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Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty by…

Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty

by Roy F. Baumeister

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This remarkable book begins to give us a firm basis for hope, because it provides a deep and accurate understanding of evil. This well researched and well written book examines and discredits the "myth of pure evil", and instead rigorously examines the point of view of real perpetrators to understand the true causes of evil.

After adopting the simple definition of "intentional harm to other people", the author identifies the four roots of evil as greed, egotism, idealism, and sadism, and explores each of these in depth. He dispels the popular misunderstanding that low self-esteem is a major contributor to violent behavior. Instead his careful analysis establishes that people who have high self-esteem, but lack a firm basis for that belief, are especially prone to be violent. He describes how an ordinary person crosses the line into evil, how evil spreads, and how perpetrators deal with guilt. After examining the provocative question of "why is there not more evil" he describes the central role of self-control in preventing evil. He also describes how typical bystanders often unwittingly contribute to evil acts.

Central to the analysis is the principle he calls the "magnitude gap." This describes the discrepancy between the importance of an evil act to the perpetrator and the victim. This magnitude gap accounts for the rapid escalation of violence that is so typical in retaliation. The response chosen to avenge each provocation is amplified at each round to account for the victim's point of view.

Because lasting peace will come only from a profound understanding of violence, the analysis and insight this book provides is an important contribution toward a more peaceful world. ( )
1 vote lbeaumont | Oct 29, 2006 |
  Miro | Oct 15, 2005 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805071652, Paperback)

Why is there evil, and what can scientific research tell us about the origins and persistence of evil behavior? Considering evil from the unusual perspective of the perpetrator, Baumeister asks, How do ordinary people find themselves beating their wives? Murdering rival gang members? Torturing political prisoners? Betraying their colleagues to the secret police? Why do cycles of revenge so often escalate?

Baumeister casts new light on these issues as he examines the gap between the victim's viewpoint and that of the perpetrator, and also the roots of evil behavior, from egotism and revenge to idealism and sadism. A fascinating study of one of humankind's oldest problems, Evil has profound implications for the way we conduct our lives and govern our society.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:20 -0400)

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