The idea I develop is that evildoers are made in much the same way that addicts are made. Both processes start with unsatisfied desires. Whether it is a taste for violence or a taste for alcohol, drugs, food, or gambling, individuals develop cravings but find the desired experience less and less rewarding, a separation between desire and reward that leads to excess. To justify the excess, the psychology of desire recruits the psychology of denial, enabling individuals to immerse themselves in a new reality that feels right. Whereas addicts cause great harm to themselves by indulging in excessive consumption or expenditures, evildoers cause great harm to others by indulging in excessive or gratuitous cruelty. Whereas addicts deny their drug dependency or their obesity, evildoers deny the moral worth of their victims or invent a reality that presents them as dangerous threats. The cruelty carries no moral weight because the victims have been dehumanized or conceived as dangerous. The combination of unsatisfied desire and denial is a recipe for evil. Like the addict’s search for ever more satisfying means of consuming or spending, evildoers search for ever more satisfying and creative ways of harming others.The book will be published early this summer (2013) online at Amazon as a Kindle Select, for print-on-demand at Createspace, and as an audio book at Audible (also available on Amazon).
If my explanation for how evil develops in individuals and how it evolved is correct, it suggests that each of us has the potential to engage in cruel acts against innocent others. Equipped with the gift of imagination, we all entertain goals that are out of reach either because of personal limitations or because of constraints imposed by our own and others’ moral standards. Tempted to achieve such goals, we may morally disengage, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously. When we morally disengage, we enable a process of false justification for our actions, including self-deception and the dehumanization of others. On this view, everyone is capable of engaging in gratuitous cruelty because the ingredients that make up the recipe for evil are part of human nature, part of our uniquely evolved brains.
Looking forward to it.