Evil Actions, Evildoers, and Evil People

Abstract

Typically, philosophers interested in evil have typically been concerned with reconciling (or not) the apparent existence of gratuitous suffering with the existence of an omnipotent and omniscient and supremely loving and caring Deity. Undeniably, ‘evil’ functions as a mass noun: note the intelligibility of asking “Why is there so much evil in the world?” But ‘evil’ sometimes functions as an adjective and is used variously to describe persons, actions, desires, motives, and intentions; Joel Feinberg even speaks of “evil smells.” In what follows, I shall consider the relationship between evil actions, evildoers—that is, persons disposed to perform evil actions—and evil people. Roughly, I defend the simple thesis that being an evil person just is being an evildoer.

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Peter Brian Barry
Saginaw Valley State University

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