The Problem with Evil/The Necessity of Evil

Though the notion of Evil is not unique to any one culture, to any one time, Evil is usually understood through concepts of the forbidden (taboos), opprobrium, retribution, revenge, and punishment.

In the West, since the advent of Christianity, Evil has been inseparable from the idea of original sin. Characterized by personal and particular notions of fidelity (to Jesus, saints, priests and, through feudalism, to kings), Christianity is incompatible with the notion of universalism, a characteristic of modern society (industrial, technological, bureaucratic, whether capitalist or socialist) which has replaced God with other absolutes such as the State, Race, Progress. Through this secularization of the notion of Evil, "sinning" against these absolutes constitutes an evil/criminal act in modern society.

Questions to be investigated (in no particular order)

Is evil necessary? Why or why not?
Were the necessity for absolutes to dissipate, would the concept of evil also disappear?
What is the nature of evil?
What constitutes an evil act?
Why are representations of evil so prevalent in the arts?

Collaboration with Sarah Bishop, Russian department, who will be looking at images of daemons and devils in Elena Swartz's poetry and thinking about it within the context of St. Petersburg mystical, daemonic culture.

Willamette University

Liberal Arts Research Collaborative

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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