A Philosophy of Evil

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Overview

Despite the overuse of the word in movies, political speeches, and news reports, "evil" is generally seen as either flagrant rhetoric or else an outdated concept: a medieval holdover with no bearing on our complex everyday reality. In A Philosophy of Evil, however, acclaimed philosopher Lars Svendsen argues that evil remains a concrete moral problem: that we're all its victims, and all guilty of committing evil acts. "It's normal to be evil," he writes--the problem is, we have ...

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Overview

Despite the overuse of the word in movies, political speeches, and news reports, "evil" is generally seen as either flagrant rhetoric or else an outdated concept: a medieval holdover with no bearing on our complex everyday reality. In A Philosophy of Evil, however, acclaimed philosopher Lars Svendsen argues that evil remains a concrete moral problem: that we're all its victims, and all guilty of committing evil acts. "It's normal to be evil," he writes--the problem is, we have lost the vocabulary to talk about it.

Taking up this problem--how do we speak about evil?-- A Philosophy of Evil treats evil as an ordinary aspect of contemporary life, with implications that are moral, practical, and above all, political. Because, as Svendsen says, "Evil should neither be justified nor explained away--evil must be fought."

Dalkey Archive Press

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Editorial Reviews

New Statesman
He has a light touch and a playful attitude.— Tom Hodgkinson
Politiken
“Another outstanding, well-written book from the young Norwegian philosopher.”
Tom Hodgkinson - New Statesman
“He has a light touch and a playful attitude.”
From the Publisher

"Svendsen has a way with words, and, unlike many writers of philosophy books, is also blessed with a sly wit and a thorough knowledge of popular culture."--Phil Miller, The Glasgow Herald

Dalkey Archive Press

Library Journal
Svendsen (philosophy, Univ. of Bergen, Norway; A Philosophy of Fear) is painfully aware of the world's atrocities, but he doesn't think the main problem is "demonic" evil, by which he means deliberate intent to oppose someone's "living a life both meaningful and worth striving for." His argument about human actions that impinge on meaningful and worthwhile life is much involved with Hannah Arendt's concept of stupid evil, but he ultimately agrees with the long Christian tradition that evil is a privation, a lack of something—mostly rationality and the universality that a common rationality fosters. Svendsen adequately illustrates the role played by irrationality in the evils that make today's news, but he does not carry his thesis through to what looks like its logical conclusion: the world is divided between those who think evil can be stamped out with guns and jails and those who take the privation doctrine seriously and think evil can be dealt with only by finding out what is missing and repairing it. VERDICT An intelligent, well-written book that makes a good start at addressing the problem of crime via a philosophy of evil.—Leslie Armour, Dominican Univ. Coll., Ottawa, Ont.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564785718
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 4/6/2010
  • Series: Norwegian Literature Series
  • Pages: 250
  • Sales rank: 601,593
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Lars Svendsen is Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Bergen, Norway. He is the author of several books, including A Philosophy of Boredom (2004), Fashion: A Philosophy (2006), A Philosophy of Fear (2008), Work (2008), and A Philosophy of Evil (2010). His books have been translated to 22 languages.

Kerri A. Pierce is a translator focusing on German, Danish, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, Norwegian, and Swedish.

She is the translator of Lars Svendsen’s A Philosophy of Evil, Mela Hartwig’s Am I a Redundant Human Being?, Kjersti A. Skomsvold's The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am, and other novels.

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Table of Contents

Foreword 9

Introduction: What is Evil and How Can We Understand It? 17

I The Theology of Evil 39

Theodicies 43

The Privation Theodicy 46

The Free Will Theodicy 48

The Irenaean Theodicy 51

The Totality Theodicy 55

History as Secular Theodicy 60

Job's Insight-Beyond Theodicy 70

II The Anthropology of Evil 77

Are People Good or Evil? 77

Typologies of Evil 82

Demonic Evil 88

Evil for Evil's Sake 91

Evil's Aesthetic Seduction 96

Sadism 101

Schadenfreude 103

Subjective and Objective Evil 106

Kant and Instrumental Evil 110

The Impossibility of a "Devilish" Will 111

The Paradox of Evil 114

Moral Rebirth 119

The Evil is the Other-Idealistic Evil 122

"Us" vs. "Them" 124

Violent Individuals 132

Arendt and Stupid Evil 137

The Evil and the Stupid 140

Radical and Banal Evil 143

Eichmann, Höss, and Stangl 148

Normal People and Extreme Evil 163

Thinking as Opposition 187

Evil People 193

III The Problem of Evil 197

Theory and Praxis 197

Ethics of Conviction and Ethics of Responsibility 209

Politics and Violence 214

Evil as a Concrete Problem 227

Conclusion 231

Notes 235

Bibliography 283

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