The concept of evil is one of the most powerful in our moral vocabulary, and is commonly used today in both religious and secular spheres to condemn ideas, people, their actions, and much else besides. Yet appeals to evil in public debate have often deepened existing conflicts, through corruption of rational discourse and demonization of the other. With its religious overtones and implied absolutism, the concept of evil seems ill-suited to advancing public discourse and pro-social relations in a liberal democracy, as evidenced by its use in the abortion debate. International relations have also suffered from references to an ‘axis of evil.’ Recently, however, philosophers have begun reconceptualising evil within a secular, moral framework, using the idea of evil as the worst kind of immorality to inform and shape our responses to issues like torture, genocide and rape as a weapon of war. This book continues this trend, exploring a constructive role for the concept of evil in practical ethics.
Part I of the book begins with two examinations of the concept itself, one focusing primarily on its secular manifestations and the other on evil in its religious context. Individuals are perhaps the primary focus of attributions of evil, and Part II looks at two particular manifestations of evil, in bullying and in mass killing, before considering the nature of evil as an immoral character trait. Part III moves beyond the individual to issues of collective evildoing, evil environments, and political evil. The final part considers responses to evil: can some evil be unforgiveable, and to what extent should we ‘enhance’ ourselves morally so as to prevent future evildoing?
These essays, written by leading philosophers from around the world, including the late Claudia Card, will take the philosophical debate on moral evil in practical ethics to a new level.
Table of Contents
I. The Concept of Evil
1. How to Theorize about Evil
Eve Garrard and David McNaughton
2. A Religious Conception of Evil
II. Individuals and Evil
3. Is Bullying Evil?
Robin May Schott
4. Narratives of Entitlement
Arne Johan Vetlesen
5. Virtue Ethics, Role Morality, and Perverse Evildoing
III. Evil beyond the Individual
6. Evil and Collective Moral Failures
7. Surviving Homophobia: Overcoming Evil Environments
8. Political Evil: Warping the Moral Landscape
Stephen de Wijze
IV. Responses to Evil
9. Evil and the Unforgivable
10. Evildoing and Moral Enhancement: the Question of Magnitude
Shlomit Harrosh is a research fellow at the Kogod Research Center for Contemporary Jewish Thought, Shalom Hartman Institute, Israel. She also tutors for Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. She completed her doctoral thesis Evildoing: An Attack on Morality at the University of Oxford. Her research focusses on moral and political philosophy, and she is currently working on the ethics of war.
Roger Crisp is Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Oxford and Uehiro Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at St Anne’s College, Oxford, and a Professorial Fellow at the Centre for Moral Philosophy and Applied Ethics, Australian Catholic University. His research focusses on normative ethics, metaethics, and the history of ethics. He is the author of Mill on Utilitarianism (Routledge, 1997), Reasons and the Good (2006), and The Cosmos of Duty (2015). He is the editor of the Oxford Handbook of the History of Ethics (2013), and translator of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (2000).
"Overall, the essays provide profound and troubling reflections on questions that are not only major concerns of our times but also a flourishing area of investigation in moral philosophy." – Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"With this valuable collection of philosophical essays, Harrosh and Crisp seek to improve understanding of the troubling concept of evil to determine what responses are appropriate to its various manifestations … Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty." – CHOICE