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10.2allen01 - Evil and Enmity Allen Barry 1957Common...

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Evil and Enmity Allen, Barry, 1957- Common Knowledge, Volume 10, Issue 2, Spring 2004, pp. 185-197 (Article) Published by Duke University Press For additional information about this article Access Provided by Bilkent Universitesi at 10/26/10 9:30PM GMT http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/ckn/summary/v010/10.2allen01.html
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EVIL AND ENMITY Barry Allen The Evil One is gone, the evil ones remain. —Goethe , Faust Evil The language of evil has entered mainstream political discourse, over the past two and a half years, without much opposition. Organs of American opinion like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have approved of President Bush’s use of this language, while critics object either that evil (like truth ) is no longer a legitimate term of discourse or that Mr. Bush is as evil as the terrorists he con- demns. I would like to argue, in contrast to both these approaches, that while the concept of evil has an important and intelligible place in secular moral philoso- phy, it is seldom appropriately applied to impersonal enmity—the enmity between tribes, clans, peoples, or states. Labeling our enemies as evil tends to reveal our ignorance or mystification about their motives, to disavow our own contribution to the spiral of enmity, and to impede insight into the alternatives to annihilation. Evil belongs to the moral genus of undeserved harm. 1 It is not uncommon to refer to any undeserved harm as “ an evil,” including impersonal harms, like 1. See John Kekes, Facing Evil (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990). For Kekes, any undeserved harm is an evil; I apply a further qualification. Common Knowledge 10:2 Copyright 2004 by Duke University Press 185
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COMMON KNOWLEDGE 186 2. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, “Human Freedom and the Origin of Evil” (1695), in Philosophical Essays , ed. and trans. Roger Ariew and Daniel Garber (Indianapolis, IN: Hack- ett, 1989), 115. 3. Immanuel Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone , trans. Theodore M. Greene and Hoyt H. Hudson (1793; New York: Harper and Row, 1960), 17, 24. infections or earthquakes. This usage is not without hazard. Evil is not simply any undeserved harm, whose causes are many, including impersonal misfortune. To suffer evil is to suffer harm that you do not deserve at the hands of another (or others), and not simply at their hands but by the viciousness of their conduct, which is the distinctively human contribution to the misfortunes of the world. Vicious means done from vice (for instance, cowardice, selfishness, cruelty, or fanaticism). Evil—vicious behavior—occurs not when we fiendishly plot, but when we routinely or thoughtlessly reveal a bad character. As vicious injustice, evil requires somebody to do it as well as suffer it. Hence the hazard of calling infections or earthquakes evil: an implication of malice and agency where there is none. Their harm is undeserved only in the sense that desert does not enter into it. They happen and do harm, but there is no purpose, no agency, no moral viciousness, injustice, or evil.
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