Epistemic Aspects of Evil: The Three Monkeys meet The Atrocity Paradigm

In Andrea Veltman & Kathryn Norlock (eds.), Evil, Political Violence and Forgiveness: Essays in Honor of Claudia Card (2009)
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This article explores the cognitive and epistemic dimensions of a harm-centered theory of evil, as set out in Card’s The Atrocity Paradigm: A Theory of Evil. Examining testimony of both survivors and perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide helps to support, clarify, and extend Card’s view. Of particular concern are questions of recognizing evil as such, whether the demand to avoid evil sets too high a standard of control over oneself and one’s circumstances, and how to understand agency within evil contexts. This article introduces the concept of ‘recognition harm’, which is an epistemic harm presupposed by and often constitutive of the kinds of intolerable harms that constitute evil, arguing that it is consistent with Card’s account. Finally, the article addresses to the application of the atrocity paradigm to chronic, enduring, systemic harms like sexism.



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Lynne Tirrell
University of Connecticut

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