Understanding Society: Confronting Evil in History

My short book Confronting Evil in History has just been published in Cambridge Elements in the Elements in Historical Theory and Practice series edited by Daniel Woolf. 

Here is the abstract:

Evil is sometimes thought to be incomprehensible and abnormal, falling outside of familiar historical and human processes. And yet the twentieth century was replete with instances of cruelty on a massive scale, including systematic torture, murder, and enslavement of ordinary, innocent human beings. These overwhelming atrocities included genocide, totalitarianism, the Holocaust, and the Holodomor. This Element underlines the importance of careful, truthful historical investigation of the complicated realities of dark periods in human history; the importance of understanding these events in terms that give attention to the human experience of the people who were subject to them and those who perpetrated them; the question of whether the idea of ‘evil’ helps us to confront these periods honestly; and the possibility of improving our civilization’s resilience in the face of the impulses towards cruelty to other human beings that have so often emerged.

The book focuses on the question, how should philosophers and historians confront the massive evils of the twentieth century — Holodomor, Holocaust, genocide, mass enslavement, totalitarianism? It argues that we have not yet adequately rethought our fundamental ideas about human nature, morality, institutions, and culture in light of those evils. The current atrocities committed by Russian forces against the innocent civilians of Ukraine underline the ongoing importance of these fundamental questions.

Cambridge University Press has the generous policy of making new publications in the Elements series available for free PDF download for two weeks from the date of publication. If you’d like a free digital copy, here is the URL. Look for the “Save PDF” tab. 


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