[Paleopsych] Hedgehog: Research on Evil: An Annotated Bibliography
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Research on Evil: An Annotated Bibliography
The Hedgehog Review - Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture
Most annotated bibliographies begin by noting how vast the
literature on a certain subject is and how impossible it would be to
present to eager readers a complete picture of the literature
available. What is unusual is to claim that this vast array of books
falls into fairly discrete subcategories. And yet, this is, to some
extent, the case with books on evil. Disciplinary approaches divide
the study of evil by the ways in which they define or explain it.
Legal studies take on evil as crime. Psychological studies of evil
focus on the individuals who have committed evil deeds. Theological
approaches deal with evil as sin. Philosophical works take up evil as
a problem about whether or not, and how, there can be an all-good,
all-powerful God given the extent and kinds of evil in the world
today. For the sociologist, evil is studied as, in part or wholly, a
result of the social forces at work shaping and misshaping individuals
and institutions. History books narrate particular events deemed evil.
In every case, though, the subject of evil is seen as intricately
connected to the most important questions we face as humans, living
our lives and living our lives together.
Listed below are several categories of books on evil, each with
representative selections. The list of categories is not exhaustive
but should give the reader a sense of the map of "evil studies" and a
way to navigate through it in light of the specific interests she or
he might have.
Classics in the Study of Evil
Certain works are cited again and again in writings on evil.
These works span numerous centuries, geographical areas, and writing
genres; their authors include Christian theologians, atheist
philosophers, Jewish intellectuals, Russian novelists. What they have
in common is a deep grappling with the nature of evil. Is evil a
person, e.g., Satan, or a force at work in the world and in the wills
of humans? Is evil the distortion of good or the lack of a measure of
goodness? Is evil a radical choice or a banal thought-less-ness? Is
God responsible for evil or are humans? How do humans conceive of evil
and how does that relate to their understandings of human nature, the
good, and God?
Aquinas, Thomas. On Evil. Trans. Jean Oesterle. Notre Dame: University
of Notre Dame Press, 1995.
Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of
Evil. Revised and Enlarged Edition. New York: Viking, 1965.
Augustine. The City of God. Trans. Henry Bettenson. New York:
----------. Confessions. Trans. F. J. Sheed. Indianapolis:
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov: A Novel in Four
Parts. Trans. Richard Peaver and Larissa Volokhonsky. New York:
Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. Trans. James
Strachey. New York: Norton, 1961.
Hume, David. Principal Writings on Religion. Ed. J. C. A. Gaskin.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Kant, Immanuel. Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone. Trans.
Theodore M. Greene and Hoyt H. Hudson. New York: Harper & Row,
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil. Trans. Walter
Kaufmann. New York: Random House, 1966.
Ricoeur, Paul. The Symbolism of Evil. Trans. Emerson Buchanan.
Boston: Beacon, 1967.
The Psychology of the Evil Individual
While some books focus on the social conditions that foster
violence, propel injustice, or misshape societies, the following books
focus either on the inner workings of individuals who have committed
horrendous crimes, acts so bad as to merit the appellation "evil," or
on individuals' understandings of evil and how they come to see
something as "evil." These psychologically oriented books take the
forms of interviews, with the executors of evil (e.g., Goldberg),
their victims, or those who have had experiences of evil (e.g.,
Alford); write-ups of findings of psychological studies and/or case
studies from clinical practices (e.g., Peck); meditations on the
motivations for committing evil deeds (e.g., Diamond); discussions of
how individuals conceive of evil, what form it takes in their
imaginations or in their lives (e.g., Jung). One assumption and hope
of many of these works is that by studying the psychology of
individuals who commit evil, we will learn something about how to
prevent or reduce its occurrence. The strength of this approach is its
ability to show us the complexities of evil: how varied its
motivations are, how powerfully destructive one individual can be, how
evil often breeds itself in its victims. Two limitations of this
approach, which moves from the inside out, are, first, its temptation
to reduce evil to biochemistry or unhappy life experiences and in the
process to eclipse the agency involved in acts of evil, and, second,
its tendency to ignore the larger social forces at work in shaping
moral development and understandings of evil.
