Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty

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9780716735670: Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty

The question of evil, and the answers. Part 1 Image and reality: victims and perpetrators; the myth of pure evil. Part 2 The four roots of evil: greed, lust, ambition - evil as a means to an end; egotism and revenge; true believers and idealists; can evil be fun? the joy of hurting. Part 3 How they do it: crossing the line - how evil starts; how evil grows and spreads; dealing with guilt; ambivalence and fellow travelers. Part 4 Conclusion: why is there evil.

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About the Author:

Roy F. Baumeister, Ph.D., holds the E. B. Smith Professorship in Liberal Arts at Case Western Reserve University. Since receiving his doctorate in social psychology from Princeton University, he has received numerous fellowships and awards. He has published nearly 150 scientific works and is cited in numerous sources in the popular media. Baumeister has authored or co-authored nine other books, including Losing Control: How and Why Self-Regulation Fails, and Meanings of Life. He lives on the shores of the Great Lakes.

Dr. Aaron T. Beck, M.D., the Father of Cognitive Therapy, is University Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, and President of The Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy. He is the author and co-author of twelve books and over 350 articles and chapters.

From Scientific American:

The question of why people hurt others is perhaps humanity's oldest and most urgent, long the subject of literature and religion. Can social science provide any answers? Social psychologist Baumeister assembles the available research, such as experiments on how people justify small transgressions and react to hypothetical situations, as well as close readings of accounts by murderers, rapists and torturers. He concludes that "pure evil"--brutality inflicted on innocent victims for sadistic pleasure--is largely a myth. Most violence springs from the same sources as other human behavior: ambition, lust, fear, pride, idealism. It breaks out when self-control breaks down, often because of group pressures or a slow escalation from seemingly innocuous decisions. Most perpetrators do not enjoy their acts, at least at first, but feel they must be done. "To understand evil,"Baumeister writes, "we must set aside the comfortable belief that we would never do anything wrong. Instead, we must begin to ask ourselves, what would it take for me to do such things?" Although few of these ideas are original to Baumeister, and the book is sometimes pedantic, it is a worthy synthesis both for victims who want to know why and for policymakers who need to know what to do.

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