Non-Dorky Poll: Monkey Power!

This is the famous carving of the Three Wise Monkeys on the stable at the Nikko Tosho-gu:


Looking at that suggests a possible question for a non-dorky poll, analogous to the dork classic “what superpower would you want?”:

If you could go through life either seeing no evil, hearing no evil, or speaking no evil, which would you pick?

(It’s non-dorky because it’s a question of ethics and morals, and there’s nothing dorky about ethics and morals…)

It would sort of depend in the mechanism by which evil went unseen or unheard– if it involved some sort of evil suppression field in your immediate vicinity, that might be the way to go. If it involved blindness or deafness, not so much.

Without a ruling on that question, I’d have to go with “speak no evil.” Ignorance of evil is not a good thing, but controlling your own actions to prevent doing evil is an unambiguous good. But I’m sure there’s some sort of monkey’s paw (heh) catch to that one, too.

So, which is it?

(Monkey picture taken from this photoset, which I haven’t got around to labelling yet.)


  1. #1 speedwell
    October 15, 2007

    I’d have to go with “hearing no evil.” One must see and recognize evil to combat it, and one may speak of evil when necessary to warn about it, but if you hear evil (i.e. gossip and negativity) then it impairs your own ability to function and grow.

  2. #2 speedwell
    October 15, 2007

    I should clarify that I take “see/hear no evil” to mean “don’t actively look for it/listen for it or passively allow it to influence you.”

  3. #3 Scott Spiegelberg
    October 15, 2007

    I agree with Chad, “speak no evil.” We cannot control how other people act, thus it is impossible for us to not see or hear evil without completely isolating ourselves from other people. But we can control our own actions, namely how we speak.

  4. #4 Martin
    October 15, 2007

    I agree, not speaking evil is my preference as well, but –
    We’d not be wholly protected against doing evil. Speaking is just one sphere of human activity.

  5. #5 Harry Abernathy
    October 15, 2007

    In terms of keeping yourself clean, I’m with the consensus that speaking no evil is the best.

    However, if we run with “evil suppression” mechanism that Chad proposed, then I’d go with see no evil. Think about it. You could be a failsafe policeman or security guard, preventing evil (theft, assault, drug dealing, vandalism, etc.) by merely observing an area. Or what about watching over the border between Israel and the Gaza strip to assure that Hamas does not fire rockets into Jewish neighborhoods?

    There’s gotta be a lousy moralistic sci-fi story buried in there somewhere.

  6. #6 Pamela
    September 15, 2008

    I’d love to “see no evil,” but with the condition or context, of course, that my not seeing it would prevent others from the same, so that whatever I was looking at would become evil-free. Maybe I’d get free travel.

  7. #7 DDeden
    January 6, 2009

    I guess the 4th monkey holding its nose closed is in the bathroom (benjo?)

    Seems to me its usually the hands that do evil…

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