People who helped exterminate Jews during the shoah (Hebrew for "holocaust") often claimed that they only did what was expected of them. Intrigued by hearing the same response from individuals who rescued Jews, David R. Blumenthal proposes that the notion of ordinariness used to characterize nazi evil is equally applicable to goodness. In this provocative book, Blumenthal develops a new theory of human behavior that identifies the social and psychological factors that foster both good and evil behavior.
Drawing on lessons primarily from the shoah but also from well-known obedience and altruism experiments, My Lai, and the civil rights movement, Blumenthal deftly interweaves insights from psychology, history, and social theory to create a new way of looking at human behavior. Blumenthal identifies the factors — social hierarchy, education, and childhood discipline--that shape both good and evil attitudes and actions.
Considering how our religious and educational institutions might do a better job of encouraging goodness and discouraging evil, he then makes specific recommendations for cultivating goodness in people, stressing the importance of the social context of education. He reinforces his ideas through stories, teachings, and case histories from the Jewish tradition that convey important lessons in resistance and goodness.
Appendices include the ethical code of the Israel Defense Forces, material on non-violence from the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center, a suggested syllabus for a Jewish elementary school, and a list of prosocial sources on the Web, as well as a complete bibliography.
If people can commit acts of evil without thinking, why can’t even more commit acts of kindness? Writing with power and insight, Blumenthal shows readers of all faiths how we might replace patterns of evil with empathy, justice, and caring, and through a renewed attention to moral education, perhaps prevent future shoahs.
Why do people participate in genocide? The Complexity of Evil responds to this fundamental question by drawing on political science, sociology, criminology, anthropology, social psychology, and history to develop a model which can explain perpetration across various different cases. Focusing in particular on the Holocaust, the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, and the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, The Complexity of Evil model draws on, systematically sorts, and causally orders a wealth of scholarly literature and supplements it with original field research data from interviews with former members of the Khmer Rouge. The model is systematic and abstract, as well as empirically grounded, providing a tool for understanding the micro-foundations of various cases of genocide. Ultimately this model highlights that the motivations for perpetrating genocide are both complex in their diversity and banal in their ordinariness and mundanity.
Contemporary society very often asks of individuals and/or corporate entities that they perform actions connected in some way with the immoral actions of other individuals or entities. Typically, in the attempt to determine what would be unacceptable cooperation with such immoral actions, Christian scholars and authorities refer to the distinction, which appears in the writings of Alphonsus Liguori, between material and formal cooperation, the latter being connected in some way with the cooperator's intention in so acting. While expressing agreement with most of Alphonsus's determinations in these regards, Cooperation with Evil also argues that the philosophical background to these determinations often lacks coherence, especially when compared to related passages in the writings of Thomas Aquinas.
Having compared the philosophical approaches of these two great moralists, Cooperation with Evil then describes a number of ideas in Thomas's writings that might serve as more effective tools for the analysis of cases of possible immoral cooperation. The book also includes, as appendixes, translations of relevant passages in both Alphonsus and Thomas.
We take reputations for granted. Believing in the bad and the good natures of our notorious or illustrious forebears is part of our shared national heritage. Yet we are largely ignorant of how such reputations came to be, who was instrumental in creating them, and why. Even less have we considered how villains, just as much as heroes, have helped our society define its values.
Presenting essays on America's most reviled traitor, its worst president, and its most controversial literary ingénue (Benedict Arnold, Warren G. Harding, and Lolita), among others, sociologist Gary Alan Fine analyzes negative, contested, and subcultural reputations. Difficult Reputations offers eight compelling historical case studies as well as a theoretical introduction situating the complex roles in culture and history that negative reputations play.
Arguing the need for understanding real conditions that lead to proposed interpretations, as well as how reputations are given meaning over time, this book marks an important contribution to the sociologies of culture and knowledge.
"By appealing to recent scientific opinion that the universe may well have had an absolute beginning, Geivett develops an interesting, forceful argument for the rationality of belief in God. He then expounds the Augustinian free will theodicy and defends it against Hick's criticisms."
--William L. Rowe
How to reconcile the existence of evil with the belief in a benevolent God has long posed a philosophical problem to the system of Christian theism. John Hick's book, Evil and the Love of God, is perhaps the best known work to redress this difficulty in modern terms. Sharing Hick's interest in responding to the question of evil, R. Douglas Geivett constructs his own new "theodicy for today." But Geivett departs from Hick by embracing the Augustinian tradition of free will and returning the responsibility for evil to human beings themselves.
