Cruelty and morality seem like polar opposites – until they join forces. Beware those who persecute in the name of principle... -/- Following in the steps of Michel de Montaigne, the distinguished political philosopher Judith Shklar has argued that cruelty should be considered the supreme evil and that we should put it first among the vices. The essence of cruelty is to wilfully and needlessly inflict pain and suffering on another creature – be it an animal or a human being. (...) Closely related to this vice are malice and sadism, both of which involve taking pleasure or delight in the suffering of others. Although cruelty might not be peculiar to human beings, it is a familiar and pronounced feature of human nature and social life. One important feature of human cruelty is the way that it varies, both with respect to its instruments and when it is occasioned, depending on our particular cultural and social circumstances. With this in mind, we can ask: what is the relationship between cruelty and morality? -/- . (shrink)
In "The Nature of Evil"2 I offer an analysis of evil action, in a sense distinct from merely very wrong action, in which I claim that the evil act is one in which the agent silences overwhelming considerations against performing the act. Christopher Hamilton 's interesting commentary raises five objections against my account of evil in terms of silenced reasons I shall argue that all five objections can be met.