The Myth of Evil explores a contradiction at the heart of modern thought about what it is to be human: the belief that a human being cant commit a radically evil act purely for its own sake and the evidence that radically evil acts are committed t by inhuman monsters, but by human beings. This contradiction can be seen most clearly when we consider the most extreme forms of evil: war crimes, serial murders, sex offences, murders committed by children. Taking the traditional position that evil is an active force creating monsters in human shape, this book shows that this idea is still at work-both in the popular imagination, cultivated in fiction and film (about vampires, monsters, and serial killers) and in real form (in the media, most recently in relation to migrants and terrorism.). Cole delves deeply into two approaches to evil: the traditional approach where evil is regarded as a force that creates monsters in human form, and a more recent perspective that regards evil as the consequence of the actions of misguided or mentally deranged agents. Cole rejects both approaches and posits that evil is a myth humankind has created about itself. Drawing on philosophical ideas as well as on theological perspectives, psychological theories, and fictional representations, this book provides a thorough and thought-provoking account of the puzzling concept of evil and a reconsideration of the common understanding of human nature.
Phillip Cole is Reader in Applied Philosophy at Middlesex University. His previous book Philosophies of Exclusion: Liberal Political Theory and Immigration received the North American Society for Social Philosophy's annual award for the best book on social philosophy to be published in 2000.