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Wall Street Journal, 3 September 2002
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The Globe and Mail, September 11, 2004

Prabuddha Bharata, January 2016

Evil in Modern Thought by Susan Neiman

Reviewed by J.H. Barker

Neiman (director, Einstein Forum in Potsdam) has written an erudite and compelling intellectual treatise that is profoundly interesting, often witty, and constructed without resorting to jargon or obfuscation. In reorienting the history of philosophy, she has made it come alive. Ironically, Neiman appreciates the strength of the view that morality demands the ultimate unintelligibility of evil, an appreciation expressed in her highly intelligible exposition of the problem. Perhaps her most important theme is that traditional histories of philosophy misplace both the motivation and the significance of philosophy by separating the foundational concerns of metaphysics and epistemology from ethical foundations in the lived experience of (the problem of) evil. For individuals to know who and what they are and what can be known about what is real, they must look to the extraordinary historical importance of attempts to live with and/or beyond evil. This is a theme of some recent European thought, e.g., the arguments implicit and explicit in Camus and aspects of Levinasian thought. Neiman`s argument refers to both of these thinkers and to many others, but in a way that makes the theoretical problems pointedly practical. This is a fine, even elegant book, with a set of theses that deserve repeated consideration and reflection.

published in CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, June 2003, Vol. 40, No. 10

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