: "We are what we are, Niall. Neither as good nor as evil as others paint us, and what we are doesn't change what we truly feel, only how free we are to follow those feelings"
- In John C. Wright's The Phoenix Exultant, the Nothing agent declares it is above good and evil.
- In Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, Islington is so far beyond good and evil that he couldn't find it with a telescope on a clear night.
- The Childlike Empress in The Neverending Story is one of the rare heroic examples of this trope. She actually is Above Good and Evil rather than just using this trope to justify being evil. The Empress is in charge of preserving all fantasy creatures which includes vampires, demons, giant spiders, dragons, and trickster spirits just as much as unicorns and fairies. She sees all of her subjects as equally good and beautiful, and because of this, even the evil creatures are willing to help her representatives.
- A member of the Cthulhu Cult in Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu" explains that the time of the return of the Great Old Ones will be when mankind has become as them, "free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy." It's no wonder only two of the dozens of members arrested for ritual murders were found sane enough to be hanged.
- In Adrian Tchaikovsky's Dragonfly Falling, a Wasp slave justifies herself on the grounds there is no good or evil, just people doing things.
- The Draka:
"The Draka will conquer the world for two reasons; because we must and because we can. And yet of the two forces the second is the greater; we do this because we choose to do it. By the sovereign Will and force of arms the Draka will rule the Earth, and in so doing remake themselves. We shall conquer and beat the Nations of the Earth into the dust and reforge them in our self wrought Image; the Final Society, a new humanity without weakness or mercy, hard and pure. Our descendants will walk the hillside of that future, innocent beneath the stars, with no more between them and their naked will than a wolf has. THEN there will be Gods in the Earth."
- In G. K. Chesterton's "The Unmentionable Man" (in The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond) the Communist talks like this:
"No, no, no," cried Huss, beating on the table with his two fists. "Never, never, shall he lead the movement! Understand me! We are a scientific movement. We are not moral. We have done with bourgeois ideologies of right and wrong. We are Realpolilik. What helps the program of Marx is alone good. What hinders the program of Marx is alone evil. But there are limits. There are names so infamous, there are persons so infamous, that they must always be excluded from the Party."
- Paul Redeker in World War Z.
- In Jim Butcher's Ghost Story, Lea says that evil is mainly an aesthetic choice.
- In John C. Wright's Count to a Trillion, Menelaus asks whether they are going to teach post-humans morals, and gets the answer that they would be above it—it would make no more sense than preaching monogamy to bees or veganitarism to lions.
- Charmed had a group called Avatars with this philosophy. They are actually closer to the True Neutral variety, though.
- In Doctor Who, John Lumic justifies his illegal creation of the Cybermen with "I am governed by greater laws, old friend. The right of a man to survive."
- Gary Mitchell from the second Star Trek pilot follows the A God Am I variety of this: "Morals are for men, not gods." Kirk points out moments later that his own actions don't fit the definition of God quite so much as Lucifer, and that in fact Gary Mitchell is behaving as one would expect a Fallen human being to behave given free rein.
- Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation has some kind of point to make generally but it doesn't make sense in any conventional morality, and he imposes his tests on Picard mainly because he can. He is another who trends towards True Neutrality.
- One of the German episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus used this as a throwaway joke line in a sketch:
Waiter: Good day, madam. Good day, sir.
Man: We want to eat, please.
Waiter: Wonderful! A thousand welcomes to the Golden Post.
Man: Ah. We hear that this is a restaurant that's typical of Bavaria and full of local colour.
Waiter: Indeed, sir. This is truly a typical Bavarian restaurant. The food, the wine, above all the service, is traditional beyond good and evil!
- In Fringe, during the episode "Amber 31422", the other Walter Bishop, the inventor of the titular substance and U.S. Secretary of Defense, says to Broyles: "Nature doesn't recognize good and evil, Philip. Nature only recognizes balance and imbalance. I intend to restore balance to our world. Whatever it takes."
- Alpha in Dollhouse sees himself as this, to the point of explicitly referencing Nietzsche and referring to himself as the Ubermensch.
- Topher in the same series appears to be in this camp, at least at first. He's not mean-spirited, he just loves the science and doesn't care much about the human implications. (He does get better later on).