"Moving from a comparison of the Irenaean and Augustinian traditions in theodicy to a powerfully original critique of Hick's influential 'soul-making' theodicy, Geivett presents a richly developed natural theology drawing on contemporary scientific opinion in support of an ex nihilo creation. Geivett's writing on natural theology is lucid and informed, honestly engaging many of that tradition's critics....This work is notable for its exceptionally thorough documentation and references, making it a valuable sourcebook for reflection on God and evil. A stimulating afterword by Hick himself significantly enriches this book's provocative analyses."
--Religious Studies Review
"Geivett details a natural theology and develops a way of understanding the existence of evil that places the fact of evil within, rather than in opposition to, a theistic view. Both the natural theology and the theodicy are rich and complex."
--Keith E. Yandell, University of Wisconsin
"In this interesting and worthwhile work, Geivett's statement of arguments in natural theology is fuller and fairer than that given by Hick in his writings. This book is an outstanding contribution to the field."
--Richard L. Purtill, Western Washington University
Part I: Two Traditions
1. The Problem of Evil
2. The Augustinian Tradition
3. John Hick's Theodicy
Part II: Religious Epistemology
4. The Value of Natural Theology
5. The Danger of Dismissing Natural Theology
6. The Possibility of Natural Theology, Part 1: The Argument for a Non-Natural Reality
7. The Possibility of Natural Theology, Part 2: Personality, Power, and Providence
8. Explanation and Religious Ambiguity
Part III: Theodicy Proper
9. John Hick's View of Divine Purpose
10. The Augustinian View of Divine Purpose
11. Free Will and Evil
12. Evil and the Afterlife
Afterword by John Hick
About the Author(s)
R. Douglas Geivett is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Biola University in La Mirada, California.
Challenging the classic horror frame in American film
American filmmakers appropriate the “ look” of horror in Holocaust films and often use Nazis and Holocaust imagery to explain evil in the world, say authors Caroline Joan (Kay) S. Picart and David A. Frank. In Frames of Evil: The Holocaust as Horror in American Film, Picart and Frank challenge this classic horror frame— the narrative and visual borders used to demarcate monsters and the monstrous. After examining the way in which directors and producers of the most influential American Holocaust movies default to this Gothic frame, they propose that multiple frames are needed to account for evil and genocide.
Using Schindler’ s List, The Silence of the Lambs, and Apt Pupil as case studies, the authors provide substantive and critical analyses of these films that transcend the classic horror interpretation. For example, Schindler’ s List, say Picart and Frank, has the appearance of a historical docudrama but actually employs the visual rhetoric and narrative devices of the Hollywood horror film. The authors argue that evil has a face: Nazism, which is configured as quintessentially innate, and supernaturally crafty.
Frames of Evil, which is augmented by thirty-six film and publicity stills, also explores the commercial exploitation of suffering in film and offers constructive ways of critically evaluating this exploitation. The authors suggest that audiences will recognize their participation in much larger narrative formulas that place a premium on monstrosity and elide the role of modernity in depriving millions of their lives and dignity, often framing the suffering of others in a manner that allows for merely “ documentary” enjoyment.
In this bracing book, the eminent Dutch philosopher Andreas Kinneging turns fashionable thinking on its head, revealing how good and evil are objective, universal, and unchanging—and how they must be rediscovered in our age.
In mapping the geography of good and evil, Kinneging reclaims, and reintroduces us to, the great tradition of ancient and Christian thought. Traditional wisdom enables us to address the eternal questions of good and evil that confront us in both public and private life. Though it is common to accept uncritically the blessings of modernity and its intellectual sources, the Enlightenment and Romanticism, Kinneging shows that traditional thinking is richer and more realistic. Indeed, we see how, in more than a few respects, the Enlightenment and Romanticism brought not progress but deterioration.
Kinneging skillfully reformulates and defends the insights of traditional thinking for today’s readers, demonstrating how an objective morality is to be understood and how we can know what morality demands of us. At a time when the traditional virtues have practically disappeared from our language (that is, all but one—“tolerance”), he lays out the foundations of virtue and vice. Ultimately, Kinneging reveals the lasting significance of these seemingly archaic notions—to our own lives, to our families, to our culture, and to civilization.
