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Evil: Inside Human Cruelty and Violence

NCJ Number
R F Baumeister
Date Published
440 pages
This book speculates on why evil exists and examines the origins and persistence of evil behavior.
The book integrates evidence from psychology, criminology, sociology, history, anthropology and other disciplines in an attempt to determine why "ordinary" people beat, murder, torture and betray other people. It examines cultural myths about evil and discusses the paradox in human psychology that permits the co-existence of guilt, a natural mechanism that suppresses evil, and an inclination toward ambivalence, which enables evil to flourish. Major points of discussion include: (1) Victims and Perpetrators; (2) The Myth of Pure Evil; (3) Greed, Lust, Ambition: Evil as a Means to an End; (4) Egotism and Revenge; (5) True Believers and Idealists; (6) Can Evil Be Fun? The Joy of Hurting; (7) How Evil Starts, Grows and Spreads; (8) Dealing With Guilt; and (9) Ambivalence and Fellow Travelers. There are four major root causes of evil, or reasons people act in ways that others will perceive as evil: desire for material gain, threatened egotism, idealism, and pursuit of sadistic pleasure. However, the study of these causes must be augmented by an understanding of the proximal cause, which is the break down of self-control. Notes, index


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