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Evil: A Critical Primer begins with the claim that evil is a concept that is contextually bound. This means that we should not expect to find shared or similar notions of evil across cultures. Addressing evil in a way that is at once contextually specific and applicable to cross-cultural settings, this primer breaks with moral conceptions of evil by redescribing it within a new framework of dangers and aversions (i.e., things that cause harm and things to avoid). Doing so provides an empirical and heuristic framework as a new starting point for the study of religion, deemphasizing things associated with evil (like the devil, wickedness, or a diabolic will) and focusing instead on attitudes and practices (like rituals of purity and impurity, notions of clean and dirty, or expressions of disgust). Introducing and reflecting on cultural and cognitive aspects of classification, myth, ritual, emotions, and morality, Evil: A Critical Primer argues that our colloquial conception of evil, as related exclusively to the moral domain, is usefully illuminated by attending to historical and cultural context and cross-cultural comparison.

Published: Aug 29, 2023


Section Chapter Authors
Acknowledgements Kenneth MacKendrick
Preface Kenneth MacKendrick
Chapter 1
Introducing Evil Kenneth MacKendrick
Chapter 2
Classification and Magical Thinking Kenneth MacKendrick
Chapter 3
Ritual and Authority Kenneth MacKendrick
Chapter 4
Myths and Mythmaking Kenneth MacKendrick
Chapter 5
Strong Emotions Kenneth MacKendrick
Chapter 6
Morality Kenneth MacKendrick
Chapter 7
Conclusion Kenneth MacKendrick
End Matter
Further Reading Kenneth MacKendrick
References Kenneth MacKendrick
Index Kenneth MacKendrick