In 1945, the German philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote that accounting for the existence of evil would become the most important issue for postwar intellectuals, particularly in light of the unfathomable horrors inflicted upon European Jews, homosexuals, dissidents and Roma people by the Nazis during the Holocaust. But to date philosophers have remained noticeably quiet on the problem of evil, adhering to the leftist critic Theodor Adorno‘s suggestion that silence is the only fitting response to something as colossal as Auschwitz – to attempt to address it would be reductive, diminishing or ignoring the totality of experiences felt by those who lived through it.
However, modern psychology and neuroscience may offer answers as to what makes people evil. In this new video debate featuring Cambridge psychologist and autism research pioneer Simon Baron-Cohen, he argues that evil is ultimately about a lack of empathy and can be understood in scientific terms. But can evil be reduced to such a neat categorization? And why is pop culture so attracted to the idea of evil?