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Women and Evil

Women and Evil

Nel Noddings
Copyright Date: 1989
Edition: 1
Pages: 293
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt7zw0w8
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  • Book Info
    Women and Evil
    Book Description:

    Women and Evil by Nel Noddings.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91120-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Human beings love to fictionalize evil—to terrorize each other with stories of defilement, horror, excruciating pain, and divine retribution. Beneath the surface of bewitchment and half-sick amusement, however, lies the realization that evil is real and that people must find a way to face and overcome it. What we require, Carl Jung suggested, is a morality of evil—a carefully thought out plan by which to manage the evil in ourselves, in others, and in whatever deities we posit.¹ This book is not written from a Jungian perspective, but it is nonetheless an attempt to describe a morality of...

  5. 1 Evil and Ethical Terror
    (pp. 5-34)

    People have always been fascinated by evil—by that which harms us or threatens to harm us. Primitive people sought to escape evil by magic, ritual, and appeasement. Philosophers have attempted to redeem evil by elaborate analyses designed to show that evil is somehow necessary, and theologians have produced a body of work on the “problem of evil.” Women have until recently been relatively silent on evil, in part because they have been silent on most matters, but largely because they have themselves been closely identified with evil in the traditional view. Women who have attempted to speak on moral...

  6. 2 The Devil’s Gateway
    (pp. 35-58)

    In the first chapter we saw that man’s desire to overcome evil often results in perpetuating and renewing it. In this chapter we will see that man often projects evil on woman, as in the bit of doggerel above.¹ Centuries of living with this projection has given women something like a privileged position (in a theoretical, not political, sense of the expression) from which to study evil, and so it is essential to understand what this projection has meant for women’s experience.

    Woman has been regarded, in Tertullian’s words, as the “devil’s gateway.” We could hardly expect persons so labeled...

  7. 3 The Angel in the House
    (pp. 59-89)

    Woman has been associated in a stereotypical way with both good and evil. As an “angel in the house,” woman has been credited with natural goodness, an innate allegiance to “a law of kindness.” But this same description extols her as infantile, weak, and mindless—a creature in constant need of male supervision and protection. Undertones of sadism run throughout Coventry Patmore’s hymn to the angel who is in reality a prisoner in the house she graces.¹ The alleged angel was an image that all Victorian women were supposed to internalize. Virginia Woolf described her struggle with the angel in...

  8. 4 Toward a Phenomenology of Evil
    (pp. 90-121)

    so far we have seen that evil became associated early with disobeying father and his representatives. The roots of that association stretch back into antiquity when early human beings felt contaminated by preexisting evil. Ricoeur began his study of the symbolism of evil with an analysis of defilement. Already two things have happened that must now set aside. First, evil is firmly associated with sin, guilt, impurity, and fault; there has been a move beyond pure terror to ethical terror. Second, thought already focuses on the symbol rather than the experience. “By beginning with a symbolism already there,” Ricoeur observes,...

  9. 5 Pain as Natural Evil
    (pp. 122-155)

    The main topic of this chapter is pain and suffering. Since the psychic pain of separation and helplessness often accompanies physical pain, all the fundamental evils will necessarily enter into the discussion. Even though we have already covered quite a bit of the topic in the criticism of theodicy and in the attempt to identify various evils phenomenologically, we have not yet explored the implications of a feminist analysis. If suffering itself has no purpose and if we see separation and helplessness as states that increase suffering, what recommendations can we make about the social management of pain?

    The exploration...

  10. 6 Helplessness: The Pain of Poverty
    (pp. 156-177)

    Sometimes individuals or groups deliberately or carelessly cause physical or psychic pain to others. This is moral evil—harm that individuals inflict on other human beings. We can prevent such evil, and it is one task of moral education to do so. Much of the pain that surrounds us does not stem from the intentions of particular moral agents, however, but seems to be the result of our customs and social structures. Evils thus induced are hard to see as preventable. Indeed they often go unidentified for long periods of time. When sensitive people finally see and name them, they...

  11. 7 War
    (pp. 178-205)

    Most modern cultures acknowledge war as a great evil. From the perspective of this volume it is surely an enormous evil, one that causes excruciating pain, separation, and helplessness. Yet war and warriors have long been glorified. Seth Schein remarks, “The earliest poetry extant in several major Indo-European language families—poetry which presumably reflects earlier, originally oral traditions—includes stories of the exploits of warrior-heroes who fight both for the benefit of their people and for their own glory,”¹ This early poetry describes men caught up in wars instigated by gods; they fight and suffer heroically, but they do not...

  12. 8 Terrorism, Torture, and Psychological Abuse
    (pp. 206-228)

    So far we have looked at natural evil and cultural evil, both of which reveal forms of moral evil supporting them. Now we will look at practices that are ultimately evil—those that deliberately cause pain, separation, and helplessness and build on these states for their own ends. Who performs such acts? What is their purpose arid genesis?

    Many believe that a distinguishing feature of civilized societies, as opposed to primitive or uncivilized ones, is their unwillingness to engage in torture.¹ No one seriously believes that modern democracies do not use terrorism and torture, but we all know that these...

  13. 9 Educating for a Morality of Evil
    (pp. 229-246)

    The purpose of this last chapter is to bring together the recommendations of the preceding chapters and to direct them toward education. The main task of the book has been to examine evil from women’s perspective. To do so it has been necessary to analyze traditional views of evil, to consider our culture’s expectations for women and for men, and to explore what we might call the logic of women’s experience. What have we learned in our long history as the second sex? What positions are logically compatible with the view from our experiential standpoint?

    Early on I rejected the...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 247-264)
  15. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 265-272)
  16. Index
    (pp. 273-284)