Radical Evil and the Narration of Goods

John Wall

in Moral Creativity

Published in print June 2005 | ISBN: 9780195182569
Published online July 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835737 | DOI:

Series: AAR Reflection and Theory in the Study of Religion Series

  Radical Evil and the Narration of Goods

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The simplest (but by no means the only) form in which moral life itself requires creativity lies in the self’s teleological narration, alongside others, of the meaning of biological, social, and historical goods. Aristotle and contemporary Aristotelians like Alasdair MacIntyre and Stanley Hauerwas show how moral life depends on traditional and social narratives, but they separate the activities of poetics and ethical phronesis and so reduce ethical narrative to something passively received instead of also actively created. Martha Nussbaum draws a closer relation of ethics and poetics through an Aristotelian conception of moral tragedy, but subordinates poetics to an instrumental means toward otherwise fixed moral norms. Paul Ricoeur shows that the narration of goods rests on a poetics of the will in which the self confronts its own freely chosen radical evil by affirming, still more primordially, its passive-active capability or “gift” for narrating the good in the first place. Beyond Ricoeur, a deeper Greek and Aristotelian sense for historical moral tragedy can be introduced into such moral narration by first defining radical evil as the tragic tension of freedom and finitude, and second affirming a still more primordial human capability for rendering this tension productive of ever more radically inclusive historical narration.

Keywords: Aristotle; narrative; radical evil; finitude; freedom; gift; Alasdair MacIntyre; Martha Nussbaum; phronesis; teleology

Chapter.  21844 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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