Where Did All the Evils Go?

Michael Allen Gillespie

in Naming Evil Judging Evil

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2006 | ISBN: 9780226306735
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226306742 | DOI:
Where Did All the Evils Go?

Show Summary Details


This chapter traces the history of conceptions of evil in the West from the Middle Ages to the present in order to explain the mysterious ambiguity of evil in modern times. Descartes and Hobbes are not the source of this change. They articulate a radically subjective, quasiutilitarian view of morality. However, they do so not because they clearly prefer it but because the alternative they see in front of them is so much worse. They turn away from a notion of evil so vast and a notion of good so compelling that it had become easy on moral grounds to justify not merely casuistic equivocation but the slaughter of whole populations. To understand how morality came to this pass and why our moral map has become so useless to us, we need to examine the tremendous theological and moral transformation of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. In doing so, we can see that our inability to sustain a notion of evil arises not from the death of God but from the proclamation of his omnipotence, thus not from atheism but from a particular kind of theism.

Keywords: evil; Descartes; Hobbes; morality; theological transformation; philosophical transformation; God; omnipotence; theism

Chapter.  9323 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.