A Philosophy of Evil

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Dalkey Archive Press, 2010 - Philosophy - 306 pages
2 Reviews

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word in movies, political speeches, and news reports, "evil" is generally seen as either flagrant rhetoric or else an outdated concept: a medieval holdover with no bearing on our complex everyday reality.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."

 

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Next time you write a book,you either choose to be superficial on both sides,good and evil,or you take a deeper look and simply tell the truth.In your book you are justifying the evil,mentioning Schopenhauer and denying Socrates.As a philosopher you have the ability to reason, let me ask you why your reasoning is not going far enough to say the truth? Either you're not philosophical enough or your simply want to lead people wrong.I can write another book to explain your superficial judgments.Evil is not normal,is sickness. Unless you understand this,youll never heal.Keep blaming God for your stubidity 

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This is the most under developed sophomoric collection of quasi-philosophical dribble I have ever had the unfortunate displeasure of reading. Yes the problem of "evil" is one of perhaps central importance in understanding history and in forming an effective picture of something like "human nature" or a system of moral semantics, and in this sense deep capable thinkers with an informed interest in psychology have some obligation to dedicate their efforts to the question. Lars Svendsen is certainly not in a position to do so.
A first complaint is that Lars clearly lacks depth of comprehension when it comes to applying (or criticizing, though I cringe to find myself using any conjugation of the term 'critique' in connection with this piece of scribble) even the most common understanding of the work of standard thinkers (Nietzsche, Kant, Hegel etc). His position on yet another tired theme, the Nazi Holocaust (his central unflinching example of 'evil') is just the standard repetition of the standard positions, an unforgivable tactic he uses to retain the reader's attention and sentiment. His discussion of the 'thoughtlessness' of perpetrators there (Eichmann, Hoss and Stangl) for example provides yet another psychologically uninformed account of evil doers based on the usual position that harming innocents is wrong etc etc. With a title like "A Philosophy of Evil" one would expect a bit more than a simple rehashing of the standard colloquial position on these complex case studies. I shutter to predict the contents of his other texts having similarly catchy and marketable titles...
A second complaint is that it lacks not only depth but unification and theme even on a very basic compositional level. If I had known that I'd be working so hard to swallow what is more like a child's degenerate sourcebook on 'bad things bad people did' I certainly would have opted out of dedicating the necessary time and boredom to the text. Again, bad form. This isn't serious philosophical work and shouldn't be labeled a philosophy of anything. Is this representative of what passes for decent work at the University of Bergen these days? Quite sad indeed.
Unfortunately I haven't the effort just now to fabricate some fortunate phrases to redeem the text. I suppose I might recommend it to my less thoughtful and informed acquaintances (certainly not my friends nor my colleagues), but would be embarrassed to admit to having any relationship to the work of Lars Svendsen among my more thoughtful collaborators and interlocutors. If you're looking for philosophy look elsewhere.
 

Contents

foreword
9
What is Evil and How Can We Understand It?
17
the theology of evil
39
the anthropology of evil
77
Kant and Instrumental Evil
110
The Evil is the OtherIdealistic Evil
122
Arendt and Stupid Evil
137
Evil People
193
the problem of evil
197
conclusion
231
bibliography
283
Copyright

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About the author (2010)

Lars Svendsen is professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Bergen, Norway. He is the author of "A Philosophy of Fear", " Fashion: A Philosophy", and "A Philosophy of Boredom", all published by Reaktion Books.

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