Why Evil Exists : The Great Courses: Comparative & World Religion

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Charles Mathewes
  • Series: The Great Courses: Comparative & World Religion
  • 19 hrs and 6 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

Whether we view it in theological, philosophical, or psychological terms, evil remains both a deeply intriguing question and a crucially relevant global issue. Now, Professor Mathewes offers you a richly provocative and revealing encounter with the question of human evil - a dynamic inquiry into Western civilization's greatest thinking and insight on this critical subject.
With the inspired guidance of these 36 lectures, you'll engage with how both individual thinkers and larger trends of thought have faced evil, studying the work of major theologians, philosophers, poets, political theorists, novelists, psychologists, and journalists. You'll study the psychology of evil in Islamic theology, as well as the weighty meditations of St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Anselm of Lyon, and Martin Luther. And among contemporary views, you'll grasp Arthur Cohen's extraordinary post-Holocaust reformulation of faith in a God whose reality "is our prefiguration" - the promise of what we may become.
Parallel with the theological accounts, you'll also study primary currents of Western secular thinking on evil in the work of key philosophers and social theorists. You'll investigate Thomas Hobbes's proposition that good and evil are invented constructs of human language, and Kant's conception of morality as located in the human will. You contemplate Freud's hypothesis of the "death drive," an innate, destructive force of the psyche, and Hannah Arendt's highly influential analysis of the "moral inversion" of Nazism.
So why does evil exist in the world? Join a deeply insightful teacher in facing this fascinating, primordial question - a chance to bring your own most discerning thought to a crucial challenge for our world.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

But What's Puzzling You is the Nature of My Game

I gained much from this study of EVIL, as examined and imagined in art, philosophy, theology and psychology. I recommend it (with the proviso below) if you write much or if you are fascinated by the forces of good and evil in film and other arts, theology, the psychology of those who commit atrocities or in politics.

The course covers:

the nature and origins of evil (including the symbolism of tragedy, sin and wickedness),

the Enuma Elish and Gilgamesh, the Peloponnesian War (and Greek tragedies), the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle,

the Hebrew Bible (Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the tower of Babel, Abraham and Job), Christian scripture (original sin and the Apocalypse), Augustine, Rabbinic Judaism, Islam (the Qur'an and the story of Iblis), Thomas Aquinas, Dante (Hell and the abandonment of hope), the Reformation (Luther and Calvin),

Machiavelli, Hobbes (The Leviathan), Montaigne and Pascal and divertissements, Milton (Paradise Lost and epic evil), the Enlightment (Theodicy, Voltaire v. Rousseau and Hume),

Kant (the idea of radical evil), Hegel (evil in history), Marx's failed idea that evil is fundamentally a problem of material conditions), the American Civil War (Huck Finn and Abe Lincoln), Nietzsche,

Dostoevsky (Demons and the nature of evil in modernity), Conrad (human incapacity to escape the Heart of Darkness), Freud (the death drive and pleasure principle), Camus (biological evil in The Plague, selfishness and narcissism in The Fall),

the religious outlooks on evil after WWII (Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish), Hannah Arendt (the banality of evil in Totalitarianism), 20th Century poets on evil (the poetry of surviving Shoah, or catastrophe), science and the empirical study of evil (the shock and prison experiments, on obedience to authority), the "unnaming" of evil (genocide, 9/11 and the H-Bomb), and

whether hope can be found (by avoiding hatred and guilt, "planting iris [that] will be flowering long after [Hitler] is dead").


The Professor did a remarkably good job on an exceedingly ambitious subject.

Proviso: The lectures get rather deep at times, making it difficult at times to follow if you're doing something else, like driving, while listening.
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- W Perry Hall

A subject we need to study

I listen to this book as I had just listen to "The Demonologis" - Written by: Gerald Brittle. I had also listen to Richard Dawkins "The God Delusion" as well as countless books on WWII, Nazi's, government conspiracies and classic novels with villains and hero's in all guises. I wanted to know about evil. This book was an eye opener. Not because it put it in context and made me think about how us humans think and experience evil but it asked questions about evil that I never thought about. From Adam & Eve through to 911. The Holocaust, Pol Pot. Slavery, sin, lies, government sanctioned law and cultural considerations. These lectures are worth listening to. If you really want to get the benefit from these lectures, I suggest listen to one or two a week, but then do the back ground reading on the lecture to give you a more rounded and in-depth feel for the subject. You really need to engage this subject so also find a theologian, deep thinker and really get your teeth into it. These lectures are an excellent starting point. As we move into the 21 Century, I think this is a topic we need to really explore and debate. Well worth the time and money I spent on this book.
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- Michael

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses