Reckoning with evil in social life

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Abstract

Any conceptualisation of evil, arguably, has to empower us to resist or transform it in our lived worlds. The latter concern motivates this paper much more than a thorough analysis of evil itself. Drawing on Jewish and Christian thought, I tentatively consider evil as resulting from (or, being exacerbated by) the incomplete or failed cultivation of the humane. Along this line, evil is the opposite of humanity; it is the antihuman, the subhuman (Buber), or the demonic (Heschel). Gratuitous violence, hatred, resentment, and malice manifest this dark ‘power’ of evil. In the aforementioned traditions, peace and justice are conceived as being dependent on the inner order or unity of the soul. Conversely, iniquity – as the manifestation of evil – in the world reflects conflicts or disorders in individual souls (‘selves’). Hence the need to constitute one’s personhood. Such continuous creation takes place through genuine human encounters, where and when love, friendship, and gratitude are allowed to unfold themselves. These ‘dispositions’ are conceived as counterweights to evil. I will work out this argument, but also briefly examine how education, rural and urban planning, economic and political ‘systems’ can either breed or curtail evil.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-381
JournalInternational Journal of Philosophy and Theology
Volume78
Issue number4-5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2017

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Keywords

  • evil
  • encounter
  • humanisation
  • love
  • objectification
  • responsibility

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