Evil: A Primer

Overview

"Today our nation saw evil." - President George W. Bush, September 11th 2001

Evil! Like a zombie back from the grave, it has arisen—a word many of us had long ago relegated to Sunday sermons, video games and horror flicks. But of course, evil is not old fashioned, nor has it ever gone away, and may be as robust as ever.

So what is evil? Does it exist? Veteran journalist Bill Hart tries to drag evil out of the darkness and hold it up to the light. In doing so, he has written a ...

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Overview

"Today our nation saw evil." - President George W. Bush, September 11th 2001

Evil! Like a zombie back from the grave, it has arisen—a word many of us had long ago relegated to Sunday sermons, video games and horror flicks. But of course, evil is not old fashioned, nor has it ever gone away, and may be as robust as ever.

So what is evil? Does it exist? Veteran journalist Bill Hart tries to drag evil out of the darkness and hold it up to the light. In doing so, he has written a very readable account of 5,000 years of philosophy, theology and human history as it reflects and refines its notion of evil.

More than an explanation of why bad things happen, Evil: A Primer is a tour through the nether regions in search of what we really know.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"William Hart's Evil: A Primer is an engaging survey of the very complex problems that litter the conceptual geography of evil. He invites us to look at a roots of the concept and its relationship to religious beliefs and geopolitical issues. He explores the black depths of our intellectual and social history and reveals for us, in a clear and concise fashion, what we all need to be thinking about when politicians, religious leaders, and terrorists use the term 'evil' to describe their enemies. We have heard a great deal in recent years of evil empires and 'the axis of evil,' of evil people and evil actions. William Hart's book provides a foundation for all of us to put such evocations of evil in a proper context."

- Professor Peter A. French, Lincoln Chair in Ethics, Arizona State University and author of Cowboy Metaphysics and The Virtue of Vengeance

Kirkus Reviews
Public policy analyst Hart (Arizona State Univ.) takes on the nastiest subject of all and finds it complex, slippery, and discomfiting-downright wicked, in a word. For his debut, the author employs a light, even frothy tone whose effervescence almost (but not quite) vitiates his intent. Like characters in an airplane disaster film, Plato and Kant, Hannah Arendt and George Bernard Shaw sit alongside Jerry Springer, Charles Manson, and Jerry Falwell in a literary work designed to be comfortable for everyone from professors and poets to couch potatoes and fundamentalist Christians. Hart begins with Americans' paradoxical attitude toward evil: our fear and revulsion exist simultaneously with our delight in it. We love movies with really bad guys, or even Satan himself; we demand that CNN cover celebrity murders 24/7. Hart eventually arrives at a definition of evil as "an intentional human act that causes extreme harm to innocents and attacks our basic moral order." He considers various explanations of how evil can exist in a world God created, examines Satan and other personifications of evil, and declares that he/she/it (probably) doesn't exist. Hart then turns to a discussion of how evolutionary biologists have come to understand evil: we're basically wild animals in clothes, and our jungle-and-savannah behavior remains with us because we haven't really had much time to mature. Cursing and lying get demoted in two clever, funny chapters. Our swearing is not very interesting or creative, Hart contends, and everyone lies, so how can such minor transgressions be evil? One of the best chapters concerns the widely held view that the US overflows with satanic cults. Not so, asserts the author,quoting one law-enforcement official who claimed there has not been a single documented murder ever committed by such a group. Men will not like his chapter about how they have demonized women throughout history. Entertaining and naughty, learned and light. (12 b&w photos)Agent: Flip Brophy/Sterling Lord Literistic
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312312817
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.14 (w) x 7.94 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

William Hart is a former long-time newspaper reporter and editor who specialized in the coverage of criminal justice and mental health. He currently works as a public policy research analyst at Arizona State University and lives in Phoenix. This is his first book.

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Table of Contents

1 Where do we start? 1
2 Lazarus! come out! 23
3 The devil in decline 44
4 Survival of the worst 60
5 Postmodern demons 75
6 The monster within 89
7 Heinous, cruel, depraved 99
8 Pigs in your cemeteries 113
9 Good-bye, John Wayne 127
10 Evil becomes annoying 142
11 Ever since eve 160
12 The good news 172
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