Monday, September 21, 2009

Explanations of Moral Evil

I've started reading Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy (2002) by Susan Neiman. She begins her Introduction with a quote from Wittgenstein that I want to share:


The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something—because it is always before one's eyes.) The real foundations of his inquiry do not strike a person at all.—And this means: we fail to be struck by what, once seen, is most striking and powerful.


    —Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, #129


While you're thinking about the quote (let it sink in), we can discuss Neiman's work. She discerns two strands in philosophical thinking since the Enlightenment: one that runs from Rousseau to Arendt "insists that morality demands that we make evil intelligible. The other, from Voltaire to Jean Amery, insists that morality demands that we don't." (8). Having read her section on Rousseau earlier today, and having been a long-time fan of Arendt, I'm inclined to agree with that line of thought, but I'm not sure of the argument from the other side, so the I will suspend final judgment. This book looks to prove very thoughtful and thought provoking—what fun!