Publication Year: 2013
The idea of moral evil has always held a special place in philosophy and theology because the existence of evil has implications for the dignity of the human and the limits of human action. Andrew M. Flescher proposes four interpretations of evil, drawing on philosophical and theological sources and using them to trace through history the moral traditions that are associated with them.
The first model, evil as the presence of badness, offers a traditional dualistic model represented by Manicheanism. The second, evil leading to goodness through suffering, presents a theological interpretation known as theodicy. Absence of badness -- that is, evil as a social construction -- is the third model. The fourth, evil as the absence of goodness, describes when evil exists in lieu of the good -- the "privation" thesis staked out nearly two millennia ago by Christian theologian St. Augustine. Flescher extends this fourth model -- evil as privation -- into a fifth, which incorporates a virtue ethic. Drawing original connections between Augustine and Aristotle, Flescher's fifth model emphasizes the formation of altruistic habits that can lead us to better moral choices throughout our lives.
Flescher eschews the temptation to think of human agents who commit evil as outside the norm of human experience. Instead, through the honing of moral skills and the practice of attending to the needs of others to a greater degree than we currently do, Flescher offers a plausible and hopeful approach to the reality of moral evil.
Published by: Georgetown University Press
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This book is the fruit of thinking hard over the last ten years with students and colleagues about the nature of evil and the moral recommendations to which specific understandings of evil lead. Today scholars have come to realize that the central problem of evil is not theology or philosophy’s classical preoccupation with theodicy, which asks how there can be an all-powerful, redeeming...
Introduction: ‘‘Evil’’ and Evil
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Defeated and exhausted from the fruitless pursuit of the ruthless Anton Chigurh, who got away and who is sure to continue to elude capture, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell utters these words to a fellow befuddled colleague. Chigurh is the consummate psychopath, clever and self-reliant but lacking the capacity to feel empathy or indeed an interest in forming any sort of connection with other...
Chapter One: Evil versus Goodness: Satan and other ‘‘Evildoers’’
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The idea of moral evil has always held a special place in philosophical and theological systems of thought because the existence of evil has implications for the dignity with which and the limits within which we act. Moral culpability is made possible by our ability to choose to do terrible things or to refrain from doing good things. Philosophically, the categories of moral praiseworthiness and...
Chapter Two: Evil as the Good in Disguise: Theodicy and the Crisis of Meaning
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A victim of unspeakable torture and humiliation, having borne witness to a mass slaughter in which he took unwitting part, the once devout and still compassionate Emilo Sandoz is a broken man by the time Vincenzo Giuliani, the father general of the Society of Jesus, interviews him. Sent to the planet Rakhat along with seven others to investigate the possibility of intelligent life,...
Chapter Three: Evil as ‘‘Evil’’: Perspectivalism and the Construction of Evil
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Just before being shipped to a concentration camp, a father attempts to pass off the sentence as a novelty worthy of anticipation. By generating his son’s enthusiasm for the trek, Guido protects him from all the implications of their forthcoming doom. Roberto Benigni’s Oscar-winning film about a condemned man’s determination to shield his son from the worst life brings shows the creative...
Chapter Four: Evil as the Absence of Goodness: Privation and the Ubiquity of Wickedness
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Jean-Baptiste, Camus’s upstanding citizen who slowly unravels in the wake of a decisive moment of moral paralysis, laments a lost innocence whose recovery is eternally beyond him, and, from his perspective, beyond each of us. In the quoted passage Jean-Baptiste describes the avocation he has taken up, that of a judge-penitent: one who judges others as a way of deflecting introspection...
Chapter Five: Evil as Inaction: Augustine, Aristotle, and Connecting the Thesis of Privation to Virtue Ethics
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Disheartening stories of forsaken opportunity mar today’s headlines. Just as Hurricane Sandy bore down on the New York metropolitan area in late October 2012, a mother drove across Staten Island to find shelter for her two sons, aged four and two. Battling winds of nearly 100 miles an hour, her Ford Explorer hit a ditch, and the woman carried her boys to a tree in hopes of anchoring them...
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Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Moral Traditions series