Review of Kahn, Out of Eden: Adam and Eve and the Problem of Evil

May 9, 2008

Nice review in the Times Literary Supplement by John Habgood, the former Archbishop of York:

A book which begins with the sentence ?Evil makes us Human? must surely compel attention. This is no ordinary account of what is usually meant by the problem of evil, where the main emphasis is on justifying the ways of God to man. Instead, Paul W. Kahn?s aim is to explore the nature of evil itself. He interprets it, not just as doing or experiencing bad things, but as ?a way of being in the world?. Evil, he claims, is about making ourselves the source of our own meaning, a meaning inevitably negated by death, the certainty of which gives urgency and depth to the way life is lived. It is this consciousness of our mortality, and the refusal to accept its implications, which can lead to the worship of false gods. Ascribing ultimate value to what is essentially nothing at all results in what he calls ?a pathology of the will?. Personal evil is essentially about wilfulness rather than reason, nor can it be subsumed within our rational understanding. Evil in this sense, as part of our humanity, is not a fashionable concept, but we have good reasons to recognize it, not least in ourselves.

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