The Scene and the Crime: Can Critical Realists Talk about Good and Evil?

Journal of Critical Realism 11 (1):76-93 (2012)
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This essay argues that critical realism provides a philosophical perspective from which to talk about good and evil. It draws on dialectical critical realism’s meta-ethics of freedom and solidarity, and the different grades of freedom identified there: from the basic spontaneity in agency to the possibility of a fully flourishing, eudaimonic social condition. It argues that evil acts can be understood as those which fundamentally deny basic human freedom (spontaneity) and solidarity, and that good acts are those which affirm human flourishing and solidarity. It draws upon Hannah Arendt’s depiction of what was morally evil in the Holocaust, and recent English criminal trials involving mercy killing to depict the good. It suggests that moral framing in terms of good and evil lies beyond the terms in which modern law thinks of human actions



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