Radical Evil: A Philosophical Interrogation / Edition 1

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At present, there is an enormous gulf between the visibility of evil and the paucity of our intellectual resources for coming to grips with it. We have been flooded with images of death camps, terrorist attacks and horrendous human suffering. Yet when we ask what we mean by radical evil and how we are to account for it, we seem to be at a loss for proper responses.

Bernstein seeks to discover what we can learn about the meaning of evil and human responsibility. He turns to philosophers such as Kant, who coined the expression 'radical evil', as well as to Hegel and Schelling. He also examines more recent explorations of evil, namely the thinking of Freud and Nietzsche on the moral psychology of evil. Finally, he looks at the way in which three post-Holocaust thinkers - Emmanuel Levinas, Hans Jonas, and Hannah Arendt - have sought to come to grips with evil "after Auschwitz."

Bernstein's primary concern throughout this challenging book is to enrich and deepen our understanding of evil in the contemporary world, and to emphasize the vigilance and personal responsibility required for combating it.

Radical Evil will be essential reading for students and scholars of philosophy, social and political theory, and religious studies.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
About large solutions to the issue of evil, Bernstein is pessimistic: there can't be a general theory of evil, and we can't finally understand evil. There can be no happy ending to human history. But he is cautiously optimistic about overcoming particular evils. He brilliantly untangles the strings with which Kant tied himself in knots and looks at Hegel's attempts to disentangle them. But, he says, "we can no longer accept Hegel's dialectical account of good and evil." There is no final reconciliation that could allow Hegel's "Spirit" to heal "without leaving any scars." Nietzsche and Freud are used to cast light on "our ineradicable psychic ambivalence." Bernstein, who now teaches at the New School in New York after a career at Yale and Haverford, has latterly focused on continental philosophy: as Susan Neiman does in the final parts of her recent Evil in Modern Thought a work this book complements he devotes his final discussions to it. Emmanuel L vinas, Hans Jonas, and Hannah Arendt take center stage. It would have helped to connect Hegel's use of the infinite with L vinas's, as L vinas does not believe in happy endings because he does not believe there can be an ending. Yet in a world fueled by the infinite there is always hope. Readers will also miss the hopeful philosophers Teilhard de Chardin, Alfred North Whitehead, and, more recently, John Leslie (Infinite Minds). Bernstein addresses academics, but he writes clearly, and his subject will attract others. Leslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780745629544
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 8/9/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard J. Bernstein is Vera List Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research, New York.

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Table of Contents



Part I Evil, Will, and Freedom.

Radical Evil: Kant at War with Himself.

Hegel: The Healing of the Spirit?.

Schelling: The Metaphysics of Evil.


Part II: The Moral Psychology of Evil.

Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil?.

Freud: Psychic Ambivalence and Ineradicable Evil.

Part III: After Auschwitz: Radical Evil and Responsibility.


Levinas: Evil and the Temptation of Theodicy.

Jonas: A New Ethic of Responsibility.

Arendt: Radical Evil and The Banality of Evil.





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