The Science Of Evil Summary

2043 Words 9 Pages
Brendan Hansen
Mr. Williams
Man’s Inhumanities
15 November 2017
The Science of Evil: Book Review
The book “The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Evil” by Simon Baron-Cohen was published recently in 2011 and provides and modern look on how we come about treating other human beings as objects. While this book was short coming in at around 250 pages, it still goes into much detail about how we come to commit cruel acts to other human beings. To summarize, Cohen argues that when we treat someone as an object, our empathy has been turned off, even going as far as making the argument that every cruel act is committed when an individual “turns off” their empathy, whether it be naturally or temporarily. He later goes on
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One such example is that of the death penalty. Cohen begins by saying that the death penalty is unempathetic and that instead we should focus on the possibility of changing the individual to be more empathetic. However, he directly contradicts this only a few pages earlier in saying terrorists killing others is not necessarily unempathetic because it is a belief. This poses the question, if terrorists killings are not necessarily unempathetic because of a belief, why is the death penalty unempathetic? Why isn’t it that we as a society believe some people to be a danger, so much so that they are not worth living? It's not that were necessarily being unempathetic, rather we as a society may believe that it is the right thing to do based on the situation and the acts that one has committed. An example of a contradiction I found while reading was the idea of rehabilitation. At first Cohen says that if a crime is severe enough, imprisonment becomes necessary for three reasons: “to protect society from the risk that this individual will repeat the crime, to signal society’s disapproval of the crime, and to restore a sense of justice to the victim”. Remember these three reasons. Later on, Cohen writes his opinion to the question of whether a person who commits a crime, no matter how bad, if they feel remorse for that crime, should we focus on their good qualities and treat them with empathy? Cohen says yes, stating that it’s the only way we can show empathy to the perpetrator, saying that if we don’t we are just as bad as the person we are punishing. Ignoring the fact that this point directly contradicts with the reasons Cohen gives for when imprisonment becomes necessary, it also seems outlandish. Hitler, given as an example by Cohen himself, by this logic deserves to be treated

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