A Good Look at Evil

By Abigail L. Rosenthal

A Good Look at Evil

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  • ISBN: 9781532616372
  • Pages: 320
  • Publication Date: 2/14/2018
  • Retail Price: $29.00
Web Price: $23.20
BUY FROM AMAZON.COM
Web Price: $23.20

A Good Look at Evil

By Abigail L. Rosenthal

paperback-logo

PAPERBACK

  • ISBN: 9781532616372
  • Pages: 320
  • Publication Date: 2/14/2018
  • Retail Price: $29.00
Web Price: $23.20
BUY FROM AMAZON.COM

About-

We meet with evil in the ordinary course of experience, as we try to live our life stories. It’s not a myth. It’s a mysterious but quite real phenomenon. How can we recognize it? How can we learn to resist it? Amazingly, philosophers have not been much help. Despite the claim of classical rationalists that evil is “ignorance,” evil-doers can be extremely intelligent, showing an understanding of ourselves that surpasses our own self-understanding. Meanwhile, contemporary philosophers, in the English-speaking world and on the Continent, portray good and evil as social constructs, which leaves us puzzled and powerless when we have to face the real thing. Thinkers like Hannah Arendt have construed evil as blind conformity to institutional roles—hence “banal”— but evil-doers have shown exceptional creativity in bending and reshaping institutions to conform to their will. Theologians have assigned evil the role of adversary to the divine script, but professing religionists are fully capable of evil, while atheists have been known to mount effective resistance. More than broad-brush conceptual distinctions are needed. A Good look at Evil maps the actual terrain—of lived ideas and situations—showing how to recognize evil for what it is: the perennial and present threat to a good life.

Endorsements & Reviews-

In ‘A Good Look at Evil’, Abigail Rosenthal has provided an erudite, elegant, articulate, sometimes humorous, and highly readable work. Rather than letting us view the current horrors of our time with helpless anger, this book gives us an opportunity to analyze the ways in which evil enters our individual lives. It defines evil as the spoiling of one’s own or another’s life story, and explores the qualities which cause people to become evil, be seduced or seduce others into evil, or transgress their own moral principles. This book helps us engage with our own experiences, make sense out of unsavory characters with whom we have come in contact, and see the universality of such types. It then expands into the story of the spoiling of an entire culture’s story, either through rapacious exploitation of a native culture or through genocide itself, culminating in the Holocaust. Finally, Dr. Rosenthal brings the individual and geopolitical manifestations of evil together via a thorough discussion of the motivations and behavior of the philosopher Hannah Arendt vis-a-vis the Holocaust. She takes eloquent issue with “The Banality of Evil”, and shows Ms. Arendt as a conscious betrayer of her people. An intriguing and provocative read.

-Amazon Customer



I first received this book in the expectation of procuring some insight into the nature of evil. What I gained was certainly this, but far more. A Good Look at Evil begins with a unique take on the ethical life as the realization of one’s ideal story, and evil as the destruction of this process either within oneself or in others. In unpacking these deceptively simple definitions, Rosenthal offers a wealth of ideas which may serve to deepen and transform our grasp of human nature. Here, for instance, one finds keen profiles of unsavory figures like the seducer and the sell-out—depictions on par with the best philosophical novels. Here is also a merciless dissection of Hannah Arendt in light of new evidence concerning the Eichmann trial and her relationship to Martin Heidegger. Here is a penetrating study of the different kinds of personalities and motives behind genocide. Chapters such as “Thinking like a Nazi” can compete with Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jew for recognition as among the greatest phenomenologies of self-deception and the genesis of the bigoted mind. All throughout, Rosenthal engages with a host of authors both classic and contemporary. She explores topics which connect philosophy with anthropology, history, and even theology. Rosenthal’s concept of God as a co-author of our life-narrative merits some future exploration, and may yet have some impact on the philosophy of religion The sheer originality of this book make it a pleasure to read, and my grasp of the range and phenomena of evil have advanced considerably after having completed it. This is no small claim, given that I have been teaching courses in both theoretical and applied ethics for close to twenty years. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the perennial questions of right and wrong—indeed for any intellectually curious and morally serious person.

-Jon W., Customer Review

Abigail Rosenthal is a professor (emerita) of philosophy, which is not the same thing as being a real philosopher. Indeed, there are few enough books written today by genuine philosophers. This is one. … Any book with the title, A Good Look at Evil looks to be heavy going, but Rosenthal’s treatment of an undoubtedly important philosophical problem is remarkably accessible to anyone who still retains a hold on common sense. ... This is, then, a genuine and practical philosophy of existence, a recovery of the understanding of philosophy as a way of living.

