Evil in Modern Thought An Alternative History of Philosophy

ISBN-10: 0691117926
ISBN-13: 9780691117928
Edition: 2004 (Revised)
Authors: Susan Neiman
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Description: Evil threatens human reason, for it challenges our hope that the world makes sense. For eighteenth-century Europeans, the Lisbon earthquake was manifest evil. Today we view evil as a matter of human cruelty, and Auschwitz as its extreme incarnation.  More...

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Book details

List price: $35.00
Copyright year: 2004
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 3/21/2004
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 384
Size: 6.00" wide x 9.00" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 1.144
Language: English

Evil threatens human reason, for it challenges our hope that the world makes sense. For eighteenth-century Europeans, the Lisbon earthquake was manifest evil. Today we view evil as a matter of human cruelty, and Auschwitz as its extreme incarnation. Examining our understanding of evil from the Inquisition to contemporary terrorism, Susan Neiman explores who we have become in the three centuries that separate us from the early Enlightenment. In the process, she rewrites the history of modern thought and points philosophy back to the questions that originally animated it. 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.

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Fire from Heaven
God's Advocates: Leibniz and Pope
Newton of the Mind: Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Divided Wisdom: Immanuel Kant
Real and Rational: Hegel and Marx
In Conclusion
Condemning the Architect
Raw Material: Bayle's Dictionary
Voltaire's Destinies
The Impotence of Reason: David Hume
End of the Tunnel: The Marquis de Sade
Schopenhauer: The World as Tribunal
Ends of an Illusion
Eternal Choices: Nietzsche on Redemption
On Consolation: Freud vs. Providence
Homeless
Earthquakes: Why Lisbon?
Mass Murders: Why Auschwitz?
Losses: Ending Modern Theodicies
Intentions: Meaning and Malice
Terror: After September 11
Remains: Camus, Arendt, Critical Theory, Rawls
Origins: Sufficient Reason
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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