Dispositional accounts of evil personhood

Philosophical Studies 149 (2):231 - 250 (2010)
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It is intuitively plausible that not every evildoer is an evil person. In order to make sense of this intuition we need to construct an account of evil personhood in addition to an account of evil action. Some philosophers have offered aggregative accounts of evil personhood, but these do not fit well with common intuitions about the explanatory power of evil personhood, the possibility of moral reform, and the relationship between evil and luck. In contrast, a dispositional account of evil personhood can allow that evil is explanatory, that an evil person can become good, and that luck might prevent evil persons from doing evil or cause non-evil persons to do evil. Yet the dispositional account of evil personhood implies that some evil persons are blameless, which seems to clash with the intuition that evil persons deserve our strongest moral condemnation. Moreover, since it is likely that a large proportion of us are disposed to perform evil actions in some environments, the dispositional account threatens to label a large proportion of people evil. In this paper I consider a range of possible modifications to the dispositional account that might bring it more closely into alignment with our intuitions about moral condemnation and the rarity of evil persons. According to the most plausible of these theories, S is an evil person if S is strongly disposed to perform evil actions when in conditions that favour S's autonomy



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Luke Russell
University of Sydney

Citations of this work

Vice-based accounts of moral evil.Alan T. Wilson - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (9):2825-2845.
Evil, Monsters and Dualism.Luke Russell - 2010 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 13 (1):45-58.
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