Sartre and Evil: Guidelines for a Struggle

By Haim Gordon; Rivca Gordon | Go to book overview

Introduction

An American said to me one evening, "After all, if international politics were in the hands of well-balanced and reasonable men, wouldn't war be abolished for ever?' Some French people. present said that this did not necessarily follow, and he got angry. "All right," he said in scornful indignation, "go and build cemeteries!" I, for my part, said nothing; discussion between us was impossible. I believe in the existence of evil and he does not. Jean Paul Sartre in "Individualism and Conformism in the United States." 1945

We also believe in the existence of Evil, not only as an abstract concept, but rather, as a description of concrete events in the world: this drunken father who is brutally beating his daughter, that judge who favors the rich and the powerful, this envious woman who spreads lies about her rivals. Many concrete manifestations of Evil, however, cannot be attributed to one single person. They are results of our political systems, of our manners of governing the world, and of our ways of relating to other human beings: the rampant destruction of the rain forests, the greedy exploitation of millions of peasants and laborers, the prevailing oppression of women, the killings in Cambodia, in Afghanistan, in El Salvador, in Guatemala, and yes, in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel. These many instances of Evil profoundly disturb us. We strive daily to struggle against them, at least in our own backyard. The humility and feelings of impotency that often accompany these struggles have led us to agree with Sartre that "the

-xi-

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Sartre and Evil: Guidelines for a Struggle
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Notes xxiii
  • Part I - Intuitively Responding to Evil 1
  • 1 - Evil and Lucidity 3
  • Notes 16
  • 2 - Unmasking Noble Evil 17
  • Notes 31
  • 3 - Bewitching Evil 33
  • Notes 47
  • 4 - Horror and Evil 49
  • Notes 62
  • Part II - The Ontology of Evil 63
  • 5 - Sartre's Ontology of Evil and the Poverty of the Social Sciences 65
  • Notes 77
  • 6 - Evil for Evil's Sake 79
  • Notes 86
  • 7 - The Consciousness of Genet: A Rejection of Fanaticism 87
  • Notes 103
  • 8 - Genet's Redemption from a Life of Evil 105
  • Notes 113
  • Part III - Evil and Society 115
  • 9 - Fighting Evil Straightforwardly 117
  • Notes 127
  • 10 - Sartre's Tone of Moral Indignation 129
  • Notes 140
  • 11 - Seriality versus Education 143
  • Notes 160
  • 12 - Passivity, Black Pride, and Evil 161
  • Notes 180
  • 13 - Passivity and the Distortion of Truth and Knowledge 183
  • Notes 198
  • 14 - Some Problems 199
  • Notes 206
  • Summary 207
  • Appendix 211
  • Selected Bibliography 227
  • Index 231
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