Literature and evil
|Abstract||Our past century was exemplary in a number of ways. The advances it made in science and medicine were unparalleled. Also without precedent was the destructiveness of its wars. In part, this was due to an increasing technological sophistication. The time lag between a scientific advance and its technological application was, in the urgency of the century, constantly diminished. Modern weaponry combined with mass production, communication and mobilization to produce what came to be known as “total war.” This was a war without any of the limits that characterized the conflicts of the previous centuries. It was this lack of restraint that, perhaps more than anything else, led to the terrible excesses of this century: its war time terror bombings, deportations, and genocidal slaughters. It also led to the chief problem this century presents to ethics: that of the grasp and comprehension of collective evil. This problem is not just theoretical. An inability of those involved in its collective processes to take thought--to actually apprehend the evil they were engaged in--characterized the disasters of our century. At least in part, the participants’ lack of restraint was based on a lack of recognition|
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