On Evil

On Evil

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    On Evil
    Book Description:

    In this witty, accessible study, the prominent Marxist thinker Terry Eagleton launches a surprising defense of the reality of evil, drawing on literary, theological, and psychoanalytic sources to suggest that evil, no mere medieval artifact, is a real phenomenon with palpable force in our contemporary world.

    In a book that ranges from St. Augustine to alcoholism, Thomas Aquinas to Thomas Mann, Shakespeare to the Holocaust, Eagleton investigates the frightful plight of those doomed souls who apparently destroy for no reason. In the process, he poses a set of intriguing questions. Is evil really a kind of nothingness? Why should it appear so glamorous and seductive? Why does goodness seem so boring? Is it really possible for human beings to delight in destruction for no reason at all?

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16296-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
    (pp. 1-18)

    Fifteen years ago, two ten-year-old boys tortured and killed a toddler in the north of England. There was an outcry of public horror, though why the public found this particular murder especially shocking is not entirely clear. Children, after all, are only semi-socialised creatures who can be expected to behave pretty savagely from time to time. If Freud is to be credited, they have a weaker superego or moral sense than their elders. In this sense, it is surprising that such grisly events do not occur more often. Perhaps children murder each other all the time and are simply keeping...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Fictions of Evil
    (pp. 19-78)

    There aren’t many novels in which the main character dies in the first few paragraphs. There are even fewer in which this is the only character in the book. We would be bemused if Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse were to break her neck in the first chapter ofEmma, or Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones were to be stillborn in the novel’s opening sentences. Something like this, however, is what happens in William Golding’s novelPincher Martin, which begins with a man drowning:

    He was struggling in every direction, he was the centre of the writhing and kicking knot of his...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Obscene Enjoyment
    (pp. 79-130)

    Some twenty years ago, I published a small study of Shakespeare in which I argued rather rashly that the three witches were the heroines ofMacbeth.¹ It is an opinion I would still defend, even though Shakespeare himself might well have been bemused by it. But it needs to be modified somewhat in the light of what has been said so far.

    What is the evidence for this perverse claim? The three witches of the play are hostile to the violent, hierarchical social order of Macbeth’s Scotland, and wreak untold mischief within it. They are exiles from that status-obsessed regime,...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Job’s Comforters
    (pp. 131-160)

    Whenever some tragedy or natural disaster takes place these days, one can be sure to find a group of men and women holding homemade placards inscribed with the pregnant word “Why?” These people are not looking for factual explanations. They know very well that the earthquake was the result of a fissure deep in the earth, or that the murder was the work of a serial killer released too soon from custody. “Why?” does not mean, “What was the cause of this?” It is more of a lament than a query. It is a protest against some profound lack of...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 161-164)
  8. Index
    (pp. 165-176)