On Evil

On Evil

On Evil

On Evil

Synopsis

Evil has long fascinated psychologists, philosophers, novelists and playwrights but remains an incredibly difficult concept to talk about. On Evil is a compelling and at times disturbing tour of the many faces of evil. What is evil, and what makes people do awful things? If we can explain evil, do we explain it away? Can we imagine the mind of a serial killer, or does such evil defy description? Does evil depend on a contrast with good, as religion tells us, or can there be evil for evil's sake?Adam Morton argues that any account of evil must help us understand three things: why evil occurs; why evil often arises out of banal or everyday situations; and how we can be seen as evil. Drawing on fascinating examples as diverse as Augustine, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, psychological studies of deviant behaviour and profiles of serial killers, Adam Morton argues that evil occurs when internal, mental barriers against it simply break down. Adam Morton also introduces us to some nightmare people, such as Adolf Eichmann and Hannibal Lecter, reminding us that understanding their actions as humans brings us closer to understanding evil.Exciting and thought-provoking, On Evil is essential reading for anyone interested in a topic that attracts and repels us in equal measure.

Excerpt

This is a book about how we can understand the awful things people do. My main inspiration for this book has not been the philosophers and theologians who have reflected on the meaning of evil. I am a professional philosopher and I have read much of this literature. But I must say that it has given me much less of a grasp of what lies behind atrocity than the work of the witnesses, people such as Hannah Arendt, Gitta Sereny, Primo Levi, Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, and Desmond Tutu, who have undergone or had to deal with atrocity first hand. One of the legacies of the twentieth century is the reflections of such people. I have also learned a lot from recent psychological work on dangerous people. So this book is a philosopher's reaction to the work of those who have observed, in real life or the laboratory, evil motives at work. It is not a reflection on any central texts of our culture. It does not take a traditional concept of evil, supposed to be a fixed target, and try to say something deep about it. I am convinced, in fact, that that is precisely what we should not do. Instead it asks "How should we think about the atrocities around us? What concepts do we need, if we are to know how to explain and how to react?"

The main text avoids scholarly disputes and complications. the notes at the end of the book refer to sources and debates. When something I say seems wrong or mysterious, you

On Evil . . .

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