In a review of “the Scottish play” (you know, that one about the guy Malcolm III replaced), Ron Rosenbaum at Slate examines a concept I’ve discussed before — the difficulty of calling evil by its right name in a materialistic, diagnosticized world. Putting this into the context of the Boston bombing, he notes the rival camps he calls the Party of Evil and the Party of Maladjustment. Along the way, he offers a paragraph that I think both encapsulates the latter group and explains why I oppose them:
[This] brings us to [a] paradox—the Post Enlightenment paradox—that subverts the use of evil. No ideology has a right to dictate absolute truths to us, but it also makes it difficult to judge absolutely which ideologies and theologies are evil or productive of evil acts and which just differ from ours. It’s the paradox of moral relativism: Must we tolerate even intolerant cultures? Is female genital mutilation just a “cultural tradition” valid as any of ours?
I don’t think he really answers the question. But as I sit here while my students take their Seven Deadly Sins finals, I would suggest that his refusal is itself telling.
Either way, it’s an interesting piece of writing, and the production he reviews sounds fascinating.
A tip of the Mondo Mortarboard to Anne Brannen, via Facebook.