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On Evil (Thinking in Action) Paperback – July 23, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0415305198 ISBN-10: 0415305195 Edition: 0th

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On Evil (Thinking in Action) + The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil
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Product Details

  • Series: Thinking in Action
  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (July 23, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415305195
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415305198
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,472,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


'This essay elucidates a picture of those who commit evil acts as lacking a mental barrier to stop them, using examples from recent history and pop-culture treatments from Buffy to Hannibal Lecter ... ' - Steven Poole, The Guardian

'It draws on a fascinating array of sources, from St. Augustine to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and brings in examples from contemporary fiction like Hannibal Lecter ... ' - The Daily Yomiuri

About the Author

Adam Morton is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oklahoma.

More About the Author

Adam Morton, born 1945, is a Canadian philosopher and author. His work has focused on how we understand one another in everyday life. He has also written on ethics, decision-making, philosophy of language and epistemology. Morton was Professor of Philosophy from 1980 to 2000 at the University of Bristol in the UK, and is now at the University of British Columbia. He was president of the Aristotelian Society for 1998-99 and in 2006 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. For 2012-3 he is president of the Canadian philosophical association.

He was for decades an enthusiastic but incompetent oboe player and an avid cyclist. During his seven happy years at the university of Alberta he joined groups cycling in the Rockies, doing for example the Jasper to Banff route, crossing Bow pass in a snowstorm. Cycling and oboe playing are in the past now, because of MS, and are replaced with compulsive swimming and peculiar ear-training projects.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Dash Manchette VINE VOICE on January 31, 2007
Format: Paperback
Usually I post any review that I intend to write here on amazon shortly after reading a book. That way, things are still fresh in my mind. Yet for ON EVIL, I let a little time go by as the book really gives a reader quite a bit to chew on and I wanted things to sink in. The author, Adam Morton, wants the reader to think in a clear and concise way about evil so that, pursuant to his theory, we do not see evil as something so different from our own behavior as to imbue it with an intangible quality, but rather as acts that are on a continuum with normal acts with which we can readily identify.

Early in the book, Morton distinguishes evil acts from those that are merely wrong and delineates three basic features of evil: visceral revulsion on the part of others, acts centered on atrocity and the incomprehension of the victim. By contrast, wrong acts are readily understandable. Nobody needs a philosophical explanation as to why someone commits adultery.

In the second chapter, Morton introduces us to his barrier theory of evil. For evolutionary reasons, people are born with dispositions to cooperate and live with others, including possessing internal barriers to unjustifiably harm others. The essence of an evil motivation is the failure to block actions that should not even have been considered. From this, Morton moves to his theory that evil acts are those that follow from a strategy allowing a person's deliberations regarding his actions not to be inhibited by barriers against harming others that ought to have been in place.

Yeah, it sounds a bit esoteric when I write it here. But Morton does a good job of explaining himself and fleshing things out. The barrier theory allows for interesting facets in the application.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dewheart on October 17, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed On Evil. It is a book that everyone should read because it helps us to be more understanding, and it clears up many common misconceptions about evil. Whether someone is a nonbeliever who thinks evil is a made up religious term, a theist who believes evil is the work of the devil or just an average person who hasn't really thought about it that much. This book will really help people understand evil.
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By Steven on January 17, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book for the study of evil actions. Gives you a better understanding of what makes an individual's actions evil. Recommend this book to everyone!
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