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Evil, in the moral/ethical sense of the word, is officially defined as "intending harm" (Wiktionary), "morally reprehensible", or "causing harm" (M-W).

Issuepedia defines evil as "doing harmful things deliberately", especially where such acts are beneficial to the actor.

evil with good intentions

In situations where harm is done deliberately in the hope of achieving overall benefit, the resulting gray area can be resolved by answering the following questions:

  • Did the actor make a reasonable attempt to find less-harmful alternatives?
  • Did the actor examine all available alternatives before choosing?
  • Did the actor attempt to consult those who would be harmed by the choice s/he finally made (or advocates thereof)?
  • Did the actor document the reasons for that final choice, and adequately explain why it was the best of the available choices?
  • Did the actor attempt to answer any objections raised before making her/his decision?
  • In the event that any of the above questions cannot be answered "yes", is there a good reason for this?