Saturday, October 22, 2011

Literature Fights Evil?

Evil or Antidote to Evil?
In the "The End of Evil?," published on Slate September 30, 2011 (and recommended to us by Dr. Davis--thanks!), Ron Rosenbaum discusses recent research by neuroscientists who suggest that there "evil" is better understood as a "lack of empathy."  As readers of this website already know, many supporters of literary study in the schools (including Martha Nussbaum) argue that its value lies its ability to promote empathy in students.  In that sense, it could be argued that studying literature is a way to fight evil (or what has been traditionally thought of as evil).

Rosenbaum seems to think that the neuroscientists' view of evil is overly deterministic.  If evil (or lack of empathy) is a matter of neurons,   he suggests, then human actors have no "moral agency."  Click here to read Rosenbaum's article and let us know what you think.

From the "It's a Small World" department:  One of the neuroscientists Rosenbaum cites is Simon Baron-Cohen, cousin of Sacha Baron-Cohen, the infamous British star of the Da Ali G Show, Borat, and Bruno. The connection inspires this question: Does Sacha's comedy encourage empathy or weaken it?

No comments:

Post a Comment