This profound, award-winning work establishes Andreas Kinneging as one of our wisest moral philosophers.
“Shows with utmost clarity the virtue of intellectual courage . . . A brilliant model for sallies against our dark age.”—The Intercollegiate Review
“[Kinneging is] leader of a conservative intellectual revival in the Netherlands.”—New York Times Magazine
Noir is among the most popular, acclaimed, and critically assessed film styles of all time. The unfortunate consequence is an ever-growing divergence between fans and scholars with regard to goals and methods for appreciating and studying noir. The Maltese Touch of Evil aims to bridge that gap. Based on a series of popular podcasts, this unique and inspired investigation of film noir sets out to examine the case of noir more closely, and in the process reconfigures the critical evidence on noir that has been presented to date. The Maltese Touch of Evil reproduces and re-sequences nearly 150 still images from 31 great films, laying them out with the authors’ informed and entertaining insights into the significance of each shot. The result is a de facto meta–film noir, a celebration of the genre that shows how these films are themselves “constrained” texts whose carefully calculated visual forms simultaneously generate narrative and critical commentary on that narrative. You will never look at film noir the same way again.
Milosz and the Problem of Evil
Lukasz Tischner; Translated from the Polish by Stanley Bill Northwestern University Press, 2015 Library of Congress PG7158.M5532T5713 2015 | Dewey Decimal 891.85173
While scholars have chronicled Czesław Miłosz’s engagement with religious belief, no previous book-length treatment has focused on his struggles with theodicy in both poetry and thought. Miłosz wrestled with the problem of believing in a just God given the powerful evidence to the contrary in the natural world as he observed it and in the horrors of World War II and its aftermath in Poland. Rather than attempt to survey Miłosz’s vast oeuvre, Łukasz Tischner focuses on several key works—The Land of Ulro, The World, The Issa Valley, A Treatise on Morals, A Treatise on Poetry, and From the Rising of the Sun—carefully tracing the development of Miłosz’s moral arguments, especially in relation to the key texts that influenced him, among them the Bible, the Gnostic writings, and the works of Blake, Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Schopenhauer. The result is a book that examines Miłosz as both a thinker and an artist, shedding new light on all aspects of his oeuvre.
In this study of Hollywood gangster films, Jonathan Munby examines their controversial content and how it was subjected to continual moral and political censure.
Beginning in the early 1930s, these films told compelling stories about ethnic urban lower-class desires to "make it" in an America dominated by Anglo-Saxon Protestant ideals and devastated by the Great Depression. By the late 1940s, however, their focus shifted to the problems of a culture maladjusting to a new peacetime sociopolitical order governed by corporate capitalism. The gangster no longer challenged the establishment; the issue was not "making it," but simply "making do."
Combining film analysis with archival material from the Production Code Administration (Hollywood's self-censoring authority), Munby shows how the industry circumvented censure, and how its altered gangsters (influenced by European filmmakers) fueled the infamous inquisitions of Hollywood in the postwar '40s and '50s by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Ultimately, this provocative study suggests that we rethink our ideas about crime and violence in depictions of Americans fighting against the status quo.
See No Evil issues a challenge to New Zealanders. The book begins by relating the little-known history of West Papua, but its focus is on the impact of New Zealand’s foreign policy on the indigenous Melanesian inhabitants. In the 1950s New Zealand supported self-determination for the former Dutch colony, but in 1962 opted to back Indonesia as it took over the territory. Delving deep into historical government archives, many of them obtained under the Official Information Act, this meticulously researched book uncovers the untold story of New Zealand’s unprincipled and often hypocritical diplomacy. The consequences of repressive Indonesian rule have been tragic for the West Papuan people, who are experiencing ‘slow genocide’. West Papua remains largely closed to foreign journalists, but its story is now beginning to be heard. A growing number of Pacific Island nations are calling for change, but so far New Zealand has opted for caution and collusion to preserve a ‘business as usual’ relationship with Indonesia.
See No Evil is a shocking account by one of New Zealand’s most respected authors on peace and Pacific issues, issuing a powerful call for a just and permanent solution – self-determination – for the people of West Papua.
