Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Moral Evil

Moral Evil

Andrew Michael Flescher
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Moral Evil
    Book Description:

    The idea of moral evil has always held a special place in philosophy and theology because the existence of evil has implications for the dignity of the human and the limits of human action. Andrew M. Flescher proposes four interpretations of evil, drawing on philosophical and theological sources and using them to trace through history the moral traditions that are associated with them.The first model, evil as the presence of badness, offers a traditional dualistic model represented by Manicheanism. The second, evil leading to goodness through suffering, presents a theological interpretation known as theodicy. Absence of badness-that is, evil as a social construction-is the third model. The fourth, evil as the absence of goodness, describes when evil exists in lieu of the good-the "privation" thesis staked out nearly two millennia ago by Christian theologian St. Augustine. Flescher extends this fourth model-evil as privation-into a fifth, which incorporates a virtue ethic. Drawing original connections between Augustine and Aristotle, Flescher's fifth model emphasizes the formation of altruistic habits that can lead us to better moral choices throughout our lives.Flescher eschews the temptation to think of human agents who commit evil as outside the norm of human experience. Instead, through the honing of moral skills and the practice of attending to the needs of others to a greater degree than we currently do, Flescher offers a plausible and hopeful approach to the reality of moral evil.

    eISBN: 978-1-62616-011-8
    Subjects: Philosophy, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction “Evil” and Evil
    (pp. 1-22)

    Defeated and exhausted from the fruitless pursuit of the ruthless Anton Chigurh, who got away and who is sure to continue to elude capture, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell utters these words to a fellow befuddled colleague. Chigurh is the consummate psychopath, clever and self-reliant but lacking the capacity to feel empathy or indeed an interest in forming any sort of connection with other people. Chalking a good many of his deeds up to fate, Chigurh confesses to his future victims that it is nothing personal: the ability to choose otherwise is beyond even him. Cormac McCarthy’s efficient, relentless murderer, a...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Evil versus Goodness: Satan and Other “Evildoers”
    (pp. 23-66)

    The idea of moral evil has always held a special place in philosophical and theological systems of thought because the existence of evil has implications for the dignity with which and the limits within which we act. Moral culpability is made possible by our ability to choose to do terrible things or to refrain from doing good things. Philosophically, the categories of moral praiseworthiness and blameworthiness depend on the prospect of our being able to act or not act one way when we have the capacity to act otherwise. Theologically, the whole point to being humans made in God’s image...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Evil as the Good in Disguise: Theodicy and the Crisis of Meaning
    (pp. 67-116)

    A victim of unspeakable torture and humiliation, having borne witness to a mass slaughter in which he took unwitting part, the once devout and still compassionate Emilo Sandoz is a broken man by the time Vincenzo Giuliani, the father general of the Society of Jesus, interviews him. Sent to the planet Rakhat along with seven others to investigate the possibility of intelligent life, Sandoz is the sole survivor in a hopeful mission that unravels into catastrophe for everyone involved. Mary Doria Russell’s novel about a believer forsaken by a God in whom his faith had never before wavered is tragic...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Evil as “Evil”: Perspectivalism and the Construction of Evil
    (pp. 117-163)

    Just before being shipped to a concentration camp, a father attempts to pass off the sentence as a novelty worthy of anticipation. By generating his son’s enthusiasm for the trek, Guido protects him from all the implications of their forthcoming doom. Roberto Benigni’s Oscar-winning film about a condemned man’s determination to shield his son from the worst life brings shows the creative force of the will triumphing over genocide. By adopting the right attitude, the film argues, we have the capacity to transform the gloomiest reality into something tolerable. Shortly afterLife Is Beautifulwas released it met with great...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Evil as the Absence of Goodness: Privation and the Ubiquity of Wickedness
    (pp. 164-206)

    Jean-Baptiste, Camus’s upstanding citizen who slowly unravels in the wake of a decisive moment of moral paralysis, laments a lost innocence whose recovery is eternally beyond him, and, from his perspective, beyond each of us. In the quoted passage Jean-Baptiste describes the avocation he has taken up, that of a judge-penitent: one who judges others as a way of deflecting introspection and self-diagnosis in service of real reform. Innocence here assumes an almost mythical sense: It pertains not just to freedom from responsibility but also to freedom from the condition of having to be responsible. In lieu of innocence, life...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Evil as Inaction: Augustine, Aristotle, and Connecting the Thesis of Privation to Virtue Ethics
    (pp. 207-254)

    Disheartening stories of forsaken opportunity mar today’s headlines. Just as Hurricane Sandy bore down on the New York metropolitan area in late October 2012, a mother drove across Staten Island to find shelter for her two sons, aged four and two. Battling winds of nearly 100 miles an hour, her Ford Explorer hit a ditch, and the woman carried her boys to a tree in hopes of anchoring them with the support of its branches. The futility of this strategy evident, the mother banged on the door of a nearby residence and begged the occupant for shelter. Her request was...

    (pp. 255-270)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 271-280)