Extremity of Vice and the Character of Evil

It is plausible that being an evil person is a matter of having a particularly morally depraved character. I argue that suffering from extreme moral vices—and not consistently lacking moral vices, for example—suffices for being evil. Alternatively, I defend an extremity account concerning evil personhood against consistency accounts of evil personhood. After clarifying what it is for vices to be extreme, I note that the extremity thesis I defend allows that a person could suffer from both extremely vicious character traits while possessing some modest virtue as well. By contrast, consistency theses rule out this possibility by definition. This result does not suggest that extremity accounts are flawed, however, since, as I argue, the thesis that evil people must lack moral virtue altogether effectively defines evil people out of existence and prematurely privileges skepticism about evil personhood. Ultimately, I contend that an extremity account is most consistent with common intuitions about putative evil persons as well as plausible assumptions about aretaic evaluations of character quite generally
Keywords evil  extremity  consistency  vice  vicious  moral saint
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DOI 10.5840/jpr_2010_2
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References found in this work BETA
Susan Wolf (1982). Moral Saints. Journal of Philosophy 79 (8):419-439.
Philippa Foot (1983). Moral Realism and Moral Dilemma. Journal of Philosophy 80 (7):379-398.

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Peter Brian Barry (2011). In Defense of the Mirror Thesis. Philosophical Studies 155 (2):199-205.

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