But these are author-created. Do the authors reflect reality, or are they making characters conform to their beliefs? We see the idea in scripture, John 1:5,
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.but a critic could claim that is equally a put-up job. (Not all critics, would, BTW. There are nonbelievers who might grant that this is precisely the sort of thing the Bible does get right, without signing on to any more of it.)
I think we see it pretty clearly in international relations. Morris Childs, an American ex-communist who frequently visited the Kremlin and was trusted by the Politburo(Operation Solo), found that he had to spend most of his time in later years convincing the Soviets that the US was not preparing an imminent attack just because we had strategic advantage. That America might prefer to be left alone to engage in trade, rather than the headache of governing other countries, was beyond their comprehension. It’s hard to understand the behavior of Palestinians and half the Middle-East in terms other than a blindness that prevents them from considering another attitude to outsiders is even possible.
With a little imagination, most of us can carry this down to smaller groups (our own politicians, particular industries, local disputes) even to an individual level. But does that flow only one way? Might it not also be that good people do not understand evil ones? Such characters certainly show up in literature and popular perception – innocents who are so well-meaning that they trust the untrustworthy, believing them as kind as themselves.
We could get into the questions of morality that result, of the damage that the Neville Chamberlains of the world cause to innocents by failing to appreciate evil, but I would first like to go at the question of ability to understand evil. Could Chamberlain essentially understand that someone might be so evil as Hitler turned out to be, but only deluded himself otherwise – or was NC foundationally unable to even understand the depths of Stalin’s or Hitler’s psychopathology?
I know nice people taken advantage of by the selfish, or even deeply evil. Is their innocence real, or a self-deluding convenience, swayed by a pretty face or glib tongue? Perhaps I am asking the larger moral questions. Do we always let ourselves be fooled?