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Wickedness: A Philosophical Essay

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  72 Ratings  ·  6 Reviews
To look into the darkness of the human soul is a frightening venture. Here Mary Midgley does so, with her customary brilliance and clarity. In Wickedness she sets out to delineate not so much the nature of wickedness as its actual sources. Midgley's analysis proves that the capacity for real wickedness is an inevitable part of human nature. This is not however a blanket ac ...more
Hardcover, 232 pages
Published June 29th 2001 by Routledge (first published 1984)
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John David
Oct 21, 2010 John David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Religious thought, and especially the formalizing aspects of theology, can have the effect of what I call “theologizing the natural.” When you theologize the natural, you take a perfectly earthly, human, natural occurrence or state and you attribute it to a higher power or function. This is what has essentially been done with the problem of human evil, or as Midgley calls it to avoid these overtly theological implications, “wickedness.” Instead of looking at the motivations for human behavior, w ...more
Kat Davis
I don't normally read philosophical theory because it tends to make me angry. I feel it tends to reflect the views of the educated few and therefore cannot speak for everyone despite producing all encompassing social and moral theories. Consequently, I didn't find this particularly stimulating and felt that it rambled. I did like the section on the notion of the death-wish, but that was about it. I wasn't too keen on the deeply religious overtones relating to the idea of wickedness, as that is a ...more
Jesse
Mar 27, 2015 Jesse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A grounded, reasonable approach to a complex and dramatic philosophical theme. Midgley's argument ranges over several topics in the general theme of "what is evil, and how does it come about in a world of reason and self-consistency?"

Midgley never downplays the difficulty of the question. Instead, she strips away all evasions, dispensing with determinism and limpid relativism, and she addresses the question from an unrepentant realist point of view: there is truth and value in moral reasoning, e
...more
Craig
Sep 30, 2014 Craig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This book takes a common sense, humanist view on the subject of defining the application of wickedness. Defined outside a religious conception and from an arguably British school of thinking, the concepts flow from Aristotle and Plato through Kant, Sartre, and Nietzsche, Freud and Jung, Shakespeare, Coleridge, and Milton to Darwin, C.S. Lewis, Erich Fromm and others to give a mostly coherent view of what wickedness or evil isn't and is.

The review stops short of a full-blown, multi-disciplinary r
...more
Andreas Sekeris
Good book about wickedness. Interesting concepts about evil not being a positive force eg devil but more a negative version of other characteristics eg. Lack of helping ppl. Not caring enough to stop hitler. Resonates with how we treat asylum seekers. Also great quote about needing to have no values if a great politician to concentrate on believing what ppl want or be a great communicator which is rare.
Fabiola
read it for work. i thought it was very interesting. i didn't really get the central thesis until someone smarter than me told me. but, its the old, all you need for evil to triumph is for men to do nothing. sins of omission people!
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Mary Midgley is an English moral philosopher. She was a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Newcastle University and is known for her work on science, ethics and animal rights.
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