Simulating Good and Evil shows that the moral panic surrounding violent videogames is deeply misguided, and often politically motivated, but that games are nevertheless morally important. Simulated actions are morally defensible because they take place outside the real world and do not inflict real harms. Decades of research purporting to show that videogames are immoral has failed to produce convincing evidence of this. However, games are morally important because they simulate decisions that would have moral weight if they were set in the real world. Videogames should be seen as spaces in which players may experiment with moral reasoning strategies without taking any actions that would themselves be subject to moral evaluation. Some videogame content may be upsetting or offensive, but mere offense does not necessarily indicate a moral problem. Upsetting content is best understood by applying existing theories for evaluating political ideologies and offensive speech.
Opponents of speech codes often argue that liberal academics use the codes to advance an agenda of political correctness. But Jon B. Gould's provocative book, based on an enormous amount of empirical evidence, reveals that the real reasons for their growth are to be found in the pragmatic, almost utilitarian, considerations of college administrators. Instituting hate speech policy, he shows, was often a symbolic response taken by university leaders to reassure campus constituencies of their commitment against intolerance. In an academic version of "keeping up with the Joneses," some schools created hate speech codes to remain within what they saw as the mainstream of higher education. Only a relatively small number of colleges crafted codes out of deep commitment to their merits.
Although college speech codes have been overturned by the courts, Speak No Evil argues that their rise has still had a profound influence on curtailing speech in other institutions such as the media and has also shaped mass opinion and common understandings of constitutional norms. Ultimately, Gould contends, this kind of informal law can have just as much power as the Constitution.
In his 2010 book What Is a Person?, Christian Smith argued that sociology had for too long neglected this fundamental question. Prevailing social theories, he wrote, do not adequately “capture our deep subjective experience as persons, crucial dimensions of the richness of our own lived lives, what thinkers in previous ages might have called our ‘souls’ or ‘hearts.’” Building on Smith’s previous work, To Flourish or Destruct examines the motivations intrinsic to this subjective experience: Why do people do what they do? How can we explain the activity that gives rise to all human social life and social structures?
Smith argues that our actions stem from a motivation to realize what he calls natural human goods: ends that are, by nature, constitutionally good for all human beings. He goes on to explore the ways we can and do fail to realize these ends—a failure that can result in varying gradations of evil. Rooted in critical realism and informed by work in philosophy, psychology, and other fields, Smith’s ambitious book situates the idea of personhood at the center of our attempts to understand how we might shape good human lives and societies.
This book about "Touch of Evil" includes the continuity script, a biography of Orson Welles, an interview with Welles by Andre Bazih, an interview with Charlton Heston, excerpts from several critical essays, major reviews, a filmography and a bibliography.
Two profound atrocities in the history of Western culture form the subject of this moving philosophical exploration: American Slavery and the Holocaust. An African American and a Jew, Laurence Mordekhai Thomas denounces efforts to place the suffering of one group above the other. Rather, he pronounces these two defining historical experiences as profoundly evil in radically different ways and points to their logically incompatible aims.
The author begins with a discussion of the nature of evil, exploring the fragility of human beings and the phenomena of compartmentalizing, unquestioning obedience to authority, and moral drift. Citing compelling examples from history and contemporary life, he characterizes evil acts in terms of moral agency, magnitude, and intent.
With moving testimony, Thomas depicts the moral pain of African Americans and Jews during their ordeals and describes how their past as victims has affected their future. Without invidious comparison, he distinguishes between extermination and domination, death and natal alienation, physical and mental cruelty, and between being viewed as irredeemable evil and as a moral simpleton. Thomas also considers the role of blacks and Jews in the Christian narrative.
In Vessels of Evil, Thomas also considers the ways Jews and blacks have gone on to survive. He analyzes the relative flourishing of Jews and the languishing of blacks in this country and examines the implications of their dissimilar tragedies on any future relationship between these two minorities.
Scholars and other readers usually examine Dostoevsky’s views on punishment through the prism of his Christian commitments. For some, this means an orientation toward mercy; for others, an affirmation of suffering as a path toward redemption. Anna Schur brings to bear a wide range of sources in philosophy, criminology, psychology, and history to examine Dostoevsky's ideas. His thinking was shaped not only by his Christian ethics but also by the debates on punishment theory and practice unfolding during his lifetime. As Dostoevsky attempts to balance the various ethical and cultural imperatives, he displays ambivalence both about punishment and about mercy. This ambivalence, Schur argues, is further complicated by what Dostoevsky sees as the unfathomable quality of the self, which hinders every attempt to match crimes with punishments. The one certainty he holds is that a proper response to wrongdoing must include a concern for the wrongdoers’ moral improvement.