The idea of evil, remarks Norwegian philosopher Lars Svendsen, has in recent decades been seen as “a holdover from a mythical, Christian worldview whose time had already passed”. But the fact that Svendsen’s A Philosophy of Evil is being published within weeks of literary critic Terry Eagleton’s On Evil and philosopher Tzvetan Todorov’s Memory as a Remedy for Evil suggests that the secular world is not quite ready to dispense with the concept of evil just yet. At the same time, a new reissue of theologian John Hick’s 1966 classic Evil and the God of Love shows there’s still life in the Christian perspective too. Perhaps this resurgence of interest is inevitable, for even though evil as an idea may have been out of fashion, as a reality it has never gone away. Attempts to do without the word in the face of genocide, torture and flagrant disregard for life, collapse into euphemistic absurdity. But what exactly is evil? Hick adopts the standard theological distinction between the natural evil that arises independently of human action, such as earthquakes and pestilence; the moral evil that is the result of human action; and the metaphysical evil that inevitably results from a finite and hence imperfect universe.
more from Julian Baggini at the FT here.