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Moral EvilMoral Evil

Andrew Michael Flescher

Narrated by Elliott Walsh

Available from Audible

Book published by Georgetown University Press

The idea of moral evil has always held a special place in philosophy and theology because the existence of evil has implications for the dignity of the human and the limits of human action. Andrew Michael Flescher proposes four interpretations of evil, drawing on philosophical and theological sources and using them to trace through history the moral traditions that are associated with them.

The first model, evil as the presence of badness, offers a traditional dualistic model represented by Manicheanism. The second, evil leading to goodness through suffering, presents a theological interpretation known as theodicy. Absence of badness—that is, evil as a social construction—is the third model. The fourth, evil as the absence of goodness, describes when evil exists in lieu of the good—the "privation" thesis staked out nearly two millennia ago by Christian theologian St. Augustine. Flescher extends this fourth model—evil as privation—into a fifth, which incorporates a virtue ethic. Drawing original connections between Augustine and Aristotle, Flescher's fifth model emphasizes the formation of altruistic habits that can lead us to better moral choices throughout our lives.

Flescher eschews the temptation to think of human agents who commit evil as outside the norm of human experience. Instead, through the honing of moral skills and the practice of attending to the needs of others to a greater degree than we currently do, Flescher offers a plausible and hopeful approach to the reality of moral evil.

Andrew Michael Flescher is a member of the Core Faculty, Program in Public Health,associate professor of Preventive Medicine, and associate professor of English at Stony Brook University. He is the author of Heroes, Saints, and Ordinary Morality.


“What is moral evil, and why do people so often fall into its clutches? Flescher's analysis is penetrating and ethically unflinching. At the same time, it reflects great compassion. This book ought to be read by everyone who longs for goodness and is pained by its absence.”

—Diana Fritz Cates, professor and chair, Department of Religious Studies, University of Iowa

“Delivers a compelling set of plausible theories of why bad things happen to good people. This research makes a considerable contribution to studies in Philosophy, Sociology, and Religion.”

—Diana Fordham, Association for Mormon Letters

“In this very important and penetrating study, Flescher explores the resources for thinking about evil in a manner conducive to human flourishing. Weaving together sources ranging from Aristotle and Augustine to contemporary fiction and films, from Leibniz to Levinas, Flescher offers a subtle and incisive analysis of evil that is compelling, insightful, and ultimately calls us to cultivate those virtues that alone can protect us from the force of evil in human life.”

—Louis E. Newman, John M. and Elizabeth W. Musser Professor of Religious Studies, Carleton College

“A probing study of moral evil (and natural evil, too, such as a devastating tsunami) is brilliantly clear and mostly jargon free, well worth pondering.”

Chico Enterprise-Record

“This book develops the comprehensive claim that all existing explanations of evil fall somewhere within the scope of four basic models, thereby cultivating a descriptive/analytic typology of ways that evil can be and has been understood. The conclusion to the book makes a superb contribution by developing a connection between the author's favorite model—Augustinian privation and Aristotelian virtue ethics—a worthy contribution to the field of ethics.”

—Dale S. Wright, Gamble Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies, Occidental College

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University Press Audiobooks
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University Press Audiobooks