Alford, C. Fred. What Evil Means to Us. Ithaca: Cornell University
Baumeister, Roy F. Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty. New
York: Freeman, 1997.
Diamond, Stephen A. Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic: The
Psychological Genesis of Violence, Evil, and Creativity. Albany:
State University of New York Press, 1996.
Goldberg, Carl. Speaking with the Devil: Exploring Senseless Acts
of Evil. New York: Penguin, 1996.
Jung, C. G. Jung on Evil. Ed. Murray Stein. Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1995.
Peck, M. Scott. People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human
Evil. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983.
Evil as a Social Problem
Sociologists are unlikely to use the word "evil" in their
discussions of social life. But when they do, their focus is often on
the social conditions that are conducive to widespread violence and
crime. The health of society is at issue in these social problems. The
onus for resisting evil is placed on transforming social institutions
and conditions, such that the individuals and communities within them
will be morally bound to each other in constructive ways. Like the
psychologist, the sociologist may err in eclipsing the agency of evil
doers, but not because she reduces evil acts to biochemistry or
certain life experiences, but rather because she may find the partial
explanation of social causes to be sufficient explanation for why an
individual does what he does. Nevertheless, sociological studies make
a vital contribution to the study of a subject that has for so long
been discussed in abstract terms with no empirical grounding,
particularly since the evils that result from corrupt social
structures have a much greater capacity for destruction than does a
Hibbert, Christopher. The Roots of Evil: A Social History of Crime and
Punishment. Boston: Little, Brown, 1963.
Katz, Fred E. Ordinary People and Extraordinary Evil: A Report on
the Beguilings of Evil. Albany: State University of New York
Katz, Jack. Seductions of Crime: The Moral and Sensual Attraction
of Doing Evil. New York: Basic, 1988.
Lemert, Edwin M. The Trouble With Evil: Social Control at the Edge
of Morality. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.
Oppenheimer, Paul. Evil and the Demonic: A New Theory of Monstrous
Behavior. New York: New York University Press, 1996.
Pillsbury, Samuel H. Judging Evil: Rethinking the Law of Murder
and Manslaughter. New York: New York University Press, 1998.
Sanford, Nevitt, Craig Comstock, and Associates, eds. Sanctions
for Evil: Sources of Social Destructiveness. San Francisco:
God and the Problem of Evil
Probably the largest category of writings on evil are those
dealing with the problem presented to belief in an all-good,
all-powerful God by the occurrence of evil in the world. Being
all-good, the argument goes, God would not want there to be any evil
and suffering. Being all-powerful, God would be able to prevent any
and all evil and suffering from occurring. And yet, there is evil in
the world. Is God either not all-good or not all-powerful? Is evil not
really evil, but a necessary part of a good plan? Philosophers and
theologians have argued and written about this problem for centuries.
Some argue that the simple and most logical answer to the problem is
that there is no God, i.e., the existence of evil is proof that God
does not exist or gives reason to believe that it is more probable
than not that God does not exist. Theodicies argue for God's existence
and defend God's goodness and omnipotence. These arguments take
numerous forms, but most suggest some reason, some greater good, God
might have for permitting evil. Finally there are those who argue that
the effort put into writing theodicies is misguided: we simply cannot
know why God permits evils, and we should be spending our time and
effort trying to prevent and resist evil, to alleviate suffering, and
to make sure that justice is carried out.
Adams, Marilyn McCord. Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God.
Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999.
Adams, Marilyn McCord, and Robert Merihew Adams, eds. The Problem
of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Buber, Martin. Good and Evil. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,
Chopp, Rebecca S. The Praxis of Suffering: An Interpretation of
Liberation and Political Theologies. Mary Knoll: Orbis Books,
Farley, Edward. Good and Evil: Interpreting a Human Condition.
Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990.
Farley, Wendy. Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion: A Contemporary
Theodicy. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1990.
Griffin, David Rey. Evil Revisited: Responses and
Reconsiderations. Albany: State University of New York Press,
Hick, John. Evil and the God of Love. Revised Edition. San
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978.
Leaman, Oliver. Evil and Suffering in Jewish Philosophy.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Levenson, Jon D. Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish
Drama of Divine Omnipotence. Princeton: Princeton University
Peterson, Michael L., ed. The Problem of Evil: Selected Readings.
Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992.
Pinn, Anthony B. Why, Lord?: Suffering and Evil in Black Theology.
New York: Continuum, 1995.
Plantinga, Alvin. God, Freedom, and Evil. New York: Harper & Row,
Surin, Kenneth. Theology and the Problem of Evil. Oxford: Basil
Swinburne, Richard. Providence and the Problem of Evil. Oxford:
Tilley, Terence. The Evils of Theodicy. Washington, DC: Georgetown
University Press, 1991.
Philosophy and Evil
While philosophy of religion books contend with the problem evil
raises for belief in God, another vein of philosophy takes up the
subject of evil quite apart from any questions about God. Tracing
their roots to Kant's idea of radical evil and considering the
failures of Western societies to achieve the ideals proposed by the
Enlightenment, these books contend with the questions: How are we to
understand evil and human nature? What does the occurrence of evil say
about our moral life? Is the human will evil at its base? Is it
possible to overcome evil?
Copjec, Joan, ed. Radical Evil. London: Verso, 1996.
Kekes, John. Facing Evil. Princeton: Princeton University Press,
Midgley, Mary. Wickedness: A Philosophical Essay. London:
Taylor, Richard. Good and Evil. Revised Edition. Amherst:
Prometheus Books, 2000.
Evil in Anthropology and World Religions
Most of the writings in this bibliography focus on Western
perspectives on evil, but the following books either examine other
cultures' views on evil or compare Western views of evil with those of
other cultures, and in doing so, they provide an important perspective
on our own understandings of evil.
Alford, C. Fred. Think No Evil: Korean Values in the Age of
Globalization. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988.
Bowker, John. Problems of Suffering in the Religions of the World.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970.
Boyd, J. W. Satan and Mara: Christian and Buddhist Symbols of
Evil. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1975.
Doniger O'Flaherty, Wendy. The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.
Parkin, David, ed. The Anthropology of Evil. Oxford: Basil
Evil and Literature
Literature has been a vital part of discussions of evil from at
least the time of the writing of Job. More and more philosophers and
theologians are turning to literature in their discussions of our
moral life. Certain literary texts have become touchstones in
discussions of evil: e.g., Dante's The Divine Comedy, Milton's
Paradise Lost, Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. While many
writings make reference to literature in their discussions of evil, a
few books focus explicitly on the relation between literature and
evil, discussing the ways specific literary works present evil to us
(e.g., Bataille); arguing that certain genres explore the sorts of
questions that are raised by experiences of evil (e.g., Bouchard); or
suggesting that literature can draw us into fascinated admiration for
evil through glamorous (mis)representations of it (e.g., Shattuck).
Bataille, George. Literature and Evil. Trans. Alastair Hamilton. New
York: Marion Boyars, 1985.
Bouchard, Larry. Tragic Method and Tragic Theology: Evil in
Contemporary Drama and Religious Thought. University Park:
Pennsylvania State University Press, 1989.
McGinn, Colin. Ethics, Evil, and Fiction. Oxford: Clarendon, 1997.
Shattuck, Roger. Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to
Pornography. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.
Tolczyk, Dariusz. See No Evil: Literary Cover-Ups and Discoveries
of the Soviet-Camp Experience. New Haven: Yale University Press,
Evil and the Gothic
Ten years ago, a bibliography on evil would not have included
such a section, but in the past decade, interest in the Gothic, both
as a literary genre and as a cultural phenomenon, has soared, and it
is shaping our cultural understandings of evil, particularly those
held by younger generations. Several elements of the Gothic have
caught the attention of those interested in evil: its exploration of
horror, violence, and terror; its engagement with the supernatural and
its setting in an eerie past; and its focus on the mysterious, evil
other. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when
rationality was being championed in intellectual circles, the Gothic
novel was exploring the irrational and the limits of rationality,
bringing to the fore in literature what was being repressed in
intellectual life. A similar situation is seen by many to be occurring
today. The very idea of evil is being eclipsed by, among other things:
the hyperbolically positive rhetoric of advertising; the new-age,
self-help industry; the expectation that humans will be able to choose
not just some specific traits, but everything about themselves (or at
least their children-to-be). Eclipsed by these cultural phenomena,
interest in evil erupts in other places. What follows are a few of the
books that take up the Gothic as either a culture, a genre, or a way
of thinking about evil.
