Responding to “Evil”

Because evil exists beyond the limits of reason, what matters for Ricoeur is not that we identify evil, but that we respond to it appropriately. He rightly observes that the tragedy of evil is not the act committed, but the experience of the victim. Separating evil perpetrated from evil suffered shifts the concern from what or who is evil to the best possible action in the face of it, which according to him is “not a solution, but a response.”

In the common conception, solutions to evil require retribution, and the most obvious way to achieve retribution is through violence. Responses, on the other hand, engender what Ricoeur calls “wisdom,” an unwavering commitment to relieve and prevent suffering. Any violence used in a response to evil would, therefore, be focused on the alleviation of suffering rather than the attempt to stamp out evil where we think we see it. (Steven Paulikas “How Should We Respond to ‘Evil’?”)

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