Trapped In Evil

11 Dec

There’s a bedeviling problem, when pundits forget where they put their rhetoric.

Evil is a moral problem for everyone, difficult to acknowledge in ourselves, hard to understand in others, and difficult to defeat without committing lesser evils. Liberals—I count myself as one—have a special problem with evil, connected to our particular form of self-regard. Liberals like to believe we are tolerant, but evil, by definition, cannot be tolerated. We believe that politics ought to be deliberative, but we can’t deliberate with evil. We think compromise can be honorable, but there are no honorable compromises with evil. We think politics ought to be governed by reason, but evildoers, while they may reason, are not reasonable.

Message to Michael Ignatieff: you’ve flogged the far left enough now! Put down the match, and let the straw man alone!

Beltway pundits have for so long acted as the sweeter edge of politicians hawking awful policies, that they actually think they are thinkers now. And, please, don’t let an academic stray too close unless he’s co-opted into the confusion.

I read a Kindle sample of Wolfe’s book before I listened to this diavlog. (Is Bob plugging Kindles and Nooks now? It certainly helps to sample a book before these review-type diavlogs.) I also was put off by Wolfe’s philosophical analysis of “political evil”. He seems to want to start with a common-sense connotation of evil, and then whittle down the meaning until he can talk about the sausage-grinding business of diplomacy and politics without abandoning this word “evil”. Call me a social science type, but I just think Wolfe needs a stiff whiff of empiricism. He tries to first to distinguish types of evil. Then, he distinguishes between four types of political evil, which are terrorism, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and torture. These are four different concepts. And then, my sample ended.

I’m inclined to accept that a philosophical analysis of the problem of evil is necessary. But, Wolfe’s argument sounds like rationalizations pasted together with one word, evil, running through them.

I guess I’m just the sort of liberal who sees the crooked timber of humanity as a trial for every individual.


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