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Evil as Vice

  • Daryl Koehn

Abstract

The oldest Western religious conceptions of evil have little to do with malice and everything to do with painful frustration. Kukía, the New Testament Greek word for evil, refers to anything that impedes human thriving—sickness, disease, loss, misfortune.1 The early Christian writer Valentinus defined evil as anguish and terror.2 The ancient Hebrew word for evil—ra c —similarly equates evil with identity-threatening anxiety, a sense of worthlessness, and sadness.3 Paul Ricoeur has argued that the early Hebrews thought our primordial experience of evil was one of dread.4 These views are consistent with the views of ancient tribal peoples who identified evil with illness and death, not with malice or trespass.5 Sandra Bloom goes so far as to claim that “in every culture evil has been associated with calamity, misfortune, sorrow, and suffering and, therefore, with traumatic experience.”6 In all the early views, natural cataclysms or accidents, as well as human actions, qualify as evil insofar as they cause human beings to suffer.

Keywords

Virtuous Action Wisdom Tradition Involuntary Action Church Father Lisbon Earthquake 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    C. Fred Alford, What Evil Means to Us (Albany, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997 ), pp. 3, 67, 70.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Paul Ricoeur, The Symbolism of Evil, trans. Emerson Buchanan (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969 ), pp. 20–41.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Gerald Messadié, A History of the Devil (New York: Kodansha America, Inc., 1996), passim.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Susan Neiman, Evil in Modern Thought ( Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002 ), p. 3.Google Scholar
  5. 37.
    Friedrich Nietzsche, Samtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1980 ), p. 69.Google Scholar
  6. 39.
    Christopher Kutz, Complicity: Ethics and Law for a Collective Age ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000 ), p. 254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 41.
    Henry David Thoreau, “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers,” The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 1 ( New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1906 ), p. 236.Google Scholar
  8. 42.
    Oliver Goldsmith, The Good Natur’d Man Act 1 (Reprint Services Corp. 1921).Google Scholar
  9. 44.
    Victor Hugo, “Thoughts,” Postscriptum de Ma Vie, trans. Lorenzo O’ Rourke ( New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1907 )Google Scholar
  10. 45.
    Amitai Etzioni, The New Golden Rule: Community and Morality in a Democratic Society ( New York: Basic Books, 1996 ), pp. 222–229.Google Scholar
  11. 47.
    Hannah Arendt, On Revolution ( New York: Viking Press, 1963 ), p. 99.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Daryl Koehn 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daryl Koehn

There are no affiliations available

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