-Barry Cooper, Customer Review

Rosenthal writes in a distinctive philosophical voice that models personal interest in the moral quality of life, with the vividness and candor that this implies (and also considerable wit and humor) … . Evil can be not merely the sad effect of compromises and evasions but a bright, hot, self-nourishing interest in the kind of personal superiority that one realizes by laying waste to others. If we held evil to be merely a general criterion for the moral evaluation of practice and avoided pinning it to any real individual, we would miss the very phenomenon that forces us to reckon with evil as distinct from what is merely regrettable or deficient in our lives—a phenomenon with an alarming human concreteness.

-Steven G. Smith, Millsaps College, Jackson, USA

Abigail Rosenthal has given us the definitive — the defining — account of evil and, at the same time, of the good life that evil subverts.  Evil is not banal, but quite the opposite.  It targets its victim with precision and ruthlessness.

-Jerry L Martin, Amazon customer review.

Abigail Rosenthal proposes a new way of understanding one of the oldest mysteries—the nature of evil. Drawing on wide literary and philosophical resources, Rosenthal proposes that narrative self-understanding is the key to a good life. She traces the implications of this idea for understanding various types of evil, including the ultimate evil of Nazi genocide—which, she argues, cannot be understood in Arendtian terms as a kind of banality. Highly personal and original, Rosenthal's work offers new ways of grappling with some of the largest ethical questions.

-Adam Kirsch, author of The Global Novel: Writing the World in the 21st Century (2016)

Rosenthal pinpoints the characteristic feature of evil—at least the leading type of evil—that distinguishes it from what is only morally wrong or very, very bad. It is based on her basic notion of an ideal ‘life story’ or plot. She extends both concepts from individual victims to races and populations as victims. [T]here is nothing banal or ordinary about evil, the intentional disrupting of the victim’s ‘ideal thread’ or plot. … In a fascinating new essay, Rosenthal revisits Hannah Arendt . . . applying her “plot” concept to Arendt herself in light of what is known about Arendt's long intellectual and personal relationship with Heidegger. Rosenthal argues that despite a splendid recovery from early adversity, Arendt went on to ‘spoil’ her own life story. And in a concluding piece, Rosenthal shows from her own experience how one can have reason to believe that a person's life story has been co-authored by God.

-William G. Lycan, author of Real Conditionals (2001)

It is a most compelling and creative work. Rosenthal is analyzing the ‘stories’ that people tell us about themselves, in terms of both their lives and their work. She does so in an effort to understand genocidal evil-doers, both those who perpetrate and collaborate with it and those who cover up such crimes.

-Phyllis Chesler, author of An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir (2013)

_“As a person who wholeheartedly subscribes to the idea that we must be constantly attentive to, and increasingly watchful over, the ‘plots’ of our own unfolding stories, I found Abigail Rosenthal’s A Good Look at Evil a welcome, revealing, and indispensable book about the slippery crevices of the moral life. I hope it is translated into many languages. Everyone should read it.”

-Gail Godwin, author of Heart: A Personal Journey Through Its Myths and Meanings (2001)

A Good Look at Evil is not only an examination of evil but proposes a new way to think about our own lives. By adopting a literary approach to a philosophical question, Rosenthal has provided genuine insight into a problem that has befuddled thinkers for ages. Evil is not an abstract concept but a lived reality and situation in which we encounter. If you wish to understand evil as well as to know how to live your life, A Good Look at Evil is a perfect way to begin writing your own story.

-Lee Trepanier, The Voegelin View

Edmund Burke famously said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Abigail Rosenthal’s book, A Good Look at Evil, takes it one step further. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is to pretend that it doesn’t exist!

A Good Look at Evil, then, is a remarkable and incisive exploration of the human condition. My compliments to the author, Abigail Rosenthal, for her thoughtful and inspiring book. No wonder this book was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

-Ray Silverman, Amazon customer review

Contributors-

Abigail L. Rosenthal

Bio(s)-

Abigail L. Rosenthal is Professor Emerita at Brooklyn College of The City University of New York. She is the author of Confessions of A Young Philosopher (forthcoming), the story of a life lived in the presence of good and evil. She writes a weekly online column, "Dear Abbie: The Non-Advice Column," where she explains why women's lives are highly interesting. Many of her articles are accessible at https://brooklyn-cuny.academia.edu/AbigailMartin. She edited The Consolations of Philosophy: Hobbes's Secret, Spinoza's Way by her father, the late Henry M. Rosenthal. Her next book will be Conversations With My Father. She is married to Jerry L. Martin, also a philosopher. They live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She can be reached a dearabbiesilvousplait@gmail.com.



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