evil in modern thought      
spacer about Susan Neiman 'Why Grow Up? Moral Clarity current selected press   other texts (english) other texts (german) CV EinsteinForum
spacer Common Knowledge, Spring 2003     further reviews
Common Knowledge spacer

Wall Street Journal, 3 September 2002
NYTimes, 5 October 2002
NYTimes, 6 October 2002
Times Literary Supplement, 18 October 2002
Milliyet, 24 October 2002
NRC Handelsblad, 8 November 2002
Die Welt, 14 December 2002
Washington Post, 15 December 2002
First Things, January 2003
Forward, 28 March 2003
Culture Wars, 02/2003
Common Knowledge, Spring 2003
Filosofie Magazine, April 2003
Christian Century, April 5, 2003
CHOICE, June 2003
Weekly Standard, 9 June 2003
New York Review of Books, 12 June 2003
Galileu, Número 149, Decembro 2003
Harper's Magazine, January 2004
Freitag 34, 13. August 2004
The Globe and Mail, September 11, 2004

Prabuddha Bharata, January 2016

Little Reviews

by Richard Rorty

We badly need alternative histories of philosophy. The story told (by me, among others) about philosophy from Descartes to Hegel being dominated by the problematic of epistemological skepticism cries out for supplementation, though not necessarily for replacement. Neiman sees the great figures of this period as worrying more about evil than about knowledge. Ever since Plato, she says, "the worry that fueled debates about the difference between appearance and reality was not the fear that the world might not turn out to be the way it seems to us -- but rather the fear that it would."
That is a good example of Neiman's snazzy prose, which makes this book a pleasure to read, as well as an immensely welcome change from the sort of history of philosophy to which we Anglophones have grown accustomed. (The Germans, as she points out, are better at this sort of thing; compare Copleston to Blumenberg, for example.)
Neiman is very successful at reminding us that everybody down to Hegel took theodicy very seriously, but less so when she suggests that contemporary thinkers should still ponder the nature and cause of evil. Her claim that twentieth century intellectuals were to Auschwitz as eighteenth-century intellectuals were to Lisbon works for some people, such as Adorno, but hardly for all. Lisbon impugned God, but Auschwitz only impugned Inevitable Progress, which not all that many people ever believed in anyway.

published in: Common Knowledge, Vol. 9 , No.2 (Spring 2003)

spacer spacer spacer spacer