THE MORAL UNIVERSE
“What have children to do with it, tell me, please.”
Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
IN this chapter we study another important generative force of (Western) civilization: people’s need to believe that they live not in a fearful and absurd, but in a ‘moral’, universe; that there is a kind of moral law functioning in the universe; that justice is being done in this world. We also discuss how the constant and anxious efforts of people to expel evil from the world shapes human civilization.
It is not new to state that the experience of evil—human suffering, fear, destruction, death—and the fight to control and subdue it, has been a major factor in the generation of civilizations. But it is surprising to see how little scholars have studied this factor with a view to better understanding the genesis and inner organization of human civilizations.
The experience of evil must have been overwhelming and terrifying from the very beginning. At least this is the only way to explain the diligence, or even more, the almost paranoid urge with which people all over the world have tried to expel it from their lives and world, using all possible and impossible means. It seems as if mankind has lived, throughout its history, in a permanent state of siege, assailed by innumerable foes and fiends. The number and variety of the protective devices people of all ages have