978-0-465-04754-3 / 9780465047543

Evil: An Investigation


Publisher:Basic Books



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About the book:

Among the most perpelxing reactions to the endless acts of violence, terror, and war in the 20th and 21st centuries is the attempt by some to explain the brutality in geo-political or sociobiological terms. Author Lance Morrow takes these thinkers to task in his powerful and provocative Evil: An Investigation. While Morrow recognizes the need to try to understand these acts, he ultimately asserts that no explanation can meliorate the fact that in essence, they are evil. Acknowledging that evil can never be fully defined, Morrow attempts to place that elusive, human impulse into a 21st-century context. Morrow believes that "A certain flippancy about evil" flourishes in times of peace and prosperity. Therefore, he contends, "A lively awareness of evil. . . must be re-installed in the West" in this post-September 11 world. Throughout the book, Morrow peppers his numerous micro-examples (murder or spiteful office politics) and macro-examples (war, genocide, or terrorism) with thought-provoking and often unanswerable questions: "Is there any such thing as an objective standard of evil?. . . If evil becomes permissible, is it still evil?" Do we sometimes have to commit evil for the greater good?

The strength of this book lies in Morrow's powerful intellect, the range of his discussion, and the ease with which he makes this difficult, enigmatic concept accessible. His investigation casts a wide net, and he poses some of his most challenging questions in regard to American culture. His examples, sometimes drawn from his experience as a journalist, span history--from WWI to the present, with particular focus on WWII and Stalinist Russia--and his insights are always persuasive. Like all good teachers, Morrow provides few definitive answers. He admits, "There is no evidence that evil can be extinguished." But despite this sobering thought, he maintains that we must never give up hope. Evil will always exist, but only with hope, love, and conscience, will it, at least, be held at bay. --Silvana Tropea

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