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The Evil of Banality: On The Life and Death Importance of Thinking (Paperback)
  • The Evil of Banality: On The Life and Death Importance of Thinking (Paperback)
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The Evil of Banality: On The Life and Death Importance of Thinking (Paperback)

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£22.95
Paperback 256 Pages / Published: 07/12/2016
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How is it possible to murder a million people one by one? Hatred, fear, madness of one or many people cannot explain it. No one can be so possessed for the months, even years, required for genocides, slavery, deadly economic exploitation, sexual trafficking of children. In The Evil of Banality, Elizabeth Minnich argues for a tragic yet hopeful explanation. "Extensive evil," her term for systematic horrific harm-doing, is actually carried out, not by psychopaths, but by people like your quiet next door neighbor, your ambitious colleagues. There simply are not enough moral monsters for extensive evil, nor enough saints for extensive good. In periods of extensive evil, people little different from you and me do its work for no more than a better job, a raise, the house of the family "disappeared" last week. So how can there be hope? The seeds of such evils are right there in our ordinary lives. They are neither mysterious nor demonic. If we avoid romanticizing and so protecting ourselves from responsibility for the worst and the best of which humans are capable, we can prepare to say no to extensive evil - to act accurately, together, and above all in time, before great harm-doing has become the daily work of `normal' people.

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
ISBN: 9781442276307
Number of pages: 256
Weight: 354 g
Dimensions: 228 x 151 x 15 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
This marvelous book deserves a wide readership. Hannah Arendt, Minnich's mentor, wrote the famous book The Banality of Evil. But what Minnich sees in Arendt's book, and in her own case studies, is the great evil resulting from thoughtlessness, which is anything but banal. Minnich shows that 'not seeing,' a certain obtuseness that hides the full reality of what one is doing, is too often cultivated. One of Minnich's key distinctions is between intensive and extensive evil. The former involves a few people who do monstrous things (the Charles Manson cult). This kind of evil, she argues, can be contained. Extensive evil involves many people going about their lives in ordinary ways, however thoughtlessly, however obtusely, for example, the countless 'ordinary Germans' needed to make the Holocaust possible. Because the network is so wide, it is much more difficult to contain. Minick does point out that one also finds intensive goodness (e.g., Oskar Schindler comes to mind) and that extensive goodness remains a possibility. The difference, of course, is that the latter cannot be thoughtless: it must be created with attention and care, no easy task. Written in a personal, lively style, this book a delight to read, even if the cases of extensive evil depress. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. * CHOICE *
The Evil of Banality: On the Life and Death Importance of Thinking is important, timely, and needed - truly a tour de force.... Minnich's mature, humane, and wise style suggests that these powerful insights will be read very widely, both by academics and by those who would be turned off by jargon and technical language, and thus, meet the author's deepest goals. I am absolutely convinced that this book is going to be read broadly and loved dearly as a way to help us make sense of our world, ourselves and our actions. And even, dare I say, to make us better people. * Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal *
"The Evil of Banality is a subtle, original contribution to a literature that attempts to make sense of people's evil-doings. The book approaches its main question, which it sets as guiding a years-long personal quest for an answer, from an Arendtian observation of Eichmann, which is that a necessary condition of evildoing is thoughtlessness. It refines this observation with Camus' existentialist observations of choice. And it narrates an answer to its question using many and different examples, reflecting on them, and drawing conceptual distinctions that illuminate what banality is and how it is related to evil." -- Bat-Ami Bar On, Professor of Philosophy and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Binghamton University
[A]n important new book.... You will come away from reading this book understanding and appreciating the differences and their implications for how we frame evaluation inquiries.... If we, as a profession, support evaluation as a compliance activity, just going through the motions, thoughtlessly, routinely, mindlessly, we risk the banality of evaluation contributing to and becoming complicit in the banality of evil. Think about it. That is the message I take away from this important book on the life and death importance of thinking. * American Journal of Evaluation *
"The Evil of Banality is a subtle, original contribution to a literature that attempts to make sense of people's evil-doings. The book approaches its main question, which it sets as guiding a years-long personal quest for an answer, from an Arendtian observation of Eichmann, which is that a necessary condition of evildoing is thoughtlessness. It refines this observation with Camus' existentialist observations of choice. And it narrates an answer to its question using many and different examples, reflecting on them, and drawing conceptual distinctions that illuminate what banality is and how it is related to evil." -- Bat-Ami Bar On, Professor of Philosophy and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Binghamton University
"This is a brilliant, wonderfully written, and tightly argued book. The key concepts of intensive v. extensive evil and intensive v. extensive good are exceptionally useful tools for sorting through the ethical dimensions of ordinary lives in a way that puts all of us on notice that it is simply not sufficient to use categories of the `unthinkable' to distance ourselves from learning to think well, both separately and together." -- Sara M. Evans, Regents Professor Emerita, Department of History, University of Minnesota
"While I believe it is an ever-present possibility that books can actually make us better people, I see it as quite rare that they either try to or are successful in doing so: I am convinced that this one can." -- Stephen Bloch-Schulman, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Elon University
"Very wise and honest book with a strong moral message. The sign of hope for those who still believe that education should immunize people against evil and make them more open for good. The author, identifying thoughtlessness as the most dangerous state of human mind, gives us also a hope for saving our souls as teachers. "The Evil of Banality," like Cicero's "De oratore," reminds us that much more important is to concentrate on how we teach, than on what we teach. The best thing that can happen to everybody who believes in freedom and humanity is to think together with a person such as Elizabeth K. Minnich. This book allows you to do exactly that." -- Jerzy Axer, Director of Collegium Artes Liberales, University of Warsaw
"This is a time when `The Fragility of Goodness' is frightening. We need great thinkers like Martha Nussbaum and Elizabeth Minnich to think with. The Evil of Banality is vital reading for those charged with planning a less fragile future for our societies and institutions." -- Jan Parker, Editor-in-Chief, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education: an international journal of theory, research, and practice

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