Bernard-Henri Lévy on Evil
Bernard-Henri Lévy is a French philosopher and the author of over 30 books, including works of philosophy, fiction, and biography. He began his career as a war reporter for Combat - the legendary newspaper founded by Albert Camus during the Nazi occupation of France - for which he covered the war between Pakistan and India over Bangladesh, and gained international renowned in 1994 for his documentary, Bosnia! Lévy is also the founder of the New Philosophers group. His 1977 book Barbarism with a Human Face launched an unprecedented controversy over the European left's complicity with totalitarianism. Lévy's cultural commentary, novels and journalism have continued to stir up such excitement that The Guardian noted he is "accorded the kind of adulation in France that most countries reserve for their rock stars."
Question: What is Evil?
Bernard-Henri Levy: There is evil in the world. We all know that. What I could be praised of, even if I am not sure also, but it’s two things. Number one, yes, is to fight moral [relativism], multi culturalism, which means the strange attitude which consists in saying that a practice and attitude which would be a crime in America, or in France, should be admitted somewhere else. For example, to oblige a woman to veil her face or to encage her head should be criminal in America. Again, the formal and the real equality between men and women, suddenly, in Afghanistan or in Pakistan, it is okay. And those who pretend to condemn that are racist, neo-colonialist, neo-imperialist. So, what I say, either this attitude of moral relativism, appreciating an attitude differently according to the context and to the place where people are [rooted], this is one of my, or the thing… maybe one of the thing I try to do in “Left In Dark Times.” And the other thing… I don't know if it have to be praised, but which I tried to do, is to finish with or to show the terrible, perverse effects of the idea that the evil can be completely liquidated. This, for me, it is one of the topics of “Left In Dark Times.” This idea that evil does not really exist, that evil is in fact illness and that illness can be cured, if you find a good medicine, the chief doctor, if you identify the [wood] parasite, the proper virus and if you expel it from the social body, then you will have a good society. This idea that evil does not exist but you have only illnesses, this is a matrix. This is the core of the totalitarianism. Totalitarianism always begins with the idea that evil does not exist, that evil is an illusion, an appearance, and that’s why we have only illnesses which can be properly cured if you have a good chief of state, embodied with a good ideology, surrounded by your good council of experts and so on, and finding here are the Jews, there the bourgeois, there the people who wear spectacles, or the place, the free women, whatsoever. A virus identified as such, expelled from the society as if you take a tumor out of cancer razed body. This idea that evil can be solved in a political purity is one of the most terrible temptation of the mind of mankind of yesterday and of today, and this is also one of the targets of “Left In Dark Times.”
Bernard-Henri Lévy on the dangers of moral relativism.
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