Elements of Aristotle’s disposition towards evil and vice can be traced in several parts of his treatises, especially in Nicomachean Ethics. In some cases this dispersal of references asks for further inquiry as for whether Aristotle’s view upon bad character, vicious soul and evil act should be recognized as a coherent, concise statement or as an unsystematic one.
The French philosopher Andre Comte-Sponville believes the fundamental difference between morality and etiquette is that morality ‘cares’ about intentions, etiquette does not. Given his thesis that etiquette is thoroughly indifferent to motives, Sponville thinks it impossible to feign politeness. If a person conforms to etiquette’s rules, all of which are behavioural, his present behaviour is polite, whatever his intentions - good, bad, or otherwise. I will argue that Sponville’s ‘indifference thesis,’ both in itself and taken as the quintessence of being polite, falls to a counterexample, the (psychologically rich) case of the sneering ‘thank you.’ To defend the judgment that a sneering ‘thank you’ is impolite - as it clearly is - being polite must be defined not merely in terms of following behavioural rules, but also in terms of following etiquette’s governing purposes, such as to ease and evade social tensions and to indicate social location.
Magic and metamorphosis always go hand in hand in wonder tales: Cinderella’s rags are changed into a marvellous ball gown complete with magic glass slippers courtesy of Fairy Godmother, the Beast attains his horrendous form due to a magic spell, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty plunge into a deep sleep intended to kill them through black magic ... . The examples are endless. In this chapter, I argue that in Marie Cathérine d’Aulnoy’s wonder tales, however, it would be more accurate to say that magic and metamorphosis go paw in hand: she favours the mythological theme of animal metamorphosis in which a worthy lover will only become human again after long years of patient suffering. I will analyse d’ Aulnoy’s wonder tale ‘The White Cat’ so as to show how only after the lovers have proved themselves worthy of each other will the spell be broken and human form restored to the victims of evil spells. A very learned aristocratic woman in seventeenth-century France, herself the victim of an unhappy arranged marriage, Madame d’Aulnoy was highly critical of forced marriages, so much so that her tales seriously commented on love, courtship and marriage. D’Aulnoy’s buoyant tales tell their author’s search for magic in her own life, marked by scandal and rebellion against the marriage mores of her time from a very early age on. She is Fairy Godmother to her heroines, granting them happiness after sore trials and tribulations, and to herself, by refusing to be a passive object submitted to another’s will and reclaiming instead the agency of changing her life. I argue that for d’Aulnoy, magic is indeed the creative power to change both her and her heroines’ life by overcoming great odds, as well as the Circean power of metamorphosis bestowed on some of her unfortunate lovers as a metaphor for social criticism; it is both a coping mechanism and a powerful tool of change.
In his arguments in support of monasticism and monastic education of young men and in his later commentary on Romans, John Chrysostom uses the image of ‘Sodom’ as a weapon to violently castigate same-sex behaviour. But in his preaching on the actual episode concerning Lot and Sodom, where we might reasonably expect to find a great deal of discussion of the sin of the Sodomites which had provoked such divine retaliation, we find primarily that John urges his congregation to practise hospitality to as heroic an extent as did Abraham and - even more so - his nephew Lot. While condemning same-sex intercourse in his discussion of Sodom, John does not take the opportunity to rail against sexual misbehaviour and vice as much as he takes advantage of the chance to spur his listeners on to the virtue of caring for others. In fact, despite his assertion that it was the sin of same-sex intercourse which was most unpardonable among the sins of Sodom, John - in the end - follows the example of the prophet Ezekiel for castigating Sodom more for its lack of concern for others, i.e., its inhospitality; it is this care for their neighbours, this fundamental hospitality, that John is more eager to nurture in his congregation.
The interplay between religion and magic in South Africa today carries the weight of their enforced division in the colonial era. In a post-colonial, post-apartheid South Africa the boundaries between religion and magic have weakened as practitioners of magic assert their rights in terms of the Freedom of Religion clause in the Constitution of 1996. The boundaries have also become a site of conflict between magic practitioners themselves. This chapter explores these issues in the context of the marginalisation of African diviners (Izangoma) in the colonial construction of a ‘religious field’ in South Africa. It will question why the divinatory practices of Izangoma were subsumed under the singular category of ‘witchcraft’ and at the consequences of their criminalisation of these practices in the Witchcraft Suppression Act (3) of 1957 that remains in place in South African law. Discussion will further include the fluctuations in the relationship between Izangoma and contemporary Pagan Witches as these two groups of magic practitioners debate and contest legal attempts to define magic, witchcraft and the witch in proposed replacements of this Act. Often interpolated as the wholly negative, anti-Christian ‘Other,’ the efficacy of magic practice is, however, embedded in the religio-spiritual engagements of Izangoma and Pagan Witches and finds increasing expression in South African society today.
