Ana Carrasco-Conde (Ciudad Real, 42 years old) enters the room and by chance her eyes go to a book, tiny, wedged between volumes. It is The devil, of Tolstoy. The philosopher is very amused by the coincidence: she has just published Say evil. Understanding is not justifying (Gutenberg Galaxy), a book about the nature and roots of evil.
Professor of Philosophy at the Complutense University of Madrid and visiting researcher at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, Carrasco-Conde specializes in German idealism (a philosophical current represented by thinkers such as Kant, Hölderlin or Schelling). Her career as an author, however, has been focused in one way or another on the “abysses of existence”, since as a child she was obsessed with the depths of the sea where sunlight does not reach: previously, she published, among others , Horizontal hell. About the destruction of the self (2012) and The clarity of evil. Evil and history in the philosophy of FWJ Schelling (2013). Looking terror head-on, he warns, is essential to prevent it from repeating itself.
QUESTION. Why are you so interested in evil?
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ANSWER. The big sources did not explain to me what I read and saw. That idea that evil is irradicable, inherent to the human species … Deep down, with such topics, we lose the ability to neutralize evil. We give up.
P. Is evil a relative concept?
R. With the political and ethical impact it has, to say that all evil is subjective is obscene. My way of understanding evil does not fall into subjectivism or essentialism. I believe that it is possible to think about evil from a relational dynamic (which is not the same as relative) that opens the framework for reflection beyond the perpetrator, the victim or the “bad” act.
P. For his last book he immersed himself in the work of Sade.
R. Tortures and outrages are terrible, but through repetition it manages to generate a feeling of boredom over the viewer. It is one of Sade’s avowed goals: that endlessly repeated horror generates indifference.
P. Is there a way to “look evil in the face” without becoming desensitized?
R.It’s complex, numbing is a defense mechanism. But when addressing evil we cannot lose sight of the fact that the person who suffers is unique and singular. If you become numb, you take away the iron from that suffering and stop seeing it as an equal. On the other hand, thinking about evil with sensitivity implies assuming that those events that seem to have nothing to do with us may be related in some way to us. Where does the patriarchy, the totalitarian state come from? They are part of the same dynamic that feeds on micromanages. The moment we are aware that we are with others, that the decisions we make have influence … we can improve.
P.He argues that in the 21st century, philosophy focuses less on evil.
R.In the nineteenth century there is talk of the outer monster (Dracula, Frankenstein) or inner (Jekyll and Hyde). In the 20th, after two world wars, there is talk of the monstrosity of the human being. Today those who do evil are classified as sick, as a marginal figure. In an atomized society, the responsibility is always the other’s. We have turned evil into a dark side that has nothing to do with us.
P.Does this information age bring us closer to each other?
R.The other day I saw on the news a crime scene with blood on the wall. With the volcano of La Palma the image of a house collapsing is put, over and over again. In this way, the horror that is at a distance becomes a spectacle. As Kant says: when you see a stormy sea from afar you can enjoy it, when you suffer it it does not have the same effect. We have generated a lot of connectivity, but also a lot of distance.
P.Some speak of an era of hypersensitivity, of easy offense.
R.Sensitivity does not necessarily refer to what affects you within your circle of familiarity, but to see the invisible. It is about questioning why there are certain things that make us very sensitive and others that do not.
P.The metaverse (a new immersive virtual world) promises an even more individualized reality.
R.We are in an absolute fiction, an individualism without individuals. We think we are unique, we have a voice on social media, and deep down we repeat the same model. Difference, conflict management, enrich life. In the networks it is blocked, it is silenced. The metaverse is one more step: it is dangerous to go there so as not to face the problems of this world.
P.What effects will the reduction of the weight of the Philosophy subject have in teaching in Spain?
R.When you remove from the academic curriculum the “sciences of the spirit” (music, classical culture) you make the world smaller, the mind more limited. In general, they want to tame us from an early age in the culture of production – why do children have homework on weekends? But life is not production, life is something else. With these educational reforms we are going towards a horizon without imagination, of profitability, a horizon of poverty of meaning and feelings … Philosophy teaches how to think pantry, and without it you will find small citizens who always repeat the same pattern, the same dynamics of competitiveness and individualism. Society becomes more atomized and worse. We are learning useful knowledge that gives money, but we are not learning to live.
P.How to apply the philosophy in our day to day?
R.The moment you question certainties, you begin to do philosophy. But that implies certain conditions, which do not exist in the current situation. There is an incredible moment in the 6th century: many seaports on the Anatolian peninsula connect Greece with the eastern world. There is a crossroads of different cultural elements, but, in addition, trade brings economic benefits: they do not work all day. There is leisure time (in Greek school, school). Critical thinking is impossible with today’s hectic pace of work.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.