Good and Evil: Interpreting a Human Condition

Good and Evil: Interpreting a Human Condition

Good and Evil: Interpreting a Human Condition

Good and Evil: Interpreting a Human Condition


What does it mean to be human in a world filled with tragedy? With creativity and insight Edward Farley, one of today's most respected theologians, here addresses this universal and haunting question of evil. Farley anchors his discussion firmly in interhuman (I-thou) dynamics as a key to unfolding the personal and social spheres of human existence. "It is," says Farley, "the corruption of elemental passions and the resulting contagion of the personal and social spheres that provide a total view of human evil and its redemptive possibilities."


This book is a theological account of a human condition attested to in religious faiths of the Hebraic and Christian heritage. What makes the account theological is its attention to the paradigm or vision of human evil and good (sin and redemption) present in some form in the primary symbols of these faiths. the account pertains to a human condition because it attempts to discover how elements of this paradigm enter and transform three spheres of human reality: agency, the interhuman, and the social. This is why the volume begins with a depiction of these spheres, including various dimensions of human agency (Part One), thus postponing its specifically theological moment (Part Two). the central aim of the volume is to understand how human evil and good arise in relation to these tragically structured spheres. I have included brief introductions to each part to call attention to its major themes and contentions. the propositions in these introductions may help the reader to follow and assess the movement within each part.

Overall the volume is both a series of discrete explorations (concerning, for instance, courage, wonder, subjugation, and interhuman violation) and a comprehensive theory of human evil and good. It is also a self-conscious attempt to address some of the problems of

1. Throughout this essay, I use the terms human reality and (a) human condition more or less interchangeably. They do, however, have slightly different connotations. Human reality is the comprehensive term for the human form of life in which converge the three spheres of agency, relation, and the social. Human condition is the term for the same thing when approached from the perspective of its tragic situation and its encroachment by evil and redemption.

2. in this essay, the term evil means human evil. This is a somewhat narrower usage than evil as anything that deprives something of what it needs or seeks. Thomas Aquinas defines evil in this broader way and argues that moral evil is a specific instance of this with its own distinctive features. See Thomas Aquinas, Disputed Questions Concerning Evil (Selections), trans. R. Ingardia, Parma Edition, privately distributed, Question 1, Art. 1. On the other hand, I am not using the term so narrowly as to mean simply agential evil, treated in this essay as the dynamics of idolatry. Because human evil has distinctive dynamics in all three spheres of human reality, it cannot be identified simply with the dynamics of agential motivations and acts.

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