The Apologetics of Evil

The Apologetics of Evil: The Case of Iago

Richard Raatzsch
Translated from the German by Ladislaus Löb
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 124
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7szrh
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  • Book Info
    The Apologetics of Evil
    Book Description:

    This book is a concise philosophical meditation on Iago and the nature of evil, through the exploration of the enduring puzzle found in Shakespeare'sOthello. What drives Iago to orchestrate Othello's downfall? Instead of treating Iago's lack of motive as the play's greatest weakness,The Apologetics of Evilshows how this absence of motive is the play's greatest strength. Richard Raatzsch determines that Iago does not seek a particular end or revenge for a discrete wrong; instead, Iago is governed by a passion for intriguing in itself. Raatzsch explains that this passion is a pathological version of ordinary human behavior and that Iago lacks the ability to acknowledge others; what matters most to him is the difference between himself and the rest of the world.

    The book opens with a portrait of Iago, and considers the nature and moral significance of the evil that he represents. Raatzsch addresses the boundaries dividing normality and pathology, conceptualizing evil as a pathological form of the good or ordinary. Seen this way, evil is conceptually dependent on the ordinary, and Iago, as a form of moral monster, is a kind of nonbeing. Therefore, his actions might be understood and defended, even if they cannot be justified. In a brief epilogue, Raatzsch argues that literature's presentation of what is monstrous or virtuous can constitute an understanding of these concepts, not merely illustrate them.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3076-3
    Subjects: Philosophy, Psychology, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    1. If there is any reason why Iago is called ‘‘Iago’’ (and not ‘‘Othello,’’ ‘‘Cassio,’’ or whatever else), it could be because of the resemblance between the word ‘‘Iago’’ and the word ‘‘ego.’’ For just as the word ‘‘ego’’ is connected with the concept of egoism, contemplation of Iago’s actions, too, leads to a concept—the concept of Iago—which resembles the concept of egoism.

    For many people, calling someone an egoist is a way of criticizing him morally. However, some of those who think and speak that way also agree that egoism is a more or less natural stance...

  4. Chapter One The Concept of Iago
    (pp. 11-76)

    5. At the beginning, it was suggested that the reason why Iago is called ‘‘Iago’’ could be the resemblance between this name and the word ‘‘ego.’’ An egoist is said to be a person whose first—or only—thought is always of himself. Thus egoism is, above all, the attitude and the concomitant behavior of a person who believes that he always comes first or that he is the only thing that matters. Others therefore only come second or are irrelevant (even though they have a fundamental importance for the egoist, as will be explained later). Accordingly, Iago might lend...

  5. Chapter Two Apologia for Iago
    (pp. 77-108)

    32. ‘‘Apologia’’ means, roughly, defense or justification. Generally, we defend people, institutions, and various other things, while we justify patterns of behavior, reflections, intentions, feelings, and the like. However, people or institutions, on the one hand, and actions, thoughts, or intentions, on the other, are not completely separate spheres. There is no action, no thought, no intention, no feeling without a person acting, thinking, intending, or feeling. Conversely, if we want to know the person we are dealing with, we must look at what he does, thinks, intends, and feels. The connections between people and their behavior, people and their...

  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 109-110)
  7. Index
    (pp. 111-115)