A Philosophy of Evil
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A Philosophy of Evil

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  81 ratings  ·  9 reviews
Despite the overuse of the word in movies, political speeches, and news reports, “evil” is generally seen as either flagrant rhetoric or else an outdated concept: a medieval holdover with no bearing on our complex everyday reality. In A Philosophy of Evil, however, acclaimed writer/philosopher Lars Svendsen argues that evil remains a concrete moral problem: that we’re all...more
Paperback, 250 pages
Published April 6th 2010 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published October 19th 2001)
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Lars Svendsen has written a very readable, at times fascinating, summary of the philosophical discussions surrounding the concept of evil. Since I spent a large part of my only college philosophy class fighting to stay awake, that's no small compliment. Svendsen, strange for a philosopher, has little patience for philosophies that have no traction in the real world, and perhaps that's why I found him so engaging.

That being said, his heart doesn't seem to be in the first half of the book, coveri...more
Ivan Marić
This is the first time I read a book similar theme and I must admit that Svendsen thrilled me. Although the book deals with the philosophical/moral/religious complicated subject, evil, it's very interesting and simply written. The book has great answers on questions: Why people do evil act? From where evil comes and are we all evil? Whether, under certain circumstances, we can do things that SS officers were doing? Particular emphasis is placed on religions which are trying to defend the almight...more
Matt Evans
This is far and away one of the best books I’ve ever read on the subject of evil -- real evil. And by “real evil” I mean, simply, evil as I’ve experienced it out in the real world. The book is well reasoned, impassioned, and refreshingly free from hysterical descriptions of what Mr. Svendsen calls “demonic evil”; i.e., evil performed for evil’s sake. Simply put, “demonic evil” doesn’t exist. But real evil -- instrumental evil, idealistic evil, and what Arendt called “stupid” or “banal” evil -- r...more
The author sheds some light on the definition of evil and comes up with suggestions on how to deal with it. According to Svedsen, humanity is the root of evil. Every of us is both good and evil. Though the portion of good and evil are varied for different individuals. Only when we come to accept that we're all capable of committing evil acts, that evil is not an external theology, do we stand a chance against it.

Truly, I found his theories fascinating and thought-provoking. I won't pretend that...more
Very accessible read. Svendsen treats the subject action, side stepping arguments of evil as ontological conditions. He does an interesting job of juxtaposing choice/free will against both theological and scientific explanations of evil. Worth reading!
Jacob Wren
I think it's so strange how, in the opening chapter, he contradicts religious arguments by saying they're not rational. Why on earth should we expect religious arguments to be rational.
Andrea Bartlett
Very well researched and argued, and accessible at the same time. Well worth the read.
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Lars Fredrik Händler Svendsen is a Norwegian author and philosopher who is professor at the University of Bergen. He has published several books translated into 24 languages. He is also engaged as project manager in the think tank Civita. In 2008 he was awarded the Meltzer Prize for outstanding research, and in 2010 he was awarded the prisoners Testament.


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