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Old 12-11-2011, 07:24 AM
Hume's Bastard Hume's Bastard is offline
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Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
I agree that the difference between the two denotations wasn't defined clearly enough. I also agree that Wolfe should have used a different word for his interpretation of evil as applied to politics in order to avoid confusion.

Although I didn't read the book, I can imagine that in the book he explores these differences more extensively, while here we're just getting a glimpse.

But the gist of it is that the term evil has been used in a way (intentionally or unintentionally, I'm not getting into that discussion) that elicits a primitive form of fear and rejection. It's the essence of evil, all bad and corrupt and ungodly. Once you accept that your enemy or rival embodies such essence of evil, you become the rightful warrior, god's sword in a certain way. These archetypes are dangerous, because once adopted it's a battle of life and death, or even worse, mixed in with ideas of mission and destiny. These are all abstract heroic concepts that stimulate emotions and drive action, but they tend to obtund reasoning. You're fighting monsters unable to reason, who are only driven by their corrupted malignant evilness. There's no road to negotiations, to understanding, or to finding common ground.

Wolfe states that when we use terms such as evil as it pertains to political processes, we have to abandon this charged connotation and interpret it in a much softer way. It would be closer to the sense, or "bad" or "wrong" or any other down to earth term that describes those who act in detrimental ways.

Beyond the triviality of using one term or the other, the main point is that using one connotation or the other sets up the rules of engagement. He could have articulated the same by approaching the topic from other angles, but this is the one he chose to make his point.
I read a Kindle sample of Wolfe's book before I listened to this diavlog. (Is Bob plugging Kindles and Nooks now? It certainly helps to sample a book before these review-type diavlogs.) I also was put off by Wolfe's philosophical analysis of "political evil". He seems to want to start with a common-sense connotation of evil, and then whittle down the meaning until he can talk about the sausage-grinding business of diplomacy and politics without abandoning this word "evil". Call me a social science type, but I just think Wolfe needs a stiff whiff of empiricism. He tries to first to distinguish types of evil. Then, he distinguishes between four types of political evil, which are terrorism, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and torture. These are four different concepts. And then, my sample ended.

I'm inclined to accept that a philosophical analysis of the problem of evil is necessary. But, Wolfe's argument sounds like rationalizations pasted together with one word, evil, running through them.
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