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Wickedness (Routledge Classics)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  91 ratings  ·  10 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. Midgley's analysis proves that the capacity for real wickedness is an inevitable part of human nature. This is not however a blanket acceptance of evil. Out of this dark journey she returns with an offering to us: an understanding of h ...more
Paperback, 232 pages
Published June 28th 2001 by Routledge Classics (first published 1984)
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3.90  · 
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 ·  91 ratings  ·  10 reviews


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Sharad Pandian
Midgley's argument is that we have to stop thinking about wickedness as some sort of alien value system and instead see it as a malfunction in the usual set of motivations and impulses all humans share thanks to our evolutionary heritage. She summarizes this method nicely when she says:

"This kind of account lays the main stress on the arrangement of the motives. It does not accept that human beings can invent new motives, or ‘invent values’ to which those new motives would correspond. Even the m
...more
E.
Nov 14, 2018 rated it liked it
I have not read Midgley before, but will definitely read more of her work. I appreciate the way she writes, including her wit, but mostly for the clear way it reveals a good, analytical mind at work.

This particular book has many keen and useful insights on human motivations and the way we get ourselves into trouble.

I did think the final chapters failed to drawn to any sort of grand conclusion, but her basic thesis--that we can explain (and therefore address) human wickedness by studying natural
...more
John David
Oct 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Katia M. 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 rated it really liked it
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 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
Aug 20, 2016 rated it liked it
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.
Tucker
An old favorite, re-read again after five years. Clear explanation of a lot of foundational issues. Really well written. Some quotes on Dead Men Blogging.
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 Beatrice Midgley (née Scrutton; 13 September 1919 – 10 October 2018[1]) was a British philosopher. She was a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Newcastle University and was known for her work on science, ethics and animal rights. She wrote her first book, Beast And Man (1978), when she was in her fifties. She has since written over 15 other books, including Animals and Why They Matter (1983), W ...more
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“Demonic Males: Apes and the origins of human violence,7 Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson discuss the rather alarming facts which have lately become known about the savage behaviour sometimes observed among these primates.” 0 likes
“This book is about the problem of evil, but not quite in the traditional sense, since I see it as our problem, not God's. It” 0 likes
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