Speaking Evil: Towards an Ontology of Morals

philosophy   |   ethics   |   religion   |   Holocaust
Speaking Evil: Towards an Ontology of Morals
Adi Ophir
The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and Am Oved
Year of Publication: 

What is left of moral judgment in an age in which every truth is doubted, all beliefs have been declared relative, and knowledge is portrayed as inextricably intertwined with the politics of knowledge? In this postmodernist condition can there be an ethics that accepts the principles of the postmodernist criticism of human pretensions of knowing, judging, and understanding?
Speaking Evil: Towards an Ontology of Moralsis an original philosophical work that attempts to meet this challenge. It continues a central trend in contemporary ethics that first took shape in the work of the French philosophers Emmanuel Levinas, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-Francois Lyotard, and develops it with the help of Michel Foucault, Hannah Arendt, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Karl Marx.
Adi Ophir presents here an ethics at whose center is a new interpretation of the concept of evil: Evil is not a dark element in the human soul, nor is it a satanic element that directs human behavior from without; it is, rather, the entirety of unnecessary evil things, that is, the unnecessary ills of society. A capitalist market or a nation state, for example, are systems that arrange the creation and distribution of unnecessary ills.
Ophir thinks philosophy in Hebrew and writes in a clear and unique style, with obvious relevance to the Israeli experience. The occupation in the territories supplies several examples of the generation of unnecessary loss and suffering, which establish its ethical scandalousness.
The book opens with an analysis of the experience of loss and suffering and ends with a new consideration of the destruction of European Jewry as an absolute expression of evil. Ophir presents a critical analysis of the claim that the Holocaust was unique and attempts to free the consideration of evil from the long shadow of Auschwitz, in order to think anew about the evil now on our doorstep, from migrant labor to new forms of occupation, and together with the rest of the world, always on the verge of some catastrophe, in an age in which it is possible that human beings will bring about the end of the world.

Out of print.