The Evil of Banality: On The Life and Death Importance of Thinking

The Evil of Banality: On The Life and Death Importance of Thinking

by Elizabeth K. Minnich


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How is it possible to murder a million people one by one? Hatred, fear, madness of one or many people cannot explain it. No one can be so possessed for the months, even years, required for genocides, slavery, deadly economic exploitation, sexual trafficking of children. In The Evil of Banality, Elizabeth Minnich argues for a tragic yet hopeful explanation. “Extensive evil,” her term for systematic horrific harm-doing, is actually carried out, not by psychopaths, but by people like your quiet next door neighbor, your ambitious colleagues. There simply are not enough moral monsters for extensive evil, nor enough saints for extensive good. In periods of extensive evil, people little different from you and me do its work for no more than a better job, a raise, the house of the family “disappeared” last week. So how can there be hope? The seeds of such evils are right there in our ordinary lives. They are neither mysterious nor demonic. If we avoid romanticizing and so protecting ourselves from responsibility for the worst and the best of which humans are capable, we can prepare to say no to extensive evil – to act accurately, together, and above all in time, before great harm-doing has become the daily work of ‘normal’ people.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442276307
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 12/15/2016
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 1,098,398
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth Minnich received her doctorate from the New School under the direction of Hannah Arendt. Following twenty-five years as a Core Professor in the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the Union Institute, she now divides her time between Charlotte, NC, where she is professor of moral philosophy at Queens University, and Washington, DC, where she is a Senior Scholar at the Association of American Colleges and Universities. She is the author of Transforming Knowledge (Temple University Press, 1990, 2005) and co-author of The Fox in the Henhouse: How Privatization Threatens Democracy (Berrett-Koehler, 2005).

Table of Contents

Introduction:What Were They Thinking?
Chapter 1: Truth and Fiction: Camus’ The Plague
Chapter 2: Thinking about Not-Thinkingh
Chapter 3: Changing Minds
Chapter 4: Escaping Explanations, Excuses
Chapter 5: Meaning, Truth, Rationality, Knowledge, and Thinking
Chapter 6: Romanticizing Evil
Chapter 7: Intensive Evil, Extensive Evil
Chapter 8: The Ordinary for Good and Ill
Chapter 9: Phillip Hallie: It Takes a Village
Chapter 10: Preparing for Extensive Goodness?
Chapter 11: Looking for Good Beyond the Village
Chapter 12: The Banality of Goodness?
Chapter 13: Seeding Prepared Ground
Chapter 14: Large-Scale Enclosures: Meaning Systems
Chapter 15: Physical Enclosures of Bodies, Minds
Chapter 16: Laying out the Strands
Afterword: Teaching Thinking
Bibliography: Sources and Resources
Author Biography

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