I was reading Tony Judt’s NYRB “Leszek Kołakowski (1927–2009),” an obituary for a man I was not as aware of as I should have been, when I was caught up short by this quote from Kołakowski: “A mere feeling of responsibility is a formal virtue that by itself does not result in a specific obligation: it is possible to feel responsible for a good cause as well as an evil one.” I had to reread it to realize what he was saying, and I wasn’t absolutely sure until it was glossed by Judt in the following paragraph:
This simple observation seems rarely to have occurred to a generation of French existentialists and their Anglo-American admirers. It may be that one needed to have experienced firsthand the attraction of utterly evil goals (of left and right alike) to otherwise responsible intellectuals in order to understand to the full the costs as well as the benefits of ideological commitment and moral unilateralism.
The ironic thing is that the phrase I’ve bolded uses “as well as” in the way I’m used to and understand easily; A as well as B puts the emphasis on A, the marked element, while B is the unmarked, expected term. If I were editing the first quote, I would automatically rewrite it to “it is possible to feel responsible for an evil cause as well as a good one.”
Now, of course you could say that Kołakowski was not a native speaker of English, but it seems to me I’ve seen this use fairly frequently in recent years. So I turn to the Varied Reader: which form seems more natural or transparent to you?