Criminal Law and Philosophy 5 (3):333-347 (2011)
|Abstract||The problem of necessary evil is a sub-class of the problem of moral dilemmas. In cases of genuine moral dilemmas the agent cannot avoid doing evil whatever he does. In some cases of genuine moral dilemmas, the options facing the agent are incommensurable. But in some other cases of genuine moral dilemmas, though wrong doing is inescapable, there is a rationally best course of action. These are cases of necessary evil. There are several views regarding the doing of necessary evil. On the closure view it is never necessary to do what is evil. This is the view of some utilitarians and of Kant. Then there are people who believe that it is sometimes necessary to do evil. Of these some (like John Gardner) believe that evil in such cases is justified even though it remains an evil; while there are others (like Gandhi) who believe that evil in such cases can never be justified but it can at best be excused or pardoned. Some even think that in some extreme cases the individual who does evil (even if it is the lesser evil) should be punished even though the individual could not avoid doing evil whatever he chose. The paper stresses the significance of the distinction between justified wrong doing, pardonable wrong doing, and excusable wrong doing|
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