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The Idea of Evil

ISBN: 978-0-470-76590-6
264 pages
April 2008, Wiley-Blackwell
The Idea of Evil (0470765909) cover image
This timely book by philosopher Peter Dews explores the idea of evil, one of the most problematic terms in the contemporary moral vocabulary.
  • Surveys the intellectual debate on the nature of evil over the past two hundred years
  • Engages with a broad range of discourses and thinkers, from Kant and the German Idealists, via Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, to Levinas and Adorno
  • Suggests that the concept of moral evil touches on a neuralgic point in western culture
  • Argues that, despite the widespread abuse and political manipulation of the term ‘evil’, we cannot do without it
  • Concludes that if we use the concept of evil, we must acknowledge its religious dimension
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List of Abbreviations vi

Preface viii

Introduction 1

1 Kant: The Perversion of Freedom 17

2 Fichte and Schelling: Entangled in Nature 46

3 Hegel: A Wry Theodicy 81

4 Schopenhauer and Nietzsche: Suffering from Meaninglessness 118

5 Levinas: Ethics à l’Outrance 158

6 Adorno: Radical Evil as a Category of the Social 187

Conclusion 212

Bibliography 235

Index 246

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Peter Dews is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex. He has published widely on 19th and 20th century European thought, with a focus on German Idealism, the Frankfurt School, and recent French philosophy. He is the author of Logics of Disintegration (1987, reissued 2006), and The Limits of Disenchantment (1995). He has also edited and introduced two books on the work of Jürgen Habermas: Autonomy and Solidarity: Interviews with Jürgen Habermas (1986) and Habermas: A Critical Reader (Blackwell, 1999).
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  • A timely study of the idea of evil, written by a leading philosopher
  • Surveys the intellectual debate on the nature of evil over the past two hundred years
  • Engages with a broad range of discourses and thinkers, from Kant and the German Idealists, via Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, to Levinas and Adorno
  • Suggests that the concept of moral evil touches on a neuralgic point in western culture
  • Argues that, despite the widespread abuse and political manipulation of the term ‘evil’, we cannot do without it
  • Concludes that if we use the concept of evil, we must acknowledge its religious dimension
See More
"At a time when the word 'evil' is being used in blatantly ideological ways, it is more than ever necessary to examine the philosophical history of this elusive concept. The Idea of Evil is a splendidly lucid, erudite and incisive exploration of the concept of evil in an impressive array of thinkers, which never loses sight of the bearing of this investigation on the politics of the present."
Terry Eagleton, University of Manchester

"For those of us who until today had a certain mistrust in the current fashion for reintroducing the concept of 'Evil' into philosophical discourse, reading the new book by Peter Dews is an intellectual cure and a theoretical adventure. Certainly the best book on the topic I know of."
Axel Honneth, J. W. Goethe-Universität

"Can the concept of evil be taken seriously without a resort to religion, and without losing all faith in emancipatory politics? Peter Dews' timely, scrupulous and passionate reading of post-Kantian philosophy aspires to acknowledge that we are what's wrong with the world, but without destroying the hope that we might nevertheless change that world for the better."
Stephen Mulhall, University of Oxford

"At a time when the word 'evil' is being used in blatantly ideological ways, it is more than ever necessary to examine the philosophical history of this elusive concept. The Idea of Evil is a splendidly lucid, erudite and incisive exploration of the concept of evil in an impressive array of thinkers, which never loses sight of the bearing of this investigation on the politics of the present."
Terry Eagleton, University of Manchester

 

"For those of us who until today had a certain mistrust in the current fashion for reintroducing the concept of 'Evil' into philosophical discourse, reading the new book by Peter Dews is an intellectual cure and a theoretical adventure. Certainly the best book on the topic I know of."
Axel Honneth, J. W. Goethe-Universität

 

"Can the concept of evil be taken seriously without a resort to religion, and without losing all faith in emancipatory politics? Peter Dews' timely, scrupulous and passionate reading of post-Kantian philosophy aspires to acknowledge that we are what's wrong with the world, but without destroying the hope that we might nevertheless change that world for the better."
Stephen Mulhall, University of Oxford
See More
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