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Hypatia 18.2 (2003) 152-154

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Introduction to Feminist Philosophy and the Problem of Evil, Part II

Robin May Schott

Whoever was tortured, stays tortured

—Jean Améry, At the Mind's Limit

Part II of Feminist Philosophy and the Problem of Evil continues the discussion begun in the Special Issue on this topic. Its position at the end of the Special Issue on Indigenous Women in the Americas highlights one of the central insights of feminist discussion of evils, that plurality of acts of evil exist that violate and sometimes destroy the lives of women, men, children, and communities. The violence and oppression that devastates Native communities, which Anne Waters highlights in her introduction to the Native American Philosophy issue, can be viewed as an act of evil specific to the United States, which alongside the evils of slavery and racism have left an indelible mark not only on the victims of oppression but on U.S. culture and politics more generally.

Other forms of evil that create life-long scars are acts of torture, terrorism, and domestic battery. As I noted in the introduction to the Special Issue on Feminist Philosophy and the Problem of Evil, the phenomenon of evil is one of the enduring problems of philosophy—the problem of how the world can be considered meaningful when suffering is an irredeemable part of the world. It is a feminist problem both in respect to specifically gendered forms of evils, such as domestic battery, as well as in respect to how feminist values and methodologies can address evils that do not have gender-specific victims, such as the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In the Special Issue on Feminist Philosophy and the Problem of Evil, at least four strategies emerged amongst contributors: a focus on the victims of evil acts; on the ideology invoked in response to evil acts; on the negative representations of the other used to justify aggression; as well as on the ways in which the "feminine" [End Page 152] may be invoked as a positive resource for safeguarding human relations. Lynne Arnault's paper in Part II contributes to the discussion of the second factor, the ideology invoked in response to evil acts. The review essays and book reviews expand the discussion to consider ethical responses to evil acts, as well as methodological discussions of the paradigms used to understand evil.

In "Cruelty, Horror, and the Will to Redemption," Arnault criticizes the logic of redemption so prevalent in popular American culture. Following the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, which killed 168 children and adults, public officials in Oklahoma insisted on finding the silver lining of this tragic cloud, a "door-opening opportunity" (Arnault 2003, 156). Arnault argues that this redemptive explanation of suffering is highly problematic. It is a masculinized and commercialized reaction to suffering that normalizes cruelty and undermines the standpoint of the victims whose lives have been unmade. She argues that we should maintain our horror at such acts of cruelty, and not seek to minimize it through the belief in happy endings. Horror discloses our moral sentiment that our beliefs about the world have been radically undermined, and it expresses our protest against our inability to bring reality into conformity with our will. Horror, for Arnault, is an ordeal of practical reason that discloses crucial truths about the nature of reality.

The two review essays in Part II both take up the theme of ethical responses to evil. Thomas Brudholm, reading two books on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in South Africa, critically discusses the ethics of reconciliation that provide a moral justification for the TRC's amnesty procedure. He reminds us of the need to distinguish between calls for prosecution and punishment on the one hand and the desire for revenge and vindictiveness on the other. His essay, though, also points to the internal limitations of legal trials in the healing of victims and societies. Ewa Ziarek addresses postmodern reflections on the problem of evil...


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pp. 152-154
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Archived 2009
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