A Conception of Evil

Journal of Value Inquiry 42 (2):217-239 (2008)
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There are a number of different senses of the term “evil.” We examine in this paper the term “evil” when it is used to say things such as: “what Hitler did was not merely wrong, it was evil”, and “Hitler was not merely a bad person, he was an evil person”. Failing to keep a promise or telling a white lie may be morally wrong, but unlike genocide or sadistic torture, it is not evil in this sense. In this paper we analyze the specific moral difference between “evil” and “mere wrongdoing”. In so doing we shall defend a specific conception of what acts and which persons should count as evil. On the view defended in this paper it is a necessary feature of an evil act that the victim of that act suffer what would at least normally be a life-wrecking or life-ending harm.

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Paul Formosa
Macquarie University

References found in this work

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.
Moral Monsters and Saints.Daniel M. Haybron - 2002 - The Monist 85 (2):260-284.
Is evil action qualitatively distinct from ordinary wrongdoing?Luke Russell - 2007 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (4):659 – 677.
Evil-revivalism versus evil-skepticism.Luke Russell - 2006 - Journal of Value Inquiry 40 (1):89-105.

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