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Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy

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Evil threatens human reason, for it challenges our hope that the world makes sense. For eighteenth-century Europeans, the Lisbon earthquake was manifest evil. Today we view evil as a matter of human cruelty, and Auschwitz as its extreme incarnation. Examining our understanding of evil from the Inquisition to contemporary terrorism, Susan Neiman explores who we have become in the three centuries that separate us from the early Enlightenment. In the process, she rewrites the history of modern thought and points philosophy back to the questions that originally animated it.Whether expressed in theological or secular terms, evil poses a problem about the world's intelligibility. It confronts philosophy with fundamental questions: Can there be meaning in a world where innocents suffer? Can belief in divine power or human progress survive a cataloging of evil? Is evil profound or banal? Neiman argues that these questions impelled modern philosophy. Traditional philosophers from Leibniz to Hegel sought to defend the Creator of a world containing evil. Inevitably, their efforts--combined with those of more literary figures like Pope, Voltaire, and the Marquis de Sade--eroded belief in God's benevolence, power, and relevance, until Nietzsche claimed He had been murdered. They also yielded the distinction between natural and moral evil that we now take for granted. Neiman turns to consider philosophy's response to the Holocaust as a final moral evil, concluding that two basic stances run through modern thought. One, from Rousseau to Arendt, insists that morality demands we make evil intelligible. The other, from Voltaire to Adorno, insists that morality demands that we don't.Beautifully written and thoroughly engaging, this book tells the history of modern philosophy as an attempt to come to terms with evil. It reintroduces philosophy to anyone interested in questions of life and death, good and evil, suffering and sense. Featuring a substantial new afterword by Neiman that raises provocative questions about Hannah Arendt’s take on Adolf Eichmann and the rationale behind the Hiroshima bombing, this Princeton Classics edition introduces a new generation of readers to this eloquent and thought-provoking meditation on good and evil, life and death, and suffering and sense.

Author: Neiman Susan
Pages: 382
ISBN: 9780691168500
Cover: Paperback
Edition Number: 1
Release Year: 2015

Preface to the Paperback Edition xi
Acknowledgments xix
Introduction 1
Chapter One: Fire From Heaven 14
God's Advocates: Leibniz and Pope 18
Newton of the Mind: Jean-Jacques Rousseau 36
Divided Wisdom: Immanuel Kant 57
Real and Rational: Hegel and Marx 84
In Conclusion 109
Chapter Two: Condemning the Architect 113
Raw Material: Bayle's Dictionary 116
Voltaire's Destinies 128
The Impotence of Reason: David Hume 148
End of the Tunnel: The Marquis de Sade 170
Schopenhauer: The World as Tribunal 196
Chapter Three: Ends of an Illusion 203
Eternal Choices: Nietzsche on Redemption 206
On Consolation: Freud vs. Providence 227
Chapter Four: Homeless 238
Earthquakes: Why Lisbon? 240
Mass Murders: Why Auschwitz? 250
Losses: Ending Modern Theodicies 258
Intentions: Meaning and Malice 267
Terror: After September 11 281
Remains: Camus, Arendt, Critical Theory, Rawls 288
Origins: Sufficient Reason 314
Afterword to the Princeton Classics Edition 329
Notes 351
Bibliography 361
Index 369

Susan Neiman is an American philosopher, cultural commentator and essayist. She writes for wide-ranging international audiences on the juncture between Enlightenment moral philosophy, metaphysics and politics. Formerly a professor of philosophy at Yale University and Tel Aviv University, she is a member of the American Philosophical Society and the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences. Her previous books, translated into many languages, include Slow Fire: Jewish Notes from Berlin, The Unity of Reason, Evil in Modern Thought, Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-up Idealists and Why Grow Up? She currently lives in Berlin, Germany, where she is the director of the Einstein Forum.

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