Adelle: We are all here because we've been morally compromised in some way. All except you, Mr. Brink. You are here because you have no morals. You see people's minds as toys for you to play with. I don't say this as a criticism, you've always taken good care of your things, but you're going to have to let this one go.
- This is argued over in True Blood. A lot of vampires would agree with Godric's claim "There is no right or wrong. These are human notions. There's only death or survival." He himself renounces this idea finally.
- A repeating theme in the Manowar song "The Power".
- British Post Punk band The Pop Group titled their debut single "She Is Beyond Good and Evil".
- Чёрный Кузнец (Black Smith) by the Russian band of the same name -
I bade Light and Dark begone,
I am serving Fire alone,
Not the bliss and not the pain now.
Video Games[edit | hide]
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind had the Daedra being cast as divine beings whose actions were driven by concepts far too alien to reasonably compare to straight-up Good or Evil. In practice, however, they come across as more like Chaotic Neutral. It does not help that death is a temporary inconvenience to them.
- Though since the TES universe uses reincarnation if you haven't pledged your soul to a daedric lord, and an afterlife of sorts if you did, death is also only a temporary inconvenience to you, too.
- In Sly Cooper, the Contessa says this about herself. Sly points out that saying that is not going to make him give the MacGuffin.
- In the second Knights of the Old Republic there is Kreia. She insists that the Dark and Light Side are merely manners of perceiving the Force and that a true master walks a balance of the two. Much like Jolee, however, she too leans more heavily towards one school of thought: The Sith. She constantly urges the player to allow suffering to continue as it will help the survivors become stronger. In the end she returns to her Sith origins and becomes the final Big Bad.
- Kreia is True Neutral. Just take a look. While she doesn't approve of a Light Side PC going around and helping out every beggar and kitten she equally disapproves of a Dark Side PC going around and killing random people For the Evulz. If the PC decides to take the Dark Side route with the Jedi masters (read: kill them all) she'll give you a Reason You Suck Speech, as seen here She is a master manipulator and approves of the PC being one as well
- In The King of Fighters Maximum Impact 2, Big Bad Jivatma invokes this trope in the Pre-Final Battle one-liner if you fight him with Kim Kaphwan:
I do not wish to be bound by notions of justice and evil.
- The villain in the second Gabriel Knight game says that he is above such silly distinctions such as good and evil, and that man should just embrace his animal instincts.
- In Final Fantasy X, Yu Yevon is described as this. He may have started off evil, but now he only exists to summon Sin.
- In Guild Wars 2 the Norn are this. As a race, they do not particularly care whether your actions are good or evil, merely that they are worthy of legend. They do understand good and evil, but are far more apathetic about it than the other races (generally speaking).
- Pious Augustus in Eternal Darkness. He states it clearly during Paul Luther's chapter:
Evil is nothing but a mere perspective that no longer concerns me.
- Though labeled an "evil" character ("dark" is more apt), Street Fighter's Akuma does not believe there is any merit in tagging one's self as 'good' or 'evil'. His ultimate goal is simply to be the most perfect example of a warrior, and that means anyone who has the might to stand against him will not be spared his full power, regardless of where they are morally.
George: Uh -- is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Bob: Oh, you and your moral sense of right and wrong. When will you realize you're above all that?
George: Are you trying to recruit me to the ways of evil again?
George: Leave me alone.
- In The Gamers Alliance, the Godslayer considers itself above other creatures, sees gods as relics of the past which must be wiped out, feels good and evil are needless concepts, uses its acolytes to spread prosperity and a new world order, and wishes to increase its knowledge by any means necessary. In its views the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, even if that means sacrificing many innocents along the way.
- The Warlord, from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, is a traveler from the future who came back to the present because he was bored. He didn't like the way things were going in his time, and he changes historical events at a whim. He considers himself "beyond" such petty concerns as right and wrong.
- Altair, according to the Grand Unifying Guesses: "(Altair) serves a higher power now. One that transcends the notions of race, gender and any concept of good and evil."
- In Atop the Fourth Wall, the Entity aka Missingno, is directly stated- by the protagonist, no less- to be a being beyond good and evil.
- Wan Shi Tong, the knowledge spirit from Avatar: The Last Airbender lands on the True Neutral (technical) pacifist side. He didn't care that the Gaang was looking for knowledge to stop the Fire Nation from destroying the world. To him, one war was the same as the other and the sides and reasons didn't matter. All that mattered to him was collecting knowledge and keeping that knowledge from falling into the "wrong" hands (read: anyone who actually wanted to use said knowledge). He went so far as trying to trap them in the hidden library once he discovered Sokka trying to smuggle out info on when the Day of the Black Sun would occur.
