Cole delves deeply into two approaches to evil: the traditional approach where evil is regarded as a force that creates monsters in human form, and a more recent perspective that regards evil as the consequence of the actions of misguided or mentally deranged agents. Cole rejects both approaches and posits that evil is a myth humankind has created about itself. Drawing on philosophical ideas as well as on theological perspectives, psychological theories, and fictional representations, this book provides a thorough and thought-provoking account of the puzzling concept of evil and a reconsideration of the common understanding of human nature.
Phillip Cole is Reader in Applied Philosophy at Middlesex University. His previous book Philosophies of Exclusion: Liberal Political Theory and Immigration received the North American Society for Social Philosophy's annual award for the best book on social philosophy to be published in 2000.
The first part of the book traces how Royce constructed his idealistic personalism in response to criticisms made by George Holmes Howison. That personalism is interpreted as an ethical and panentheistic one, somewhat akin to Charles Hartshorne's process philosophy. The second part investigates Royce's idealistic metaphysics in general and his ethico-religious insight in particular. In the course of these investigations, the author examines how Royce's ethico-religious insight could be strengthened by incorporating the philosophical theology of Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and Emmanuel Levinas's ethical metaphysics. The author concludes by briefly exploring the possibility that Royce's progressive racial anti-essentialism is, in fact, a form of cultural, antiblack racism and asks whether his cultural, antiblack racism taints his ethico-religious insight.
Although these questions have been widely discussed in the past, the present volume offers a variety of new perspectives from philosophers who have made significant contributions to this debate over recent years, including Derk Pereboom, Robert Kane, Ishtiyaque Haji, Michael McKenna, John Martin Fischer, David Widerker and Saul Smilansky.
The emphasis in these essays is not merely on free will, but on allied notions such as moral responsibility, moral obligation, fairness and meaningfulness, and on whether any room can be made for these notions in a deterministic or an indeterministic universe.
Whether expressed in theological or secular terms, evil poses a problem about the world's intelligibility. It confronts philosophy with fundamental questions: Can there be meaning in a world where innocents suffer? Can belief in divine power or human progress survive a cataloging of evil? Is evil profound or banal? Neiman argues that these questions impelled modern philosophy. Traditional philosophers from Leibniz to Hegel sought to defend the Creator of a world containing evil. Inevitably, their efforts--combined with those of more literary figures like Pope, Voltaire, and the Marquis de Sade--eroded belief in God's benevolence, power, and relevance, until Nietzsche claimed He had been murdered. They also yielded the distinction between natural and moral evil that we now take for granted. Neiman turns to consider philosophy's response to the Holocaust as a final moral evil, concluding that two basic stances run through modern thought. One, from Rousseau to Arendt, insists that morality demands we make evil intelligible. The other, from Voltaire to Adorno, insists that morality demands that we don't.
Beautifully written and thoroughly engaging, this book tells the history of modern philosophy as an attempt to come to terms with evil. It reintroduces philosophy to anyone interested in questions of life and death, good and evil, suffering and sense. Featuring a substantial new afterword by Neiman that raises provocative questions about Hannah Arendt's take on Adolf Eichmann and the rationale behind the Hiroshima bombing, this Princeton Classics edition introduces a new generation of readers to this eloquent and thought-provoking meditation on good and evil, life and death, and suffering and sense.