What Evil Means to Us

Front Cover
Cornell University Press, 1997 - Philosophy - 185 pages

C. Fred Alford interviewed working people, prisoners, and college students in order to discover how people experience evil--in themselves, in others, and in the world. What people meant by evil, he found, was a profound, inchoate feeling of dread so overwhelming that they tried to inflict it on others to be rid of it themselves. A leather-jacketed emergency medical technician, for example, one of the many young people for whom vampires are oddly seductive icons of evil, said he would give anything to be a vampire.

Drawing on psychoanalytic theory, Alford argues that the primary experience of evil is not moral but existential. The problems of evil are complicated by the terror it evokes, a threat to the self so profound it tends to be isolated deep in the mind. Alford suggests an alternative to this bleak vision. The exercise of imagination--in particular, imagination that takes the form of a shared narrative--offers an active and practical alternative to the contemporary experience of evil. Our society suffers from a paucity of shared narratives and the creative imagination they inspire.

--John K. Roth, Claremont McKenna College "Library Journal"
 

What people are saying - Write a review

What evil means to us

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Alford (government and politics, Univ. of Maryland, College Park) spent over a year interviewing state prison inmates, college students, and working people to find out how people conceptualize and ... Read full review

Contents

TWO Evil Is Pleasure in Hurting and Lack of Remorse
21
THREE The Ground of Evil Is Dread
35
FOUR Suffering Evil Doing Evil
60
SEVEN Evil Spelled Backward Is Live
99
EIGHT Evil Is Nothing
117
NINE Scales of Evil
141
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1997)

C. Fred Alford is Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of eight books, most recently The Man Who Couldn't Lie.

Bibliographic information