Uncovering the evil of religious hypocrisy was a persistent concern in the writings and career of Jonathan Edwards, the American theologian and philosopher (1703- 1758). In his view, the essence of all evil and the root of all hypocrisy was narcissism. Edwards considered that the faith of false converts arose from purely self-centred concerns. Naturally the hypocrite often had a high degree of self-confidence - what people nowadays would call high self-esteem. Edwards discovered in scripture and in his own observations a set of signs that often reveals the presence of religious hypocrisy. One was an overriding concern for emotional and mystical experiences rather than moral life and character. Self-centredness also led the hypocrite away from the realm of objective truth and rationality. Usually the religious hypocrite embraces a customised theology, fashioning a deity and a religious life that suits him. In contrast, authentic piety springs from genuine love for God that goes beyond simple self-interest and manifests its reality in the form of a consistent, transformed life and character that stands the test of time. Modern research psychologists have demonstrated the harmful effects of excessive regard for self. If he were alive today, Edwards would probably see the mystical and psychotherapeutic trends of the contemporary world as an encouragement to self-delusion and religious hypocrisy.
Foucault has asserted the importance of execution in reconstituting the power of the sovereign. Execution, he argued, sustained a justice system predicated upon seeing and learning - with the executioner as tutor. The chapter discusses the abolition of public execution in England in 1868 and considers the different strands in the preceding debate. Traditionalists continued to assert the power of example. Abolitionists, opponents of capital punishment per se, argued that capital punishment usurped divine function and denied the ever present potential of grace. However, there was a third strand in the debate. Intra-mural executionists denied the value of the seen example and feared the violence that they alleged it might unleash. Influenced by phrenology and by the miasmic theory of disease they asserted that evil could be approximated to a species of contagion transmitted through the senses. To men of sensibility the violence implicit in execution was negated by reflection upon the virtuous purposes for which it was performed. However, the coarse imitative qualities of lower orders, defective in their resistance to vice, ensured that the sight of state violence provided no instruction. Instead execution induced violent imitative acts divorced from their original moral setting. Thus, the author argues, when intra-mural execution was adopted it was not as a consequence of increased humanitarianism but rather as a result of an increasing suspicion of the nature and the culture of the lower orders. It marked but one further step towards the recasting of popular culture as either the actual repository of national evil or at the very least the miasma in which it could take root and flourish.
Popular culture has brought us fast raving zombies who feast not solely on human brains but also in their flesh turning everyone they wound into one of them. These days the more traditional zombies based on ancient Haitian voodoo are rare creatures. However, one of the biggest products of popular culture has delivered one traditional zombie and that is Disney’s Donald Duck comics. Bombie the zombie was first introduced to the readers of Disney comics by Carl Barks, the noted Disney artist who has created most of the important characters of Duckburg - Scrooge McDuck for instance. In the comic ‘Voodoo Hoodoo’ (1949), Bombie had a spell on him to bring a voodoo doll to Scrooge from the depths of Africa all the way to Duckburg. Mistaking Donald for Scrooge, Bombie gave Donald the voodoo doll and put the shrinking curse upon him. The second time the zombie appears is in the comic ‘The Empire-Builder from Calisota’ (1994) by Don Rosa, one of the most famous of the contemporary Disney artists. His tale tells how Bombie the zombie originally came to chase Scrooge McDuck for his devious deeds to an African tribe in the past. Rosa also shows the zombie in a third comic in which he is part of Scrooge McDuck’s dream narrative. Barks’ creation, Bombie the zombie, is a tranquil being filling his purpose in life. He is not after brains, he is after finding the right person and punishing him for mischievous acts he did to an innocent tribe - just like the shaman of the tribe bewitched Bombie to do. Barks created the zombie to represent among others the racial questions of his time, but in the more recent comics Bombie can also be seen as representing the conscience of a certain duck.
Throughout history, many thinkers have tried to explain the nature of evil and establish a viable defence of God's omnibenevolence. The first philosopher to explicitly embark on such an enterprise was Plato. In his Laws, book X, he offers a series of solutions to the problem of evil, starting with what will become famous as the aesthetic solution. Thus, the origin of that famed answer to the problem of evil is to be found in a short passage of Plato’s Laws X. The first aim of this chapter is to give an analysis of Plato’s approach to the aesthetic solution, as contrasted with the more developed laying out of the same strategy in Plotinus, and to show that Plato’s version of it is philosophically sounder than the one of his renowned follower, who exerted tremendous influence on the subsequent thinkers. The second aim of the chapter would be to answer two objections to Plato’s theodicy that naturally arise in the mind of an attentive reader. In doing that, I will resort to the other strategies meant to provide an answer to the pertinent issue of the existence of evil in a world whose creation was motivated by the Demiurge’s good will, which Plato offers in the wake of his exposition of the aesthetic solution. Although these are subservient to the main one, they are also early formulations of some of the most important latter attempts at solution to the problem of evil. Finally, this chapter seeks to establish that Plato’s strategies in the Laws X are bona fide philosophical solution to the problem of evil. This goes a) contra Cherniss, who asserts that Plato has no intention to provide a solution to the problem of evil, but simply to explain its existence; and b) contra Mohr, who claims that Plato’s purpose is to explain evil away by pronouncing it as factually nonexistent.