Paradox of Cruelty, The

Philip P. Hallie, The Paradox of Cruelty: Understood as ‘the infliction of ruin, whatever the motives,’ cruelty upon humans subdivides into fatal cruelties, which are caused by nature, and human violent cruelties, which are caused by people. The latter type can be explicit, i.e., springing from a patent intention to hurt, or implicit, i.e., springing from callous indifference, and it can range in frequency from episodic to institutional. On occasion, human violent cruelty can be sadistic but, typically, it is practical. Above all, cruelty is paradoxical. Plenty of it emerges from wanting the best and doing the worst. More ensues intentionally as an educational or penal instrument. Some of it is the result of our fascination with cruelty, which titillates sexual pleasures, induces higher awareness and/or imagination, and satisfies our masochistic penchants. A modicum of cruelty is also required for each person to mature and become authentically human. [recommended by Giorgio Baruchello, University of Akureyri]

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