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Evil as the Loss of Our Humanity

  • Daryl Koehn

Abstract

When we examine instances of evil in operation, we discover that evil arises from our attachment to a false and inherently unstable identity. Anxious and insecure, we become narcissistic and paranoid. We may become violent or aggressive as well, but aggression per se is not evil. The root of the problem, the core evil, is the suffering stemming from mistaken identity. Our error takes a variety of forms. We may equate the self with a role. Dr. Jekyll overidentifies with his professional persona, the governess with her sense of herself as a savior. Or we may liken ourselves to gods as Tom Ripley does. Either way, the result is the same: our inadequate and inaccurate self-understanding engenders dread and drives us to attempt to transfer our pain and anxiety onto others.

Keywords

Natural Desire Divine Love Human Love Lower Hell Innermost Circle 
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.
    Dante Alighieri, The Inferno of Dante, trans. Robert Pinsky (New York: The Noonday Press, 1994 ). I cite the canto and then line numbers in these endnotes.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Michael Welner, “Defining Evil: A Depravity Scale for Today’s Courts,” The Forensic Echo, 2: 6 (1998), pp. 4–12.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Marc Cogan, The Design in the Wax ( Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999 ), p. 23.Google Scholar
  4. 21.
    Robert Pinsky, Notes to The Inferno of Dante ( New York: The Noonday Press, 1994 ), p. 316.Google Scholar
  5. 25.
    Mary Midgley, Wickedness ( London: Ark Paperbacks, 1984 ), pp. 142–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 27.
    William Shakespeare, Othello, The Complete Works of Shakespeare (New York: Scott, Foresman, and Company, 1951), Act V, sc. 2, 1. 300.Google Scholar
  7. 38.
    John D. Sinclair, The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri ( London: Oxford University Press, 1971 ), p. 258.Google Scholar
  8. 53.
    Andrew Delbanco, The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost the Sense of Evil ( New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1998 ), p. 16.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Daryl Koehn 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daryl Koehn

There are no affiliations available

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