Being Evil: A Philosophical Perspective

Luke Russell. Oxford Univ., $18.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-19-886207-9
Russell (Evil), professor of philosophy at the University of Sydney, delivers a concise, enthralling exploration of the philosophical nature of evil. In six chapters, Russell covers what evil might be, the qualities necessary to make something an “evil” action, the context of Hannah Arendt’s comment about the “banality of evil,” whether or not a person can be evil, and the ways the reader (or Russell himself) might be evil. In the first chapter, he runs quickly through a number of potentially evil actions or people—the 9/11 terrorists, serial killers, Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik—and sums up what he believes are the key elements that make for an evil act: the act is morally wrong, the wrongdoer is culpable, the act is intentional, and there are numerous victims. Russell goes on to argue that Arendt’s understanding of Adolf Eichmann as being evil only through his own subservience neglects Eichmann’s “malicious, clear-sighted” intentions, and, upon considering the proposition that “an action is evil if and only if it is extremely wrong,” Russell demonstrates why this statement can’t be a complete definition. The strength of Russell’s thorough analysis lies in his ability to break down complex philosophical thinking into lay reader–friendly rubrics. These nuanced arguments will push any reader toward a fruitful intellectual engagement with the nature of evil acts. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 08/13/2020
Release date: 12/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 192 pages - 978-0-19-260662-4
Ebook - 192 pages - 978-0-19-260663-1
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