Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Philosophy

Major Professor

Martin Schönfeld, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Professor Edward Kissi, Ph.D.

Keywords

Mass murder, Holocaust, Terrorism, Violence, Politicide

Abstract

The history of ideas and contemporary genocide studies conjointly suggests a meaningful secular conception of evil. I will show how the history of ideas supplies us with a cumulative pattern, or an eventual gestalt, of the sought-for conception of universal secular evil. This gestalt is a result of my examination of the history of ideas. The historical analysis of evil firmly grounds my research in the tradition of philosophical inquiry, where I shift the focus from the problem of evil, which is indebted to theological discourse, to an analysis of the concept of evil. Next, I show how this gestalt applies to genocide studies. Specifically, I show how a secular concept of evil meaningfully functions in this research program. The examination of genocide studies serves as a test-bed for the fruit of my historical examination. There, I show, first, in what way a secular notion of evil is irreducible, or elementary; second, how the concept used in genocide studies compares to the cumulative historical pattern; and third, in what way genocide studies have progressively enriched the pattern. Armed with these results, I then engage with the contemporary literature that criticizes the possibility of a meaningful concept of evil, and attempts to reduce this notion of secular evil to relativistic particulars. Here, I describe relevant arguments and objections. It is interesting to explore whether, and if so, how, some aspects of the objections may lend themselves to an actual refinement of the concept of evil. Finally, then, I present a summary account of evil on the basis of my findings.

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