Science Et Esprit 70 (3):341-362 (2018)

Imge Oranli
Arizona State University
Since 2001, Continental philosophical studies of evil suggest that we are forced to rethink the category of evil as we face acts of terrorism on a global scale. In light of this suggestion, this paper traces the idea of the “inscrutability of evil” as a common lens through which we associate the category of evil with the phenomena we identify as evil. This idea finds its first modern formulation in Kant’s theory of radical evil. In this article, I argue that Hannah Arendt and Emmanuel Levinas follow Kant in identifying evil as an inscrutable phenomenon. While they all agree that evil cannot be rationalized, integrated into reason, or understood within the framework of theodicy, for Kant, evil is inscrutable because it is grounded in freedom; for Arendt, evil is inscrutable because it is “banal;” and for Levinas, evil is inscrutable because it is “excessive” and “useless.” My analysis demonstrates that inscrutability is an essential marker of the concept of evil since it is found in all three accounts as a feature of evil, even though in each account a different type of evil is at stake (moral, political, and existential).
Keywords Hannah Arendt  Emmanuel Levinas  Immanuel Kant  Theories of Evil  Inscrutability of Evil  Terrorism and Evil
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