September 20, 12
Foundations & Definitions
- Popular images of “evil” are caricatures, monstrous (over the top),
or demonic (otherworldly).
- Not taken very seriously.
- Common image of devil is based on Pan
- Two Poles when talking about evil…
- 1) Evil as a useless category – relativism
- 2) Evil is easily identifiable – sins and/or violations, or “Original Sin”
– Satan/the Devil
- Not responsible for evil but tempting to do evil.
- Between the 2 poles:
- “evil” treated as a useful category – help us understand and avoid
doing evil or at least try to work against it.
- Katz’s definition of evil: “Behavior that deliberately deprives
innocent people of their humanity, from small scale assaults on a
person’s dignity to outright murder” (5)
- ^A (potentially) secular definition.
- Evil in the World
- Evil as potentially inherent in the “human condition”
- Evil as a result of social structures, culture, bureaucracies, labor,
- Both private and social – in the ways that we speak, work, etc…
- “We have a duty to remember what happened when evil prevailed.
Yet the greatest challenge to us is to develop effective knowledge,
and this goes far beyond remembering and documenting what
happened. We must go beyond dwelling on the horror.
- Striving to Understand
- Rejecting clear-cut answers, the idea “that only fanatics and sick
people do evil”
- In the given definition, evil may be committed by those who would
generally be considered morally “good”, or at least benign – “very
ordinary” persons are complacent.
- The Stanford Prison Experiment
- “Evil” as an innate human category
- if we are all capable, then acting in this way is an inclination (next
week, Kant and “Radical Evil”)
- Among the first acts of humans is disobedience
- Fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil
- The serpent tells Eve that she will become wise if she eats the fruit
- Eve eats the fruit and gives to Adam who also eats it.
- The Flood
- ^G-d regrets creating humanity - Story of Noah
- After – be fruitful and multiply
- Moral – humans are unchangeably drawn towards evil even for G-d.
- Story of Lot (S’dom and Gemora)
- After they escape Lot’s daughters decide to get their father drunk
so he will impregnate them.
- Book of Job
- Called by G-d – “blameless and upright”
- Satan – HaSatan – the adversary or the accuser (his job is to travel
around and tell people what they are doing wrong and tell G-d)
- Traditional Interpretations:
- 1) Disinterested religion – Can people have faith that is not based
on reward and punishment?
- To this the book of Job says yes
- 2) Can suffering provide an understanding of G-d?
- 3) In our suffering, can we match Job in terms of his faith and
acceptance of G-d’s