Book Summaries

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ethics of evil:  psychoanalytic investigations

by Ronald C. Naso and Jon Mills (Editors)

In today's world, where every form of transgression enjoys a psychological motive and rational justification, psychoanalysis stands alone in its ability to uncover the hidden motives that inform individual and social collective behavior. Both in theory and practice, it bears witness to the impact of anonymity on the potential for perpetration, especially when others are experienced as faceless, disposable objects whose otherness is, at bottom, but a projection, displacement, and denial of our own interiority?in short, the evil within. 

In keeping with this perspective, the Ethics of Evil rejects facile rationalizations of violence; it also rejects the idea that evil, as a concept, is inscrutable or animated by demonic forces. Instead, it evaluates the moral framework in which evil is situated, providing a descriptive understanding of it as a plurality and a depth psychological perspective on the threat it poses for our well-being and ways of life. In so doing, it also fashions and articulates an ethical stance that recognizes the intrinsic link between human freedom and the potential for evil. The essays collected in theEthics of Evil argue that moralizing evil is one of the most important agendas of our time.


‘Ronald C. Naso and Jon Mills have edited a fascinating, comprehensive volume on a topic of immense importance that for too long has been neglected by psychoanalytic writers. With a high degree of scholarship, the book’s various contributors address the multiple sources and faces of evil. In so doing, they penetrate deeply into the heart, soul, and justifications that underlie an ethics of evil.’
-- Peter Shabad, PhD, author of Despair and the Return of Hope: Echoes of Mourning in Psychotherapy

'In a book as sobering as its topic, the editors bring together a wide variety of perspectives on evil, all motivated by the conviction that evil is a multi-faceted reality that psychoanalysis has the power to illuminate. Global in its scope, the book convincingly brings theoretical, empirical, and clinical material to bear on its argument that evil remains a powerful way of thinking about human hatred and vulnerability, even - or especially - in the modern world.’
-- C. Fred Alford, Professor of Government and Distinguished Scholar-Teacher, University of Maryland, College Park, and author of What Evil Means to Us and Think No Evil

humanizing evil: psychoanalytic, philosophical, and clinical perspectives

Edited by Ronald C Naso and Jon Mills

Psychoanalysis has traditionally had difficulty in accounting for the existence of evil. Freud saw it as a direct expression of unconscious forces, whereas more recent theorists have examined the links between early traumatic experiences and later 'evil' behaviour. Humanizing Evil: Psychoanalytic, Philosophical and Clinical Perspectives explores the controversies surrounding definitions of evil, and examines its various forms, from the destructive forces contained within the normal mind to the most horrific expressions observed in contemporary life. 

Ronald Naso and Jon Mills bring together an international group of experts to explore how more subtle factors can play a part, such as conformity pressures, or the morally destabilizing effects of anonymity, and show how analysts can understand and work with such factors in clinical practice. Each chapter is unified by the view that evil is intrinsically linked to human freedom, regardless of the gap experienced by perpetrators between their intentions and consequences. While some forms of evil follow seamlessly from psychopathology, others call this relationship into question. Rape, murder, serial killing, and psychopathy show very clear links to psychopathology and character whereas the horrors of war, religious fundamentalism, and political extremism resist such reductionism. 

Humanizing Evil is unique in the diversity of perspectives it brings to bear on the problem of evil. It will be essential reading for psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, philosophers, and Jungians. Because it is an integrative depth-psychological effort, it will interest general readers as well as scholars from a variety of disciplines including the humanities, philosophy, religion, mental health, criminal justice, political science, sociology, and interdisciplinary studies. 


"In a rapidly changing world incredible technological advances constantly expose us to news of man’s inhumanity to man and make us witnesses to the most unpleasant events. It is very important that the causality of such disturbing human behavior is explained by those who study the human mind. With references to various psychoanalytic perspectives and by examining frightening individual and societal cases this book provides significant insights for seemingly unexplainable human stories."-Vamik D. Volkan, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and the author of Enemies on the Couch: A Psychopolitical Journey Through War and Peace

"Ultimately, I felt that the most important insight from this edited collection is that evil is inevitably contrasted to the good; one cannot conceive of evil, without the good. Indeed, confronting evil is surely what makes us truly human." - Henry Abramovitch, Israel Institute of Jungian Psychology for the Journal of Analytical Psychology


hypocrisy unmasked: dissociation, shame, and the ethics of inauthenticity

New York: Jason Aronson, 2010. 

Ronald C. Naso, Ph.D., ABPP
Stamford, CT

Hypocrisy Unmasked explores the motives, meanings, and mechanisms of hypocrisy. It argues that hypocrisy represents above all else a compromise among intrapsychic, interpersonal, situational, and cultural/linguistic forces and is observable in virtually all situations in which conflicts of interest must be solved noncoercively. In his treatment of this subject, Dr. Naso accords a healthy respect to the hypocrite's existentiality as well as to the impact of opportunity and chance on moral decision-making. Ultimately, hypocrisy exposes the ineradicable moral ambiguity of the human condition and the irreconcilability of desires and obligations. .


"Dr. Ron Naso presents us with an intriguing and highly original exploration of the phenomenon of hypocrisy. A psychoanalytically oriented psychologist, Naso asks us to consider hypocrisy without 'collapsing' it into psychopathology. He draws on psychoanalytic and philosophical texts to explore the sources of hypocrisy in dissociative mechanisms which function to avoid shame at the expense of morality."—Ellen Nasper, PhD, Yale School of Medicine

"Through striking clinical examples and painstaking analysis, Naso documents hypocrisy's emergence as a form of compromise against the backdrop of ambiguity and moral dissonance that virtually defines postmodern sensibility. Masterfully exposing the vital pull of the field without negating individual agency, he nests hypocrisy in a search for attunement that goes far in explaining its ubiquity in human affairs and its enactment in the consulting room by client and therapist alike. Hypocrisy Unmasked illuminates the intersection of two-person psychology and contemporary ethics in ways that will enhance our capacity to negotiate moral uncertainty, both in our patients and ourselves."—Abby Stein, PhD, John Jay College of Criminal Justice; author of Prologue to Violence: Child Abuse, Dissociation, and Crime 

"Rather than succumb to the accepted yet simplistically negative definition of hypocrisy, Dr. Naso has unmasked the intricacies of purpose and context, then reformulated this designation in the best postmodern tradition. The result of his efforts is a stunning book demonstrating originality, creativity, nuance, and keen scholarship. This book makes a significant and welcome contribution to the discussion of shame and dissociation for both clinicians and academics."—Richard Raubolt, PhD, author of Power Games Influence, Persuasion, and Indoctrination in Psychotherapy Training