Edmundson, Mark. Nightmare on Main Street: Angels, Sadomasochism, and
the Culture of Gothic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
Davenport-Hines, Richard. Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess,
Horror, Evil, and Ruin. New York: North Point, 1999.
Halttunen, Karen.Murder Most Foul: The Killer and the American
Gothic Imagination. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.
Martin, Robert K., and Eric Savoy, eds. American Gothic: New
Interventions in a National Narrative. Iowa City: University of
Iowa Press, 1998.
Punter, David, ed. The Literature of Horror: A Companion to the
Gothic. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000.
Evil, Suffering, and Pain
Suffering has been evil's partner for centuries; it is evil's
effect, its flip side. Discussions of evil cannot help but speak of
suffering. However the two books listed below stand out in their
attempts at understanding the personal and cultural significance of
suffering; they focus specifically on the phenomenology of suffering
and pain, on what the experience of pain is like, and how it both is
shaped by the world and social context in which it occurs and shapes,
or more accurately, misshapes the world for those who undergo it:
Morris, David B. The Culture of Pain. Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1991.
Scarry, Elaine. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the
World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.
Women, Feminism, and Evil
The connection made throughout history between women and evil is
sorely obvious to anyone who takes a moment to think about it. Eve is
often portrayed as the source of all evil, as both weak in giving in
to the serpent's temptation and wily in leading Adam astray. Feminist
thought has pointed out the ways in which women have been relegated to
the margins, and, worse, made to be the evil other of men, and a long
list of books could be listed as dealing with the equating of women
and/or the feminine with what is wrong with the world. However, a few
books specifically take up the connection between women and evil:
Noddings, Nel. Women and Evil. Berkeley: University of California
Sands, Kathleen M. Escape from Paradise: Evil and Tragedy in
Feminist Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994.
The Devil and The Antichrist
While Satan's death has recently been reported (Delbanco), he
has had a long and lively career. Jeffrey Burton Russell's historical
series on this figure, under his various aliases (the Devil, Lucifer,
Mephistopheles, Prince of Darkness, Satan) is hard to surpass, for the
sheer amount of information it brings to those interested in evil's
most prominent representative. But these and other books on the
devil--as well as those on evil's second most prominent
representative, the Antichrist--are not mere biography: they chart
conceptions of evil through time, externalizations of cultural
understandings of evil, and ways in which societies or groups locate
an other who is labeled evil.
Delbanco, Andrew. The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost the
Sense of Evil. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995.
Forsyth, Neil. The Old Enemy: Satan and the Combat Myth. New York:
Random House, 1995.
Fuller, Robert. Naming the Antichrist: The History of an American
Obsession. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
McGinn, Bernard. Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human
Fascination with Evil. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.
Pagels, Elaine. The Origin of Satan. New York: Random House, 1995.
Russell, Jeffrey Burton. The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from
Antiquity to Primitive Christianity. Ithaca: Cornell University
----------. Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages. Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 1984.
----------. Mephistopheles: The Devil in the Modern World. Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1986.
----------. The Prince of Darkness: Radical Evil and the Power of
Good in History. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988.
----------. Satan: The Early Christian Tradition. Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 1981.
Evil in History: The Holocaust
Historic evils abound but one, in particular, has focused
discussions of evil: the Holocaust. Almost all recent writings on evil
refer at some point to the Holocaust, and some of the most profound
writings on the subject of evil are those written specifically about
the Holocaust. Anyone interested in evil would do well to consider
reading any number of the following books.
Bauman, Zygmunt. Modernity and the Holocaust. Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 1989.
Browning, Christopher R. Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion
101 and the Final Solution in Poland. New York: HarperCollins,
Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews. Three
Volumes. Second Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
Lang, Berel. The Future of the Holocaust: Between History and
Memory. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999.
Thomas, Laurence Mordekhai. Vessels of Evil: American Slavery and
the Holocaust. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993.
Wiesel, Elie. Night. Second Edition. Trans. Stella Rodway. New
York: Bantam, 2000.
----------, and Philippe-Michaël de Saint-Cheron. Evil and Exile.
Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 1990.
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