Evil has long fascinated psychologists, philosophers, novelists and playwrights but remains an incredibly difficult concept to talk about. On Evil is a compelling and at times disturbing tour of the many faces of evil. What is evil, and what makes people do awful things? If we can explain evil, do we explain it away? Can we imagine the mind of a serial killer, or does such evil defy description? Does evil depend on a contrast with good, as religion tells us, or can there be evil for evil's sake? Adam Morton argues that any account of evil must help us understand three things: why evil occurs; why evil often arises out of banal or everyday situations; and how we can be seen as evil. Drawing on fascinating examples as diverse as Augustine, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, psychological studies of deviant behaviour and profiles of serial killers, Adam Morton argues that evil occurs when internal, mental barriers against it simply break down. He also introduces us to some nightmare people, such as Adolf Eichmann and Hannibal Lecter, reminding us that understanding their actions as humans brings us closer to understanding evil. Exciting and thought-provoking, On Evil is essential reading for anyone interested in a topic that attracts and repels us in equal measure.
This study puts the thought of Evagrius Ponticus, a fourth-century theologian, into dialogue with modern cognitive science in regard to the topic of evil, specifically moral evil. Evagrius, in his writings about prayer and the ascetic life, addressed the struggle with personal moral evil in terms of the eight thoughts or demons. These thoughts were transmitted by John Cassian to the Western church, and later recast by Gregory the Great as the Seven Deadly Sins. Though present understandings of evil appear to differ greatly from those of Evagrius, his wisdom concerning the battle against evil may prove to be of great help even today. Using the work of Pierre Hadot to recover Evagrius's context, and the work of Paul Ricoeur to discuss how we construct descriptions and myths of evil, Evagrius is brought into dialogue with the cognitive sciences. Using current research, especially the work of Eugene d'Aquili and Andrew Newberg, this study reveals the contemporary relevance of Evagrius' approach to combating evil. In addition, the interdisciplinary study of patristics and cognitive science opens the pathway to a better understanding between Christian tradition and the modern sciences.
Hannah Arendt is one of the most important political theorists of the twentieth century. In her works, she grappled with the dark events of that century, probing the nature of power, authority, and evil, and seeking to confront totalitarian horrors on their own terms. This book focuses on how, against the professionalized discourses of theory, Arendt insists on the greater political importance of the ordinary activity of thinking. Indeed, she argues that the activity of thinking is the only reliable protection against the horrors that buffeted the last century. Its essays explore and enact that activity, which Arendt calls the habit of erecting obstacles to oversimplifications, compromises, and conventions. Most of the essays were written for a conference at Bard College celebrating the 100th anniversary of Arendt's birth. Arendt left her personal library and literary effects to Bard, and she is buried in the Bard College cemetery. Material from the Bard archive--such as a postcard to Arendt from Walter Benjamin or her annotation in her copy of Machiavelli's The Prince--and images from her life are interspersed with the essays in this volume. The volume will offer provocations and insights to Arendt scholars, students discovering Arendt's work, and general readers attracted to Arendt's vision of the importance of thinking in our own dark times.
When asked to describe wartime atrocities, acts of terrorism, and serial killers, many of us reach for the word 'evil'. But what does it mean to say that an action or a person is evil? Some philosophers have claimed that there is no such thing as evil, and that thinking in terms of evil is simplistic and dangerous. In response to this sceptical challenge, Luke Russell shows that concept of evil has a legitimate place within contemporary secular moral thought. In this book he addresses questions concerning the nature of evil action, such as whether evil actions must be incomprehensible, whether evil actions can be banal, and whether there is a psychological hallmark that distinguishes evils from other wrongs. Russell also explores issues regarding the nature of evil persons, including whether every evil person is an evildoer, whether every evil person is irredeemable, and whether a person could be evil merely in virtue of having evil feelings. The concept of evil is extreme, and is easily misused. Nonetheless, Russell suggests that it has an important role to play when it comes to evaluating and explaining the worst kind of wrongdoing.
Education, Challenge, Inspiration, and Encouragement
Author: Michael J. Akers
Publisher: WestBow Press
There are many devotional books available containing brief, daily inspirations that benefit all who read them. This book is different in two respects. The first is obvious: it contains two readings per day—732 in all. The second, more important difference is that the author wanted to do more than offer inspiration; this would make this book no different than so many others. The messages in the book are study sketches in that the content is not only inspirational, but also educational, challenging, and encouraging. Most of these writings were based on author Michael J. Akers’s teaching of adult Bible studies for more than thirty years and learning what really brought adults to want to deepen their knowledge and application of the Word of God.
Boston University Studies in Philosophy and Religion
Author: M. David Eckel
Publisher: A&C Black
Evil is a problem that will not go away. For some it is an inescapable fact of the human condition. For others "evil" is a term that should only be used to name the most horrible of crimes. Still others think that the worst problem lies with the abuse of the term: using it to vilify a misunderstood enemy. No matter how we approach it, "evil" is a concept that continues to call out for critical reflection. This volume collects the results of a two-year deliberation within the Boston University Institute for Philosophy of Religion lecture series, bringing together scholars of religion, literature, and philosophy. Its essays provide a thoughtful, sensitive, and wide-ranging consideration of this challenging problem-and of ways that we might be delivered from it.
What made the Holocaust possible? What does it mean from a moral viewpoint? These two questions constitute the main focus of this book. Through concepts borrowed mostly from systems theory, an attempt is made at establishing a theoretical framework for a broad understanding of the genesis of the Holocaust. More specifically, the relationships between ideology, political power, and genocide are discussed, and the following topics are covered: (1) the constitution and the historical evolution of the ideology of the Holocaust, through the genesis of anti-Semitism, the impact of the modern paradigms, and the apparent peculiarities of Nazism; (2) the emergence of powerful means of action designed for implementing the ideology, in the context of totalitarianism; (3) control and freedom as the basic parameters in a decision-making process that went along with a «diffuse Holocaust» phase and generated mechanisms of extensive cooperation; (4) the values and norms that made sense to the Nazis in relation to the Holocaust, with a critical assessment of Nazi ethics insofar as it aimed at subverting the concept of evil and at destroying the self. This book deals with four key dimensions of the Holocaust: ideology, power, act, and meaning.
In this multi-disciplinary collection, we ask the question, 'What did, and do, Quakers think about good and evil?' There are no simple or straightforwardly uniform answers to this, but in this collection, we draw together contributions that for the first time look at historical and contemporary Quakerdom's approach to the ethical and theological problem of evil and good. Within Quakerism can be found Liberal, Conservative, and Evangelical forms. This book uncovers the complex development of metaethical thought by a religious group that has evolved with an unusual degree of diversity. In doing so, it also points beyond the boundaries of the Religious Society of Friends to engage with the spectrum of thinking in the wider religious world.