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New tome on evil: At least Wolfe doesn’t mention Darwin or monkeys

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Political Evil: What It Is and How to Combat It

Not in the essay linked here.

Much more serious than ex-Harvard prof Marc “Evilicious” Hauser – and certainly more solemn – Alan Wolfe, author of a forthcoming tome on evil, opines,

Some ways of thinking about political evil are more helpful than others. Some ways of combating political evil work better than others. If we are to do our best to limit the consequences of political evil, we cannot rely on sloppy historical analogies, amateurish psychological speculations, discredited theological apologetics, political oversimplifications, rigid ideological categorizations, and tired moral platitudes. We owe the victims of political evil more than our compassion. By lowering our sights we can raise their hopes.

– “Evildoers and us,” Chronicle of Higher Education, September 11, 2011

A man of the Left in his youth, he describes his journey to a more pragmatic approach as an outcome of immersion in the harsh reality. But with what result?

The essay, introducing his forthcoming book, Political Evil: What It Is and How to Combat It, is portentous and boring – a hard combination for anyone but an academic to manage.

The problem at the heart of the essay is that he denies the transcendent dimension up front (“discredited theological apologetics, … and tired moral platitudes”)

Excuse us please but, apart from all that discredited stuff, how would we even distinguish evil from “just the way things are done around here”?

That’s where transcendence comes in. Seeing what should be. (That’s not all transcendence is, but it is part of it)

Pragmatism is not the answer. It does not, by itself, point in any direction.

Pragmatism just means acting as if facts matter, but doesn’t tell us what values we should assign to them.

Another difficulty is that in world trouble zones, the roles of victim and perpetrator change often – a fact Wolfe acknowledges, whose implications he seems not to notice: The beautiful princess the Red Cross Knight is rescuing was the Witch Queen in many other episodes.

Here, it’s worth dusting off the traditional (theological) teaching around moral certainty: “Morally certain” means certain enough of the facts that a decision would be ethical. Not necessarily successful, for no one knows the future or the whole story. But at least ethical. If not otherwise useful, it saves a lot of sleepless nights.

Trees die for this?

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A lady who later needs rescue. Or something:

I note evil gets a lot of attention in a Origin discussion webpage. god defines what evil is. We all know what evil and there can't be serious doubt. I People do nasty things all the time to each other but deny they are evil. Evil, in our sense, could only be where severe action/motive behind it is made to affect another person etc. in a serious damaging result. Its about proportion. Or a ratio. If you blast someone cutting you off in the car its seen as okay. if you kill them its seen as evil despite the truth of a original unjust thing by the victim. therefore a conclusion is drawn about the killers motives/character . one would not kill and so killing is evidence of a evil design/character. The bible says Satan silently suggests to man to do evil. This kicks in when we are sincerely provoked. Cain killing Abel is the great case in point. he was provoked by abel being better in gods eyes and so chose to kill because of that evil out of proportion responce. Robert Byers

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