Extremity of Vice and the Character of Evil

Journal of Philosophical Research 35:25-42 (2010)
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It is plausible that being an evil person is a matter of having a particularly morally depraved character. I argue that suffering from extreme moral vices—and not consistently lacking moral vices, for example—suffices for being evil. Alternatively, I defend an extremity account concerning evil personhood against consistency accounts of evil personhood. After clarifying what it is for vices to be extreme, I note that the extremity thesis I defend allows that a person could suffer from both extremely vicious character traits while possessing some modest virtue as well. By contrast, consistency theses rule out this possibility by definition. This result does not suggest that extremity accounts are flawed, however, since, as I argue, the thesis that evil people must lack moral virtue altogether effectively defines evil people out of existence and prematurely privileges skepticism about evil personhood. Ultimately, I contend that an extremity account is most consistent with common intuitions about putative evil persons as well as plausible assumptions about aretaic evaluations of character quite generally


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Peter Brian Barry
Saginaw Valley State University

Citations of this work

In defense of the mirror thesis.Peter Brian Barry - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 155 (2):199-205.

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References found in this work

Moral saints.Susan Wolf - 1982 - Journal of Philosophy 79 (8):419-439.
Moral realism and moral dilemma.Philippa Foot - 1983 - Journal of Philosophy 80 (7):379-398.
The limited unity of virtue.Neera Badhwar - 1996 - Noûs 30 (3):306-329.
The nature of evil.Eve Garrard - 1998 - Philosophical Explorations 1 (1):43 – 60.
Evil as an Explanatory Concept.Eve Garrard - 2002 - The Monist 85 (2):320-336.

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