One way of dealing with evil is to deny that it exists. This, Midgley notes, is often based on the view that to call anything evil is presumptuous and self-righteous; however, this entails assuming that being presumptuous and self-righteous is bad. Therefore, what begins as a denial of evil unintentionally ends up as an assertion to the contrary.
Another way of dealing with evil is to claim that its roots lie entirely in society and not in people, which suggests that evil can be eliminated if only one puts the proper social institutions in place. This view, Midgley clams, is typically associated with the view that human beings start out not as creatures with a determinate nature, but as blank tablets or fully malleable clay. This, she suggests, is not what we find; it is incompatible with evolutionary theory and the discoveries of basic human biology. Furthermore, the attempt to find the roots of evil in society and not in people tends to focus on the question of whether aggression is innate, to which the required answer is negative. This assumes that a single motive is the source of all evil and is mistaken in two ways: (1) aggression is not always an evil motive and its aims (for example, defending the weak) are not always bad, and (2) there are various evils that are not based on aggression. Aggression, the tendency to attack, typically from anger, is found in many animals; in none is it simply the motive to destroy. It occurs in a context of motives and conditions that constrain its uses and effects. Like fear, whether it is good or bad depends on how it is used and what its effects are. Both fear and aggression, like pain, are typically responses to evils. Both fear and aggression are normal and frequently occur, within constraints, among individuals who continue in the same family or remain friends and in society, without necessarily being destructive of persons or personal relationships. Hence aggression is not always evil in itself or in its consequences. Further, there are obviously evils that are neither instances nor consequences of aggression.
The attempt to find the roots of evil not in people but in society, Midgley claims, is not sufficiently realistic; it does not take evil sufficiently seriously. Evil is no temporary problem solvable by social engineering; it arises from our natural motivations.