The Gaang tried to argue with him based on their having good intentions and a desire only to protect people. Not gonna work on someone like this. They should have tried to argue that he has a responsibility for the damage already done by those who have used his knowledge. By allowing some people to access his library, Wan Shi Tong is at least partially responsible for how that knowledge was used (ie almost destroying the entire balance of the world). An argument along those lines might have swayed him to help them or even just let them leave before sinking the library.
- Another argument that might have held more weight with Wan Shi Tong would be to point out that his own beloved library would be among the things a victorious Fire Nation would have destroyed.
- It wasn't that Sokka wanted to take and use information, it's that he wanted to take and use information to fight a war. The owl was fine with them looking around, and didn't seem to mind Sokka nicking things too much, until he heard Sokka say candidly that they were going to destroy the Fire Nation when they're at their weakest.
- X Men the Animated Series—in the appropriately-named "Beyond Good and Evil" four-parter, Apocalypse declares he is "not malevolent. I simply am." Eventually, after nearly destroying the world more than once, he starts to wonder if they actually have a point about the whole "malevolent" thing. He goes right back to destruction after that, though.
- "The Mysterious Stranger" from The Adventures of Mark Twain has the eponymous Stranger say, "I can do no wrong, for I do not know what it is."
- A mad scientist supervillain in Mighty Max. He turns his de/evolutionary ray gun on himself to increase his evolutionary level. The first time, he turned into a large brained psychic. When he returns for another episode, he turns it on himself again and turns into a multicolored orb of "pure thought". He uses it a third time and starts babbling about "ultimate knowledge" and "hearing the music" before flying off. Wise fowl-man Virgil proclaims that he has "evolved towards the infinite, far beyond such primitive concepts like good and evil", which is funny considering Virgil is firmly on the "good" side.
- The Wizard Merklynn from Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light. His only desire is to see magic restored to its former prominence. As such, he doesn't care one way or the other about whether or not his agents are good or evil, so long as they perform the tasks he gives them. At the start of the series, he would also bail out whichever side needed his aid, in order to keep his agents in play (setting captured Darkling Lords free, for example). However, after one too many attempts by Darkstorm to steal his power, Merklynn decided to start letting the Darkling Lords get themselves out of trouble. He also became friendlier to the Spectral Knights over time, and took action against legitimately evil sorcerers.
- The Sociopath is usually the natural version of this trope. Note that sociopaths are not "evil", per se; their social conscience is just weak (Hence the SOCIO part of Sociopath in which Path means disorder. Social Disorder) and they have the ability to easily disregard good and evil when they like it. While a sociopath may obviously not always base actions on good and evil, some sociopaths can be good, harmless or heroic, but their quality of goodness hinges on if they just desire to do what is needed or if there is a benefit in being good. If you have a sociopathic friend, sometimes the only way to persuade them of anything contrary to what they want, is through cold hard logic of best individual benefit, stripped of ethical relevance. And that's assuming they're rational people or they agree with you.
- A variety of real life religions or theological traditions are built on this sort of spiritual power, including:
- Hinduism—In the Bhagavad Gita, all good and evil is part of a great game going on within the being of one greater deity.
- In some interpretations of Buddhism—Good and Evil are among the illusions with which we wrestle, both distracting us from following the Middle Path and achieving Nirvana. However, since what comes around goes around, it is beneficial to be a nice person.
- Some strains of Deism and Pantheism, especially including Pandeism (where our Universe is a sort of experiment in generating all sorts of experiences).
- Most religions don't (or did not) actually base their concepts of good and evil on societal consensus. Instead, 'good' was everything in line with their deity's or deities' will and 'evil' was everything else. If a deity willed that a group of humans must die, that was good and defending said humans would have been considered evil. This is obviously very different from the modern concept(s) of good and evil and followers of religions with such a basis regularly struggle with Values Dissonance.
- While he did speak of going "beyond good and evil", his conception of what that meant is quite different from what we usually see; to put it quite bluntly, the way "beyond good and evil" has been taken in wider culture is at best The Theme Park Version.)